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15 Wonderful Things to do in Berat, Albania in 2024: The City of a Thousand Windows

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Planning to visit Berat on your trip to Albania? We recently spent 3 days in Berat, and it quickly became one of our favorite cities to visit in Albania. In this guide, we’re sharing the best things to do in Berat to help you plan your trip!

Berat, known as the ‘City of a Thousand Windows’, is one of Albania’s most treasured destinations. Located in central Albania, less than 2 hours south of Tirana, Berat can easily be visited on a day trip from the country’s capital.

However, we suggest planing to spend a minimum of 2 nights here to make the most of all it has to offer. From its cultural heritage to the stunning nature surrounding the city, you’ll have plenty to do here, such as wine tasting, rafting in Osum canyon, and visiting centuries old ruins.

Alongside these must-see attractions, we’ve also compiled the best accommodations, our favorite restaurants, and essential travel tips.

Here is our curated Berat travel guide, along with all you need to know to create the perfect itinerary.

A brief history of Berat

Berat’s history can be traced back to over 2,400 years, witnessing various civilizations from the ancient Illyrians to the Romans and later the Ottomans.

The Ottoman era, which began in the 15th century, brought significant transformation to Berat. Architecturally, the city expanded with numerous mosques, Islamic schools, and characteristic houses, which gave it its nickname “The City of a Thousand Windows.”

These tiered, white homes cascading down the hillside are some of Berat’s most iconic sights.

Berat’s ability to harmoniously blend eastern and western cultural influences, especially from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, earned its historic city center UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2008.

This recognition not only highlights the city’s architectural beauty but also underscores its resilience in preserving its history despite numerous invasions and cultural shifts.

A noteworthy aspect of Berat is its longstanding tradition of religious harmony. Within the city, you’ll find Orthodox churches, several historic mosques, and even a few Catholic places of worship — all coexisting peacefully and symbolizing the city’s diverse historical influences.

15 Things to do in Berat

1. Visit the Berat Castle

The Berat Castle, also called Kala, is one of the largest and most important castles in Albania. Perched atop a hill overlooking the valley below, the amazing panoramic views are worth a visit alone, but its fascinating history and setting is what sets it apart as one of the top things to do in Berat.

This 13th century fortress has undergone various modifications and expansions under the hands of Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Ottoman rulers.

While many castles across the world stand empty, Berat Castle is uniquely alive. Locals continue to reside within its ancient walls, making it one of the few inhabited castles to still exist.

As you wander through its stone-paved alleys, you’ll experience a blend of history and contemporary life. Locals going about their daily business, homes filled with life, shops selling local goods, and even cars driving around.

Within the citadel, there are several must-see sights, including the Red Mosque, the Holy Trinity Church, and the Onufri Museum, renowned for its collection of Byzantine icons.

Getting to the castle is a bit of a hike. From the city center, you’ll make your way to Rruga Mihal Komnena and walk up a steep, cobblestoned street for about 15-minutes. Trust us, it’s worth it.

Berat Castle Entrance Fee & Opening Hours

The cost to visit the castle is 300 Lek and it’s opening hours are from 9AM – 6PM. Since residents live inside of the castle walls, it’s technically open 24-hours per day, so you can visit for sunset or early in the morning as well.

The ticket booth was closed when we visited, so you may not have to pay to visit.

2. Explore Mangalem

The historic Mangalem quarter of Berat forms the iconic “City of a Thousand Windows” skyline, making it one of the most photographed areas in Berat. It’s famous for the cascading white 18th and 19th century Ottoman-style houses that dot the hillside.

Historically, Mangalem evolved as the predominantly Muslim quarter of the city during the Ottoman era. However, today, the city as a whole is a blend of cultures and religions.

Many of the cities most popular sights are located on this side of the city, including the Ethnographic museum and the Berat Castle.

As you wander your way through the narrow cobbled streets, you’ll pass by several mosques, such as the Lead Mosque and the King’s Mosque. Every evening, the call to prayer echoes through the town, which is truly a unique cultural experience.

We suggest stopping by the shop called Qendistari Berati, a craft shop that is owned by local women who sell handmade wool rugs and lace. We bought a beautiful wool rug that the grandmother had woven by hand.

3. Explore the Gorica Neighborhood

Across the Osum River from the Mangalem quarter, Gorica is the city’s less-touristy neighborhood. Here you won’t find the busy hotels and bustling streets. Instead, it’s a quiet and authentic place to wander around and experience local Albanian life.

