The capital city of Albania, Tirana, is more provincial than most, with very few luxury hotels, and minimal representation of the global chains. Here, one address stands out among all the rest: Xheko Imperial, a majestic property in the best downtown neighborhood, where locals come to convene, dine and celebrate, while tourists come to sleep, relax and be pampered,
The hotel’s convenient location, halfway between the city’s largest park (complete with artificial lake) and the heart of the capital, is not the least of its advantages. It is also situated in the midst of the country’s chicest shopping district.
The elegant Xheko Imperial has been an elite Tirana institution for two decades, following the emergence of Albania from its isolation under a reclusive and repressive Communist regime, thanks to the amiable and efficient management of CEO Eni Xheko. The family-owned hotel is constantly innovating, while resisting the lucrative temptation to open a casino on the premises, lest it attract the wrong kind of clientele.
The stunningly grand green marble columned lobby is the first visual indication that luxury is the hotel’s hallmark. The less tangible attribute of Xheko imperial’s class is the friendliness and professionalism of the impeccably trained staff and employees.
Incredibly, given the hotel edifice’s statuesque hauteur, it is still considered a boutique hotel, since it has only 72 rooms. These well-appointed guest units come in four classifications: Deluxe, Premium, Junior Suite and Imperial.
Regardless of category, your room will be equipped with a very comfortable king size bed (twin beds in Deluxe), user-friendly climate control, flat screen TV with multiple channels, coffee and tea-making facilities and minibar/refrigerator. Free high-speed WiFi access extends throughout the rooms and hotel.
The bathrooms are equally splendid, with expanded collections of quality OEM toiletries, a sizable rectangular lighted make-up mirror, and even an ultra-modern push-button raindrop shower. A hairdryer and twin sets of bathrobes and slippers are also provided.
While any room at the Xheko Imperial is delightful, the Imperial rooms are over the top. Here you may find such perks as canopy beds, bathtubs where you can watch TV through a window that turns opaque at the touch of a button, or an elevated sunken tub on a platform perched on the top of several polished wooden steps.
Naturally, there is plenty to do in the hotel outside the comfort of your personal room. The Asian-themed spa, staffed by practitioners imported from Indonesia, is especially glamorous, and offers a tantalizing menu of exotic treatments. Of course, there is a fitness room with the latest state-of-the-art equipment.
Dining options are another area where Xheko Imperial excels, starting with the bar in the ornate lobby, and progressing upwards to the restaurant mezzanine – home of the hotel’s winter and summer restaurants – and finally reaching the rooftop patio. The al fresco summer restaurant coincides with tourist season, while the winter restaurant – complete with sushi bar – caters to a large extent to local patrons.
The hotel’s complimentary breakfast buffet is served in an airy, green sheltered terrace. Beverages include natural juices, such as green apple and orange, and one may also order (for an extra charge) smoothie combinations featuring other fruits. There is an omelette station with the usual and sufficient fillings, but anyone wishing to splurge may opt for premium egg dishes from an a la carte menu – including a royal treat: the regal breakfast, comprising caviar and Prosecco.
The many menu options do not necessarily encompass dishes representing traditional Albanian cuisine, but restaurants serving authentic local food abound within walking distance of the hotel. Especially noteworthy in this category is Taverna Zoto, located at the end of a tranquil alley leading to an ancient stone bridge. Don’t miss Chef Xhoana’s specialties, such as stews cooked and served in clay pots (teve) or the multi-layered crepe pie.
Xheko Imperial is also convenient to the Bazaar, the municipal market that is surrounded by eateries ranging from basic and inexpensive to fancy and pricey. Along the way, you may well saunter through the city’s major pedestrian mall, which branches off into the gentrified Tirana castle, which is lined with popular restaurants offering cuisines of multiple international ethnicities.
Rates start at USD $80 per night for a double room, and range up to $190 for the best suites. Breakfast and a slew of other complimentary perks are included.
Text and photos by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of the hotel for purposes of review. Additional photos courtesy of Xheko Imperial and Diana Shahar. Special thanks to Adriatik Tours for arranging the booking and additional travel services.