When booking summer vacations in Europe, many Americans look to Italy, France, Greece, Spain, and even Croatia. These countries have been mainstream and popular tourist destinations for decades now and while they are all beautiful and worth it destinations, this summer might be a good time to try somewhere off the beaten path and visit Tirana, Albania.
Tirana, Albania is a city emerging from the darkness. Albania has a violent and troubling recent history that includes revolution, civil war, pyramid schemes, corruption, and more. The country has emerged from these problems to become a wonderful tourism destination, place to live, and home base for digital nomads. Plus, they’re incredibly laxed when it comes to COVID restrictions both internally and for foreign Arrivals. In fact, in my recent two month stay in Tirana, I can count on one hand the number of times I needed to put on a mask.
A City For Young People
Tirana was named the European Youth Capital of 2022. This special designation from the EU shows Tirana’s willingness to become a hot spot for young people in the region. The city is undergoing a massive facelift. New buildings are going up every day with some of them being built for the purpose of advancing technological and youth initiatives. For example, the Pyramid of Tirana, a long standing monument to the communist regime that ruled the country, is being transformed into a technology center aiming to educate Albanian youths in Coding, design, and more.
Beyond education and work, Tirana’s cafe culture and nightlife is perfect for young people of all interests. The city boasts the most cafes per capita of any European city. There’s something for everyone from relaxed coffee shops slinging specialty roasts, to fancy cocktail bars, to the perfect pub for a pint.
What About The Food?
Albanian food is like a cross between the flavorful and heavy pasta dishes of Italy, the simple, subtle Mediterranean dishes fo Greece, and the meaty cuisine of the rest of the Balkans. Simply, it’s incredible. In my time in Albania, I had some of the best meals of my life. Not because they were complicated and “artisanal” but because they were simple, fresh, and done perfectly.
Some highlights of Albanian foods include:
- Green Salads : Lettuce and Green onions with Olive oil and lemon
- Qofte : Grilled meat sticks
- Grilled Liver
- Slow roasted Lamb
One note about Albanian food, however…I am personally not a vegetarian or Vegan, but I do think it would be difficult to stick with this dietary style in Albania. There are plenty of options at grocery stores, but restaurants are pretty meat heavy.
Do You Like To Be In Nature?
I based myself in Tirana for two months because of it’s hyper fast internet access and cafe culture, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get a healthy dose of Nature while I was there. Tirana is a super green city (Likely because of all of the youth initiatives mentioned above) There are parks all over home to soccer fields, playgrounds and outdoor cafes. The biggest park is called “Grand Park of Tirana” and is home to a massive manmade lake. In the summer months you can see people dotting the shores of the lake tanning, picnicking, and just hanging. There’s a circa 5 mile walking and bike path around the lake as well. It’s a great place to go for your morning run/ride.
Go To A Game Without Breaking The Bank
Speaking of soccer, Albanians are huge soccer fans. Tirana is home to the local club “KF Tirana” and they play at the brand new/state of the art Air Albania Stadium. In the US, going to any sporting event costs a fortune from tickets to concessions its a few hundred dollars to have a good time. In Tirana I went to a game every weekend, sitting in lower bowl good seats for about $5 per ticket.
I feel like I could go on all day about what makes Tirana a special place, but I want to leave something for you to discover for yourself. All I can say is, with more and more European countries opening up and people planning their summer vacations, keep Tirana in mind. You won’t regret it.
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