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The Gay Tirana Guide (Albania 🇦🇱)

The Gay Tirana Guide (Albania 🇦🇱)


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Please help us improve this guide 💖: Our gay guides undergo regular updates to ensure that all listed establishments are current, popular, and, most importantly, safe. The recommendations and descriptions provided within this guide stem from personal experiences and/or reports. We welcome any input regarding new venues or updates to existing ones included in the guide. Please feel free to reach out to us by email with your suggestions or updates.

Short on time?

My top recommendations for your trip to Tirana include:

🏨 Hotels:

  • International Hotel Tirana: Comfort and convenience with spacious rooms and excellent service. This hotel was built during the communist era and was the only place where foreigners visiting Albania could stay - you can live among history!
  • Boutique Hotel Kotoni: Cozy atmosphere with personalized service.
  • Art Hotel Tirana: Known for its artistic ambiance and cultural immersion.

Tours and Excursions:

Intro: Is Tirana Worth Visiting?

Albania is rapidly gaining popularity as a travel destination, thanks to its stunning beaches and significant changes within the country. Albania's capital, Tirana, is growing quickly and becoming renowned for its unique buildings and architecture - including a building with the face of Skanderbeg and one with a topographical map of Albania. The construction industry is booming in Albania, and the previous mayor and now Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, has transformed old communist structures with vibrant colors, giving the city a cheerful and lively atmosphere.

Ryan stayed in Albania for two months in 2019 and, despite his fondness for ex-Soviet and Yugoslav brutalist architecture (he even preferred the old look of the Pyramid of Tirana, though that sounds odd), he appreciated the city much more this time with all its modernization.

For me, the proximity to Italy was a highlight, reflecting Albania's historical and geographical ties. Italian is widely spoken, and the city bustles with Italian tourists, cafes, and restaurants, creating a familiar and welcoming atmosphere.

Albania boasts a rich historical tapestry, from its ancient Illyrian roots to significant political shifts over the centuries. Whether you're drawn to Tirana's cultural offerings, planning a quick visit before heading to its pristine beaches, or eager to explore its burgeoning nightlife and its quaint LGBTQ+ scene, Albania has something to offer every traveler.

The exterior of a pink building with Albanian and European Union flags, highlighting cultural and governmental architecture in Tirana.

Albania is getting closer to joining the European Union, and many businesses accept payment in Euros.

Gay Albania: Is Tirana Safe?

Finding out how welcoming Albanian society and Tirana are to all sexual orientations was our initial mission. However, exploring LGBTQ+ life in Tirana unsurprisingly revealed limited visibility and infrastructure. Coincidently, just a few days before our arrival in May 2024, two Albanian women challenged the law by applying for a same-sex marriage license. This sparked a peaceful but regressive protest in Skanderbeg Square, Tirana's main square, in favor of traditional families; a common blow to LGBT rights and progress. A draft law to legalize marriage for same-sex couples was introduced to Albanian Parliament in 2009 with the support of then Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, but it was never put to a vote. Nevertheless, even with slow progress on gay marriage, Albania has had an inclusive anti-discrimination law since 2010.

Regarding gay life and LGBTQ+ rights in Albania, the situation is evolving. Applications like Grindr are used, allowing you to meet guys, though most profiles are discreet unless they belong to visitors. Tirana is generally safe to walk around, even at night. We, being larger guys, faced no issues. In this part of the world, it is common to see two men together, even if they are just friends, and people are generally very welcoming.

However, if you want to express fully your queerness or prefer public displays of affection (PDA), it is advisable to act cautiously and avoid it.

To be fair, the country has come a long way on human rights issues in general, as Albania was a brutal dictatorship (think Europe's version of North Korea but without nuclear weapons) until the 90s, so progress is likely exponential compared to other countries that have not faced as much hardship.

Gay Tirana: Gay Nightlife in Tirana & Is Tirana Safe at Night?

We found two bars in Tirana that were quite friendly and on the verge of being gay bars. One is more of a restaurant and pub, Radio Bar Tirana, and the other is a bar called Bunker 1944, which also offers karaoke. The people there are very friendly, and they enjoy international music, including hits from Raffaella Carrà, the biggest gay icon in Italy (it looks like they also don't know that they are gay or in a gay bar lol). Although nobody was openly gay or explicitly making us think they knew they were gay, we felt very welcomed. This indicates that while there is a long way to go, the city's rapid change suggests a promising future for the LGBTQ+ community and people.

But even though the city boasts a very humble gay community, that shouldn't dissuade gay travelers from coming and enjoying what the city and country has to offer!

Interior of a vibrant and eclectic café or bar in Tirana, with colorful decor and patrons enjoying their evening.
A man holding a glass of beer in a cozy, dimly-lit bar in Tirana, showcasing the city's nightlife.

