Albania has quietly been making noise as one of Europe’s hidden gems for tourism which means music festivals have been popping up here with regularity. This week, we stop by the debut of the Sunny Hill Festival in Tirana for three days of regional and international acts including Action Bronson, Hardwell, Afrojack, and Stormzy.
Our first festival in Albania! While most of the burgeoning scene in this delightful country is centered on beach fests scattered across the Albanian Riviera, we wanted to sample the festie pulse in downtown Tirana. Lucky for us, Kosovo’s Sunny Hill Festival was here to debut a new edition held on a laidback lake in the city.
Table Of Contents
Running the Numbers
Dates: August 26-28, 2022
MFW Beer Index: €4.66
MFW Fry Index: €3.00
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 34C/19C (93F/66F)
Reusable Cups? No
Free Water Stations? No
In a city that struggles with green spaces, the Artificial Lake Park is a bright spot providing a bit of respite from the grid-locked traffic of the city. The Sunny Hill Tirana edition was smaller than its parent festival in Pristina with a single main stage that hosted the majority of the acts and a smaller DJ stage blasting out beats across the chill zone. One issue with being on a lake – mosquitoes. Don’t forget the bug spray!
The trend of daily lineups by genre continued at Sunny Hill Tirana with Saturday dominated by DJs like Afrojack and Hardwell while Sunday’s rap-centric festivities were anchored once again by grime master Stormzy. Friday featured a lot of pop acts leading many to speculate that Dua Lipa would headline, but instead we got Action Bronson.
The young and the beautiful turned out in force for Sunny Hill. At least in its first year, this is a festival for locals although I noted more than a few attendees proudly sporting wristbands from both editions. With the ease of access from the city, there were also more than a few families of various ages that showed up, especially on Friday night.
Light ‘Em Up
I am a sucker for fireworks at a festival.
An interesting trend this year has been festivals leaning into artwork that is selfie friendly.
Drones are everywhere now and while they used to float high above the crowd for epic shots, this year I’m seeing them flying dangerously close into crowds.
What’s the weather like? The heat wave continues and it was as hot here as in Pristina or Macedonia, the only difference being is that it didn’t cool off that much at night. With all the humidity in the air, scattered thunderstorms threatened the entire weekend, but thankfully didn’t open up until Monday.
What are the prime hours for music? Despite gates opening at three, the grounds were a ghost town until the main stage started blasting tunes around 7:30 in the evening. Headliners typically finished up around 1:00 am.
Where did you sleep? One of the perks of a first year festival is that it’s mostly attended by locals which means that lodging is rarely an issue. I was able to find a hotel next to the lake and about a 15 minute walk from the main entrance for €40 a night. Even better, the Biloku neighborhood that I stayed is one of the best spots in they city, so I recommend staying there.
How do you get there? This festival is held right in downtown Tirana so you will have little issues arranging transportation. I walked every day because traffic in Tirana can be a snarl and the bus system is not ideal.
What’s the security like? It’s a little unnerving how many police officers posted up outside the main gate (I counted over 50 one day), but they mainly are gathered in large groups doing little to watch the crowd. Bags and pat-downs are done by private security and were not terribly invasive.
It’s always an experience going to a Balkan festival and Sunny Hill Tirana was no exception. Lots of friendly faces, plenty of bumping beats, and a low hum of logistical letdowns (I couldn’t add money to my cashless app again). Comparing the two editions, the Pristina one was much bigger and bit crazier while I found the new Tirana edition to be far easier to navigate and a much less claustrophobic venue. I’m definitely curious to see what Sunny Hill gets into next year.