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  • Writer's pictureFrida C.

Berat, Albania: A City of a Thousand Windows and Thousand Years of History

If you are looking for a destination that combines stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and delicious cuisine, look no further than Berat, Albania. Berat is one of the oldest and most charming cities in the country, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008. In this post, I will share with you some of the best things to do and see in Berat, and why you should visit this gem of the Balkans.

UNESCO Town of Berat, Albania
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What makes Berat special?

Berat is known as the city of a thousand windows, because of the distinctive Ottoman-style houses that line the hillsides on both sides of the Osum river. "The city of a Thousand Windows" is a simplified version for tourists as the real epithet for Berat among the locals is "Qyteti i Një-Mbi-Një Dritareve" which directly translates into "The City of One-On-Top-Of-One-Windows."

These houses date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, and feature large wooden windows that reflect the sunlight and create a dazzling effect. The houses are built on top of each other, creating a harmonious and picturesque ensemble that blends with the natural landscape.

Berat is also a city of over two thousand years of history, as it has been continuously inhabited since ancient times. Berat was founded by the Illyrians, an ancient people who lived in the Balkans before the Romans. It later became part of the Byzantine Empire and was known as Pulcheriopolis, or the city of Pulcheria, a Byzantine empress. Berat was also an important center of the Bulgarian Empire, the Serbian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, and witnessed many battles and sieges throughout the centuries. Berat has preserved its cultural and religious diversity, as it is home to several mosques, churches, and monasteries, representing different faiths and traditions.

What to do and see in Berat?

Berat has many attractions and activities to offer to its visitors, ranging from historical monuments, museums, art galleries, natural parks, and wineries. Here are some of the highlights that you should not miss:

  • Berat Castle: The castle is the most prominent landmark of the city, and one of the largest and best-preserved in Albania. It was built in the 13th century by the Byzantines, and expanded by the Ottomans in the 15th century. The castle is still inhabited by locals, who live in traditional houses within the walls. The castle also hosts several museums, such as the National Iconographic Museum "Onufri", which displays a collection of religious paintings from the 16th to the 20th centuries, and the Museum of the Castle, which exhibits archaeological artefacts and ethnographic items. The castle offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding mountains, especially at sunset.

  • Mangalem Quarter: The Mangalem Quarter is the oldest and most characteristic part of the city, located on the left bank of the Osum river. It is a maze of narrow streets, stone stairs, and white houses with wooden balconies and windows. The quarter is also known as the Muslim Quarter, as it has several mosques, such as the Lead Mosque, the Bachelors’ Mosque, and the King’s Mosque. The quarter is a living museum of Ottoman architecture and urban planning, and a great place to explore and admire the local culture and lifestyle.

  • Gorica Quarter: The Gorica Quarter is the counterpart of the Mangalem Quarter, located on the right bank of the Osum river. It is also a historic and picturesque area, with white houses and windows, but with a more rural and spacious feel. The quarter is also known as the Christian Quarter, as it has several churches, such as the St. Mary of Blachernae Church, the St. Michael’s Church, and the St. Spiridon’s Church. The quarter is connected to the Mangalem Quarter by the Gorica Bridge, a stone bridge that dates back to the 18th century. The bridge is a symbol of the city and a popular spot for taking photos and enjoying the river views.

  • Ethnographic Museum: The Ethnographic Museum is located in a traditional house in the Mangalem Quarter, and showcases the daily life and customs of the people of Berat. The museum displays various objects and tools used by the locals, such as clothing, furniture, kitchenware, musical instruments, and weapons. The museum also has a beautiful garden, where you can relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the old town (currently undergoing renovations as of January 2024).

  • Osumi Canyon and Bogovë Waterfall: If you are looking for some adventure and nature, you can take a day trip to the Osumi Canyon and the Bogovë Waterfall, located about 30 km south of Berat. The Osumi Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural attractions in Albania, and the longest canyon in the country. It is formed by the Osum river, which has carved a deep and narrow gorge through the limestone rocks. The canyon is a paradise for hiking, rafting, kayaking, and swimming, as it offers breathtaking scenery, crystal-clear water, and diverse flora and fauna. The Bogovë Waterfall is another natural wonder, located in a lush forest near the village of Bogovë. The waterfall is about 20 meters high, and creates a refreshing pool where you can swim and cool off (make sure to be prepared for this hike).

  • Çobo Winery: If you are a wine lover, you should not miss the opportunity to visit the Cobo Winery, one of the oldest and most famous wineries in Albania. The winery is located in the village of Ura Vajgurore, about 15 km north of Berat. The winery produces high-quality wines from local grape varieties, such as Shesh i Bardhë, Shesh i Zi, and Kallmet. The winery offers guided tours, wine tastings, and a restaurant, where you can enjoy the wines paired with traditional dishes and cheese.

