Discover the 11 best things to do in Shkoder & North Albania. From tourist attractions to day trips in the Albanian Alps, explore the best of Northern Albania!
The best part of traveling is stumbling upon off-the-radar destinations.
And while Shkoder is no secret to the travel community, it is a secret to most tourists. And that makes it a perfect place to visit as you get all the sights and none of the crowds.
So, I’ve compiled 11 of the best places to check out on your next visit to Albania and the northern part of the country. From museums to the outdoors, I’ve got it all here for you.
Let’s dive in.
11 Best Things to Do in Shkoder, Albania
1. Visit Rozafa Castle
Rozafa Castle is one of the first things you’ll see on many to-do lists, so we’ll get it out of the way.
This massive castle sits above Shkoder on a steep hill, overlooking it like a sentry. And a visit to the castle gives you a ton of history and an outstanding view of the city.
The castle dates back to the 9th century when it was built by Illyrian tribes. Over the years, it has been occupied by various civilizations and empires, including the Romans, the Byzantines, and Ottoman Empire. The castle also plays a central role in the legend of Rozafa. According to the legend, Rozafa was built into the wall alive as a sacrifice to ensure the castle walls wouldn’t crumble.
As a result, she now shares the name of the castle.
Today, the castle has a less-dark experience. It’s been restored and turned into a museum where visitors can explore the castle and its surrounding structures.
While it only takes a small part of your day, it’s a great way to start your trip to Shkoder!
2. Wander through the Shkoder Historical Museum
Need more Shkoder culture and history?
Then visit one of the few museums in Shkoder by visiting the Shkodra Historical Museum! With a massive collection of artifacts and exhibits, there’s plenty to indulge in to discover Shkoder’s history.
When you visit the museum, you can start with its ancient past and the Illyrian tribes to the Ottoman Empire to today.
The museum is in a former Venetian merchant’s home, restored and converted into a museum. There are several exhibits and artifacts to check out, and they’re broken down by different periods.
Check out the Illyrian tribes and Ottoman Empire exhibits for some of the more influential sections.
3. Sightsee at Ebu Beker Mosque
Whether you’re Muslim or not, the Ebu Bekr Mosque is an incredible place to visit.
It’s easy to find as it’s located right in the city’s heart. If you get lost, just listen and follow the prayer calls.
Although this mosque is still relatively young (built in 1995), it was built on the former mosque site — the Fushe Cela Mosque, which was destroyed during Albania’s communist era. And it’s hard not to be impressed by the construction.
A beautiful dome erupts into the sky, with twin minarets on each side and intricate geometric designs flowing across the walls and dome inside.
Here are a few tips for visiting:
- Dress modestly
- Give prayers space
- Remove your shoes when you enter the prayer hall
- Try to visit during non-prayer times
4. Rent a bike and ride the streets
The moment you enter Shkoder, you’ll notice the crowd of bikes weaving around the streets of this ancient city.
Shkoder is known for being great for bikes, and it’s a perfect way to explore the city.
Ride from landmark to landmark, visit the castle, or enjoy the different architecture as you coast. If you’re feeling adventurous, pedal out to the surrounding towns and get a dose of rural Albanian life.
And don’t worry about finding a bike to rent. There are shops on literally every corner.
So, sit back and enjoy the ride!
5. Hike in Theth National Park
Nature and outdoor lovers, rejoice!
Theth National Park is a small piece of natural heaven you should visit in Albania immediately!
With stunning mountain landscapes, clear rivers and waterfalls, and the famed Blue Eye (check the following sections 😉), there’s plenty for you to do here. It’s the best place to hike in Albania, but you can also camp or just pull out a chair and enjoy the scenery.
About a two-hour drive northeast of Shkoder, Theth sits in the Albanian Alps and covers around 25,000 hectares. It’s also home to the Accursed Mountains, the perfect place for a hike. A personal favorite of mine was the Theth to Valbona Peak hike, which gives you panoramic views out over the valley. Another option is the Theth to Blue Eye hike, where you can reward yourself with a dip in its extremely cool waters.
If you like to take things slow, you can explore Theth and its picturesque villages. Stone houses and chapels dot the valley, and each one gives you a perfect photo op. Keep an eye out for a crumbling church as well. The church ruins are one of the most photographed spots in Theth.
