- Distance from ELITE PALACE Hotel: 6.2 km.
If you are keen to know the turbulent history of the Albanians, this is the place to visit. The National History Museum is the most important museum in Albania and contains a well-documented history of the country.The museum is divided into eight pavilions: Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Independence, Iconography, National Liberation Anti-fascism War, Communist Terror, and Mother Teresa. The Pavilion of Communist Terror hosts images, documents and videos of the persecution suffered by the Albanians during the communist regime.
Open: Mon.to Fri. 9:00- 19:00 & Sat. 9:00- 20:00/ Closed Sun.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 6.2 km
Named after a national hero of Albania, Skanderbeg Square is the main plaza in the capital city of Tirana. All roads in Tirana seem to lead into the square, which has been the subject of various reconstruction plans since 2010. Many of the original buildings on the square were destroyed during communist times, but a few older structures do remain, like the early 19th century Et’hem Bey Mosque and Clock Tower. In 1968, a statue of Joseph Stalin was replaced by the Skanderbeg Monument, honoring a nobleman who once resisted the Ottoman invasion. The equestrian monument stands 11 meters tall and depicts Skanderbeg on horseback in full armor, with an Albanian flag flying alongside.
Heading clockwise around the square you’ll find the Palace of Culture, which houses the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Then comes the pretty Et’hem Bey Mosque (daily 8am–11pm except during prayer times), which was closed off during Communist rule; one sunny day in 1991, thousands flocked here to make use of their new-found religious freedom. Right next door is the tall clock tower, which offers superb views around Tirana.
During the Italian invasion of Albania, the city plan for Tirana was designed by Florestano Di Fausto and Armando Brasini in a Neo-Renaissance style with articulate angular solutions and giant order fascias.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 6.1km.
Construction of this gorgeous little mosque was started in the early 1790s by Molla Bey, a task that wasn’t completed for another three decades when the building was finally finished in about 1820 by his son, Haxhi Et’hem Bey. Closed under Communist rule, the building reopened as a house of worship on January 18, 1991, without the permission of the authorities. Some 10,000 courageous people dared to attend, and remarkably the police did nothing to intervene, an event now hailed as a milestone in the rebirth of religious freedom in Albania. Take a look at the colorful frescoes outside and in the portico which depicts trees, waterfalls, and bridges, motifs rarely seen in Islamic art. Take your shoes off before entering.
Open: Daily 8:00 – 23:00
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 6.1km.
Tirana’s Ottoman Clock Tower was built by the poet Haxhi Et’hem Bey and dates from 1822. Completed by the locals and extended to 35m in 1928 when a German-made clock was also installed (the current Chinese clock is the fourth in the tower’s existence), it was for a long time the tallest building in the city. The climb up the 90 steps to the top is worth it for the excellent views of the city center.
The shadow of the tower strikes the Et’hem Bey Mosque next door at sunset, an event long used to mark closing time at the formerly adjacent marketplace in the area where the Palace of Culture now stands. Brightly lit at night, the tower can be seen from the far end of Rr. Durrësit when entering the city from the airport. Completely renovated in 2010, at the time of writing the structure was somewhat inexplicably covered in scaffolding and, along with the Culture & Continuity Museum immediately behind it, closed to the public until, so we’re reliably informed, December 2016.
Open: Monday to Friday 8 am – 3 pm, Closed Sat, Sun.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 6.3km.
Bunk art 2 is the latest museum opened in Tirana on 17 November, in the framework of the National Day of Tirana Liberation. This top-secret nuclear bunker now is a new museum with an aim to show visitors how Communist-era police persecuted the regime’s opponents. The 1,000-square-meter bunker with reinforced concrete walls up to 2.4 meters thick was built between 1981 and 1986 to shelter elite police and interior ministry staff in the event of a nuclear attack. The museum holds photographs and equipment that illustrate the political persecution of some 100,000 Albanians from 1945 until 1991.
It has been one of the several former hideouts the Albanian government has repurposed for the public since it came to power three years ago. At one time there were rumored to be as many as 700,000 bunkers, but the government says 175,000 were built.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 6.5km.
