If you’re wondering where to travel for the Christmas season, you might not have considered Tirana, Albania as the perfect Christmas market destination. However, Albanians have been throwing increasingly festive events in Tirana over the last few years.
You might be surprised that a secular Muslim majority nation like Albania is so enthusiastic about Christmas, however, the season is enjoyed by many secular Muslims and non-religious Albanians in addition to Albania’s Orthodox Christians. While it’s not a universal holiday, many Albanians choose to emphasize spending time with family during this time, regardless of religion and culture.
We spoke with Romina Shamku, the Specialist in the Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, about how to visit Tirana’s Christmas Market this year.
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How to Visit the Christmas Market in Tirana
Romina was kind enough to answer all of our questions about how to visit. Here’s everything you need to know to attend the Tirana Christmas Market.
What are the dates and times for the 2019 Tirana Christmas Market?
Romina told us that the dates for this year’s event are still being finalized. In addition to the weeks-long Skanderberg Square Christmas Market and the New Bazaar (Pazari i Ri), the city also hosts a few special events.
In 2018, there was a special Christmas Artisan Market held on December 8th and a New Year’s Eve concert with fireworks held on December 31st. We will update this post once Tirana confirms the dates for 2019.
Where is the market located?
The main Tirana Christmas Market is held in Skanderberg Square.
You can also stop by the New Bazzar (Pazari i Ri) Christmas Market.
What kind of entertainment will there be for adults?
Romina shared that in year’s past “the whole square was filled with wooden houses, where you could find all kinds of stuff. For example, in some of them, you could find a variety of handicrafts and different souvenirs. In many other houses, you had the opportunity to try local, traditional Albanian products. Also in a considerable area of the square were installed several different games for children and adults.
Also, I have to mention the skating rink that was liked very much by locals and foreigners.”
They expect to have similar entertainment this year.
What kind of entertainment will there be for children?
In addition to the ice skating and games Romina already mentioned, there are typically rides and a merry-go-round for children to enjoy.
Romina added that traditionally “on different days there were organized activities for children with animators or concerts with children choirs. but there were also concerts with famous Albanian and foreign singers.”
What kind of goods will be for sale?
You can find booths with locally crafted Albanian souvenirs, gifts, and Christmas ornaments.
What kind of food and drinks will be available?
You can find typical Christmas market fare here like mulled wine (Gluhwein). Of course, you can always find amazing local Albanian food at the New Bazaar, and Christmas time is no exception!
Is there a ticket price to get into the events?
Entrance to the markets is free. Make sure to bring cash to the market so you can pay for rides, food, and purchase any gifts or souvenirs you’d like.
Are there any other special festivities in Tirana this December or January that travelers might want to attend?
Because of Albania’s history of Communism which made practicing religion illegal for much of the twentieth century, there is a historic emphasis on celebrating New Year’s Eve.
According to Romina, in the past “The main event, of course, was in the New Year’s Eve where beside the concert that went on all night, the spectacle culminated with the fireworks at 00:00.” It’s expected this tradition will continue this year.
How can travelers learn more?
Because Tirana is still finalizing the details for this year’s events, we will update this post once we have more information from the city.
We have our own recommendations and resources for visiting Tirana below. I want to thank Romina and Visit Tirana and Tirana Municipality for sharing more information about this wonderful event with us!
Where to Stay in Tirana
We’re in the process of creating comprehensive guides on where to stay in Tirana, but for now, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible. While Albania is underrated by international travelers, many of the best places can book early because Albanians know where to go.
What to Pack for Albania in Winter
We have a full Albania packing list here with winter sections for men and women, but here’s the quick version!
A Guidebook – While travel blogs are great, we also definitely see the benefit of having a good paper guidebook in hand to refer to in your on-the-ground travel. We recommend the Lonely Planet Western Balkans book.
Winter accessories: Bring a winter scarf like this one (women’s) or this cashmere scarf (men’s) to help block out the wind. We recommend women’s gloves like these which are compatible with your smartphone (for a men’s version, check these). You also lose a lot of heat from the top of your head and ears, so a fleece-lined knit hat (women’s) that you wear tight, like a beanie, is a fantastic choice. Pick a colorful one for cute photos! Here’s a men’s version as well.
An ultra-light down jacket: You can wear this on its own or pair it with a warmer jacket for colder days. This rolls up and packs easily in your day bag so it’s good to bring along – I have one really similar to this (women’s) but there’s a men’s version as well. If you really want to be warm, or if your trip is mostly focused on the outdoor activities, I recommend a winter jacket like this North Face parka which I’ve owned for years and years.
Winter boots: It can be snowy any icy throughout Albania, as it can snow in Tirana and even get below freezing. For snowy days and super cold weather when you still want to be comfortable, I love these knee-high waterproof Blondo boots and have owned them for over a decade. For men, I suggest a waterproof boot with good traction, like these Timberlands.
Motion sickness pills: Great for bus rides if you’ll be visiting any mountains – I buy these non-drowsy ones. You can also try these natural motion sickness bands which use acupressure to reduce nausea – they actually work pretty well.
More Albania Travel Resources
First, start by reading our post on planning a trip to Albania. It covers everything from visas to vaccinations to what to pack, so it’s a great jumping-off point for your travel plans.
If you’re curious about the currency used in Albania and how tipping works, we recommend our Balkan currency guide to learn all about the Albanian lek and tipping culture. We also have a post on Albanian cuisine!
If you’re looking for even more places to add to your Albania itinerary, we have a bunch of ideas for you from us and other bloggers in this collaborative post about the 15 best places to visit in Albania!
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
If you’re planning a trip to Albania, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Albania, it’s a good idea to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.
For travel insurance, Allison and I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Pin this Guide to Visiting the Tirana Christmas Market for Your Trip to Albania
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.