Your Ultimate Guide to Exploring Shkoder


Published on 10 May 2023

Shkoder turned out to be one of our favourite stops in Albania and somewhere I could even imagine us staying for an extended period of time. It has a bohemian feel, great cafe culture, and a beautiful town with dilapidated historical buildings and amazingly characterful doors. If street photography is your thing, this is your place.

We arrived into Shkoder by bus from Kotor, Montenegro. And, initially I was a little nervous that we had booked to stay here for five nights. Where the bus dropped us off was a main busy street with loads of people and traffic: it just felt really intense. But, as soon as we walked in to the town, it started to grow on me and continued to do so the more we explored over the next five days.

Shkoder (Shkodër) is in the north of Albania, close to the mountains and the border with Montenegro. Because of this, the city is very often just used as a base, people staying for a night as they pass on through. I put this guide together to showcase this beautiful city and highlight that it should be a destination in itself. Find our favourite things to do, favourite places to eat, an accommodation recommendation and tips on how to reach Shkoder below.

Shkoder Old Town

Old town street art

How to Get to Shkoder

Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA) is Albania’s main international airport and connects the country with many different cities in Europe as well a few in the Middle East. From here, there are many buses/coaches that will take you straight up to Shkoder in about two hours.

We took the bus from Shkoder to Tirana. It left at 10am, and cost 400 lek.

As Shkoder is the perfect stop-off point to cross the borders into both Kosovo and Montenegro, you will find plenty of international buses. To get to other parts of Albania, however, it seems that a change in Tirana is needed.

If transiting through Tirana, consider staying for a couple of nights to experience the capital, its cafe culture and learn about Albania’s recent history. Find out more about Tirana here.

Where to Stay in Shkoder

Our guesthouse was a stunning historical building in the centre of town, tucked away down a side road. InTown Guesthouse run by our friend, Renato, is the perfect place for a relaxing stay. It has a quiet and calming garden area, and Renato himself cooks a fresh breakfast for each guest in the morning (or makes a delicious packed lunch if you’re leaving early!). I am confident in saying that his outstanding hospitality (and willingness to try Marmite) hugely enhanced our experience in Shkoder. He is one of the nicest and most genuine people you will meet.

Book your stay here.

InTown Guesthouse

InTown Guesthouse entrance

InTown Guesthouse

InTown Guesthouse garden

Explore Rozafa Castle Ruins for 360° Views

At around 4000 years old, Rozafa Castle stands tall on a hill overlooking the blue water of Shkoder lake while the Drin and Buna rivers snake their way around it. There isn’t a huge amount of information on the historical significance of the ruins, which is a shame, however, the castle provides stunning endless views.

The castle is at least a 45 minute walk out of the town, so I’d recommend hiring a bike. Your accommodation should be able to do this for you (if you’re staying at InTown Guesthouse with Renato, he can arrange it), otherwise there are places around town where you can hire bikes, notably Ekoclub. Be warned though, the last part of the journey up to the castle is very steep and cobbled, so we ended up walking up with our bikes. (It was great on the way back down though!)

The entrance fee is 400 lek. There is a small museum inside the castle for which you have to pay an extra fee, but it didn’t look too special, so we skipped it.

Once you have seen the castle, jump back on your bike and pootle on over to Shkoder Lake. Cross the main road at the bottom of the cobbled hill, over the green wooden bridge (watch out for the broken planks) and follow the road along the water.

Rozafa Castle

Rozafa Castle

View of Shkoder from Rozafa Castle

Endless views

things to do in shkoder

The views are worth the climb

Pootle around Shkoder Lake on a Hire Bike

Most people tend to head over to Shiroka on Shkoder Lake, and while this place does look pretty hip, hop and happening, continue further round (don’t go too far though or you will end up in Montenegro) to find quieter and more serene locations to stop for lunch. On a beautiful, sunny day Shkoder lake is stunning: calm, blue waters, mountains in the background, and if you’re beyond Shiroka, complete tranquillity. We stopped for lunch at Pelikani Kaçurrel. They have a beautifully decorated outdoor (yet shaded) seating area overlooking the water, as well as seating right on the water.

Combining a pootle on a hire bike up to Rozafa Castle and Shkoder Lake makes for a perfect full-day trip.

Lake Shkoder

Serenity of Shkoder Lake

Lake Shkoder Viewpoint

Viewpoint of Shkoder Lake from Pelikani Kaçurrel

Hire bikes

Wander in Search of Street Photography Gems

Wandering without a plan, camera in hand is my favourite thing to do wherever I go. And Shkoder did not disappoint. Find the residential areas a few roads away from the main part of town which are full of charm, real life, dilapidated buildings and street art. This is the true heart and character of this fascinating city.

