Berat, Albania is one of the most beautiful places you can visit not only in the country but in the whole Balkan region. Known as “the city of a thousand windows” (due to its distinctive architecture), there are plenty of things to do in Berat that you simply don’t want to miss during your trip to Albania.
Even if this is one of the most popular day trips from Tirana, it’s worth spending more time in Berat, to soak in its lazy atmosphere and enjoy all it has to offer.
So far I was lucky to visit Berat twice and I know I will be returning there whenever I have a chance. I always fall for the vibe of this place and enjoy wandering around the windy cobbled lanes (as well as other Berat attractions) way too much.
Berat was also the first place where I experienced Albanian hospitality which might be one of the reasons why I have a soft spot for this place. Either way, I really can’t recommend visiting Berat enough.
If you plan your Albania itinerary, don’t forget to put Berat in it, either as a day trip or to stay overnight there. And if you are wondering what to do in Berat, I put together this Berat guide for you that will hopefully help you discover this place in the best possible way.
Where is Berat
Berat, a city of around 35 thousand inhabitants, is located in the central part of Albania. Tirana, the capital city, is around 100 km north of Berat, and Saranda, a popular seaside resort city, is almost 200 km south of Berat.
Why visit Berat, Albania
Berat is one of the best-preserved Ottoman cities in the region and you can find there numerous remnants from the Ottoman times as well as the era before and after that. When wandering around the cobbled streets and admiring traditional houses, you can feel like the time has stopped there.
This is also one of the most beautiful places to visit in Albania, both because of its architecture and monuments. Due to its big historical and cultural value, Berat was awarded the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
How to get to Berat
If you travel from Tirana, you can catch the bus to Berat every half an hour between 6:30 and 17:30. Buses depart from Regional Bus Terminal – North and South Albania (Terminali i Autobusave të Veriut dhe Jugut) located some 5 km from the center. You can find the description of how to get there in my article about Kruja here. Buses to Berat are parked on the right side when entering the bus station.
You can also get direct buses to Berat from other places in Albania, including popular destinations like Durres, Gjirokaster, or Saranda, however, there are not as many connections as from Tirana. You can get the overview of schedules at this website (although it’s better to double-check at the bus station once you arrive in Albania).
How to get around Berat
The bus station in Berat is located around 3,5 km away from the historical center. Fortunately, there is a fairly frequent city bus connecting the two places, that you can take for a small fee (you pay inside the bus). Once you are in the center, you can get everywhere on foot.
Tours to Berat
Berat is a popular destination for day trips from Tirana or seaside resorts. Organized tours are a good option as you don’t need to deal with the hassle of getting to and back from Berat (honestly, it can get a bit of a challenge to navigate public transport in Albania) and save time when traveling directly from your accommodation to the center of Berat. Usually, on the same day, you can also visit another interesting place in Albania.
If you are thinking about taking a tour here are some recommended options:
- Berat Full Day Trip from Tirana
- Day Tour of Berat Durres and Belsh from Tirana
- Private Full-Day Trip to Durres and Berat from Tirana
- 1001 Windows of Berat & Golden Sunset in Apollonia
Where to stay in Berat
If you decide to stay overnight in Berat (which I definitely recommend, the atmosphere in the evening is definitely worth it), there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Here are some recommended ones:
- Hotel Klea (9.7/10)
- Hani i Xheblatit (9.8/10)
- Hotel Rezidenca Desaret (9.4/10)
- Olive B&B (9.7/10)
- and many more!
Things to do in Berat
And finally, here are the best things to do in Berat, in no particular order.
Explore the castle area
The castle neighborhood, built on the rocky hill and towering above the central part of the city, is where you will find many of the best Berat attractions. The area was first inhabited in the 4th century BC but many of the remnants you can find date back to the 13th century.
Even if it’s a rather small neighborhood, it is literally packed with some of the best things to see in Berat. And the best way to get to know the place is to simply wander around and explore it at your own pace. Wander around narrow, cobbled lanes, follow your intuition, and immerse in the vibe of the place.
I always spend way too much time simply strolling around, without a map as Berat castle it’s too good to resist. Even if it feels like the time has stopped there, Berat castle is very much inhabited and you will surely stumble across hanging laundry or kids playing around. Visiting Berat castle is in fact one of my favorite things to do in Berat and I’m sure you will enjoy it too.
To get to the Berat castle you need to climb a bit up (it is located at an elevation of 214 meters) but it is definitely worth the effort as you are in for a treat there. Besides all the amazing Berat monuments, you can also admire the spectacular panorama of the town and beyond from up there, and you can see it from different points in the castle.
Visit Icons Museum
One of the highlights of Berat is the Onufri Iconographic Museum that you can find in the castle area. Located inside the Church of the Dormition of St Mary, this is the largest Albanian museum named after the master of iconography from the 16th century – Onufri.
Among 173 displayed artifacts (106 of which are icons), you can find works of Onufri himself as well as other well-known local painters. The most valuable work in the museum is the original iconostasis from the Church of the Dormition of St Mary, dating back to 1806, with 12 big and 27 small icons.
Even if you think you are not really icons you should still visit the museum, you might be surprised by the beauty of the art there (but since it’s forbidden to take pictures inside you just need to believe my word).
See the ruins of Red and White Mosques
When wandering the Berat castle you will most likely stumble across remnants of both, Red and White Mosques. These are some of the oldest ruins in the area, a great testimony of the long history of Berat.
Red Mosque dates back to the 15th century and is one of the oldest mosques in Albania, built shortly after the Ottomans took over the region. It was used by the caravans passing through the area and later on by the Ottoman army. Only a small part of the mosque remained until today, with its most distinctive feature – the minaret. When looking at it you will quickly see why this place of worship is known as “Red Mosque” since red brick was used to build it.