Opened in 2007, the Mezuraj Museum takes visitors on a journey through Albania’s past and present, featuring a vast archaeological collection, but also a modern art gallery with sculptures, drawings, paintings and watercolor creations by some of Albania’s most accomplished artists. The museum displays the works of top contemporary Albanian painters such as Artur Muharremi, Helidon Haliti, Gazmend Leka, Pano Kondo or sculptor Adnan Bushati. Moreover, its permanent exhibition also includes the paintings of Kole Idromeno, the founder of the Albanian painting school of realism from the late 19th century.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 6.5km.
House of Leaves is the newest museum to open in Albania, and probably the most intriguing. It is considered to be the equivalent of the Stasi headquarters in former East Germany. The leaves have a double meaning: things hidden in woods, but also the leave of books and files, on people. Those curious to see what was hidden in the HQ of the notorious National Intelligence Service, also known as the House of Spies, will leave speechless. The original house was built in 1931 with the primary function of a medical clinic. During World War II, under German occupation, it was used by the Gestapo. Immediately after the end of the war it was regained by the Albanian government and utilized as a security bureau for investigations.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 7.7km.
The Tirana Mosaic is believed to have been part of a 3rd-century Roman house, referred to by local archeologists as the ‘Villa Rustica’. Later, in the 5th and 6th centuries, a Paleo-Christian Basilica was built on this site. It was declared a cultural monument of the first category in June 1973.
The ruins of this Paleo-Christian Basilica were discovered in 1972. In 2002, some other objects were found around the ruins of the house, and today they form the Archaeological Complex of the Mosaic of Tirana. It is the only archaeological monument within the city. Some of the ancient mosaics discovered at the site that feature diverse geometrical patterns and depict poultry and fish. It was reopened to the public on January 23rd, 2010.
Open 08:00-17:00. Closed Sun.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 6.4km.
The Albanian National Gallery of Art is the most representative cultural venue of its kind in Tirana and an excellent starting point for discovering the capital’s art scene. The National Gallery features temporary exhibitions of local and international contemporary artists, but also permanent collections of the most important Albanian artists, starting with the late 19th century and continuing with creations of the academically minded Drawing School, a major Albanian artistic movement from the first half of the 20th century. A major attraction is the collection of social realist paintings that translate into art the idea of the ‘New Man’ during the communist period, with the ‘common worker’ as the main recurrent personage.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 6.8km.
The National Archaeological Museum is situated in Mother Teresa Square. It was the first museum to open in Albania after WW2. Inaugurated in 1948 as the Archaeological and Ethnographic museum, the ethnographic section was later, in 1976, moved. Located in the same building as the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences, the museum houses exhibits from prehistory, through historical times to the Middle Ages.
It is responsible for the many archaeological digs and research conducted in the country and is the parent institution of several other museums, including the Durrës Archaeological Museum. It has a library of some 7,200 volumes.
Open 10:30-14:30. Closed Sat, Sun.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 5km.
With almost 3000 sq meters of space underground spread over several floors, the bunker was built for Albania’s political elite in the 1970s and remained a secret for much of its existence. Now it hosts exhibits that combine the modern history of Albania with pieces of contemporary art.Just arriving at the bunker is quite an exciting experience, as you go through a long, dark tunnel in the hillside that leads you to the entrance on the side of a still-active Albanian military base. Once you’re inside the bunker itself, you can wander through the furnished rooms intended for the communist elite as they faced the invasion that so terrified them. Elsewhere you’ll find a very detailed history of modern Albania, beginning with the 1939 Italian invasion and ending with the overthrow of communism. The display arguably brushes over the true horrors of Hoxha’s Stalinist regime, while at least recognizing them, and there are some fascinating documents and photographs, including a video of Enver Hoxha’s 1985 state funeral. Other highlights include the enormous Assembly Hall, the main social center of the bunker, as well as the private chambers of other senior officials.
- Distance from ELITE PALACE: 16.3km.
Dajti (Albanian: Mali i Dajtit) standing at 1,613 m (5,292 ft) above sea level, is a mountain and national park on the edge of Tirana, Albania. The Dajti belongs to the Skanderbeg range. In winter, the mountain is often covered with snow, and it is a popular retreat to the local population of Tirana that rarely sees snow falls. Its slopes have forests of pines, oak and beech, while its interior contains canyons, waterfalls, caves, a lake, and an ancient castle.