Street Photography in Shkoder

Well-worn building facades

Galeri Shkodra

Galeri Shkodra

Giant Spring Onions

Giant spring onions

Mother Teresa’s family lived on Rruga Ludovik Saraçi between 1932 and 1933; there is a plaque on the wall. If you’re lucky, like we were, you might bump into the owner who will show you round. Exploring all the side roads round this neck of the woods will reward you with some fantastic street photography opportunities.

Mother Teresa's Family Home

Mother Teresa’s family’s home 1932-1933

Inside Mother Teresa’s family’s home

Take a Multi-day Trip up to the Albanian Alps (AKA Accursed Mountains)

This is hands-down the most phenomenal experience Albania has to offer. Clean mountain air, breathtaking landscapes; I cannot gush about the Albanian Alps enough. You would need at least three days to get there, hike, and get back; and I promise that it will be the best decision you made.

If you’re up for the challenge (and you really should go for it!), read my guide on everything you need to know on hiking the Albanian Alps here.

Breath-taking Albanian Alps Scenery

Crystal clear waters of the Albanian Alps

Eat Delicious Albanian Slow Food while Supporting Charity at Arti’ Zanave

Tucked down a little side street, Arti’ Zanave has a beautifully decorated outside seating area by the side of the quiet road.

The woman running the restaurant didn’t speak much English, but did speak Italian, so I desperately brought forward all my Italian A level memories that have been stored away for an occasion just like this. We let her know that we were vegetarian and then she went away, worked her magic and presented us with this huge platter of traditional Albanian slow food. Fried veg with potatoes, rice stuffed pepper, veg moussaka, cheese stuffed aubergine, veg stuffed aubergine, mushroom fritter, fërgesë and bread.

It was good; by far the best traditional meal we had in the whole of Albania. The platter cost 1000 lek per head, which is pretty pricey in comparison to other local restaurants, but the profits go towards a charity that looks after women and girls suffering domestic abuse. Go to Arti’ Zanave for the perfect evening with perfect food while supporting a women’s charity. Win win.

Arti' Zanave Restaurant, Shkoder

Arti’ Zanave restaurant outside seating

Delicious Albanian Slow Food

Albanian slow food

Take Part in an Evening Xhiro

If you have not taken part in xhiro, you have not been to Albania. Head down to any pedestrianised street in Albania around 7/8pm and everyone will be there, walking, catching up with friends, kids playing in the street, vendors selling corn. Xhiro, literally meaning ‘walk’ in Albanian, is when the towns and cities come alive in the evenings with everyone taking part in such a wholesome activity.

Pedestrianised Street, Shkoder

Pedestrianised street

Xhiro Street, Shkoder

Leafy xhiro spot

Top Spots for Vegetarian Food

Arti’ Zanave

As mentioned above. Delicious slow Albanian food that helps to support women suffering domestic abuse.


One of Shkoder’s most popular restaurants with tourists, and there are plenty of veggie options. Fërgesë, garlic aubergine, sarma, flia pie, imam bajalldi, stuffed peppers. Or you can order the oven mix which is essentially Albanian tapas (a little bit of everything veggie).

Fergese and Garlic Aubergine

Fërgesë and garlic aubergine at Fisi

Pasta e Vino

Fresh pasta at reasonable prices. We had the classic aglio e olio.

Puri Restaurant

Away from the main part of town but still easily walkable, this is definitely a local joint. There is nothing veggie on the menu, however, the server arranged for the ‘father’s rice’ to be vegetarianised. Simple food done well.

Mixed salad, father’s rice and fried broccoli at Puri


Not our usual scene as it felt quite upmarket, but it had a vegan quinoa burger and we got too excited about vegan food to say no. It surprisingly wasn’t too pricey and I finished my meal off with an affogato (not vegan, I know) but, wow, it was a good’un!

Lake Shkoder

Vegan quinoa burger and potato wedges at Cliché

EKO Club

EKO Club is a cafe serving different types of teas, coffees, juices as well as a few snacks like sandwiches and cakes. It has a cosy atmosphere with really quirky decor. Also, a great spot for remote working because of the strong wifi and many power outlets (not just because of the great coffee).

EKO Club, Shkoder

EKO Club entrance

Quirky Interior, EKO Club, Shkoder

Quirky interior

Have you been to Shkoder? Is there anything else you would add?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations or questions.


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