‘I went to one of Europe’s prettiest hidden gems’

Many of Europe’s top holiday hotspots are struggling to cope with huge numbers of tourists following the pandemic. From Barcelona to Venice, cities have been forced to think of ingenious ways to cope with the influx.

However, holidaymakers who want to avoid crowds still have a few options. This summer, I travelled to Albania and explored one of the country’s best-hidden gems. As well as being less crowded than some other European holiday hotspots, you can find some relatively good deals on holidays to Albania, including some cheap deals with easyJet and direct flights with British Airways

Berat sits on the Osum River, in central Albania, around a two-hour drive from Albania’s capital, Tirana. A designated World Heritage Site, Berat is surrounded by mountains and hills. Better still, a trip to Berat is extremely affordable and I spent just £18 on a night’s stay in the city with breakfast included.

Known as the ‘Town of a Thousand Windows’ for its unique architecture, the city has been inhabited for thousands of years.

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What to do

Berat is a small city and, even though I only spent one full day there, I felt as though I was able to see most of its key sights.

I loved the views from Berat Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and looms above the town. The walk to the top was a bit of a challenge in 30-degree heat but tourists can also take a taxi if they’d rather.

Berat’s Old Town is a maze of cafes and restaurants and I loved admiring the Ottoman houses which gave the city its name. If you’re staying in Berat for more days, you could take a trip to the breathtaking Osum Gorge or go for a mountain hike.

Where to Stay

I stayed in a guesthouse room which I booked on Airbnb and it cost just £36.97 for two people for one night, which worked out to be roughly £18.48 each. The price included a simple but filling breakfast of juice, coffee, eggs, bread and jam.

I’d recommend staying in the town’s Old Town and booking a hotel or room in one of the city’s Ottoman houses.

The houses are so well preserved and many have their original heavy wood carving decor which offer a really authentic experience. As could be expected from a town famous for its windows, many offer incredible views of the river and Berat.

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Eating and Drinking

Berat’s restaurants mainly serve traditional Albanian cuisine, with lots of meat dishes, and vegetarian options including stuffed peppers and aubergines. I’d recommend trying fergese, a traditional dip made from tomatoes, onions, feta cheese and roasted red peppers.

I paid just 2,300lek (£19.81) for a two-course meal for two with beers right on the riverbank. Berat also has a few bars for tourists to choose from but the city has a quieter vibe than the capital, Tirana.

A cappuccino in the centre of the town cost just £1.50 while a scoop of ice cream was just 50p.

If you’re looking to explore more of Albania, why not check out its capital Tirana or one of its best beach resorts?

Berat is also just a short trip from one of Europe’s most incredible hidden gems, gorgeous Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia.

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