Impatiently waiting for my turn to sing a Paola & Chiara song at karaoke.

Let's take a look at some logistics and inspiration to help you plan your Tirana journey.

Getting Around in Tirana and Albania Logistics

Tirana is well-connected both domestically and internationally, making travel straightforward. Whether arriving by bus from neighboring countries, taking a shuttle from the airport, or using public transport within the city, navigating the capital city is convenient.

We traveled from Ulcinj, Montenegro, by bus, passing through Shkodër (Scutari) with hassle-free border control (Check our Montenegro Guide if you want to discover more about this neighboring country of Albania). In Tirana, we opted for a taxi to navigate the bustling streets, which is advisable if you're without mobile data like us.

From Tirana Airport

Getting from Tirana Airport to the city center is convenient with the airport shuttle bus departing from Skanderbeg Square on Rruga Ludovik Shllaku. The journey takes around 30 minutes, operating hourly with tickets priced at approximately 4 euros. If time allows, a stop at the ridiculously lavish Amadeus Palace Hotel (9P83+8JC, Kashar, Albania) en route offers a chance to try your luck at the casino.

Air Albania: The national carrier offers flights to various international destinations. Tirana International Airport, located about 17 kilometers from the city center, is the main gateway. WizzAir is also connecting many European cities to Tirana.

Buses to Tirana and Buses from Tirana

Tirana's public transport system is efficient, primarily served by buses that crisscross the city. Taxis are readily available and offer a direct option for quick journeys.

Albania's Inter-City Connections

Albania By Bus

  • Tirana to Saranda: Regular buses connect Tirana to Saranda, a scenic coastal city in the south.
  • Tirana to Podgorica: Buses link Tirana to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.
  • Tirana to Berat: Buses to Berat, known as the "City of a Thousand Windows," make exploring its Ottoman architecture accessible.

Albania By Ferry

  • Tirana to Bari: Ferry services from nearby Durres to Bari, Italy, provide a gateway to exploring the Italian coast.

Driving a car in Tirana

Driving offers flexibility to explore Albania's remote areas and stunning coastline at your pace. We recommend TakeCars.com, which connects you with local rental agencies. We rented a car from Bar, Montenegro, for just over €100 for four days, including insurance, with direct communication via WhatsApp for any assistance. While driving in Tirana can be adventurous due to busy streets and local driving styles (think Neapolitan enthusiasm), patience ensures a smooth journey.

A street scene in Tirana with a man walking past buildings adorned with a large mural and bright blue sky, capturing daily life in the city.

We loved Tirana's colorful buildings and the prominent street art scene.

Where to Stay in Tirana 🏡

For a memorable stay in Tirana, consider these top accommodations catering to various preferences:

Where Can I Find the Best Coffee in Tirana? ☕️

Albania's love affair with coffee is evident in its thriving café culture, deeply rooted in Ottoman traditions. Cafés like Mon Cheri are popular among locals and remote workers alike for their cozy ambiance and reliable Wi-Fi, ideal for both relaxation and productivity. Here are some top spots for coffee in Tirana:

The Opera House in Tirana with a large banner advertising a performance, illustrating the city's cultural offerings.

You can also enjoy a fabulous coffee at The Opera Theatre in Skanderbeg Square.

Where to Eat in Tirana?

Our Favorite Restaurants in Tirana

Experience Tirana's culinary delights at these standout venues:

  • Taverna e Kasapbeut (8R99+863, This is our favorite. The host simply asks how hungry you are and brings the appropriate amount of food. She also left us a bottle of wine to try and was surprised that we drank it all (she doesn't know our alcohol tolerance!). Memorable for traditional dishes like Byrek and Tavë Kosi.
  • Oda Garden: Nestled in a picturesque setting with live Albanian music, Oda Garden offers a cultural dining experience. While we enjoyed exploring local flavors, we found some of the more adventurous options like liver and intestine dishes to be an acquired taste 😅.
  • The Restaurants inside the Fortress of Justinian (aka Castle of Tirana): These restaurants within the castle walls offer a tourist-friendly dining experience. Although located in a popular area, they lacked a bit of local feeling for us.

What Food Should I Try in Tirana?

Indulge in Albania's Mediterranean and Balkan cuisine with these must-try dishes:

  • Byrek: Savory pastry filled with cheese, spinach, or meat.
  • Tavë Kosi: Baked lamb or veal with yogurt and rice.
  • Qofte: Grilled or fried meatballs with herbs and spices.
  • Fërgesë: Cottage cheese and peppers cooked together.
  • Baklava: Rich dessert of filo pastry and nuts.
  • Raki: Strong fruit brandy.
  • Fresh Seafood: Despite being inland, Tirana offers excellent seafood.
  • Traditional Albanian Salads: Shopska or Greek-style salads.

