Albania is ranks at the top of the list for the number of coffee shops per capita, with 654 cafés per 100,000 resident.
One of the first things you’ll notice upon arriving in Tirana is the profusion of coffee shops throughout the city. It’s more than just one at every corner, you might spot two or even three on one tiny alley. Funny enough, every single one of them is charming in its own way, roasting its very own unique ambiance through magnetizing décor and services. Some cater to dessert lovers, some brew along to retro vibes while others follow their own franchise practices like Mon Cheri and Sophie Caffe & Snacks.
Albanian’s coffee culture truly began in 1540 when the land was under Ottoman Empire rule. Governor of Yemen, Ozdemir Pasa, first discovered a particular black fluid. After he presented this elixir to Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire shared it with the elites that rapidly commercialized the new drink within society.
Today, coffee has evolved into a bonding experience between coworkers, students, family and friends. It is an essence of the Albanian community, whoever invites someone for coffee, the inviter picks up the bill.
You’ll find numerous cafés especially in the trendy Blloku neighborhood, and most of them are coffee shops during the day then transform into bars for the evening crowd. Since Tirana is grounded by its prevalent coffee culture, here are some of the most authentic ones in the city. Trust me, each is undeniably brew-tiful. Don’t forget to bring your laptop or a good book!
Noor Coffee & Fine Food
Rruga Abdi Toptani, Tiranë, Albania
Noor is an adorable coffee shop and eatery near the Tirana Castle. It’s a delightful stop for great snacks, paninis and aromatic coffee. Noor is stylish with an open garden by the sidewalk, making it an ideal spot to be in the city mix and people watch. The café also features an enchanting veranda and a rooftop for a bird’s-eye street view.
Rruga Mustafa Matohiti, Tiranë, Albania
City Art is a superb place for digital nomads to work on the computer during the day. It’s also a tapas bar, so for those wanting to grub on something yummy, this coffee shop also serves up savory sushi rolls. The interior design exudes an industrial mood, it’s a great escape from other institutions in the city that typically emanate a vintage ambiance.
Rruga Pjetër Bogdani Nr 7, Tiranë 1010, Albania
It’s hard walking by Çoko and not at least peak inside at what all the fuss is about. The chatters from its outdoor terrace invites any streetwalker’s curiosity, just like my own. Situated in the heart of Blloku and next to the popular Colonial Cocktails Academy and Salt Rest, Çoko is a great spot for co-working and typing away on the computer. Better yet, its brunch menu is undeniably divine: Eggs Benedict, Grandma’s Fried Dough Balls, French Toasts…just to name a few salivating dishes.
Rruga Pjetër Bogdani, Tiranë 1001, Albania
Good things do come in small packages. Small is a decorative café attracting locals looking for another cozy spot to sip on exquisite cocktails alongside retro décor. The coffee shop stops serving cups of joe after 7 p.m., during after hours, you can enjoy anything from a nice glass of wine to a fruity alcoholic drink. A few months after Small was launched, the eight-table tiny gem was already a hype in a city always ready for a new, fun opening.
Novelle Vague Tirana
Rruga Pjetër Bogdani, Tiranë, Albania
Nouvelle Vague is an homage to the French film movement during the 1950s. Popular among locals, the café is similar to other coffee shops in Tirana by shifting to a hoppin’ bar at night serving delicious cocktails using fresh ingredients. The names are also fun puns in the Albanian language, for example, “Rum si unë,” is the name of a rum cocktail that also refers to the Albanian saying “Lum si unë” meaning, “lucky me!” The friendly staff also serves tasty coffee for worker bees.
Radio Bar Tirana
Rruga Ismail Qemali P. 29 Ap. 1, Tirana, Tiranë 1000, Albania
Radio Bar is a feast for the eyes. The spacious bar is also a café during the day, showcasing interesting curios: typewriters, retro posters, phone and television sets from the 70s…and so much more. The walls are plastered with vintage Albanian movie posters and photos from the country’s fascinating past. It’s hard not to reflect upon the Communist era within the walls of Radio Bar, but in a colorful and cheeky approach.
Colonial Cocktails Academy Tirana
Rruga Pjetër Bogdani 3, Tiranë 1000, Albania
As the first cocktail bar in Tirana, Colonial Cocktail Academy impressively works with 600-1000 bottles of liquor. Check out the digital drink menu here, you’ll see pages of a newspaper that lists delectable cocktails including: Sweet Dreams (vodka, lime cordial, orange liquor, ginger ale, fresh strawberry petals,) Margharita Calabrese (white tequila, mango, orange liquor, red pepper, fresh lemon juice,) Rose de Colonial (rose petals, vodka or whiskey, rose syrup, secret ingredient) … just to name a few. There are two major areas in the bar: the interior is adorned with Buddhist statues and Asian-inspired decorations, while the airy exterior makes a charming terrace utterly romantic. Though the bar is more fun and vibrant at night, it’s also open during the day for an afternoon drink or a cup of coffee while working on the laptop.
Komiteti – Kafe Muzeum
8RFF+93C, Rruga Fatmir Haxhiu, Tiranë, Albania
Komiteti is best of three worlds: a café and a museum during the day, then it shifts to a bar at night. When the sun is out, Komiteti is a lovely spot for working on the computer or reading a good book. The interior displays 17,000 historical trinkets from the Communist era, it’s sheer proof of owner Arbër Çepani’s passion to create an intriguing and warm destination in the middle of Tirana. Antiques, furniture, textiles are all vintage items that Arbër isn’t selling but using to design a truly Albanian space that guests can be entertained while experience. From evening to night, the bar comes to life with DJs and menus full of tasty rakis.