The City

Tirana

While there’s no denying that the capital of Albania is more than a little rough around the edges, Tirana is a true European gem that will welcome and delight all those open-minded enough to visit it. A small city, Tirana’s centre is easily explored on foot. While the city offers a handful of museums, galleries and attractions, this a place where the greatest treasures are stumbled upon when strolling along the narrow streets. From the historical gravitas of Skanderbeg Square to the edgy Blloku district, (once restricted to the elite members of the Communist party and now a neighbourhood frequented by the coolest locals in the country), Tirana is a city on the cusp of becoming a European hotspot – if you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience it before it becomes one.

Sleeping

THE PLAZA

A newly built hotel situated in the heart of Tirana, The Plaza is conveniently located in close proximity to all the major sites of the city. With exceptional attention to detail, the owners of The Plaza have created and designed a space fit for the growing influx of international travellers seeking a boutique hotel experience in Albania. With an Eastern European twist on modern design, the hotel strikes the perfect balance of elegant and homely. The staff are very welcoming and attentive, excited to give recommendations and advise you on the best places to visit during your stay. Most rooms offer sprawling views of the city beneath you – when booking, be sure to request one of these. Tirana is renowned for its eccentric and evolving architecture from the stark communist buildings to the pastel coloured apartment blocks, and from up above, it’s all the more fascinating to see.

Eating

Mullixhiu and Mrizi I Zanave

Albania is rapidly becoming one of the gastronomical hot spots when it comes to the burgeoning slow food movement and much of this is thanks to Mullixhiu and Mrizi I Zanave – two sister restaurants in Albania combining classic Albanian hospitality with a inventive and modern twists of rustic traditional plates. Advocates for sustainable farming, the majority of all ingredients are sourced from the farm of Mullixhiu. Through your three-hour immersive gastronomical experience, the charming and knowledgeable staff will detail each part of the dishes and the inspiration behind them as they set them down on the table before you. Expect wild pomegranates, local olives, homemade cheeses and delectable meat boards to tantalise your tastebuds and give you a real flavour of Albanian cuisine.

Seeing

BUNK’ART

Pervading shadows of Albania’s past, nuclear bunkers are a common sight across the country. While many of the structures are now derelict, as the country has evolved, many have been adapted into, cafés and even galleries. One such example is BUNK’ART , a nuclear bunker transformed into a museum and art space. Albania’s first serious attempt at discussing and reconciling with its silent and suffocating communist past, BUNK’ART is a truly moving attracting to visit. Eerie, slightly disconcerting and wholly fascinating, BUNK’ART is a place to get lost in the corridors and rooms that exhibit the shrouded past of Albania in the 20th century.