Tirana (Albanian: Tiranë or Tirana also Tirona in the local dialect) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Albania. It was founded in 1614 by Sulejman Pasha and became Albania’s capital city in 1920.
Early period to 1418
The area now occupied by the city of Tirana has been populated since Paleolithic times dating back 30,000 to 10,000 years ago as some tools were found near Mount Dajt’s quarry terrain, as well as inside the Cave of the Pellumba. It can be said that Tirana’s precincts are one of the earliest regions in Albania to be inhabited. Various remains discovered in fortresses, churches, villages and during urban constructions in and around Tirana, give evidence to a continuous activity throughout the chronological stages of human development. The oldest discovery in the area of Tirana has been a mosaic with several other remains of buildings of the later antiquity, found at the Kroi i Shengjinit (Fountain of Shengjin), near a Medieval temple. A castle, possibly called Tirkan, was built by Emperor Justinian in 520 AD and restored by Ahmed Pasha Toptani in the 18th century. The area had no especial importance in Illyrian and Classical times. There were medieval settlements in the area at Prezë, Ndroq, Lalmë and Petrelë Castle. In 1418, Marin Barleti, an Albanian Catholic priest and scholar, the first to write a history of Albania, referred in a Venetian document of “Plenum Tyrenae”, a small village. There are references to “Tirana e Madhe” and “Tirana e Vogël” (Greater and Lesser Tirana).
Under Ottoman rule
The records of the first land registrations under the Ottomans in 1431-32 show that Tirana consisted of 60 inhabited areas, with nearly 2,028 houses and 7,300 inhabitants. The 1583 registration records that Tirana had 110 inhabited areas, with 2,900 houses and 20,000 inhabitants.
Tirana’s Bazaar seen in a postcard of 1902.
Süleiman Pasha Mulleti (or Sulejman Pashë Bargjini), a local ruler, established the Ottoman town in 1614 with a mosque, a commercial centre and a hammam (Turkish sauna). The town was located along caravan routes and grew rapidly in importance until the early 19th century. During this period, the mosque in the centre of Tirana, the Et’hem Bey Mosque designed by Molla Bey of Petrela, began to be constructed. It employed the best artisans in the country and was completed in 1821 by Molla’s son, who was also Sulejman Pasha’s grandnephew. In 1800, the first new comers arrived in the settlement, the so-called ortodoksit. They were Vlachs from villages of Korçë and Pogradec who settled around the area of today’s Artificial Lake of Tirana. Later, they started to be known as the llacifac and were the first christians to arrive after the foundation of the town. In 1807, Tirana became the center of the Sub-Prefecture of Krujë-Tirana. After 1816, Tirana languished under the control of the Toptani family of Krujë. In 1865, Tirana became a Sub-Prefecture of the newly created Vilayet of Shkodër and Sanjak of Durrës. The Albanian language started to be taught in Tirana’s schools in 1889. The patriotic club “Bashkimi” was founded in 1908 while on 26 November 1912, the national flag was raised in agreement with Ismail Qemali. During the Balkan Wars, the town was temporarily occupied by the Serbian army, and in 1914-15, it took part in uprising of the villages lead by Haxhi Qamili.
On February 8, 1920, Tirana was chosen as the temporary capital of Albania, which had acquired independence in 1912, by the Congress of Lushnja. The city retained that status permanently on December 31, 1925. From 1920 to 1924 Tirana experienced attacks from the Serbian army and the forces of Zogu at the Shkalla e Tujanit (Step of Tujan). The first regulatory plan of the city was compiled in 1923 by Eshref Frashëri, and completed by the Geographic Institute of Florence. Durrës Street was opened in 1922 and called Nana Mbretneshë (Mother Queen). Many houses and surrounding properties were demolished to make way for it. In 1924, Tirana was the center of the Revolution of June lead by Fan S. Noli. Since 1925, when they were banned in Turkey, the Bektashis, an order of dervishes who take their name from Haji Bektash, a Sufi saint of the 13th and 14th centuries, made Tirana their primary settlement. The city was the venue where the Pact of Tirana was signed. The existing parliamentary building was raised in 1924 and first served as a club for officers. It was there, in September 1928, that King Zog I was crowned King.
