Post-communist rainbows fade to hipster in Tirana

Here’s what happened to Tirana, Albania: communism screwed it over for 40 years, destroyed much of its historic architecture—mosques, Orthodox cathedrals and an Ottoman era baazar—and then replaced those once beautiful buildings with architectural train wrecks.


Architecture train wreck case in point: this so-called Pyramid of Tirana was originally the Enver Hoxha Museum.  (For those of you who are not fluent in 20th century Balkan dictators, Enver Hoxha ruled over Albania from the mid-40’s to the mid 80’s).  It just so happens that the architect of this pyramid/museum was also Enver Hoxha’s daughter.  I mean, what are the chances that the committee for choosing a designer for a dictator museum decided to go with a relative of the very same dictator?


These days, the Pyramid appears to be abandoned and its primary function is to serve as a slide for the most fearless Tiranian youth.


Tirana’s attempt to turn its scarcity of infrastructure into an asset is charming and weirdly hipster.  Why provide public bathrooms when you can put up hilarious warning signs about public urination instead?

Tirana’s urban planning scheme boils down to this “Ugly?  Cover it up with colorful paint!”


Exposed pipes?  Decorate them with pink and yellow triangles.

tiranapplause tiranamoustache

Traffic light switch boxes?  Cover them with cartoons.

tiranagroundsquares tiranabutterly

Paint a rainbow grid on the ground, or better yet, throw some bright, concrete butterflies on there for no good reason.


Oh wait, why not just put rainbows on everything?


Apartment blocks win with abstract patterns.


Put a horse and jockey on a mixed business-residential building, just because you can.


Much of Tirana’s primary color aesthetic is starting to fade in the hot Albania sun, leaving some buildings with a decidedly Miami Beach vibe.


Make mine an aqua balcony.


Stack it with stripes.


Green checks with striped-awnings?  Yes please.


If you appreciate a tenacious city, a city with more hipness than infrastructure, then Tirana is the city for you.  Stay a while, walk through the neighborhoods and enjoy the rainbow. After all, Tirana survived 40 years of abuse, put on lipstick and colorful dress, and strutted back out into the world with attitude.  Give this town a high-five.


How we got to Tirana: flight from Chicago.

Where we slept: Center Rooms Oresti.  Price: €36 for a double.  Recommended: yes.


  1. Well I thoght it looked pretty cool. Like bright red lipstick on a beautiful woman. You know who I mean!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is hysterical! And I admit — I kind of like the green check place…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish I could have seen that checked building in during the painting process—-how ever did they do that?!


  3. That is so different than what I would have thought it looked like, very striking in a way, but what a shame they destroyed the historic architecture . But you have to make the best of what you have been dealt, put the brightest lipstick on an strut your stuff…….did they leave anything of worth !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s still a sweet little Ottoman-era bridge and a 16th century mosque. Other than that, it seems most of the historical buildings were destroyed.

      Nonetheless, TIrana has a lot to offer—quite a pleasant city with great food.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah now you’re talking, can’t be all bad if the food is good 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I kind of like the switch boxes, especially the one which says “Applause”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too. There are a lot of communist era bunkers scattered around Albania. I think they should decorate them up just like the switch boxes.


  5. All the color and the jokes say a lot about the human spirit. People will do what they can to express themselves in the worst situations. My best wishes to the creative people of Tirana!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! Not only are they creative, but they’re really nice too!


  6. Innovative creations.I like the pyramids or rather its modern makeover.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The pyramid is actually quite hideous, but it doesn’t take away from the charm of Tirana.


  7. oldpoet56 · · Reply

    Very cool pictures, thank you for posting them for us shut ins to get to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading oldpoet56. I am not a shut in but I sure do enjoy looking at other people’s travel photos too!


  8. I live in Tirana and actually love those switch boxes 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too! I wonder who paints them—does the city hire artists?


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