Sense the dynamic change pulsing through the streets of Tirana as it emerges from the aftermath of years of anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninism'. Albania's capital since 1920, this is a city of contrasts. Take in the view from the top of the Sky Tower Business Center and see centuries-old mosques and the ultra-modern Cathedral of St Paul. Listen as music from funky Bllok nightclubs mixes with the evocative call to prayer drifting on the wind past the former communist ministries.
The influences of many outsiders including Ottomans, Italians and Soviets are still evident in modern-day Tirana. But this is a city still in constant flux. In the trendy Bllok area, the streets around the former residence of Enver Hoxha (who ruled Albania through 40 years of isolation) are now buzzing with trendy bars and restaurants. Elsewhere in the city, previously drab Soviet-style edifices have been repainted in bright colours. Wide Boulevard Dshmort e Kombit crosses the Lana River connecting Skandeberg Square with Mother Tereza Square and the Grand Park.
Many of Tirana's more iconic sites are grouped around vast Skanderbeg Square. Learn about Albania's past at the National History Museum, its faade dominated by a huge mosaic. Nearby, admire the 35-metre-high 1820s Clock Tower, and adjacent 18th-century Ethem Bey Mosque. Contrast this with the new Catholic Cathedral of St Paul.
Sit at a cafe in the shade of a fig tree and admire the Ottoman Tanners' Bridge, then enjoy the buzzing atmosphere at a football (soccer) game at the Qemal Staffa stadium. Learn more about Tirana's ancient history at the Archaeological Museum. Take a trip out to the museum city' of Berat on Mount Timori, or Albania's former capital, Kruja, packed with historical monuments.