My favorite place to stay:
The Vila with a Star in Selvia is a sweet little traditional Vila of Tirana, run by our friends and TOKA-partners at AlbanianTrip.com. To my mind, staying here offers the perfect combination of: comfort, autonomy and immersion – you get to play at being a resident local while staying there, and it really feels like a home. The decorations have been culled from years of trolling local junk shops, saving historical treasures from dispersal – so it really feels like staying in a little, quixotic ethonographic museum, too. PLUS they keep their office in one room of the Vila, so you have one of the best and most knowledgable tour companies on hand, to hold yours!
For the back-packing crowd, there’s Tirana Backpackers’ Hostel! The (more or less) first hostel in Albania, and to our mind, still the best. Over the years it has moved around the city though, so make sure you find it in its newest location (since 2014), on Rruga e Bogdaneve, off Rruga e Kavajes. It’s a little bit hard to say anything sensible about a place I think of so much as home-away-from-home. But wherever they are, everything Celeste & Ilir (and the rest of their gang) does is infused with their gorgeous spirits, love of Albania, and creativity. They also have a couple of private double rooms you may be able to snatch. And you can even pitch a tent in their garden. I can’t remember what the prices are, I think around 12€ per person for a normal dorm bed in high season – rates are cheaper in winter.
And Another Great Place . . . .
It’s kind of a pity that Albania and Albanians are so wonderful, because we can’t tell you that one place is better than another. Everyone we mention here is fantastic. Freddy’s hostel was one of our first “homes” in Tirana. Freddy is a prince. When my (very nervous) mother was arriving for the first time, Freddy (unasked!) drove to the airport THREE TIMES in one day to check on her flight reservations (which she had changed, just about as many times). I was at the time on a minibus heading south and paying nowhere near as much attention as Freddy was. Technically a hostel, Freddy’s also has good rates for private rooms, which is nice, if you’re tired and exhausted. It’s also around the corner from a fabulous restaurant . . . . oh, fond memories! Contact Freddy: www.freddyshostel.com. tel: 355 (0)68 20 35 261
And a Great Resource: Tirana AudioGuide4U is a free downloadable phone app which gives you a tour of Tirana, listing hotels, restaurants, points of interest and guided walks. Your screen shows a map, your phone’s GPS tells the phone where you are, and you can access audio guide information targeted to your actual location, as well as find important places you’re looking for (which is no small feat in Tirana, where, as far as I can tell, the houses aren’t even numbered sequentially, which while charmingly anarchic is a bit confusing)(a bit?) For now it is free, and the great thing is that once you download it onto your phone it’s 100% installed, so it works even if you have no signal (and obviously you don’t get socked with roaming fees). Try it out, and tell us what you think!