If you are short on time and want to try as many Albanian eats as possible, check out this tour!

Traditional Albanian food, including stuffed peppers and meat patties, served at a local restaurant in Tirana, showcasing the local cuisine.

Friggin delicious qofte and peppers stuffed with rice at Taverna e Kasapbeuth

How is the Nightlife in Tirana?

Tirana's nightlife is diverse and vibrant, centered around Blloku with trendy cafes, lively bars, and the iconic Skytower (Sky Club) for stunning views and upscale dining. The Old Bazaar in Shetitorja Murat Toptani offers historical charm and traditional Albanian dining, blending cultural exploration with nighttime enjoyment. While enjoying Tirana's nightlife, respect for local customs and conservative attitudes enhances the experience.

A man making a funny face at a rooftop bar with a panoramic view of Tirana, emphasizing modern leisure spots in the city.
Night view of the Pyramid of Tirana illuminated, with colorful statues on either side, highlighting a popular tourist attraction in Tirana.

Best Attractions in Tirana: What to Do in Tirana

First of all, taking a tour of the city is the best way to understand Tirana. Albania has a wild and complex history, particularly in the 20th century when it was one of the strictest dictatorships in the world.

Give this tour a go to get a crash course in Tirana and Albania! You won't regret it and it will make you appreciate wherever you are from 🤣.

Explore Tirana's vibrant attractions for an enriching experience:

  • Pyramid of Tirana: Iconic communist-era structure initially dedicated to the ruthless dictator, Enver Hoxha now a unique urban exploration site.
  • Bunk'Art Museums (Bunk'Art 1 and 2): Former bunkers turned museums, a crazy jump into Albania's history.
  • Skanderbeg Square: Central plaza surrounded by landmarks and historical significance.
  • The Old Bazaar in Shetitorja Murat Toptani: Bustling market offering insights into local culture and traditions.
  • New Bazaar (Pazari i Ri): Vibrant hub with local goods and traditional crafts.
  • Mother Teresa Square: Notable for its communist-era architectural designs and a symbol of Tirana's evolving cityscape.
  • Dajti Mountain: Cable car access for panoramic views of Tirana and its surroundings. Avoid visiting on misty days, as the view will be obscured.
A minimalist room with rows of chairs and neon lighting, possibly an art installation or underground venue in Tirana.

Bunk'art 2 in all its creepiness

Two men taking a selfie by a lake in Tirana with modern architectural buildings in the background, showcasing a scenic and contemporary side of the city.

Running on the artificial, but super-cool lake in the massive Parku i Madh (Grand Park).

What are the Best Beaches Near Tirana?

For pristine coastal escapes near Tirana, these beaches are just a short drive away:

  • Durres Beach: A 30-minute drive boasting sandy shores and clear waters, complemented by beachfront cafes and nightlife.
  • Golem Beach: Family-friendly with all amenities, near tranquil Lalzi Bay for a serene beach day.
  • Ulcinj Beach: In neighboring Montenegro 🇲🇪, offering expansive sandy stretches and turquoise waters for a memorable seaside retreat.

Best Day Trips from Tirana

Explore beyond Tirana with these diverse day trip options:

  • Kruja: Historical castle and bazaar honoring national hero Skanderbeg.
  • Durres: Ancient Roman Amphitheatre and sandy beaches.
  • Berat: UNESCO-listed Ottoman architecture in the "City of a Thousand Windows."
  • Apollonia: Well-preserved ancient ruins.
  • Pogradec: Albania's side of Lake Ohrid with serene waters and local cuisine. This will likely be a bit of a trek for a day.
  • Shkodra: Rozafa Castle and historic mosques.
  • Theth: Remote alpine valley and traditional hospitality.

These super sexy tours will take you for a day to places like Berat and Kruja!

If you can manage to get away for longer than a few days, head down south to historic villages, like Gjirokaster and beaches cities like Sarandë and idyllic, Ksamil Beach.

Clear turquoise waters and scenic coastline of Ksamil Beach, Albania, showcasing a beautiful beach destination near Tirana.

Easily the bluest of waters at Ksamil Beach

In conclusion, Albania and Tirana offer a dynamic blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making them increasingly compelling destinations for travelers seeking authentic experiences and warm hospitality.

As it slowly makes strides in overcoming LGBT issues, the country will become safer and more open to gay travelers!

Two men posing in front of the Pyramid of Tirana, a notable landmark in Albania, one making a funny face, representing a casual moment during their travel in Tirana.

Faleminderit! Enjoy Albania, gays!