Kruje, also Kruja in English, is a city in Albania just north of Tirana that is rich in history. Kruja has a long list of attractions to offer tourists from the ancient castle nestled in the craggy rocks, two museums, stunning views, a nearby national park, sacred temples, natural springs, the ancient city ruins of Albanopolis, and the old bazaar.
Kruje was the de facto capital of Skanderbeg. Due to its high position it was possible to communicate from there to other castles of the country by using light/fire signs.
Krujë is a small city approximately 31 km (20 miles) north of the capital city of Tirana. While the region has been populated since the 3rd century BC, it was also home to the eponymous Alban tribe as well as Gjergj Skanderbeg, the national hero of Albania.
Alternatively, you can also connect via Fushë Krujë, from where you have regular furgons to and from Krujë (06:00–21:00, 50 lek).
Kruje is small enough to get around on foot very easily. It is built on a mountainside, with the one-street bazaar the central attraction, and the renovated castle just above and to the south.
- 1 Kruje Castle. at the top of a craggy mountain 680 meters (2,230 feet) above sea level. From the castle there is a broad view that spans from Mount Tomori in the south to Ulcinj in the north with views of the Adriatic coast throughout.The castle features an arched tunnel as its entrance and once inside you can find castle remnants, the watch tower, two museums, restaurants, and homes that are still occupied. The Dollma Bektashi Tekke shrine is also found within the Krujë castle walls. The shrine was a place for spiritual retreat and character reformation for the Tekke faith. In front of the shrine’s doors, on the sacred grounds, is a large olive tree planted on the day of Skanderbeg’s wedding. The watch tower is one of the few remaining towers found within. It stretches an additional 16 m (53 feet) above the castle walls and once provided a complete view of the horizon allowing the monitoring of enemy movements in three directions while staying protected to the east by Mount Krujë. The bell found inside the tower announced the death of Skanderbeg, the Albanian national hero, and can now be seen in the Skanderbeg Museum.
- Kruja Ethnographic Museum. This museum was the home of the Toptani family, built in a style known as Çadak, characteristic of the Krujë area at the time and dates back to the year 1764. The Toptanis were noble rulers of the area up until their move to Tirana. The house was declared a museum in 1959 and was restored by professor Emin Riza. The home allows you to experience daily life in this time period and is complete with interactive cultural displays and original furnishings.
- Skanderbeg Museum. This juseum was opened November 1, 1982 and is centered on an epic man of the 15th century who held off the invasion of the Ottoman Empire for 25 years. The museum recognizes the lasting strength and subsequent loss of the army of Skanderbeg. The national museum engenders the character of a memorial and opens to a stunning sculptural fresco representing our hero Skanderbeg amongst his cohorts. The museum holds artifacts, writings, and accounts of Skanderbeg’s life and death, while additional displays continue to be added as discoveries are made.
- Medieval Hamam (on the southwestern edge of the castle). The steam bath is another legacy of medieval life in Kruja. The hamam was built at the end of the 15th century, and consists of four areas: the changing room, the middle room which has remnants of a tank, and two separate bathing areas with water supplied by the well of the square. In the middle of the main room is the kettle where water was heated. This hamam was used by the city’s elite. In 1963, it was proclaimed a first degree cultural monument.
- Church of Skanderbeg (The church in the Castle of Kruja). This church dates to the 15th century. It is built over the ruins of an older church from which is saved a part of its frescos. It was found in the 1980s during excavations.
- The Tower Houses of Kruja. They are Krutan Buildings qualified as tower-houses because besides living, they have served also for protection against any possible aggressor. Such houses can be found in the old neighborhoods of Kruja.
- 2 Faith Mosque (near the Skanderbeg Museum). It is thought to have similarity with the mosque in the Castle of Preza. It dates in the end of the 15th century.
