Top 10 Tirana

Making the most of a stay in Albania’s capital city

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Although the spectre of communist dictator Enver Hoxha may still loom large over Albania, its capital city is confidently shedding its isolationist past to reveal an exciting destination bursting with culture, cuisine and colour.

From the architectural mashup on display around Skanderbeg Square to the dizzy heights of Mount Dajt, Tirana delights from its centre all the way to the outskirts, with warm welcomes offered throughout from people eager to embrace international guests and proudly showcase the best their country has to offer.

Indeed, Tirana makes for a great city break in its own right or as the starting point for exploring one of Europe’s least-visited countries – yet one which also boasts dramatic scenery, a gorgeous coastline and some truly unique historical sites.

1. Skanderbeg Square

Named after the Albanian nobleman and military commander who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire, Skanderbeg Square’s central location and significance makes it the perfect place to begin exploring Tirana.

Tirana International Hotel and National Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Skanderbeg Square
Tirana International Hotel and National Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Skanderbeg Square

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Brussels for business

Exploring the sights and culture outside the convention venue while in the Belgian capital.

At the heart of Europe, Brussels is a magnet for business and industry conferences, and it was due to such a symposium that I got to visit the Belgian capital myself recently. However, with glimpses of spare time during the day and a few free evenings, I was determined to make the most of my time in the city and see as much as I could when outside the conference centre.

Arrival 

Landing with colleagues at Brussels Airport, getting to the city centre was a breeze, with frequent rail services whizzing visitors to Brussels Central Station in 17 minutes. For those heading further afield, up to 16 trains a day connect the airport to Amsterdam in the Netherlands via Dordrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague.

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The warmth of Kenya

From close-up animal encounters to the history of Kenyan rail transport, Nairobi offers the perfect taster for the best this African nation has to offer.

I went to Kenya for business, but it was the spirit of its people that will draw me back.

My first trip to Kenya came about as a result of me representing my place of work at the Uniserv UK Education Fair 2017, which took place at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi earlier this year.

There was a great irony in this situation as, while I was discussing with hundreds of prospective Kenyan students all the things they might be able to do for the first time if they choose to study in the UK – attend a Premier League match, take a ride in a black cab or make a snowman – I was experiencing their country for the first time.

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Odessan odyssey

From the world’s largest labyrinth to the world’s the world’s first monument to Darth Vader, Odessa makes for an unusual yet captivating city break.

I know the phrase ‘Paris of the…’ gets bandied around all too often, but Odessa may well be worthy of that statement. It’s like the best bits of Paris, Milan and Istanbul have all been mixed in a Slavic hotpot. Plus, just like Barcelona, it boasts stunning beaches mere minutes from the city centre.

Odessa might not seem like the obvious city break destination, but there is plenty to see and do for a short trip, with countless eateries to suit all taste buds and green spaces that are simply captivating.

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How now Chișinău

Chișinău feels like the Soviet Union fell yesterday and no-one’s still quite sure what to do next. However, once you get past its shortcomings, Chișinău reveals a capital city that oozes sights, quality eateries and is a genuine treat for any traveller.

After a five hour delay and an erratic taxi drive through some pretty ropey areas of the Moldovan capital, I arrived at my Communist-era hotel in a pretty foul mood. I dumped my bags in my room and ran my fingers along the wall-to-wall carpet, but even this crime to interior decoration failed to raise a smile.

So, I braved the bitter winter air and ventured out in search of something, anything, to elevate my disposition and rekindle the excitement I felt 12 hours earlier when I checked in at London Luton…

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Yo! Tokyo

Bizarre and dignified in equal proportions, Tokyo is an endless city that never fails to surprise at every corner.

Nothing can prepare you for Tokyo. From the moment you step off the plane, you enter a colourful and ultramodern world full of bizarre gadgets and cute cartoonish mascots, but one that is steeped in tradition and precision.

Everything you’ve read about Tokyo is true; from the ultrarealistic plastic models of food outside restaurants enticing in diners, to the futuristic toilets that play sound effects to hide your bodily functions. It’s a bonkers city, but one that’s easy to fall in love with.

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