Are you wondering “Is Shkoder worth visiting?” I’ve got you covered!
If you are planning a trip to Albania you might need some help choosing where to go. Albania has so many great places to visit that it can be hard to decide where is best to spend your time.
Shkoder (also known as Shkodra or Shkodër) is a small city located in the north of Albania. It is known for its stunning Rozafa castle and for being the gateway to the Albanian Alps.
I spent a few days visiting Shkoder during my trip to Albania and I really enjoyed my time in this fun little city. Shkoder is a laid-back town that acts as a welcome contrast to the hustle and bustle of Albania’s capital city Tirana. I felt safe, welcome, and at home in Shkoder and would travel back there in a heartbeat.
So if you are still on the fence about whether Shkoder is worth visiting, let me help convince you why it is a great place to spend some time.
Shkoder, Albania Essentials
🏨 Where to stay in Valbona: For an authentic Albanian Alps experience, stay in a traditional guesthouse
📌 Best Shkoder tour: Check out this Tour of Shkodër
🚙 Best day trip from Shkoder: Visit Theth Albania on this Jeep Day Tour
🚗 Rent a car: Public transport can be unreliable – consider renting a car
💸 Get insured for your trip to Albania with Ekta Travel insurance
Is Shkoder worth visiting?
In my opinion, yes! Shkoder should be an essential stop on every Albania itinerary.
Shkoder is a beautiful city located in North Albania. It is brimming with natural beauty and cultural charm.
There are lots of things to see and do in Shkoder. While in the city, you can explore its pedestrian streets, visit various museums, or try paddleboarding across Shkodra lake. The Rozafa Castle sits high above the city and overlooks the nearby Lake Shkoder. It also provides stunning views of Albania’s accursed mountains – which is the best name for a mountain range ever.
In the surrounding area, you can go hiking in the Albanian Alps, visit traditional villages and enjoy the breathtaking views.
Shkoder also offers great food experiences. There’s a variety of restaurants serving up delicious local dishes, as well as international favorites and lots of vegan options.
Although many people simply pass through Shkoder on their way to the mountains or to Montenegro, I think this little city is certainly worth a visit in its own right.
12 Reasons to visit Shkodër Albania
Planning your visit to Shkoder? Here are the best reasons why Shkoder is worth visiting!
1. Shkoder has a fascinating history
Shkoder is one of the oldest cities in the Balkan region. Located in northern Albania, it has a recorded history that spans over two millennia and has been continuously inhabited since its founding. Its history can be traced as far back as the bronze age!
The city’s rich cultural heritage can be seen through its traditional architecture, monuments, and museums which tell stories from different eras of Albanian history. From ancient Illyrian settlements to Ottoman occupations and Italian rule during World War II – each period has left its mark on the cityscape of Shkoder for visitors to explore today.
2. Shkoder is an ideal stopping-off point between Tirana and Montenegro
Shkoder is super close to the border of Montenegro which makes it an ideal place to stop off before leaving Albania.
From Shkoder, there are minibuses (known as furgons) that travel to Ulcinj in Montenegro. These are unofficial and don’t have set times. They tend to leave when they have enough passengers to make the trip worthwhile.
The journey takes about 1.5 hours and shouldn’t cost you more than €5. Ask around at your accommodation to figure out where the minibuses leave from. From Ulcinj, you can catch onward buses to Kotor, Budva, and Podgorica. If you rent a car then it is also an easy drive from Shkoder to Budva.
3. Shkoder has very laid-back vibes
Shkoder is a very laid-back city and definitely has small-town vibes, despite being the largest city in the north of Albania. It’s a whole different atmosphere from what you can expect in Tirana. I enjoyed how quiet the streets of Shkoder are on an evening.
The locals are friendly and will happily help you out with any questions you may have. There’s a relaxed atmosphere in the city which is perfect for just wandering around and exploring. I felt right at home!
