Last-minute escapes from the UK

Discover wild parts of Tirana

people sitting in a square Tirana The capital of Albania is chaotic, lively, and charming — Shutterstock

For a while now, the Balkans have been attracting visitors who want a mix of things: decent weather, great prices, interesting history, a bit of the unknown but with hints of familiarity to hold on to. Places like Croatia and Montenegro have seen their beautiful coastlines attract millions of tourists, while cities like Belgrade appeal to party animals and people-watchers alike. Slowly but surely we can now add Tirana to this list.

The capital of Albania is virtually the last remaining outpost of the Wild East, a city that’s disorganized, chaotic, crumbling, and irrational… and yet these are precisely the qualities that give it its charm. Case in point: in the early 2000s, the mayor of Tirana decided to paint the city into the 21st century, resulting in a city center that’s a selection of mad colors used in often inappropriate ways. But this is exactly it, this is why it’s fun because it’s all a bit mad. The locals just grin and shrug and grab another strong coffee. Cool bars, eclectic restaurants, a giant, concrete pyramid (really!), and many other slices of insanity make this one of the most vital cities in Europe right now.