Albanian Museums: Top 10 Museums to Visit in Albania
Have you ever wondered what’s on display in the Albanian museums? This piece offers a sneak-peak into Albania’s most important museums; check out this list of top Albanian museums.
1. National History Museum / Muzeu Historik Kombëtar (Tirana)
The National Museum of History is a central attraction of Albanian capital Tirana. It’s the most important and largest museum in the country. As any national history museum is meant to reflect the nation’s history through a comprehensive and complex collection The displayed artifacts range from the fourth millennium B.C.E. to the twentieth century. A visit to this museum is a must for any curious traveler in Tirana.
2. National Iconographic Museum “Onufri” / Muzeu Ikonografik Kombëtar (Berat)
The premises of the National Iconographic Museum “Onufri” belong to a cathedral built in 1797. The cathedral was conveniently built over the highest peak of the Berat castle although the Ottomans governed the area. The iconostasis inside the cathedral/museum, completed in 1807, is, for many, the finest achievement of Albanian wood-work craftsmen.
The “Onufri” Museum has a collection of two hundred mainly ecclesial objects, gathered primarily from the Berat region. They consist mainly of icons and sets of old liturgical specimens. The icons include works of famous iconographers such as Onufri, his son Nikolla, Onufër Qiprioti, David Selenica, Kostandin Shpataraku, and Adam Kristo. Meanwhile, the liturgical objects bear the ornamental motives of local Albanian jewelers.
3. Ethnographic Museum of Kruja / Muzeu Etnografik i Krujës (Krujë)
The Ethnographic Museum of Kruja offers a front-row seat into the world of the traditions and customs of the Albanian household throughout history. The building turned into a museum was built in 1764 by members of the renowned “Toptani” family. This two-story house surrounded by beautiful courtyards and rustic landscaped opened as a museum in 1989. Countless centuries-old objects keep the visitors engaged as they move through fifteen different, real rooms. These objects range from those used by servants, craftsmen, and artisans in routine activity to those used on special occasions and that reveal more personal histories.
4. National Museum of Medieval Arts / Muzeu Kombëtar i Artit Mesjetar (Korçë)
This museum exhibits more than 7,000 artworks and artistic objects mainly in the form of icons, wood works and engravings, stone and metal works, crafts on textile, and so on. The museum was originally built in 1980 and was reconstructed in 2016. It’s location in Korça’s main boulevard makes it a focal point for the locals as well as the many visitors.
This newest national museum is a depository of marvelous artworks that miraculously survived the communist regime. One of the first highlights is the Golden Wall that covers two stories in altitude and shows a voluminous and impressive sixteenth-century collection. Then, it’s the White Balcony that keeps the vibe on by displaying the museum’s oldest objects, those of the fourteenth century. Here, stands the famous icon from the Church of Saint Mary featuring St. Michael (Shën Mëhill) holding a globe with Christ’s initials engraved in one hand, and a sword in the other.
The tour in the museum reaches a culminating point in the Black Labyrinth Pavilion and the Red Room. The first exhibits twenty icons of renowned Albanian iconography Onufri, whom the museum is named after. Famous for Onufri’s signature bright, fiery red color, these icons of the XVI-XVII centuries are a treasure within a treasure. Meanwhile, the Red Room hosts a grand iconostasis of the XVIII century.
5. Museum of Dibra / Muzeu i Dibrës (Pershkopi)
The Museum of Dibra sheds light on the largely unknown history of Albania’s all-important eastern region. Visitors traveling in the city of Peshkopia should include in their itinerary a tour of this museum. Two thousand artifacts spread across three distinctly thematic pavilions (archaeology, history, ethnography).
The Archaeology Pavillion displayed discoveries made in the Dibra region with the earliest dated from the early Neolithic period. Of note here is the pithos, an ancient container found in the Grazhdan area belonging to the period between the III-II centuries B.C.E.
