Trendy Blloku buzzes with the well-heeled and flush hanging out in bars or zipping between boutiques, while the city's grand boulevards are lined with fascinating relics of its Ottoman, Italian and communist past – from delicate minarets to loud socialist murals. Tirana's traffic does daily battle with both itself and pedestrians in a constant scene of unmitigated chaos. Loud, crazy, colorful– Tirana is never dull.
National History museum:
The largest museum in Albania holds many of the country's archaeological treasures and a replica of Skanderbeg's massive sword. The excellent collection is almost entirely signed in English and takes you chronologically from ancient Illyria to the post communist era. One big highlight of the museum is a terrific exhibition of icons by Onufri, a renowned 16th-century Albanian master of color. A disturbing and very important gallery devoted to those who suffered persecution under the communist regime is the most recent addition to the collection, though frustratingly almost none of this display is in English. The mosaic mural adorning the museum's facade is entitled Albania and shows Albanians victorious and proud from Illyrian times through to WWII.
National Arts Gallery:
Tracing the relatively brief history of Albanian painting from the early 19th century to the present day, this beautiful space also has temporary exhibits that are worth a look. Downstairs there's a small but interesting collection of 19th-century paintings depicting scenes from daily Albanian life, while upstairs the art takes on a political dimension with some truly fabulous examples of Albanian socialist realism.
Designed by Enver Hoxha's daughter and son-in-law and completed in 1988, this unattractive building was formerly the Enver Hoxha Museum, and more recently a convention centre and nightclub. Today, covered in graffiti and surrounded by the encampments of Tirana's homeless, its once white marble walls are now crumbling but no decision on whether to demolish or restore it appears to have yet been reached. Inside it's sometimes open for temporary exhibits, for which it's a surprisingly great venue.
Skanderbeg Square is the best place to start witnessing Tirana's daily goings-on. Until it was pulled down by an angry mob in 1991, a 10m-high bronze statue of Enver Hoxha stood here, watching over a mainly car-free square. Now only the equestrian statue of Skanderbeg remains.
Ethem Bey mosque:
To one side of Skanderbeg Sq, the 1789–1823 Et'hem Bey Mosque was spared destruction during the atheism campaign of the late 1960s because of its status as a cultural monument. Small and elegant, it's one of the oldest buildings left in the city. Take your shoes off to look inside at the beautifully painted dome.
Behind the mosque is the tall clock tower, which you can climb for impressive views of the square. Further on up the street, look for the socialist realist statue of the Unknown Partisan .
Palace of culture:
To the east of Sheshi Skënderbej is the white stone Palace of Culture, which has a theatre, shops and art galleries. Construction of the palace began as a gift from the Soviet people in 1960 and was completed in 1966, years after the 1961 Soviet–Albanian split.
Source of the info: Lonely planet