We ended up in Shkodër in Albania when we did a trip around Albania. To be honest, we wouldn’t even think about Shkodër, but we wanted to visit Albanian Alps and Shkodër popped up as a great starting point. This is also one of the main reasons why many people visit the city of Shkodra.
I don’t think many of you would want to spend more than 1 night there because there is not a lot to do. But still, this place is worth the short visit, whether you are on your way to the Alps or to the neighbouring country of Montenegro.
Shkodra is not only one of the oldest towns in Albania, but one of the oldest in Europe. The city of Shkodër dates back to the 4th Century BC. It was settled by Ancient Illyrian tribes. Today it is the 5th most populated city in Albania. Its unique geographical location made it perfectly positioned to become an important trading town in the past and its tradition of religious (and ethnic) tolerance still visibly apparent in the center with mosques, a Catholic Church, and Orthodox Cathedral all within a stone’s throw.
Shkodër is charming, cheap and has a lively café and bar scene. There’s a range of good and cheap accommodation. If you have the time it’s worth spending a day or two seeing the sights of this chilled little lakeside city.
Here are my tips on what to see, what to do and what to eat when you are in Shkodër.
The buses from Tirana are departing from the Regional bus station and take about 2 hours to Shkodër. The price is around 300 ALL (you pay on the bus). In Shkodër, the bus stops before the roundabout in front of Hotel Rozafa.
Taking the bus is the cheapest option. If you want to, you can also take a taxi, book a tour or rent a car. Renting a car has its advantages, but there are some disadvantages too – driving in Albania can be very stressfull and chaotic. Also, be careful when taking a taxi, because taxi journeys in Albania are very pricy.
If you are coming from elsewhere in Albania, you will likely have to make a stopover in Tirana and transfer there. All roads basically pass through Tirana.
WHAT TO DO IN SHKODËR
Rozafa Castle is the biggest tourist attraction in Shkodër. It costs 200 ALL to enter the castle.
There is a 30 minute walk uphill from the city centre to the castle. You should give yourself at least an hour to explore inside. The best time to visit is during the sunset as the city is bathed in a golden glow.
Rozafa really has some amazing views to offer. Views of mountains, views of rivers, views of the city – all the views that you could hope for. Being on top of a rocky cliff, surrounded by two rivers — Buna and Drini, it is an ideal place to take some nice pictures.
Wander around Shkodër
Shkodër is pretty walkable city. Pretty much everything that could be interesting in Shkodër is located within a narrow area around its center. These include the Ebu Bekr Mosque, the Franciscan Cathedral, an Orthodox Church and the Kole Idromeno pedestrian street with nice cafes and restaurant. The Kole Idromeno and Rroga 28 Nentori form the lively centre of Shkodër. Strolling down Rruga Kole Idromeno, I felt like I could be in any of Europe’s cultural capitals.
The walking streets get really lively at night. Treat yourself to a nice dinner before going for a walk and keeping an eye and ear out for where the party is at. No matter what your music taste is, Shkoder has something for you.
One of the greatest (and also the most popular ones) things to do in Shkoder is to rent a bike to see the city and sights in Shkoder area. Cycling was very popular during the communist era of Albania and so it remains today. That means it won’t be difficult to rent a bike. You can expect to pay around 3€/day.
This huge lake crosses the border to Montenegro (called Skadar Lake there) and in fact only 1/3 of it is in Albania. The lake is the largest in the Balkans and is an important source of biodiversity in the region. Lake Shkoder is within easy reach of the city. There are a few towns and beaches along the lake so just find the right place and enjoy your day on the lake.
If you have enough time, you can also make a trip from Shkodër. Shkoder is the gateway to the stunning region known as the Albanian Alps. Try to spend as much time as possible there so you can really get the most of those beautiful mountains. I suggest you to visit Theth and the Albanian Alps or take the Koman Ferry to Valbone.
Shkodër had really great food, just like the other parts of Albania I visited. Shkodër has quite a bit of variety when it comes to the food. There is also a lot of Western European influence in Shkoder, particularly Italian influence.
You can easily find traditional Albanian food throughout the city – if you want to try byrek you have to do it early in the day because there is no more byrek in the afternoon or evening. I’ve made a mistake and came too late because I wasn’t aware of that. I was sure that I can get it anytime, just like I did in Bosnia.
And yeah, don’t forget to try raki (very strong aniseed-flavoured liqueur).
If you find yourself in Albania, do not miss out on Shkodër. Some people may skip it and go straight to the Alps, but Shkodër has a great vibe and it is worth the visit. Albania in general is such an underrated country! I hope you will fall in love with this country just like I did.
Have you ever visit Shkodër or any other place in Albania? How did you like it? Would you go back?