What to eat and drink in Berat?

Berat has a rich and varied cuisine, influenced by its diverse history and geography. You can find dishes from the Ottoman, Mediterranean, and Balkan cuisines, as well as local specialities and delicacies. Some of the typical dishes that you should try are:

  • Tavë kosi: A baked dish made of lamb, yogurt, eggs, and rice, seasoned with garlic, oregano, and mint. It is a hearty and comforting dish, perfect for cold days.

  • Fërgesë: A creamy dish made of peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and eggs, cooked in a clay pot. It is a vegetarian-friendly dish, that can be served as a main course or a side dish.

  • Byrek: A savory pastry made of thin layers of dough, filled with cheese, spinach, meat, or potatoes. It is a popular snack or breakfast, that can be found in bakeries and street stalls.

  • Petulla: A fried dough, similar to a donut, sprinkled with sugar, honey, or jam. It is a sweet treat, that can be enjoyed at any time of the day.

  • Raki: A strong alcoholic drink, made of distilled grapes or other fruits. It is the national drink of Albania, and a symbol of hospitality and friendship. It is usually served in small glasses, and accompanied by snacks and toasts.

  • Zupë, Momblan & Pastashu: These three Berati special desserts are a must-try and can be found in most of the pastries in town but easier to find in a dessert shop in "Rruga Antipatrea". Make sure not to leave the city without tasting them all.

How to get to and around Berat?

Berat is located in the south-central part of Albania, about 120 km south of Tirana, the capital city. The easiest way to get to Berat is by bus, as there are frequent and direct buses from Tirana and other major cities, such as Durres, Elbasan, Fier, and Vlore. The bus ride from Tirana takes about 2 hours, and costs around 500 lek (5 euros) as of January 2024. The bus station in Berat is located near the city center, and you can walk or take a taxi to your accommodation.

Another option to get to Berat is by car, as the roads are in good condition, and the scenery is beautiful. The drive from Tirana takes about 1.5 hours, and you can stop along the way to visit some interesting places, such as the Kruja Castle, the Apollonia Archaeological Park, and the Lagoon of Karavasta or Belsh town and its lakes.

The best way to get around Berat is by foot, as the city is compact and walkable, and you can enjoy the architecture and the atmosphere of the old town. You can also take a taxi or a bus to visit some of the attractions outside the city, such as the Osumi Canyon, the Bogovë Waterfall, and the Çobo Winery.

When to visit Berat?

Berat is a year-round destination, as it has a mild and pleasant climate, with four distinct seasons. However, the best time to visit Berat depends on your preferences and interests. Here are some suggestions:

  • Spring (March-May): Spring is a beautiful time to visit Berat, as the weather is warm and sunny, the flowers are blooming, and the nature is green and fresh. Spring is also a good time to enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking, rafting, and kayaking in the Osum Canyon, or visiting the wineries and tasting the new wines.

  • Summer (June-August): Summer is the peak season for tourism in Berat, as the weather is hot and dry, and the city is lively and festive. Summer is the best time to enjoy the beaches and the sea, as Berat is only about 40 km away from the Adriatic coast. You can also attend some of the cultural events and festivals that take place in Berat, such as the Berat Folklore Festival, the Berat Jazz Festival, and the Berat Film Festival.

  • Autumn (September-November): Autumn is another great time to visit Berat, as the weather is still warm and sunny, but less crowded and more affordable. Autumn is the best time to admire the colors and the beauty of the landscape, as the leaves turn from green to yellow, orange, and red. Autumn is also the best time to enjoy the gastronomy and the wine of Berat, as it is the harvest season, and you can find fresh and seasonal products, such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, and honey.

  • Winter (December-February): Winter is the low season for tourism in Berat, as the weather is cold and rainy, and some of the attractions and services may be closed or reduced. However, winter is still a good time to visit Berat, if you are looking for a quiet and cozy getaway, or if you want to experience the Christmas and New Year celebrations in a traditional and authentic way. You can also visit some of the nearby ski resorts, such as Dardha and Voskopoja, and enjoy the snow and winter sports.

Why visit Berat?

Berat is a unique and enchanting city, that offers a lot to its visitors, from history and culture, to nature and adventure, to food and wine. Berat is a city that will surprise you, delight you, and make you fall in love with it. Berat is a city that you should not miss, if you want to discover the real and diverse Albania. Berat is a city that you will always remember, and want to return to. Berat is a city of a thousand windows and a thousand years of history, and it is waiting for you.

And as you plan your trip and visit to Berat, consider making your experience even more enchanting by booking a stay with us at Elvish Garden Boutique B&B. Don't miss the chance to make your Berat adventure truly magical.


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