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Looking for the best things to do in Kruja, Albania? We got you covered.
Kruja is a small town tucked away between Tirana and the Albanian Alps. It is famous for its castle and incredible shopping bazaar that is filled with colorful local crafts.
While many people skip Kruja and head to the larger and more popular cities in Albania, we thing it’s worth a stop if you have the time.
Since we had a month in Albania, we decided to spend a day in Kruja to check it out.To our delight, we discovered that Kruja is a wonderful place to learn about a mix of Albanian history and its local craftsmanship.
Kruja can easily be visited in a half-day. Whether you’re heading north to Shkoder, or making your way south to Tirana, we recommend stopping by Kruja for a few hours.
In this post, we’re sharing the top 5 things to do in Kruja, plus some of our essential tips on visiting this historical Albanian town.
A Brief History of Kruja
Situated atop a hill overlooking a lush green valley, Kruja is not just another picturesque town in Albania; it’s a symbol of Albania’s resilience and strength throughout history.
Historically, the city was coveted for its strategic vantage point and experienced various conquerors, from the Romans to the Byzantines.
However, in the 15th century, Kruja faced its most crucial and defining chapter when the city resisted against the Ottoman Empire for almost 25 years under the leadership of Gjergj Kastrioti.
Gjergj Kastrioti, better known as Skanderbeg, is central to Kruja’s history. Initially an Ottoman commander, he deserted his command in 1443, returned to Kruja, and led a legendary rebellion against the empire.
Using Kruja as his base, Skanderbeg united Albanian regions and became a symbol of European defiance.
Ten years after Skanderbeg’s death, in 1478, Kruja eventually fell under Ottoman rule where it remained for centuries. Today, the city not only serves as a reminder of Skanderbeg’s legacy but also of Albania’s rich history and the defiant spirit of the nation.
5 Things to do in Kruja
1. Visit Kruja Castle
Kruja Castle is the top thing to see in the town. Not only did it serve as the headquarters of the Albanian resistance under the rule of Skanderbeg, but it also was an important fortress for numerous empires over the ages.
Today, the castle is mostly in ruins. With a tower intact, some walls, and a few other sights, the main draw is the Skanderbeg museum and the Ethnographic museum, which lie inside of the fortress walls.
The views of the valley in the distance and the mountains towering over Kruja make the visit alone worth it.
There is no entrance fee to visit Kruja Castle; however, you will have to pay a fee to visit the museums on site.
2. Visit the Skanderbeg museum (Muzeu Kombëtar Gjergj Kastrioti)
The Skanderbeg museum was built as a tribute to the Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti.
The museum takes you through the history of Kruja, from Illyrian times to the Ottoman siege, and is a great way to learn more about Albania’s past.
It features many relics, such as swords, pottery, jewelry, and more, as well as many artworks depicting the Ottoman resistance.
We spent an hour walking through the museum and would recommend it if you are interested in learning more about Skanderbeg and the history of Kruja.
The Skanderbeg museum entrance fee is 500 Lek per person. It’s open daily from 9:00AM to 6:00 PM. You can find more information on the official website.
3. Ethnographic museum
The Kruja Ethnographic museum is also located inside of the Kruja fortress. This traditional Ottoman-style house museum offers a way to gain a broader understanding of the culture and daily life during the 18th century.
The museum has a total of 15 rooms, from the kitchen to the family rooms. It is decorated with traditional Ottoman-style rugs and fabrics and features beautiful woodwork on the ceilings and paintings on the walls.
I personally loved visiting the Ethnographic museums throughout Albania. Not only do I adore the Ottoman-style decorations, but the craftsmanship inside of the homes is art in itself.
The entrance fee for the Kruja Ethnographic museum is 400 Lek per person. It is open daily from 9:00AM to 6:00PM.
You can find more information on the official website.
4. Walk through the Old Bazaar
One of the most vibrant and unique things to do in Kruja is to visit the Old Bazaar. Located next to the castle, the Old Bazaar dates back to the 15th century and was built under Skanderbeg’s leadership.
It was once a thriving center of trade, where artisans and craftsmen from various regions bought and sold goods. Today, the market is one of Albania’s best examples of a historic shopping street.
The market is quite small, but you’ll be surprised to find how many incredible shops there are.
You’ll find everything here. From antique pots and candlesticks to embroidered slippers, handwoven rugs, and wooden crafts.
We spent a good couple of hours wandering through the market and visiting various shops.
Some of the vendors can be quite pushy trying to get you to visit their shop. Kindly say “no thank you” and continue walking if you’re not interested.
We scouted out some of the shops that looked more high-quality and bought a few souvenirs (rugs) to take home with us.
Make sure to bring cash, as almost all the vendors only take Albanian Lek and no card.
5. See how traditional rugs are made
Walking along the Old Bazaar, you’ll find many shops selling handmade rugs. Step inside of one and you may see a woman weaving a rug by hand.
As a textile enthusiast myself, it was special to watch as they threaded every yarn into the loom, one by one. The process is arduous but the final product is truly an art piece.
The price of handmade rugs in Kruja is very reasonable. For the amount of time it takes to weave one rug, it would cost a fortune in the rest of Europe or the United States.
