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Tirana


 

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If you love to travel around Europe, you may have seen pictures of Albania popping up all over your social media feeds. Tirana is the capital of this hugely underrated country, and although it may not be as picturesque as the white, sandy beaches you see on Instagram, it certainly has a lot to offer. This city is unique in every sense of the word, and somewhere we could visit again and again. There’s no telling what this incredible place will look like in five or ten years time, and we can’t wait to see it.


Albania is a brilliant, up and coming tourist destination. After being essentially shut off from the rest of the world due to political unrest until the 1990s, the capital city is definitely still developing.  However, this means when visiting Tirana, you feel as though you are witnessing a city being born. 


If you’re looking for somewhere picture perfect, Tirana probably isn’t quite to your standard yet. You’ll still find some derelict buildings as you come out of the main streets, but the actual city centre is extremely clean and well maintained. Tirana rewards creativity in architecture, so one moment you’ll be looking at a pristine, white mosque and the next you’ll be staring at some oddly shaped, bright blue and green apartment buildings!







Toptani shopping centre, Tirana
Toptani shopping centre, Tirana



There is so much to do in Tirana's city centre. From the 8-floor Toptani shopping centre to the ornate town hall, art installations to flea markets. The local football stadium is a sight to see in itself, then just past it there’s a serene city-centre park that leads all the way to a lake, surrounded by bars and restaurants. It’s a perfect place to head for a drink and a view. 







City Centre Lake, Tirana, Albania
City Centre Lake

Albania’s economy is still only just beginning to grow, so as a country, they are so, so grateful for any tourism. Personally, I’ve never felt so respected and appreciated as a tourist before, and genuinely felt as though I was doing a good deed by visiting a new country, not being an inconvenience. In addition to this, the economic situation means that you can get a lot more for your money than in other European countries or the UK. In terms of price, I’d say that general items are a similar price or cheaper than in Poland. 





Not only is Tirana one of the most interesting cities in Europe to explore, it’s also a brilliant base to see more of Albania. From Tirana city centre, you can take a (slightly bumpy) trip to Bovilla Lake, a picturesque spot only a 50 minute drive away. The hike up to the top viewpoint on Gamti Mountain is steep at times, without a handrail, so if you’re wanting to climb, definitely ensure you have the proper footwear. However, if you don’t fancy yourself a hiker, don’t worry. There are some beautiful viewpoints at the bottom, picnic spots and shorter walks you can enjoy. There’s also an amazing restaurant which you can drive to with a lake & mountain view!

Bovilla lake, albania
Bovilla Lake



Datji Mountain, Tirana
Datji Mountain

You can also take a day trip up Dajti mountain via cable car and visit their revolving restaurant with spectacular views (this is only open during the summer, though). There’s a park to explore, horse and donkey riding and gorgeous photo points. Nearby, you can also head to the Bunk’Art museum, which has over 100 rooms and discusses the history of Albania and the bunkers around the country. 


After all this exploring, you’ll surely be ready for a good meal and maybe a few drinks! And we have plenty of recommendations for Tirana for spots to visit. To be honest, we didn’t have one bad meal in this city! Italian food is very popular across Albania, and it’s made very authentically.


Our favourite spot was Eja Italian, where you’ll find a great range of  mouth-watering pasta and pizza meals for very reasonable prices. This gorgeous restaurant is found in the Blloku district - this entire neighbourhood is amazing for food and drink. Just around the corner are several cosy coffee shops and modern cocktail bars, such as Izzy Living.


A plate of pasta and a glass of wine on a red and white tablecloth. Taken at eja restaurant, tirana
Gorgeous food at Eja Restaurant, Tirana



Fergese  - A traditional Albanian dish
Fergese - A traditional Albanian dish

 Be sure to try some traditional Albanian foods too, such as baked lamb dishes, Fergese (roasted red peppers with tomatoes and cottage cheese) and Byrek (a traditional Albanian pie). No matter where or what you eat in Tirana, we found that all of the food was incredibly fresh, unprocessed and high-quality - and cheap too! 




Tirana is the next up and coming city break destination - you heard it here first. With a welcoming community, brilliant English speaking across the country, great prices and stunning surroundings, what’s not to love as a tourist? There are modern, comfortable bars and restaurants on every corner, even on the outskirts of the city. Tirana is a city where you definitely can’t get bored!


Additional information:

Getting there: Tirana is easy to access by air, as it houses the only international airport in Albania. There are regular flights from several cities in the UK, and they’re generally pretty affordable too. You can't get to Tirana by train, as the station was demolished in 2013 and is yet to be rebuilt. However, there are options to drive to Tirana or travel by coach from cities in Albania.

Visas: Citizens of most countries do not need a visa to visit Albania for a stay of up to 90 days.

Currency: The currency of Albania is Albanian Lek. The conversion rate is around 100 Lek = 1 Euro.

Language: The official language of Albania is Albanian, but English is widely spoken across the country, especially in tourist hotspots such as Tirana and Durres.

Time zone: Albania is in the Central European Time Zone, usually an hour ahead of the UK.


Ready to go?

- Search for somewhere to stay in Tirana on booking.com

- Look for things to do in Tirana or day trips from Tirana to other destinations on GetYourGuide here


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