Discover the historic city of a thousand windows.
This summer, I was determined to finally see parts of Albania that I had only previously seen in photos. I shortened my usual visit to Tirana and explored the country to make this happen.
Although I was born and raised in Tirana, I did not have the opportunity to visit other cities in Albania until I was an adult.
Albania was under an absolute dictatorship for over 50 years, when most citizens could not own vehicles. As a result, it wasn’t easy to travel to neighboring towns.
One city that immediately came to mind was Berat, known for its abundance of windows and nicknames “the city of a thousand windows” and “the city of the white balcony.”
Where is Berat?
Berat lies on the Osum River’s banks in Albania’s heart.
This popular tourist destination is characterized by its white Ottoman houses.
The castle, which sits on a hilltop, is now occupied by the residents of Berat.
Christian icons, Byzantine churches, and the Red Mosque are displayed at the Onufri National Museum.
An 18th-century house houses the Ethnographic Museum, which features a reconstructed medieval bazaar.
There are many things to see and do in Berat.
Make sure to tour the Castle of Berat or in Albanian “Kalaja Beratit.”
Visit the Onufri Museum,” which is a museum dedicated to Byzantine art and iconography of the city.
The museum is named after a painting by the Headmaster of the 16th century from the city of Berat.
Visit the national Ethnographic Museum, which opened in 1979 and contains everyday objects from Berat’s history.
Check out the Gorica bridge that divides the city into the old city and the new city or Mangalemi, located closer to the castle.
Walk the streets of the Mangalemi neighborhood and Climb Gorica Hill for some of the city’s best views.
Tour the historical Orthodox Churches and Mosques.
Hike the Icy “Bogove Waterfall” inside Tomorri Mountain National Park or go white water rafting in the Osumi Canyons.
Enjoy traditional Albanian cuisine and try the local wine at Cabo winery or one of the many wineries in the area.
What to See & Do
This city has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, over 4,000 years ago.
The white houses of Berat, Albania’s most scenic and oldest city, are one of its most famous features.
Two of Albania’s oldest mosques and an exceptional ethnographic museum can also be found in Berat.
In 1976, due to its historical value, the Albanian government designated Berat a ‘museum city,’ saving the town center from communist urban planning.
UNESCO designated Berat as a World Heritage Site in July 2008.
- Castle of Berat
- Onfuri Museum
- National Ethnographic Museum
- Old Town Berat
- Gorica Bridge
- Mangalami neighborhood
- Orthodox Churches
- Gorica Hill
Renting a car in Albania is easy and the best way to get to Berat.
Our rental car was arranged right here on AlbaniaVisit.com
Roads in Albania are narrow and winding, so renting a smaller car will make your journey much more manageable.
Despite what you read about Albanian drivers, the highway from Tirana is well-maintained and very safe.
Having the freedom to stop for pictures as often as you like is one of the benefits of renting a car.
A scheduled bus leaves from Tirana or any major city to Berat if renting a car is not an option for you.
Starting at 7 AM until 5 PM, buses depart from Tirana’s South Station near the Eagle Monument every half hour.
A few bathroom breaks and coffee/snack stops are included in the trip, which takes 2-3 hours.
Getting around Berat
Berat is best explored on foot. Wear your most comfortable shoes since the streets are cobblestone and uneven to preserve the original Byzantine style.
Alternatively, you can rent a bike, but I wouldn’t recommend it because the hills are steep and the streets are narrow with sharp turns.
You’ll need a car if you plan to explore outside the city.
Castle of Berat
Berat Castle dates back to the 4th century B.C. Our morning was spent walking around the narrow cobblestone streets around the citadel.
It takes about 20 minutes to climb a steep hill to reach the castle.
Once you reach the castle, there are many artisan souvenir shops, Ottoman-era houses, monuments, and restaurants.
Restaurants in the area serve delicious and traditional cuisine at a very reasonable price.
We enjoyed “fergese Tirane,” byrek kungulli” made with pumpkin during lunch. It is the traditional way the locals make byrek in this region, fresh greek salad with local feta cheese and crisp white wine from a local vineyard.
From the castle, you can see the entire valley and the city. Two of Albania’s oldest mosques are located inside the complex, in addition to eight medieval orthodox churches.
My favorite thing about visiting old orthodox churches is the feeling of being in an area with so much history.
Located just outside the city walls on the side of a steep hill is the “Holy Trinity” church. It was built in the 13th century and has been beautifully preserved.
Where to Stay
Hotel Onufri was one of my favorite hotels on this trip, and I would recommend it to anyone.
The rooms were spacious, with fantastic city views, and most importantly, they were air-conditioned. The staff was so friendly and welcoming.
It surprised me that the manager spoke fluent English, even though I am fluent in Albanian.
My American friend traveling with me had no problem communicating with hotel staff and many people in the city who spoke multiple languages.
Our dinner and breakfast were at Hotel Onufri, where we only ate local Albanian cuisine.
We enjoyed slow-cooked goat meat, yogurt Albanian stew “tave kosi,” byrek with pumpkin, a Berat specialty, and other Albanian tapas.
Our breakfast included fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, petulla (pancakes), toast with fig marmalade and fresh butter, and American-style coffee. This hotel is a great choice. I highly recommend it.
You can explore Berat in a day or a weekend, so it can easily be a day trip on your way to exploring other parts of Albania.
We only had a little over 24 hours in Berat and packed in as many activities and sightseeing as possible.
As I drove out to the mountains for a quick dip in the Bogove Waterfalls, I stopped at the castle, the museums, the Gorica bridge, and the two neighborhoods it divides.
When tourists aren’t driving up to the waterfalls, getting there without a guide may be challenging.
We visited the waterfalls at 6 PM, and the water was much colder than we expected. We could only take a quick dip because the water was well below 50 degrees.
It was well worth the trip, and we strongly recommend visiting during the early afternoon if you are in the area.
On our way to our next destination, we stopped at the most famous winery in the area, Cobo Winery. We saw how the wine was made during our visit and toured the grounds.
Afterward, we sat under an old olive tree and enjoyed their five varieties of wine and fresh tapas of locally grown tomatoes, cheeses, and olives.
As a perfect ending to our Berat tour, it was a wonderful experience.