Shkodër (Albanian: Shkodra) was the capital city of Albania for hundreds of years until 1915 when World War I broke out. Now it is the second largest city in Albania with 135,612 people.
Nowadays, Shkodër has experienced a face lift as streets and buildings were renovated, a promenade opened and a new bridge built over the Buna River. Shkodër is 30 minutes away from the beach or 2 hours away from the mountains.
Furthermore, it seems that Shkodër is the bicycle capital of Albania—the chaos of bicycle going in any imaginable direction and the reckless driving of cars can make you dizzy.
- 1 Shkoder Tourist Info Center, Rruga Teuta (Southeast of Sheshi Demokracia). Provide city maps and can help with any of your inquiries, including bus time schedules.
Queen Teuta's Illyrian kingdom was based here in the 3rd century BCE. The Ottomans besieged it in 1473 and 1479, and lost 14,000 and 30,000 men in these raids, respectively. Shkodër changed hands with Montenegro numerous times during World War I. Shkodër was badly damaged in a 1979 earthquake.
As in the rest of Albania, there is no bus station per se. Instead, there are a few gathering points for buses/furgons scattered around the city.
- 2 Buses departing to Tirana and Durrës. Majority of buses depart from the main city square with a fountain (called Sheshi Demokracia). This includes buses/furgons to Tirana that leave every round hour; the journey lasts for 2 hours (116 km) and costs 400 lek (as of July 2022). There are also direct buses to Durrës (avoiding Tirana) for 700 lek.
- 3 Furgons to Velipoja. 2 blocks south-west along Rruga studenti, about a 10-min walk from Sheshi Demokracia there is a small furgon station from where they depart. There is no fixed time, but they will leave when full. Check around 10:00 or 13:30 what is the situation, potentially you will have to wait another hour before it leaves. 200 lek.
- 4 Furgons to Kelmend and Thethi. To catch a furgon to Albanian Alps, head 2 km north of Sheshi Demokracia. There is a gathering point for transport going to Kelmend and Thethi.
- 5 Furgons to Koman. This also includes some other locations in an eastbound direction, including Vau i Dejës dam..
From Ulcinj (Montenegro), buses cost €5 or 700 lek (plus €1 if you have baggage) and leave at 06:00, 07:00, 12:30 and 16:30. If they are not available, you can take a taxi to the border at Muriqan (€10) and after crossing the border, take another taxi to Ulcinj (€8). However, the return ticket from Shkodër to Ulcinj costs €5 and buses leave at 09:00 and 16:00 from the city center fountain.
From Podgorica there are 4 daily buses to Shkodër (10:00, 13:00, 16:00, 23:45).
Minibuses to/from Hani i Hotit (the Montenegro border on the way to Podgorica) run from around 300 lek. Taxis for this journey cost €15.
Finding your way round Shkodër is complicated by the fact that all of the roads have been renamed, and some of the old names have even been re-used in different places! All roads have got new road signs. Since all the maps and guides (including this one) give the old names, finding your way round is a bit like being in a parallel universe.
There are some public buses running inside city. There is also infrequent bus to the nearby village of Shiroke.
Shkodër is the bike capital of Albania, because it's flat. This is a heritage from the Hoxha era. Bicycle can be rented for around 300 lek and are good to reach the lake, the castle and Ura e Mesit, the old Roman bridge.
- 1 Kalaja/Rozafa Fortress (2 km southwest of Shkodër, near the southern end of Lake Shkodra). Founded by the Illyrians, this fortress was rebuilt by the Venitians and the Ottomans. Rozafa is a woman buried in the ramparts, who supports the structure. The renovated museum inside the castle explains its history and that the area of the former city is now consumed by the rivers beside the castle. The museum costs 200 lek extra and there is a private guide you can ask about almost anything. There are amazing views from the highest point. 400 lek, 200 lek to enter the Museum.
- 2 Shkodër Historical Museum, Rr. Oso Kuka, no. 12, ☏ . 09:00-14:00. The museum is in a traditional Shkodran house featuring valuable artifacts on every sphere of social life in the area. The paintings and handicrafts on display are exquisite. 150 lek.
- 3 Marubi National Museum of Photography, Nr. 32,, Rruga: "Kolë Idromeno" (midway through main pedestrian street), ☏ , [email protected]. Daily 09:00-14:00, 16:00-19:00. Albanian's only photo museum capturing development of Shkodër and Albania in general. Major part of the collection comes from three generations of Marubis. 700 lek, 200 lek for students.
