Well worth a visit, the strikingly sited hilltown of Kruja played a key role in Albania’s Ottoman history. It’s easy to get about on foot so long as you are fairly agile for steep slopes and steps. We particularly enjoyed browsing the street market, visiting the ethnographic museum inside the castle, and seeing the views over the town and the valley below
Kruja – an Introduction
Kruja or Krujë sits about 20km north of Tirana. It’s main tourist attractions are the Kruja castle and adjacent market streets. Kruja was the ancient capital of Albania from1190, although the site was inhabited several centuries before that by the Illiryans. Its magnificently sited castle has been besieged several times over the centuries and the town became a stronghold for both invaders and resistance during both Ottoman and Italian invasions.
Kruje Albania – Modern times
Kruja today is a large modern town pasted onto the precipitous slopes of the mountain of the same name. The hillside is so steep that you can see the sprawling town set out in front of you like wallpaper as you approach it from the valley. The historic castle is visible at the top and a little right of centre in this panorama.
Approaching Krujë Castle: the Old Market (Bazar)
It’s quite a drive to get to the carpark in the shadow of the Kruja castle walls, but as soon as you get out of the car you wonder where the castle went. Instead, you find yourself in the picturesque streets of an old market, now filled with craft workshops antique bazaars and tourist kiosks. We enjoyed browsing these, which we found to be the best of their kind on our Albanian tour. The shopkeepers were friendly and their wares generally locally made and of good quality.
The market streets lead back to the castle gates, where surprisingly there is no ticket office or entrance fee. Inside you find lawns, trees and the remains of ancient walls. To your left is the stark modern stone drum of the Skanderberg National Museum. To the right after a small grassy court with great views back over the town, you find Albania’s National Ethnographic Museum. Also inside the castle walls are a tall medieval tower and two restaurants, both occupying old stone structures, once part of the fortified citadel.
The Skanderbeg Museum, was designed in 1976 and opened in 1982. Both the design and construction were Albanian. It is named after the fifteenth century Albanian hero Gjergj Kastrioti who was known as Skanderberg which means Governor. Kastrioti (Skanderbeg) was an Albanian nobleman taken hostage by the Ottomans, trained by them, and then he led a rebellion against them from Kruja, Though besieged three times it never fell. The museum contains relics from Skanderbeg’s time to illustrate his story and why he is such a national hero.
National Ethnographic Museum
This was our favourite. It is housed in the balconied palace of a nineteenth century Ottoman family. The timber framed house is a thing of beauty in its own right and is filled with relics of life as it was lived. The family was obviously wealthy, and the house includes a private hammam (steam bath) carved out from the rock of the mountain. The separate accommodation suites for the men, the women and the children have wall paintings, sleeping galleries and original furnishings. It’s a lovely and very impressive museum and totally different from BunkArt 2 which we visited in Tirana
Additional things to do in Kruja
You can visit one of the restaurant, for a meal or just a drink. We went to Emiliano restaurants which offers great views and where you can dine on the Kruja castle city walls. Yes some of the walls are so thick that you can place a table with chairs on them. Emiliano has as well rooms to stay in if you decided to stay for a night, which could a good idea if you want to escape the capital city. Kruja is a good place to camp and was on our Albanian camping road trip
How to get to Kruja
There are regular buses from Tirana city the trip is 45 minutes and the bus stop in Kruje is a 15 minute walk from the castle. Alternatively you can drive yourself as we did.
A tip for Kruja if driving yourself: Don’t take the road around the south of the town suggested by Google maps – it is narrow steep and full of sharp bends. We took our camper van that way and had to back off a couple of times to get past other vehicles. On the way out we drove through the town which was a breeze.
Kruja Albania – Summary
Kruja is a perfect place as a day trip out of Tirana. Its the first place, where we learn more about rich Albanian history and traditions (Ethnographic Museum) and about National hero Skanderbeg.
If you want to learn more about Albania read our Facts about Albania post.
Visit Kruja – Pin it for later
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