4. Shkoder is a perfect place to experience Albania’s cafe culture
Albania’s cafe culture is very much alive and thriving in Shkoder. When I visited, the streets were filled with people enjoying coffee and pastries at the many cafes around town. There are plenty of options to choose from so you won’t have a hard time finding the perfect spot for your morning caffeine and pastry fix!
5. It is a bike friendly city
Shkoder is a very bike-friendly city. It’s small enough that you can get around easily by bike and there are plenty of places to rent bicycles from in the city centre. I borrowed a bike from my hostel and rode along the shore of the lake, which was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Exploring the city on two wheels is a great way to get off the beaten path and discover some of Shkoder’s best-kept secrets. Plus, you get to enjoy the lovely views of Lake Shkoder at the same time!
6. Shkoder is pedestrian friendly too
In the centre of Shkodra, you will find the pedonale, a pedestrian area in the city centre. The Pedonale in Shkoder is a great place to wander and enjoy a slice of daily life in Albania. The stone walkway is gorgeous and there are lots of nice shops to check out. In the evening there are some really nice bars and cafes where you can sit outside for a drink.
7. There are some excellent tours and activities available in Shkoder
Since Shkoder is a great place to base yourself for exploring the nearby area, it should be no surprise that there are lots of great tours on offer in Shkoder. Here are a few of my favourites.
Paddleboarding or Kayaking on Lake Shkoder
Day tour of Shala River and Lake Komani
8. You can try some traditional food in Shkodra
Albanian food is delicious and Shkodra has some of the best traditional dishes in Albania. You definitely won’t go hungry in this city as there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.
Try some Albanian gyros or byrek which is a type of pastry filled with spinach, cheese, or meat.
I found that there were plenty of vegan options too. Including grilled eggplants, stuffed peppers, and lots of freshly baked bread.
9. There are lots of things to see in Shkoder
There’s no need to wonder what to do in shkoder. There are plenty of things to do in Shkoder to keep you entertained for days. Here are some of the best Shkoder attractions
Lake Shkoder is a beautiful lake located on the outskirts of Shkoder. The lake has an area of almost 320 square kilometres and is the largest lake in Albania. It is fed by the Drin River and three other tributaries and is a popular destination for anglers, campers, and birdwatchers. I spent a day at the lake for my friend’s birthday and we had an amazing time. There are a few small rocky beaches with beach bars which are perfect for relaxing. It’s also really fun to go paddle boarding on the lake.
Be sure to look out for the abandoned bunkers scattered along the shore too!
Rozafa Castle was my favourite thing in Shkoder! The castle sits high above the town and has the most incredible views. Rozafa Castle dates back to the 13th century and has a pretty grim legend behind its origin. There isn’t really any information or tourist infrastructure at the castle but it’s still a great place to explore.
The hike up to the castle is pretty steep and there is no shade so avoid going up there in the mid-day sun.
Marubi National Museum of Photography
The Marubi National Museum of Photography is a must-visit in Shkodra. It’s a really nice little photography museum that showcases the work of three generations of photographers from the Marubi family. The museum also has various temporary exhibitions throughout the year related to Albanian culture.
Shkoder’s Venetian Mask Museum
The Venetian Mask Museum in Shkoder is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the traditional masks used for masquerades and festivals in Shkodra. The museum has an extensive collection of masks from various eras as well as other artefacts related to mask making. There are also some beautiful masks available for sale, which make great souvenirs.
Ebu Bekr Mosque
The Ebu Bekr Mosque is a beautiful mosque in Shkoder. It was built in 1995 after the previous mosque was destroyed by the communist regime. It’s a beautiful building with an ornate interior and a very peaceful atmosphere. The mosque is open to visitors but it’s important to remember that it is still an active place of worship so make sure to be respectful and dress appropriately.
Site of Witness and Memory Museum
The Site of Witness and Memory Museum is a fascinating museum in Shkoder. It highlights the local history of Albania during the communist dictatorship, which began in 1945 and lasted until the 1990s. The museum has been described as an outdoor living history lesson and it’s definitely worth visiting if you have an interest in Albanian culture and communist history.