- 4 Lake Shkodra. The largest lake in the Balkans. Take a taxi to the village of Shiroke. Alternatively ask around for the public bus which goes to the edge of the city, where it is a pleasant 5-km walk by the lake to Shiroke. There is a less frequent bus directly to Shiroke.
- 5 Mes Bridge (Albanian: Ura e Mesit) (in the village of Mes, about 5 km northeast of Shkodër). This bridge was built in the 18th century by Kara Mahmud Bushati, the local Ottoman pasha.
- 6 Drisht Castle (above the modern village of Drisht, 10 km northeast of Shkodër). A ruined castle, the earliest traces of Frost Castle's fortifications date to the late Neolithic era. The walls and towers date to 1396-1478 during the Venetian era.
- 7 Shurdhah Island (Albanian: Ishulli i Shurdhahit). It is in the Vau i Dejës Reservoir, which is fed and drained by the river Drin. It is accessible by tourist boat in summer from the Vau i Dejës dam or Rragam. It contains the ruins of the medieval town of Sarda. You can visit the ruins of the 11th-century medieval castle, which includes two rings of defensive walls and towers (some submerged in the lake), the remains of a Byzantine church and other early medieval walls. The setting on the steep rocks rising from the lake is especially impressive.
- 8 Five Heroes monument. This was "one of Albania's best examples of socialist-realist sculpture". Unfortunately, it was removed from there and replaced by a bland contemporary fountain. The monument was temporarily dumped at the city's garbage dump, only to be finally put back at the Dobrac Roundabout in the northern entrance of Shkodër. The site is still a useful reference point for finding your way around. Interestingly, the fountain is surrounded by seating, in the centre of a busy roundabout called Sheshi Demokracia (Democracy Square) with no pedestrian crossings! Only in Albania!
- 9 Museum of Memory, Bulevardi Skenderbeu. Museum dedicated to the crimes of the communist regime in Albania featuring photographs, videos, and first hand accounts of political prisoners from Shkodër.
- 10 Lead Mosque.
- 11 Ebu Beker Mosque.
- 12 Shkodër Orthodox Cathedral.
- 13 Shkodër Cathedral.
- 14 Fretënve Church.
- 1 Kolë Idromeno St. (In the Center of Shkodër). Take a walk on the main pedestrian street of the city full of cafes and locals promenading in the evening hours.
- 2 Molo Promenade, Shetitorja Molos (Near Buna River Old Bridge along the river bank). Romantic renovated promenade along the riverside.
- The Lake Koman ferry is a breathtaking trip across Lake Koman from Koman to Fierze, where you can move on to Bajram Curri or further to Kosovo. Take a furgon in the morning 06:30 from the second roundabout down Marin Barleti about 500 m away from the city centre. If you are at the center-most place (the one in front of the hotel Rozafa) before 06:00, you can shout "Koman" and people will guide you through the correct furgon or call the furgon driver by phone that he picks you up.
- 3 Canoeing in Bojana (Buna) River.
- Festivals. Take part in annual festivals such as the Carnival, Children's Festival, AniFest Rozafa Animated Film Festival, Lake Day, and the Shkodra Jazz Fest.
- Traditional Plays Festival (Lojra Popullore). Take part in the annual festival showcasing the best of the North Albanian Folklore at the end of March annually at Rozafa Castle.
Since Shkodër is the city of the bicycles, cycling from the city centre to Shiroka's lake and around of it, it is always a great choice, especially if you enjoy nature. There are shops near the city centre which will rent you a bicycle for 100 lek per hour(as of July 2022).
- "Skënderbeu" Kognak
- Locally made souvenirs such as rugs located in Zogaj village or at the Artisan's Bazaar (Albanian: Pazari i Artizanatit) at Shkodër's entrance.
- 1 Tregu "Qafë Hardhi" (Vintage/Second-hand market). Find everything here from cloths, linen, hats to shoes, and even some household utilities. Many of the cloths are even new, not 2nd-hand. And if you look long enough, you will even find the odd piece of posh Italian designer brand. It seems like most things are sold for "200 lek" here, may it be a pant, shirt or hat—you will hear them saying it everywhere in the market: dy mijë lek.