Monarchy and World War II
The center of Tirana was the project of Florestano de Fausto and Armando Brasini, well known architects of the Benito Mussolini period in Italy. The Royal Palace (Palace of the Brigades), the Town Hall, the government ministry buildings, and the National Bank are their work. Dëshmorët e Kombit (National Martyrs) Boulevard was built in 1930 and named “Zogu I Boulevard”. In the communist period, the part from Skanderbeg Square up to the train station was named “Stalin Boulevard”. In 1939, Tirana was captured by Fascist forces. In November 1941, Enver Hoxha with other Albanian communists founded the Communist Party of Albania. The town became the center of the Albanian communists’ in mobilizing the people of Tirana to fight against the Italian fascists and later Nazi Germans, while spreading ideological propaganda. The town was liberated after a fierce battle between the Communists and the people of Tirana against the German forces, on November 17, 1944. The Nazis eventually withdrew and the communists seized power.
Under communist rule
The former building of Tirana’s Municipality.
Following the coming to power of the communists, the city experienced a significant period of development in every aspect. On the urbanization field, the city saw the creation of socialist styled apartment complexes, and factories. In the 60s, the historical identity of the city faced a critical moment as the central square was redesigned. As a result, a number of buildings of cultural and historical significance were demolished to make way for the formation of modern day Skanderbeg Square. In the place of today’s “Hotel Tirana International” building used to be established the Autocephalus Orthodox Cathedral, the biggest in the country. Near the grounds of today’s Opera house at the Palace of Culture used to be the Old Bazaar (Pazari i Vjetër). The National Historic Museum is built on the grounds of the former building of the Municipality of Tirana, which was detonated in the 60s. The first structure which used to house the Parliament of Albania in King Zog’s period, was turned into a children’s theater and named the Dolls’ Theater (Teatri i Kukullave).
In the political aspect, the city was visited by a number of important political figures. In 1959, Soviet president Nikita Khruschev visited Tirana, and while in the capital took the opportunity to lay the first brick on the foundations of the new Palace of Culture. In 1964, the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou Enlai met with Enver Hoxha upon his arrival. In 1984, the city was visited by the Minister-President of the German state of Bavaria Franz Josef Strauss. Tirana served as the venue upon which the ceremony of death of the First Secretary of the Albanian Party of Labour took place, in 1985. Four years later, in 1989, Oskar Fischer, Minister for Foreign Matters of the German Democratic Republic visited Tirana.
The transition period
The post communist period is described to have been the worst one in terms of the urban development of the city. Tirana experienced a chaotic development as high rise buildings started to be constructed with out planning, and illegal structures rose on public areas. New informal districts started to form around the city as internal migrants gathered from around the country.
Tirana saw a radical change as the new millennium was at the door step. Beginning in the year 2000, Tirana’s Municipality undertook a massive campaign to return public space to the general public. The campaign called “Return to Identity” included the transformation of Lana River banks, Rinia Park and others to their pre-1990 state. The overall infrastructure has improved as considerable number of roads have been reconstructed. Common spaces between apartment buildings have been targeted by a subsequent campaign in bringing back green spaces and a vast number of illegal buildings have been demolished. It is observered that some existing green spaces are used for the construction of skyscrapers and multi-functional centers. Apartment buildings are being built on grounds of former residential houses.
Tirana’s mayor, Edi Rama, has led an initiative to paint the façades of Tirana’s buildings in bright colours, altought interiors of those building are still falling into ruins. 
There are future regulatory and building plans for Tirana. Some of them include: Skanderbeg’s Square Rehabilitation, The Zone of the Lake, Priority Zone “E”..etc.
Tirana’s expansion from 1990 to 2005.
As of September 2008, the city’s urban population was officially estimated at 616,396.
In 1703, Tirana had about 4,000 inhabitants and by 1820 the number tripled to 12,000. The first census, conducted in 1923 (a few years after Tirana became capital city of Albania) showed a total population of 10,845.