- 3 Old Bazaar. The Old Bazaar of Kruja dates to the 17th century and is known by the locals as Derexhiku. It was built approximately 400 years ago and had about 200 shops starting from neat Kruja City Hall to the entrance gates of Kruja Castle. The first shops are thought to have started next to the castle entrance and over the years the shops expanded towards what is now the center of town. The shops line the street on both sides creating roads of roof-covered storefronts whose sloping roofs create an arcade along its length. The main crafts and trades in these shops have been leather working, silk, kitchen utensils, furniture, tailoring, pottery, carpentry, cafes, wood carving, butchers, barbers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, and wool workers. In the Old Bazaar today you can find objects and handmade items from traditional artisans as well as antiques collected from Kruja and the surrounding areas.
- Merat Beut Mosque (in the Old Bazaar). The mosque was built in 1533 during the Ottoman invasion. It's unique architecturally, and matches in harmony with the Old Bazaar. It is also considered a cultural monument. During the Communist times, the mosque was closed and its minaret reopened once again in 1991, and is visited by locals and foreign tourists alike.
- Cave of Sari Salltëku (at the top of Mount Krujë). The cave of Sari Salltëku is considered sacred within the Bektashi faith.
- Skanderbeg Monument (in the center of town). a monument for the national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg. The statue was erected on November 28, 1959 and was designed by sculptor Pascal Odysseus. It was declared to be a national cultural monument in 1963. The statue depicts Skanderbeg charging into war atop his stallion with sword drawn.
- Albanopolis (in the village of Zgerdhesh, 5 km away from Fushe-Kruja). An Illyrian city and the capital city of the Albans, an Illyrian tribe which used to live in the zone. It is thought to be the city from which Albania and the Albanians inherited this name.
- Enjoy the panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea from the castle.
- Leave your impressions at the Skanderbeg Museum Guestbook
- Go for a walk along the pedestrian street and take a peak at the many restaurants and souvenir shops alongside
- Visit the Sarisalltik Bektashi Temple at the top of Skanderbeg Mountain
- Take a deep breath of fresh air in the Shtam Pass (Qafe Shtame) National Park, where Queen Geraldine is said to have taken water from the source with the same name
- Qafë-Shtamë National Park – This national park, established in 1996, is 25 km (15.5 miles) northeast of Kruja. The bottled drinking water of the same name is found here and is famous because it used to be delivered daily to the royal family in Tirana due to its curative properties. Its location is 1,100 m above sea level nestled in the mountains. The park is comprised largely of black pine forest and is famous for its curative water, special atmosphere, fresh air, natural beauty and the unique landscape that it offers. Here at the park you will be able to enjoy popular outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, picnics, yoga, etc. Accessing the park is easiest by car.
- Hurdha e Kecit (The pond of the nanny-goat) – This toponym is present in the territory of Kruja where there are springs and waterfalls. The Pond of Nanny-goat is located in the village of Noje, 6 km in the east of Kruja, in one of the ramification of the Dro River. It is a waterfall with a length of 15-20 m and with a scenic view. The legend of this waterfall states that: Here has lived the beauty of the water (an Albanian myth) which went out every morning in the coast by drying and combing her hair under the sun and would dive again in the afternoon. The residents of this region have used this waterfall as a pilgrimage place because they believed in the curative powers of the waterfall.
- Lake Bovilla – It lies in between two mountain ranges with opportunities for walking, hiking, mountain biking, and climbing on the rocks. From any view of the lakeside mountains you can enjoy the beautiful view of the landscape.
- Cave of Bovilla – In the southern part of the Gami Mountain, in the gorge of Bovilla, which divides Kruja from the Tirana district. This cave is not exposed for visitors. Based on researchers this cave is the continuation of the Cave of Pellumbasit of the Dajti Mountain. It is thought to have been inhabited around the 12th and 11th century BCE. A distinction of this settlement is the presence of prehistorical pictures which show scenes from that time.
- Abdyl Agës Bridge – This bridge is between Mount Krujë and Mount Kurçajt in the southernmost part of Krujë and spans the Black River. It is believed to have been built in the early 1800s and is constructed entirely of limestone. The bridge is part of a medieval road that once led through this region and provided a safe crossing for the caravans that passed through.
- Kurçajt Bridge – To the south of the Krujë region in the village of Kurçaj. It stretches over the Black River and served as an integral part of an old caravan trail connecting Krujë with Tirana. It was constructed in the late 1700s and is made from staggered stones raised gradually by concrete portions. The bridge was made with a unique asymmetric shape that reaches up to the opposite side like a staircase.
