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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Bed and Bizarre

Weetabix covered in Marmite for breakfast? Err… maybe not.

Back bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried bread and toast with butter…

When holidaying in the UK, there’s nothing quite like waking up in a bed and breakfast to the joys of a traditional English fry-up.

Admittedly, I have a passionate dislike for baked beans (although full English breakfast aficionados would say that baked beans should never be offered as part of a fry-up) and most holidaymakers have one or two alternate requests to the advertised menu when ordering their dish at a B&B – but corn flakes in lager is certainly one you wouldn’t expect as a hotelier.

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Top 10 Alternative Lisbon

From a doll hospital to lesser-known delicacies, this guide will help you discover the hidden gems of Lisbon for yourself.

From the beating heart of Alfama to the Manueline marvels of Belém, Lisbon is a truly world class city that is sure to delight any visitor. On a recent trip to the Portuguese capital, I decided to truly get under the skin of the city and seek out some of the lesser-known sites the guide books often overlook.

For first time visitors, don’t forget to check out Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Castelo de São Jorge and Praça do Comércio or enjoy the pleasures of ‘pastéis de nata’, ‘fado’ music and the charming trams and ‘elevadores’ that grind up and down the city’s streets.

However, if you’re planning your second (or umpteenth) trip – or just fancy going beyond the tried and tested tourist trail – here I present my Top 10 Alternative Lisbon.

  1. The Doll Hospital

Above an unassuming toy shop on Praça da Figueira you can visit ‘Hospital de Bonecas’ – The Doll Hospital. Owned by the same family since 1830, it is one of the world’s oldest doll hospitals, where beloved possessions sent in from around the globe are given a new lease of life.

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London’s priceless views for just £1

Faux vistas trialled in London hotel for a quid by budget chain easyHotel.

Forget fake news, one hotel is promoting ‘fake views’ to allow guests jaw-dropping vistas of London at a fraction of the bank-busting prices often charged by others in the UK capital.

These fake window views of iconic London landmarks are being trialled by budget hotel chain easyHotel for customers at its Old Street Hotel.

The views enable guests to experience the majesty of some of the city’s finest locations without having to pay a premium for a fancy view.

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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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