During the 1950s, Tirana experienced rapid industrial growth, and the population increased to about 137,000 by 1960.
After the end of communist rule in 1991, Tirana experienced its fastest population growth as people from rural areas moved to the capital in finding a better life. In 1990, Tirana had 250,000 inhabitants, but the large-scale influx since then from other parts of the country has increased the population to well over 800,000.
Below is a detailed account of population development of Tirana through the years:
The Municipality of Tirana is located at (41.33°N, 19.82°E) in Tirana District, Tirana County and is bordered to the north by the hills of Kamza, east by Mount Dajt, west by the hills of Vaqarr and Yzberisht, and south by the hills of Krrabë and Sauk. Tirana’s average altitude is 110 meters (361 ft) above sea level and lies on the Ishëm River, about 20 miles (32 km) inland.
There are two main rivers that run through the city: the Lana and the Tirana. The city also contains a total of four lakes: Tirana Lake, Kodër-Kamëz Lake, Farka Lake, and Tufina Lake. Tirana’s highest point measures 1,828 m. The city is on the same parallel as Naples, Madrid and Istanbul and on the same meridian as Budapest and Krakow.
The largest hospital in Tirana is called Mother Theresa Hospital (Qëndra Spitalore Universitare Nënë Tereza), which is associated with University of Tirana, Faculty of Medicine. The Hospital is a 1,456 bed facility that offers comprehensive in patient tertiary care to over 12,000 patients annually. The hospital is currently undergoing major changes in infrastructure and equipment.
Tirana has a generally Mediterranean climate. The average temperature varies from a low of 2°C in January to a high of 31°C in July and August which are also the driest months, each with around 3 cm of precipitation on average. The wettest months are November, December, and February averaging between 15 to 20 cm.
“Taivani” one of Tirana’s most modern and frequented restaurants.
Petrela Castle, Tirana.
National Historical Museum.
For a detailed list, see Landmarks section below.
The main cultural and artistic institutions of Tirana are the National Theater, the Theater of Opera and Ballet, the National Gallery of the Arts (Galeria Kombëtare e Arteve), and the Ensemble of Folk Music and Dances. Another cultural event includes performances of renown world composers performed by the Symphonic Orchestra of the Albanian Radio and Television. The city has been a venue for the Tirana Biennale and Tirana Jazz Festival.
Tirana is home to historical and cultural sites:
Castle/Fortress of Tirana (Kalaja e Tiranës), the historical core of the capital
Church Kroi of Shëngjin (Kisha e Kroit të Shëngjinit)
Prezë Castle/Fortress (Kalaja e Prezës)
Petrela Castle/Fortress (Kalaja e Petrelës)
Tirana’s Mosque of Et’hem Bej (Xhamia e Tiranës)
The Center of Tirana, as a monumental ansemble,
Tabaks’ Bridge (Ura e Tabakëve),
Kapllan Pasha’s Grave (Varri i Kapllan Pashës)
The Clock Tower (Kulla e Sahatit)
Tirana has 8 public libraries, one being the National Library of Albania (Biblioteka Kombëtare), 5 museum-houses and 56 cultural monuments.
Tirana is host to the University of Tirana, Polytechnic University of Tirana, Agricultural University, Academy of Physical Education and Sports, national and international academic research institutions, as well as NGO.
Tirana has seen the creation of a vast number of private academic institutions. They include University of New York, Tirana, Luarasi University, Zoja e Keshilit te Mire, Academy of Film and Multimedia “Marubi”, and many others.
Additional public academic institutions include the Academy of the Arts, Academy of the Sciences, Military Academy and the Institute of the Ministry of Interior. Prime Minister Sali Berisha promised that the Government will fund more money on Education. He also said that he will open up more schools and every kid in Albania will have 1 computer.