Not far from Red Mosque, you can find remnants of White Mosque (built from white limestone, hence the name), slightly younger than its neighbor. It was destroyed in the 19th century during the uprising against Ottoman rule and today you can see only its ruins. Still, both mosques are interesting places to see when exploring Berat.
Find the Holy Trinity Church
The Holy Trinity Church is a bit hidden in the Berat castle but that makes finding it like an accomplishment.
Located behind inner walls, the church is in a surprisingly good condition, considering it dates back to the first half of the 14th century. It was built in the shape of a cross, with a dome above, and is a perfect example of the Byzantine architecture of the region.
If you are lucky, you can visit the church inside where you can find 14th-century frescoes of great historical value.
Take a picture with a big head
This is one of the most random things to do in Berat really. When exploring the castle area you might suddenly find yourself eye to eye with the sculpture of a big head, standing next to the wall on the side of the small green space. There is no information about it, no background so at first, you might be confused when seeing the giant.
This is in fact Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor from the early 4th century (born in the area of Nis, Serbia) who, among other things, was known for making Sunday a day of rest. Yet another reason to take a picture of this important historical figure.
Visit Ethnographic Museum
If you would like to learn more about the history of Berat, local culture, and customs, there is no better place than the Ethnographic Museum.
It is located in a historical house from the 18th century and the beautiful building itself is a great reason to visit the museum. But the exhibition isn’t bad either. You can see the traditional clothes and tools as well as the interior of the typical house from the region.
The yard in front of the museum offers beautiful views of the Mangalem neighborhood.
Wander around Mangalem area
When you hear that Berat is a city of a thousand windows it actually refers to the Mangalem neighborhood.
Located near the River Osum, houses are built on the sharp slope of the castle hill, looking like they are glued on top of each other. Most of the buildings are in the traditional style, painted white and with large windows and brown rooftops.
While this is one of the most distinctive views of Berat, that you can find on numerous postcards and pictures, it’s worth going for a stroll around the Mangalem area too. Get lost in the winding lanes, wander on the centuries-old stones, and enjoy the feel of history around.
Mangalem is considered to be a Muslim quarter in Berat and you surely can find some mosques around during your stroll.
Watch the world around at Republic Boulevard
One of the best things to do in Berat is people-watching at Republic Boulevard. The pedestrian street right in the center of the city is the favorite place for locals to spend their free time on. People wander around, sit in the cafes or play cheese.
This is a place to see and be seen in Berat and stopping here for a coffee break is a must. Just be sure to choose the outdoor seating to see everything that is happening around you. And then join the crowds and set for a stroll down the pedestrian street too.
Go across the river to Gorica quarter
While most of the tourists go to the modern bridge connecting Mangalem and Gorica districts (one of the best photo locations in Berat), only a few of them wander further into the quarter. Huge mistake, as Gorica is another interesting part of Berat where you can experience the true vibe of the city.
This is the Catholic quarter of Berat and indeed you can find a few churches around (although they all were closed when I visited the place). But just like in Berat castle and Mangalem, the best thing to do here is to just wander around and get a feel of the place.
Walk across Gorica Bridge
A short walk from the center you can find a beautiful Gorica bridge over the River Osum. It is one of the most famous Berat landmarks, locals even consider it a symbol of the city.
Originally this was a wooden bridge but during the Ottoman rule, in the second half of the 18th century, a new stone bridge was built. It’s around 130 meters long, and walking is a must when you visit Berat.
The bridge together with the Gorica quarter in the background is one of the most picturesque spots in Berat.
Admire beautiful views of Berat
Berat is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Albania and due to its picturesque location, you can be sure to find some stunning vistas of the city.
The most obvious place is Berat castle from where you can get a stunning panorama of Berat and beyond in different directions. The best views of the famous “thousand windows” can be seen from the New Bridge or from Republic Boulevard. You can also hike Gorica Hill across the River Osum and admire a beautiful panorama of Berat castle and the Mangalem district from there.
No matter which places you choose (or maybe all of them), you can expect some beautiful and picture-worth views.
Enjoy local cuisine
One of the best things to do in Berat is try local food. Albanian cuisine is really delicious, with a few great vegetarian options (something I’m more than happy about) and you can try it when visiting Berat. Some of the local dishes you should try to include Tava e Kosit, Speca të mbushura, or Fërgesa, just to name a few.
You will find the best, highly-rated restaurants in the historical center of the city. Some of them are Homemade Food Lili, Zgara Zaloshnja, Eni Traditional Food, or Traditional food and Grill.
Go for day trips
While most of the tourists visit Berat on a day trip, you can stay here a bit longer, not only to enjoy the city to the fullest but also to use it as a base to explore the surrounding area. There are a few interesting places not far from the city that you can see too when visiting Berat.
The most popular are Osumi Canyon and Bogove Waterfall. You can also visit one of the local wineries that are located around Berat. Since public transport is not really available, the best option is to go on a tour.
Here are the recommended tours:
- Bogova Waterfall and Osumi Canyon tour
- BOGOVA WATERFALL & NURELLARI WINERY TOUR from Berat
- Day Tour to Apollonia & Ardenica Monastery
- Day Trip to Tomorr National Park
- Car Tour to Roshnik Village with Wine Tasting
I published many articles about Albania that you might find useful when planning your trip there. Here are some of them:
- What to see in Albania – my favorite places and more!
- 27 Great Things to Do in Tirana, Albania
- Gjirokaster, Albania – the stone gem of the Balkans
- Kruja, Albania – a Perfect Day Trip from Tirana
- A Complete Guide to Visiting Lake Koman, Albania
- 7 Perfect Things to Do in Shkoder, Albania
- and more
If you are looking for articles about a specific destination – check out the map with all the articles I’ve published (and their locations).
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