If you are looking for interesting places to visit near the Albanian capital, one of the best and easiest day trips from Tirana is Kruja. The town, glued to the slopes of Mount Krujë, has a picturesque location and is packed with attractions that will keep you occupied for a few hours.
Since Kruja is located only 20 km north of the capital make sure to include it in your Tirana itinerary as it’s one of the best places to visit in Albania.
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How to get to Kruja, Albania
Getting to Kruja is actually rather easy, however, it requires a bit of a hassle. There are minibusses between Tirana and Kruja every hour, from 7 am to 6 pm, departing from the Regional Bus Terminal – North and South Albania (Terminali i Autobusave të Veriut dhe Jugut) located some 5 km from the center.
To get to the terminal you need to take the city bus from the stop behind the National Museum, near the Skanderbeg Square. Buses in the direction of Kamza and Instituti will take you to the bus station. You can get the ticket on the bus, the price is 40 lek and the ticket inspector will come to you when you board the bus to sell you the ticket.
You can use the offline map to see where you need to get off but you can also ask the ticket inspector to tell you when you arrive at the bus stop (it’ll be easy to spot anyway, your stop will be the first one after turning right from the main road).
Once at the bus station (which, in fact, is a big parking lot as the new station building is currently under construction) you need to find the minibus to Kruja. Each bus has a destination clearly written so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Buses to Kruja are parked on the left side, near the entrance to the parking lot. Be sure to take the bus to Kruja, not Fushë-Kruja as it’s a different town – to make things a bit more challenging both buses are parked next to each other so it’s best to double-check the destination with the driver.
The journey takes less than 1 hour (depending on the traffic), the price is 200 leks and you pay directly to the driver at the end of the journey.
Tirana to Kruja tours
If getting to Kruja by public transport seems like a bit of a challenge (which I can understand as figuring out the public transport in Albania can be a bit nerve-racking) there are tours available too. Here are some available options:
- Kruja & Durres: Historical Tour with Lunch
- Kruja, Lezhe, Shkoder and Mes Tour
- From Tirana: Kruja and Sari Salltik Private Tour with Lunch
How to get around Kruja
Once you get to the town, you can easily walk to all the Kruja attractions. It’s less than 1 kilometer from the bus stop to the castle.
What to see in Kruja
Kruja has been inhabited since ancient times but the city gained real importance in the 15th century when it was the center of the Albanian resistance (led by the national hero Skanderbeg) during the Ottoman invasion. Today Kruja is one of the most interesting places to visit in Albania and the museum dedicated to Skanderbeg is one of the highlights of the city.
When you arrive in Kruja the first interesting place you come across will be the bazaar. But before you enter it stop for a moment to admire the beautiful panorama of Kruja castle and the surrounding mountains. The view really takes the breath away.
The cobbled streets and the wooden houses of the bazaar have a very distinctive Ottoman feel and reminded me a lot of Sarajevo or Skopje. This is the best place for souvenir shopping in Albania, you can choose from a wide selection of things, from typical souvenirs like magnets or t-shirts to more unique ones like jewelry, paintings or
carpets. Fortunately, no one bothers you here so you can peacefully wander around and see what is on sale here.
From the bazaar, it’s a short walk up to the impressive castle where the grounds are still inhabited.
As soon as you step inside the premises you will find on your left the magnificent building of the Historical Museum (the entrance fee is 500 lek). Even if it looks like it’s centuries-old, the building actually dates back to 1982 and was designed by the daughter of the infamous communist leader of Albania, Enver Hoxha.
It’s definitely worth visiting the museum inside, to learn more about the national hero of Albania and to admire some beautiful interiors and the artwork. From the upper parts, you can also see a lovely panorama of the castle grounds and beyond.
Another museum you can find inside the Kruja castle is the Ethnographic Museum (entrance fee 400 leks) which sadly was under renovation when I visited the place. But if you happen to find it open you can see there what the life in Kruja and within the castle looked like some 100 years ago.
Once you are done with the museums be sure to wander around the citadel grounds. The place is still inhabited although in the narrow streets it sometimes feels like the time has stopped. Be sure to find the Bektashi teqe (the religious center) in the lower parts of the castle. Built in 1789, it’s one of the oldest in Albania (that was also under renovation when I visited…). Next to it, you can see the old bathhouse.
In the upper part of the castle, you can see the tower that back in the Skanderbeg’s times was used as the lookout and signaling post. Next to it, behind the wall, there are remains of the medieval church. The view from this part of the castle is pretty amazing too, with mountains on one side and the Historical Museum and the city on the other.
Where to eat in Kruja
Since Kruja is a touristic place you will find plenty of restaurants around, many of them serving traditional Albanian food at reasonable prices. Most of them are highly rated so any place you choose should be fine.
Where to stay in Kruja
If you decide to stay in Kruja overnight there are a few options to choose from. Here are the recommended places to stay in Kruja:
- Hotel Panorama Kruje (9.2/10 on Booking)
- ROOMS EMILIANO Castle of Kruja (9.5/10 on Booking)
- Rooms Merlika -Inside the Castle (9.1/10 on Booking)
Getting back from Kruja to Tirana
Once you are done visiting Kruja you need to get the bus back to Tirana. It’s not at the same place where you arrived but a bit further down the street, across the street from Hotel Grand (here is the exact location).
When planning a day trip from Tirana to Kruja keep in mind that the last bus back to the capital leaves from Kruja at 4 pm.
Once back in Tirana you need to catch the city bus back to the center, the bus stop is across the street from the bus terminal. Most likely the ticket inspector will be hanging around so double-check with him if the bus is going to the center.
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