The Mesi Bridge is a stunning Ottoman bridge in the village of Mes, which is about 5km (3 miles) from Shkoder. It was built by the Ottomans in the 18th century and it spans the river Kir. The bridge is incredibly beautiful and it’s a great place to stop for photos or just to admire its unique architecture.
10. Shkoder is a great place for shopping & souvenirs
Shkoder is full of charming little shops and local markets. From handmade carpets to traditional clothing and jewellery, there is a lot of great shopping in Shkoder.
If you’re looking for souvenirs, be sure to check out the markets, they have a great selection of handcrafted items that make perfect gifts.
11. You can take lots of excellent day trips from Shkoder
There are lots of great day trip opportunities from Shkoder. It’s the perfect place to use as a base to explore the surrounding areas. Here are a few of my favourite places that are all within easy reach of Shkoder.
Theth Village and Theth National Park is a great spot for hikes, waterfalls, and stunning views of the Albanian Alps.
🗻 Check out this day tour to Theth from Shkoder
The Komani Ferry
Lake Koman Ferry is an incredible three-hour boat ride that takes you through some spectacular scenery of canyons and deep gorges.
🚢 I love this Komani Lake day trip!
Ulcinj is one of my favourite places in all of the Balkans. it’s an easy 1.5hr drive from Shkoder and the border crossing is very straightforward.
🌊 Check out this tour of Ulcinj and Stari Bar
The Shala River is beautiful, and there are some great hikes along it. You can also go kayaking or rafting on the river.
🚣♀️ This Shala River day trip looks amazing!
12. There are great accommodation options in Shkoder
Shkoder is an excellent city for budget travellers and there are some really great accommodation options. From cosy, family-run guest houses to modern hotels and hostels, you’ll be able to find something that suits your needs.
The Best Hotels in Shkoder, Albania
In my opinion, Hotel Legjenda is the best place to stay in Shkoder. I didn’t stay here but a friend of mine did so I spent some time here. If I go back to Shkoder this is definitely where I will stay. The pool is lovely and there is such a nice relaxed atmosphere here. It’s a great place to stay for all budgets as it has a range of accommodation options from dorm rooms to deluxe chalets.
✅ Check availability and prices here!
Hotel Tradita is a traditionally decorated boutique hotel and guest house in Shkoder. It offers great value for money and the food in their restaurant is really delicious!
✅ Check availability and prices here!
Shkodra Backpackers Hostel
This is the hostel that I stayed in. I loved the garden area and the free bikes. It’s a great place for solo travellers as there is a very social atmosphere here which makes it easy to find friends. It’s also great for animal lovers as the hostel is home to several dogs, cats and tortoises!
✅ Check availability and prices here!
Where to eat in Shkoder
Shkoder has lots of great options for food. I really enjoyed trying lots of Albanian dishes in Shkodra and I had no trouble finding lots of yummy vegan options. Here are a few of the best restaurants in Shkoder:
This is one of the most popular restaurants in Shkoder and they have a great selection of traditional Albanian dishes. My friends and I loved this restaurant and ate there several times. The portions here are massive so be prepared to share! There are lots of great veggie and vegan options available here too.
Tradita Geg & Tosk
This cute little restaurant has a really cosy atmosphere and the food is really tasty. The owners and their family are so friendly and accommodating.
This restaurant has become very popular in Shkoder recently and it’s not hard to see why! They have some amazing dishes that are full of flavour and they also have vegan and vegetarian options available.
Shkodra Albania map
How to get to Shkoder
Tirana airport is the only airport in Albania so if you are flying in this is where you will land.
You have several options for how to get from Tirana to Shkoder.
The easiest way to get to Shkoder is by bus. There are direct buses from Tirana, the capital of Albania, which take approximately 2 hours. You can also rent a car in Albania or try hitchhiking. Hitchhiking in Albania is a great adventure!