- Carp fish in Shiroke village
- Sheqerpare - desert
- Lakra turshi - pickled cabbage
Lots of dining options are available on the main pedestrian street - Rruga Kolë Idromeno. There are also some nice restaurants and pizzerias on the promenade near Buna River Old Bridge (Rruga e Molos street).
in the city center:
- 1 Shkreli fast food, Rruga Wilson. Typical fast food place with plenty of seating, though very busy during lunch time. The cheeseburger for 120lek is tasty and a great deal for the price. No table service: order and pay at the counter. 100-250lek.
- 2 Shega e Eger, Rruga G'juhadol.
- 3 Fisi Restaurant - Traditional Food, 4001, Bulevardi Skënderbeu.
- 4 Restaurant PURI, Blv, Bulevardi Bujar Bishanaku.
- 5 San Francisco Bar & Restorant, Rruga Kolë Idromeno. A proper restaurant's look and feel and an extensive menu are provided. Some portions are huge, some aren't. The quality of food varies a lot, from superb to simply uneatable. It has a second floor terrace. 300 - 1500 lek.
- 6 Restaurant, Rruga Mbreti Gent. This is ampscale restaurant by Albanian standards, serving delicious food including fish. It has a nice atmosphere and is in a small garden. 300 - 700 lek.
Shkodër is famous for its numerous patisseries where you can eat delicious sweets, and it's possible to come to Shkodër for this alone.
- 7 Cafe Oraldi (Pasticeri Oraldi), Parruce, ☏ . Superb cakes. Definitely one of the best in Albania. Extremely popular with locals. 80 - 150 lek.
Local beers "Korça" or "Tirana", Zadrima Winery and the famous Albanian spirit called Rakija made of different fruits.
- 1 Shkodra Backpackers. Owner-run, cozy and calm hostel. Most popular spot in Shkoder among backpackers. Great for dog lovers (some adopted strays are staying here). Ask Alma for contact to the local shelter if you want to volunteer. Dorm bed 1000 lek.
- 2 Arka Hostel. This place is also a youth center where different events take place (e.g. German classes). The hostel part is not very charming but one of the cheaper places to stay. Shared kitchen. Nice bar on site. 900 lek/bed in a twin room.
- 3 Hotel Rozafa (Hotel Turizmi) (Right in the city centre, Rruga Marin Barleti close to Sheshi Demokracia). Old communist-style hotel; clean; gentle and English-speaking personal; nice view over the city if you book in an upper floor; 91 rooms; no air conditioning. 2000 lek for a double room (2013).
- Florian's Guest House, shtoj i ri, reparti ushtarak. kodrajt (By car, turn down from E762 road towards Shtoj i Ri. Pass a few local shops, look and for sign on the right hand side of the road.), ☏ , [email protected]. This is a 12-bed B&B/guest house run by Florian and his family, located amongst orchards and vineyards. It is outside, but within walking distance from the centre of Shkoder. Breakfast is included, and lunch and dinner are offered for €4, serving Albanian cuisine made from organic food farmed in the own garden. The family can help to arrange tours of Shkoder and to get into the Albanian Alps or to other cities in the country. €15, breakfast included.
- 4 Camping Lake Shkodra Resort. Modern campsite 8 km from Shkodër with restaurant, Wifi and access to the lake, organises tours to Thethi.
- 5 Hotel Kaduku (at Sheshi Demokracia, immediately next to the Rozafa Hotel), ☏ . Highly recommended - friendly staff, large clean room with A/C, right in the city centre. €50 for double, with breakfast.
- 6 Hotel Tradita (Tradita G&T), Rruga Edith Durham 25, ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. As close as it gets to being invited to the dining hall, the kitchen and courtyard of the local Ottoman Pasha. €50.
- 7 Hotel Colosseo, Rr.. 14 rooms. Single: €50; Double: €60; Suite: €70.
- 8 Grand Hotel Europa, Sheshi 2 Prilli, ☏ . Prestigious luxury hotel. 50 rooms. From €123.
- 9 Hotel Argenti, ☏ . This is a modern hotel in the Velipoja area with comfortable rooms furnished with A/C, TV, bathroom and showers. The restaurant provides traditional Albanian and European cuisine.
- Albanian Alps
- Lezhe and the surrounding area including Shengjin
- Velipoja - a coastal town 30 km south of Shkodër known for its curative beach sand.
- Ulcinj, Montenegro
- Gjakova is worth it for the journey alone, through the gorges on Lake Koman.