This was one of my favorite things I did on my entire trip to Albania, and it will be one of yours, too!
6. Wander the pedestrian street known as Sheshi
Sheshi is the perfect place to watch Albanians in their daily lives.
Families stroll past, music is played, and vendors sell souvenirs, clothes, and jewelry.
Plus, you can find many cafes and restaurants to grab a seat and enjoy a mid-day espresso. I spent most of my time in this area, and it’s the best way to get a feel for Shkoder.
7. Visit the Blue Eye near Theth and Shkoder
If you’re visiting Theth, there’s no reason to skip seeing the Blue Eye.
This natural wonder is a deep and incredibly blue pool of water with a waterfall crashing into it. And it’s beautiful 😍.
You can get a ride to the waterhole if you’d like to simplify things. But the other option is to hike to it from Theth and enjoy a freezing dip at the end to cool off. Plus, vendors are nearby selling drinks if it’s a scorching day.
Either way, take some time and enjoy the scenery — whether you decide to get in the water or not.
8. Ride on a boat on Lake Shkoder
Shkodra Lake is one of the largest Shkoder attractions.
Located right on the shore of Shkoder City, this lake is a perfect opportunity to spend a day on the water.
Take a boat tour, swim, or get some sun on the lakeshore. You can book trips from Shkoder out on the water in town or head lakeside and wander the streets and restaurants.
A fun fact is that Shkoder Lake is one of the largest in the Balkans. So that makes it a popular destination for tourists and locals.
9. Take a ride on the Komani Lake Ferry
Riding on Lake Koman is easily one of the top things to do and see in Albania.
With beautiful landscapes rising on both sides and the emerald waters rippling out from the boat, you get a serene moment to see how genuinely awesome Earth is.
You’ll see cute villages along the way, maybe the occasional animal, but plenty of mountainscapes that line the water’s edge.
If you’re doing the Valbona to Theth hike, you have a perfect opportunity to ride on this expansive lake in one of this planet’s most beautiful ferry rides.
10. Drive to Montenegro
You’re right on the border of Montenegro by being in the north of Albania, so why not visit another country on your trip?
After all, Montenegro is a beautiful country, making it one of the best day trips around Shkoder. It has incredible beaches, national parks, and some excellent cities.
And with the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica, only an hour’s drive away, you get the perfect opportunity to explore.
So, if you have the time, consider popping over to Montenegro and enjoying some Montenegrin lifestyle and language.
11. Take photos of the Mes Bridge
The Mes Bridge is a classic example of Ottoman architecture.
And it’s the perfect place for a photographer looking to get some fantastic shots.
With stone plates stacked upon each other, it spans around 108 meters (350 feet) to connect the two sides of the river. And even though it’s been restored a few times, it still maintains its original charm from when it was built in the 18th century.
The Mes Bridge spans the Kir River, and it’s a beautiful and historic Ottoman bridge. It is located in the heart of the city and is one of the most photographed landmarks in Shkoder. The bridge is a great place to stroll and enjoy the views of the river and the city.
While you will only spend a little time here, it’s worth a quick visit.
How to get to Shkoder
The easiest way to get to the city of Shkoder is from Tirana.
If you’re flying to Albania, you’re likely flying into the airport in Tirana, so you have a few options:
- Take a bus
- Book a taxi
- Rent a car
Getting to Shkoder by bus
The buses depart from the Regional Bus Station, located northwest of the city’s center.
On average, it costs around 400 Lek, or about $4.
Visiting Shkoder by taxi
A taxi will be more expensive, but you benefit from privacy.
You can find a taxi in town or use an app like Speed Taxi or UPs Taxi.
On average, a taxi will cost around 5000 to 6000 Lek or around $60-$70.
Renting a car
If you’re wanting to see different parts of Albania, renting a car is your best option.
You can find rental agencies scattered around the city. I found the best luck by searching for the top rental agencies and contacting them personally. Some would offer better rates than they showed online.
You can rent a small-sized car for as low as 2000 Lek/day, or around $20.
What’s on your list of things to do in Shkoder?
Before visiting, I didn’t imagine this small city in Albania would be worth visiting.
After visiting, though, it’s definitely worth it. From the outdoors to museums, there’s no shortage of cool things to see in Shkoder. And with this list, you get a list of the 11 best places to see.
I hope it helps you on your trip to Shkoder!