Rent a car in Shkoder
If you want to explore the region more and you are comfortable driving, then I recommend renting a car in Shkoder. This will give you the freedom to explore roads less traveled and get off the beaten path. This will also make it easier to take a day trip to nearby Montenegro.
What is Shkoder known for?
Shkoder is known for its stunning natural beauty, cultural attractions, and friendly locals. It’s a perfect place to experience Albania’s traditional charm while having easy access to some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes.
Is Shkoder safe?
Yes, Shkoder is a safe destination. As with any city, it is important to take safety precautions and be aware of your surroundings but, generally speaking, Shkoder is a very safe place to visit.
I felt completely at ease while there, even while walking around after dark. Albanians are very welcoming and hospitable and will rush to help you if you get lost or need something.
Travel Tips for visiting Shkoder Albania
Make sure to have the right currency! – The Albanian Lek is the local currency, so make sure you exchange some at a currency exchange before your trip.
Learn some basic phrases – It’s always nice when visiting a foreign country to be able to speak a few words of the language and it will help you when interacting with locals.
Dress appropriately when visiting the mosque – It is important to dress modestly and respectfully, so be sure not to wear anything that is too revealing or provocative.
Bargain in the markets – This is a common practice in Albania and bargaining can help reduce prices.
Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path – The best way to really explore a destination is often by getting off the main tourist route and exploring what Albania has to offer beyond its main attractions.
Where to go from Shkoder
Shkoder is well placed for a stop as part of a longer trip around the Balkans. Here are some of the places you can visit from Shkoder:
Tirana – The capital city of Albania is about an hour and a half away by bus.
Montenegro – Take a day trip to the nearby country of Montenegro for stunning landscapes and historic sites. I recommend visiting Lake Skadar, Budva and Ulcinj.
Kotor – This charming little town in Montenegro is well worth a visit.
Durres – If you have time, this is the largest port city on the Adriatic Sea and a great place to spend a few days. From here you can catch a ferry to Italy
The Albanian Riviera – Explore the stunning beaches and quaint towns of Albania’s Riviera.
Greece – Head down to Saranda, where you can catch a ferry to the Greek island of Corfu.
North Macedonia – Head to North Macedonia after Albania to continue your Balkans adventure. There are some great sites in Macedonia such as Lake Ohrid and the quirky capital Skopje.
FAQs: Is Shkoder worth visiting?
How do I spend a day in Shkoder?
To spend a perfect day in Shkoder I recommend renting a bike and cycling to Lake Shkoder where you can go paddle boarding and kayaking, or simply relax on the shore. In the afternoon explore Rozafa castle and take in the stunning views before heading back to the city centre for the evening for a drink at one of the many bars that line the Pedonale.
Why visit Shkodra Albania?
Shkoder is worth visiting for its stunning natural beauty, rich culture, and friendly locals. It’s a great place to experience traditional Albanian charm while having easy access to some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes.
Can you swim in Shkoder Lake?
Yes, you can swim in Lake Shkoder. The lake is surrounded by beautiful beaches and is the perfect spot to take a dip on a hot summer day. There are plenty of options for renting kayaks and paddleboards, too!
How long to spend in Shkodër?
I recommend spending at least 2 days in Shkoder to explore the city itself and then adding extra days if you want to take day trips to some of the nearby areas. Such as the Accursed Mountains, Montenegro, or Theth.
Final Thoughts: Is Shkoder worth visiting?
Shkoder Albania is a great place to visit if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination in Europe. There are tons of things to do and see, from exploring ancient ruins and castles to unique museums and souvenir shopping. Whether you want to take a day trip or spend an extended vacation, Shkoder has something for everyone. So don’t miss out on all this city has to offer!
Looking for more reasons to visit Albania? Check out this post about why Albania is worth a visit or if you are wondering how to get around Albania, check out my guide to transport in Albania.
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