In the History Pavillion, a space is dedicated to Albania’s national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, himself born in Sinë of Dibra. Other homages are paid to figures important in Albanian nation-building process such as Iliaz Pashë Dibra (chairman of the League of Prizren), Dom Nikollë Kaçorri, Elez Isuf Ndreu, and many others.
In the Ethnographic Pavilion you can witness first hand Dibra’s local traditions throughout centuries. The guest room and the fireplace best represent Dibra’s tradition of hospitality while also testifying to the practice of gender segregation within the household.
6. Archaeological Museum Apollonia / Muzeu Arkeologjik i Apollonisë (Pojan)
This museum has been established inside the premises of an eight hundred year old Byzantine monastery. The architectural features combined with the items displayed bridges the gap between antiquity and medieval times. It also blends together the formalized Byzantine artistic style with the more vivid expressions of the locals as well as with influences from Latin southern Italy.
The archaeological museum in Apollonia has a remarkable collection of items ranging from the VI century B.C.E. to the IV century C.E. At least eight hundred objects tell an epic story of prosperity and emancipation. Thousand years old sculptures, vessels, coins, ceramics, and jewelry enrich Apollonia museum’s impressive collection.
7. National Museum of Photography “Marubi” / Muzeu Kombëtar i Fotografisë (Shkodër)
The “Marubi” Museum in Shkodra is Albania’s first museum dedicated to photography. It was opened in May, 2016, in a two-story house along the city’s main, iconic promenade. This house was once the studio of Pjetër (Pietro) Marubi, an Italian exile who became Albania’s first photographer. His son and grandsons continued his legacy turning the Marubi family into a dynasty of immense artistic values.
Marubi’s collection contains some 400,000 photographs carefully and patiently preserved that show stills from the 1850s onward. Among the many negatives is the earliest photography shot in Albania, dated in 1858. The photo collection includes portraits of soldiers and commanders who fought in the First and Second World War, city plans, traditional houses, landscapes, and even photographs documenting symptoms of then obscure diseases. However, at the center of Marubi’s collection are the people of all social classes. This makes the work of the Marubi dynasty especially personal, human, and emotional.
8. Archaeological Museum Butrint / Muzeu Arkeologjik i Butrintit (Butrint)
The Archaeological Museum within Butrint National Park opened in 1950 in the interior of the site’s so-called Venetian fortress. The latter stands on the old acropolis of classical Buthrotum, an ancient city popular for its sophistication and distinctive legacy. The museum took its current form in 1988 after a major reconstruction and restructuring.
The Archaeological Museum of Butrint is the main attraction of a wonderful natural habitat. Finds from the Italian mission of the 1920s led by renowned archaeologist Luigi Maria Ugolini. Through these items and others uncovered around Butrint, the museum preserves the history of historical and urban, local developments.
9. Archaeological Museum of Durrës / Muzeu Arkeologjik i Durrësit (Durrës)
The Archaeological Museum of Durrës opened in March 1951. It’s one of the most important museums in Albania. This museum is exclusively dedicated to antiquity, when Durrës, then Dyrrachium, flourished as an important, strategic city and port.
The earliest items displayed date back to three thousand years ago; the latest to late antiquity. It’s hard to single out a specific object in this museum’s marvelous collection. Of note, however, is the so-called treasure of Durrës discovered in 1941 near the bazaar. This treasure is filled with Roman imperial coins of the year 170 C.E. Also, displayed in the museum are objects discovered underwater such as ancient anchors and amphorae.
10. National Museum of Armaments / Muzeu Kombëtar i Armëve (Gjirokastër)
The National Museum of Armaments, located within the mighty and intriguing castle of Gjirokastra, opened in 1971. Its collection amounts to about 750 objects revealing warfare instruments used by Albanians in different eras. The history of these objects spans thousands of years, from the Stone Age to World War II, and across the whole Albanian territory. Of note is the fact that the arms belonging to the ancient and medieval times are produced from locals themselves. Meanwhile, more modern types of war equipment are displayed as war trophies, captured from armies of more industrialized nations.