Albania


Our Guide To Albania

Albania’s Muslim influences extend to its bar scene today. Picture a Belgian or German pub and you’ll imagine hard seating, but in Albania, as with many Balkan states, you are treated to cushions, throws, pillows and padding all made to put you at ease and comfort. Due to an injection of money, many lounge bars have installed the same modern conservatory extension which unfortunately makes many options seem almost identikit. However, if you persevere in the capital, you’ll find some wonderfully quirky pubs that could be every bit as home in Poland or Hungary.

Out in the provinces it’s slim pickings so keep an open mind. Go to that local winery, ask around for tips and advice, and enjoy the hospitality for which Albania is justifiably famed for, not to mention the democratic prices.

Albania is a bit mad, impromptu and unpredictable, making Tirana and other cities fun visits.

Ratings Key (0-10)

Bars marked (*) will take you to our full profile write-up!

 

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Rapsodi Elbasan 6 8 7 7 8 7.5
Komiteti Tirana 7 10 9 8 7 9.1
Hemingway Bar Tirana 9 9 9 6 6 8.5
Radio Bar Tirana 8 8 8 7 7 8.1
Kaon Beer Tirana 6 8 8 7 10 7.9
Illyrian Saloon Tirana 8 8 7 7 7 7.6
Tymi Tirana 8 8 7 7 6 7.6
Eko Club Shkodër 7 9 9 8 7 8.5
Kantina Çobo Ura Vajgurore 9 7 8 7 4 7.6

pop. 60,031

An Ottoman town with true natural beauty and an ensemble of gorgeous white buildings either side of an impressive river with mountain peaks and forests in the hills. Even better, Berat fortress is almost a village in itself, with jaw-dropping panoramas and ancient religious sites. This doesn’t mean a jot for the bar scene however, which is, unfortunately, phenomenally dull and/or derivative, and you will struggle to find anywhere with a distinctive identity. During the day, you may wish to visit one of the nearby wineries to sample Berat’s unique grape varieties, and try the superb olives to wash the wine down with.

pop. 128,232

A city with an ancient history, most cultural sights were destroyed in a violent earthquake which ravaged the town. These days, most of what their is to see is in and around the central street running West to East, with a few streets off it containing markets or bar areas. On a sunny day it is quite pleasant and this is a slice of ‘real’ Albania, provincial Yes, but honest and hard working for the most part. As for bars, you’ll tend to find Tirana wannabe bars with varying degrees of bad taste, also having procured the same conservatory extension as pretty much every bar in Albania. Blandness aside, there are many comfortable and enjoyable places to sit, but when it comes to genuinely notable bars, not much to write home about.

pop. 503,000

A quirky, fun and occasionally maddening city of aggressive driving, summer smog and pure beauty juxtaposed with dereliction and corporate sheen. A test bed for totalitarianism and neoliberalism in the space of half a century, and it hasn’t resulted in very sensible town planning or infrastructure. Bus stations are miles away from the centre, pavements disappear in front of you, and then beautiful trees and murals fling themselves into your eyeline. A series of contradictions that somehow vanquish your ambivalence to the place. The ex-elite district Blloku is nightlife central, and while it may still be too clogged with conservatory lounge bars, there are some gems and points of difference to explore that, if followed carefully, make for a diverse and fulfilling night out. Even in party central a stalwart traditional bar remains serving beer for under £1 a half litre. Tirana mate, you have to dive into it.