- Weeping Gorge – 2 km (1.2 miles) from the north of Krujë, along the road that leads to Qafë-Shtama national park is a memorial for martyrs of the Ottoman invasion. The memorial hangs at the edge of a massive gorge overlooking an expansive valley. Historical evidence shows that below these stones are the remains of 90 girls that chose to be thrown into the abyss rather than succumb to the Ottomans on June 16th, 1478.
- Black River Canyon – Between Kruja Mountain and Gamnit Mountain, this canyon offers a walking and hiking trail with views of waterfalls, rivers, and old ottoman bridges. Within the canyon are the Abdyl Agës Bridge, Black Gorge, Bridge of Kurcajt, and Medieval Steps. This area is thought to have been an important passageway around the 15th century and traces are readily seen in the area today.
- Path of Skanderbeg – The hike, which can be done by any age, goes 1265 m to the highest peak (the Lake Peak is 1725 m. Along the trail, there are numerous streams flowing from the highest peak of this mountain with icy and crystalline water. The hike takes about 2½ hours and has a 3.71-km climbing distance. At Skenderbeg Mountain, there are views of the long coastline of the Adriatic, and the visibility goes to Burrel in Mali i Dejës.
- Hiking to Shrine of Sari-Saltik – It is accessible by road, but also by a wonderful hiking trail.Hiking the entire path from the city center to the temple will take approximately an hour or an hour and a half depending on speed. Once at the top you can enjoy the historical temple as well as a few cafes and restaurants within walking distance, some of which offer breathtaking views.
- Droja River Canyon Hike – This trail is approximately 1.5 km long and takes around 25 minutes to reach the end. At the end of the primary and secondary trails are beautiful water features including some waterfalls. The beginning of the trail can be accessed by car.
Some beautiful carpets, hand-made felt items such as slippers, antiques including traditional costumes of all sorts, and lots of more or less kitsch "Albania" red paraphernalia with the eagle on it.
- Tavë me fasule – A traditional food with the main ingredient "legume"
- Fërgesë me qumësht – Traditional food with curd and milk.
- Bar Restaurant Panorama – Near the castle, it features typical local dishes such as Pule me Qull (village chicken), and Kabuni. Taste local Raki made from cornelian cherry and blackberries.
- Restaurant Bardhi – Near the National History Museum G.K. Skanderbeg, it offers traditional Albanian dishes for lunch and dinner along with spectacular views. Outdoor and indoor seating is available
- Restaurant Alba – Across from the GK Skanderbeu National History Museum. Traditional local and Italian dishes are served in an ambient setting with indoor and outdoor options available
- Merlika Restaurant – In the castle, Merlika offers a local menu and pizza in traditional-styled dining.
- Eli Bar Restaurant – In the Old Bazaar, it offers a wide menu of traditional Albanian foods.
- Restaurant Kalaja – Sit on the second floor and enjoy a beautiful panoramic setting while tasting a wide range of Albanian wines.
- 1 Hotel Panorama, Rruga Kala (near the Old Bazaar), ☏ . Rooms have a view over the city and restaurants are on the property. 5,504 lek.
- 2 Mervin Hotel, SH38, ☏ . The units at the hotel come with a seating area, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a private bathroom with bathrobes and a bidet. The rooms feature a wardrobe. The property offers a paid airport shuttle service. 4,846 lek.
- 3 Shkreli Resort Qafeshtame, Qafë Shtamë Street, Cudhi, ☏ . Guest at Shkreli Resort will be able to join various sport, adventure or relaxing activities for any group age by requests. 7,647 lek.
- 4 Rooms Emiliano Castle of Kruja, Castle St, ☏ . Right on top of the castle. Private parking available. Air-conditioned rooms offering a desk, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV, a patio and a private bathroom with a bidet. 2,991 lek.
- 5 Kaloshi Villa, Kala Street, Inside the Kruja Castle, ☏ . Some accommodation includes a balcony with garden views, a fully equipped kitchenette and a private bathroom with bidet.