If you’re thinking about getting one, I’d recommend bringing an extra suitcase – they are big and heavy!
A word of advice – most of the rugs hanging outside of the shops are factory made. You need to go into the shop and either ask for antique rugs or for handmade wool rugs to get the “real thing.”
There is usually a pile of them in the backroom, as they keep the high-quality rugs inside to protect them from the rain and sun.
You’ll notice a huge difference in the handmade vs. factory made rugs. The handmade rugs are made of wool and have a tighter weave. The factory made ones are usually made from cotton and polyester and lack that authentic feel and look.
Map of Things to do in Kruja
To help you best navigate around Kruja, here is a map of all of the sights and restaurants listed in this itinerary.
To save the map to Google Maps on your phone or computer, click on the star next to the title. Once you do this, you’ll be able to find the map in your “saved maps” list on your phone.
To see a list of all the items on the map, click the box with arrow on the left. To enlarge the map, click the box on the right.
How to get to Kruja
Getting to Kruja from Tirana is quite simple. We opted to rent a car for our trip in Albania; however, you can also easily take a bus as well.
Getting to Kruja by Car
The quickest and most convenient way to get to Kruja is by car. The drive from Tirana to Kruja is just over an hour. The roads are busy but well-paved and easy to follow.
We rented our car for our month-long road trip from the Tirana airport through Discover Cars. This is where we book our rentals cars throughout Europe.
Parking was included with our hotel, Hotel Panorama, so we were able to park in their parking garage.
If you are just visiting for a few hours, there is a parking lot near Kruja castle, which is conveniently located for getting around town. Make sure to have cash on hand to pay for parking.
Getting to Kruja by Bus
If you are planning to take public transport while in Albania, then the bus is your best bet for getting around. Whether you’re traveling from Shkoder to Kruja or Tirana to Kruja, there a few options.
Tirana to Kruja by bus
From the Tirana bus station, there is a bus that leaves to Kruja every hour between 7am and 4pm. The bus ride takes just under an hour.
It’s important to note that the bus station is located outside of the city center, so you’ll either need to take a local bus or taxi to get to the station from Tirana center.
The cost of a bus ticket is 200 Lek. You can find more info and the updated timetables on the Gjirafa Travel website.
Shkoder to Kruja by bus
There is only one bus leaving daily between Shkoder and Kruje. The best option is to do a day trip from Tirana, or spend the night in Kruje before heading to Shkoder.
The bus ride takes 1.5 hours and costs 300 Lek. You can find more info and the timetables on the Gjirafa Travel website.
Where to stay in Kruja
Kruja is a small town, so there are limited hotel options. We stayed at the Hotel Panorama and had a wonderful view overlooking the castle and the valley. The hotel was decent for Albanian standards, and we’d recommend it for one night.
Another option is the Kruja Albergo Diffuso, which is located inside of the walls of the Kruja castle. It features newly renovated Ottoman-style rooms.
Where to eat in Kruja
There are plenty of restaurants located near the Kruja castle, but here are a couple that we recommend.
- Restaurant KROI – We ate here for dinner during our day in Kruja. The food is decent and has a wide variety of traditional Albanian food, as well as pizza. We ended up ordering a pizza here because we had already spent 3 weeks eating Albanian food and needed a break. The pizza was quite good if you’re looking to change up your food for a meal.
- Bar Restorant Bardhi Agroturizem – Located inside of the fortress walls, this restaurant serves delicious Albanian food with a gorgeous view overlooking the valley. We didn’t have the chance to eat here, but a local Albanian friend of ours says this is his go-to restaurant in Kruja.
Kruja Travel Guide Frequently Asked Questions
Is Kruja worth visiting?
Kruja is worth a visit if you are looking to shop for local Albanian goods and love learning about history. If you are in a rush and only have a few days in Albania, then we think other cities like Berat, Gjirokaster, and Theth are more interesting to visit.
How long to spend in Kruja?
You only need a half-day to experience the main sights in Kruja. It’s a great stopover on your journey between Tirana and Shkoder.
What is Kruja known for?
Kruja is known for its historic castle that was the headquarters of Skanderbeg’s rebellion against the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. Today you can visit the Kruja castle, along with the Skanderbeg museum located inside of the fortress.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR ALBANIA TRIP
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- Best Beaches in Ksamil
- 11 Best Things to Do in Ksamil
- How to get to Ksamil from Corfu
- Best Things to do in Theth, Albania
Albania Travel Planning Guide
Albania Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Albania? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.
Albania Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Albania? Yes! We rented a car in Albania for one month and it is the best way to see the country. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.
Albania Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Albania, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Albania, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. We even had to rely on it for data to get some work done, and it worked great!
Albania Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Albania? We booked all of our hotels through Booking. All of the hotels were responsive through the messaging tool, and there are endless options to choose from. Note – some hotels in Albania require you to pay in cash. Make sure to message the hotel in advance to be prepared with the correct form of payment.
Drinking Water in Albania – Wondering if you can drink the tap water in Albania? We were advised to not drink the water by our hotels, so we ended up buying bottled water instead.