Just 30 kilometres from the bustling and sometimes chaotic capital, Tirana, lies the small and charming town of Kruja. Kruja, also known as the city of Skanderbeg, is a historic city and it shouldn’t be missed on your Albania trip. Kruja is found at an altitude of 600m on the foot of Mount Krujë. It gives you a chance to learn something about the history of Albania. If the rich history doesn’t convince you, the cute ancient bazaar will. And there is another thing to mention – the stunning panoramic views. The scene is picture-perfect, even for a postcard!
So, is Kruja worth visiting?
Keep reading to find out what to do in Kruja, how to get there and finally to find out if Kruja is worth visiting in my personal opinion. We took the bus from Tirana, so I will take you on a walking tour from the bus station around the town and back. The bus station is not far away, there is a short walk from there to all the main sights. During the walk you will get the chance to admire the panorama of Kruja Castle and surrounding mountains.
At first you will pass by the Statue of Skanderbeg, continue your way through the city centre to the Kruja Bazaar and finally get to the Kruja Castle & Etnographic Museum of Kruja. So, let’s get to the details.
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What to do in Kruja
There isn’t a ton of things to do in Kruja, but all of the things mentioned above are very interesting to see. Kruja gained real importance in the 15th century when it was centre of the Albanian resistance led by the national hero Skanderbeg. Today, the museum dedicated to the Skanderbeg is one the highlights of the city.
Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg is considered the Albanians’ national hero and will forever be etched into Albania’s history because of his contributions to Albanian identity and nation-building. The monument dedicated to Gjergj Kastrioti is situated in the beginning of the pedestrian zone of Kruja, which ultimately leads to the bazaar and the castle. The statue was errected in Kruja as he had an important role in Albania’s and city’s history.
The Kruja Bazaar is famous for being one of the oldest in Albania. The construction of the beautiful and fascinating marketplace dates back over 400 years, and was the starting point of free trade among the city’s most established merchants. It is in this particular bazaar that traders first began to officially exchange various kinds of goods with one another. Its a small market with colorful shops, on the cobblestone path which leads to Kruja Castle. Various shops selling souvenirs, handcrafts, silver jewellery, carpets, magnets etc. Probably one of the best places in Albania to buy some souvenirs. So take a look at a few shops while you’re on the way to the Kruja Castle. We picked up a very good smelling fresh herbal tea from the Kruje mountains.
The first construction on the site of Kruja Castle likely dates to the early Middle Ages. By the Albanian Revolt of 1432-1436, it was in the control of the Ottoman Empire. Within the decade, Kruja Castle became the centre of Skanderbeg’s rebellion against the Ottomans. Today Kruja Castle is one of the most visited historical sites in Albania and there are multiple museums located at the site of the castle – the Skanderbeg Museum and the Etnographic Museum. Entrance to the castle is free of charge.
National Museum “Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu”
The National Historical Museum, known as the Skanderbeg’s Museum was built in the beggining of the 1980’s. It’s a memorial museum and architecturally treated as Albanian tower. The museum complex is distributed in different exhibition areas according to the chronology of events. This museum is dedicated to the Albanian resistance against the Ottoman occupation in the 15th century. The museum collections include many original artefacts, documents and bibliographies, authentic reproductions referring to the Albanian history, initiating from the 15th century. The museum is composed of numerous pavilions such as antiquity and late antiquity, the Albanian principals, the Ottoman invasion and the resistance against it, the medieval castles, the Albanian resistance, the Skanderbeg’s chancellery, the library, the hall of the princes, the pinocotheque hall and the inheritance pavillion.
Etnographic Museum of Kruja
This house was constructed in 1764 on the mountainside with fantastic views from the windows. It reflects the Ottoman Empire architectural style. The National Ethnographic Museum in Kruja presents the story of Albanian customs and traditions throughout the centuries, and thanks to the captivating guide of this museum, you’ll understand them better. You’ll feel at home in this warm and cosy atmosphere as soon as you step inside.
How to get to Kruja?
Kruja is very easy to get to, either by your own car or by mini-bus from Tirana. Kruja is about 45 minutes drive away. Buses from Tirana run pretty often, but in any case it is best to check the timetable with the driver. The last minibus from Kruja to Tirana departs at 4 pm. But don’t worry, you have enough time to explore Kruja properly even if you have only a few hours. If time allows you, it is also worth to think about spending a night there. Kruja is a beautiful place to relax near the mountains.
This website can help you, but as mentioned, it is important to check the timetables with the drivers. This is the only way to get accurate information. Transport in Albania can be pretty challenging, but once you get used to it, it is way easier. The ticket will cost you 200 LEK. You will pay directly to the driver at the end of the ride.
Buses to Kruja are parked on the left side of the parking lot, near the entrance. Be sure that you take the bus to Kruja, not Fushë-Kruja, because this isn’t the same place. To get to the Tirana bus station, you have to take the city bus from the stop behind the National Museum (near the Skanderbeg Square) or in the city centre (behind the Tirana Opera). You just have to make sure that you board the correct bus. The bus inspector will announce that the bus goes in the direction of Terminal.
You can also take the bus with direction Kamez or Institut Bujqesori. The price is 40 LEK and you will pay once you get on the bus. The bus inspector will come to you to sell the ticket. You can also ask him where is the bus station. Knowing this will also help you if you plan to visit any other city in Albania.
Is Kruja worth visiting?
Yes, Kruja is absolutely worth visiting! You should add it on your Albania itinerary if you find yourself near Tirana and you have enough time to do a day trip. A half-day trip is also an option if you are more limited with time. My personal favorite was the Old Market / Kruja Bazaar. It reminded me of the Baščaršija, the Old Market in Sarajevo, another city I absolutely adore.
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