Main article: List of Tirana’s neighborhoods
The first neighborhood was that of Bam. The two oldest neighborhoods are Mujos and Pazari, located between the geographical centre and Elbasan Street on either side of the Lana River. In 2000, the centre of Tirana, from the central campus of Tirana University up to Skanderbeg Square was declared the place of Cultural Assembly, and given special claims to state protection. In the same year, the area began a process of restoration under the name ‘Return to Identity’. The area to the west of the university, adjacent to Shën Prokopi Park, was formerly reserved for the occupation of important government and party officials. It remains a desirable residential area.
Tirana is Albania’s major industrial centre. It has experienced rapid growth and established many new industries since the 1920s. The principal industries include agricultural products and machinery, textiles, pharmaceuticals, and metal products.
Tirana began to develop in the beginning of the 16th century, when a bazaar was established, and its craftsmen manufactured silk and cotton fabrics, leather, ceramics and iron, silver, and gold artifacts. Sited in a fertile plain, the Tirana area exported 2,600 barrels of olive oil and 14,000 packages of tobacco to Venice by 1769. In 1901, it had 140,000 olive trees, 400 oil mills, and 700 shops. The Tid tower at 85 meters is being constructed in the city. It will redefine architecture in Albania.
The city suffers from problems related to overpopulation, such as waste management, lack of running water and electricity as well as extremely high levels of air pollution from the 300,000 cars moving around the city. The problem is exacerbated by aging infrastructure. Despite the problems, Tirana has also experienced a very rapid growth in the construction of new buildings. In recent years pollution has worsened as the number of cars has increased by several orders of magnitude. These are mostly older, diesel cars that pollute much more than the newer models in circulation elsewhere in Europe. Additionally, most of the fuel used in Albania contains larger amounts of sulfur and lead than that allowed in European Union countries. In recent years pollution from construction has become a major concern for the inhabitants of the city. Another peril to the city comes from untreated solid waste.Saint Prokopi park, a vast forested park in the outskirts of the city, has some effect on absorbing CO2 emissions. Tirana is cleaned by governmental workers everyday, and trees have been planted around many sidewalks. Mayor Edi Rama promised that he’ll plant 10 more trees in Tirana and make a machine that sucks all the dust and carbon out. He said by 2012-2014 Tirana will have the cleanest air in the Balkans. This will not increase Albania’s life expectancy.
Tirana is the central media hub of Albania. The city is home to the headquarters of the Albanian Radio and Television (RTSH), Albania’s public broadcaster, and national commercial broadcasters such as Top Channel and TV Klan. Numerous radio stations operate in the capital, the most notable being Radio Tirana, followed by commercial Top Albania Radio and Plus 2 Radio. Tirana is home to the publication of a vast number of dailys: Shqip, Zëri i Popullit, Shekulli, Gazeta Shqiptare and Koha Jonë being the most famous.
Below are some of the most notable personalities born in Tirana:
Bamir Topi – current President of Albania
Edvin Murati – football player
Elsa Lila – singer
Erjon Bogdani – football player
Essad Pasha – politician
Fatos Nano – former Prime Minister of Albania
Inva Mula – opera singer
Leka, Crown Prince of Albania – heir of King Zog I
Masiela Lusha – actress, poet, and writer
Rexhep Meidani – former President of Albania
Saimir Kumbaro – film director
Kledi Kadiu – dancer and actor who lives and works in Italy
Neritan Xhaferi – accountant, businessman living and working in Dallas Texas
KF Partizani Tirana
KS Dinamo Tirana
Municipal, national and international transport links have developed over recent years as demand has increased. Until recent years, overland connections through Greece and Montenegro have had various problems with bureaucracy or security. The following section is liable to change and is only indicative.
Local transport within Tirana is by bus or taxi. Coach and minibus services run, according to demand, to the coast and northern and southern Albania from different locations in Tirana. International coach services connect to Greece, via Korçë and then taxis to the border, to Kosovo, and to Republic of Macedonia.
See also: Albanian Railways
There are regular passenger services to Durrës and Pogradec, via Elbasan. The railway station is north of Skanderbeg Square, in Boulevard Zogu I. There are no international passenger services, although there is a freight-only railway through Shkodër to Montenegro (though this is currently disused).
Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (Mother Theresa in Albanian), also known as Rinas Airport was reconstructed in 2007. It is located 25 kilometres north-west of the city, off the road to Durrës. Airlines using Rinas include Albanian Airlines. Flights run to Athens, New York, Rimini, Bari, Genoa, Rome, Bologna, Munich, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Vienna among other places.
Several foreign airlines also serve Rinas Airport: Alitalia (from Rome and Milan), British Airways (from London Gatwick Airport), Austrian Airlines (from Vienna), Adria Airways (Ljubljana), Jat Airways (Belgrade), Malev (Budapest), Olympic Airlines (Athens), Hemus Air (Sofia) and Turkish Airlines (Istanbul). Lufthansa flights via Munich started on 1 May 2007. Each Monday, there is a direct flight from Tirana to John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, USA.
Tirana does not have a port of its own. However, the port city of Durrës is no more than half an hour away from the capital. Passenger ferries from Durrës sail to Trieste, Ancona, Otranto, Bari, Lecce, Genova (Italy) Zadar, Dubrovnik (Croatia), Maribor, Koper (Slovenia), Gdansk (Poland), Bar (Montenegro), Corfu (Greece), etc.
Skanderbeg Square: the central hub of the city, named after the Albanian hero, Skanderbeg.
Et’hem Bey Mosque: at the south east corner of Skanderbeg Square – begun in 1789 by Molla Bey and finished in 1821 by his son, Haxhi Et’hem Bey, great-grandson of Sulejman Pasha.
The Clock Tower (the Kulla e Sahatit,) next to the Et’hem Bey Mosque, was started by Haxhi Et’hem Bej around 1821-22 and was finished with the help of the richest families of Tirana. Its installation was the work of the Tufina family. In 1928 the Albanian state bought a modern German clock and the tower was raised to a height of 35 metres. The clock was damaged during World War II and it was repaired in July 1946.
Government buildings: at the south end of Skenderbeg Square
National Historic Museum: north side of Skenderbeg Square
The headquarters of the Bektashi Sufi Order can be found in the eastern edge of the city.
Roman Catholic Church of Saint Paul: completed in 2001, the largest church in Tirana.
Orthodox Church of St Prokop was built in 1780.
Roman Catholic Church of Saint Maria was built in 1865, paid for by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria.
The Tabakëve and Terzive bridges (respectively in front of the Parliament building and on Elbasani Street) date from the beginning of the 20th century.
The mosque that is also the tomb of Kapllan Hysa, near the monument to Ushtari i Panjohur (‘the unknown soldier’) was built in 1816.
The National Library was established in 1922, with 5000 volumes.
The Fortress or Castle of Petrela, 12 kilometres from Tirana, dates from the fourth century BC. It took its current form in the 13th century, under the rule of Topiaj, and later became the property of the Kastrioti.
The Palace of Culture (Pallati i Kulturës), where the Theatre of Opera and Ballet and the National Library stand, was completed in 1963 on the site of the former Trade of Tirana building, with the first brick being placed by Soviet president Nikita Khruschev in 1959.
The monument to Skënderbeu, raised in 1968, is the work of Odhise Paskali in collaboration with Andrea Mana and Janaq Paço. It commemorated the 500th anniversary of the death of the national hero.
The monument to Mother Albania, 12 metres high, was inaugurated in the Dëshmoret e Kombit cemetery in 1971.
The Academy of the Sciences building was completed in April 1972. The building housed the first Albanian Parliament, and is depicted on the reverse of the Albanian 100 lekë banknote issued in 1996.
The Gallery of Figurative Arts was created in 1976 and includes around 3200 works by Albanian and foreign artists.
The International Center of Culture, formerly the Enver Hoxha Museum, was inaugurated in 1988. Popularly referred to as ‘the Pyramid’, it was designed by a group of architects under the direction of the dictator’s daughter, Pranvera Hoxha, and her husband Klement Kolaneci.
The National Historical Museum was built in 1981. The ornamental mosaic on its facade is called “The Albanians”.
The presidential palace, Tirana, also known as the Palace of Brigades, was built by King Zog as his residence in the 1930s.