Back in the day, Gorica developed as the primarily Christian counterpart to Mangalem during times when religious communities in Berat often lived in distinct neighborhoods. Hence, you’ll find several Orthodox churches, such as St. Spiridon Church.

This side of the river is filled with stone homes, narrow alleys, and a few restaurants here and there. We enjoyed walking around Gorica for an hour and getting a taste for local, daily life.

4. Visit the Church of St. Spiridon

Located in the Gorica neighborhood in Berat, the Church of Saint Spiridon stands as a reminder of the city’s rich Christian heritage. This 18th-19th century Orthodox church is worth a visit to experience the religious aspect of the city.

Inside, you’ll find frescoes and other ornate details. It’s small and takes just a few minutes to visit. Make sure to stop and enjoy the fantastic views across the river from the top of the hill

5. Enjoy the views from the New Bridge of Berat

For the most breathtaking panoramas of the Ottoman-style houses in Mangalem, cross the New Bridge of Berat for the best viewpoint.

This modern bridge is a quick walk from most of the hotels in the city and offers spectacular views of the “City of a Thousand Windows”.

The best time of day for photographs is right before sunset, when the city lights up in beautiful golden hues.

6. Cross the Gorica Bridge

Constructed in the late 18th century, the Gorica Bridge is a stone bridge that connects the Mangalem and Gorica neighborhoods. With its elegant stone arches and historical significance, it’s one of the top things to do in Berat.

Having withstood the test of time for over two centuries, the Gorica Bridge acted as a vital passageway where merchants, locals, and travelers crossed its path throughout the ages. Today, it’s a symbol of Berat’s past and is worthy of a visit.

7. Eat delicious Albanian cuisine

Berat is one of the best places to try traditional Albanian cuisine. The restaurants are top-notch and everything we ate was fantastic.

Here are some local dishes you should not miss when visiting Berat:

  • Tavë Kosi: Often referred to as the national dish of Albania, Tavë Kosi is a baked dish made of lamb and rice, covered with a yogurt and egg sauce. The result is a creamy, tangy, and hearty meal.
  • Fërgesë: This dish is one of our favorite Albanian dishes. Fërgesë is a spicy blend of peppers and tomatoes baked with cottage cheese. Often seasoned with chillies and eaten with bread, this rich dish offers a delicious burst of flavors.
  • Qofte: These are spiced meatballs, usually made from minced lamb or beef, seasoned with herbs and then fried to perfection. Crispy on the outside and tender within, they’re a popular meal throughout northern and central Albania.
  • Speca të Mbushura: This tasty dish is made up of baked peppers stuffed with rice and vegetables and is a classic you’ll find on most menus.
  • Kadaif: For those with a sweet tooth, Kadaif is a must-try. This dessert consists of thin noodle-like pastry soaked in sugar-based syrup and often layered with nuts.
  • Byrek: A popular dish throughout Albania, Byrek is a pie made with layers of dough and can be filled with cheese, vegetables, or meat. It’s crispy, flavorful, and a go-to for any meal.

We suggest trying a sampling of dishes at a couple of restaurants in Berat to get a taste of Albania. Most of the portion sizes are small enough that you can order 3-4 dishes for two people to share.

8. Visit the Red Mosque & White Mosque

Within the stone walls of Berat Castle, you’ll find two significant and historic mosques: the Red Mosque and the White Mosque.

The Red Mosque is the oldest Islamic structure in Berat and experts believe that it was constructed near the end of the 15th century, although the actual date is up for debate. It’s made of red brick and once featured a prayer hall.

Not far from the Red Mosque, you’ll find the White Mosque, which was built during a similar time in the 15th century. The mosque was destroyed during Ottoman invasions, but you can still visit its ruins today.

9. Onufri Iconographic Museum

Also located within the fortress of Berat Castle is the Onufri Iconographic Museum. The museum is housed in the former Church of the Dormition of St. Mary and features hundreds of religious artworks and icons from the 14th to 20th centuries.

Named after the renowned 16th-century icon painter Onufri, who was celebrated for his distinctive use of a bright red hue and elaborate artistic techniques, the museum pays homage to his legacy and the broader tradition of Albanian iconography.

Inside of the museum, you’ll discover many of Onufri’s works, as well as artworks by other master iconographers, such as Nikolla who was Onufri’s son. In addition to the icons, you can admire beautifully preserved wood-carved iconstases, embroidered textiles, and ancient manuscripts.

Onufri Iconographic Museum Entrance Fee & Opening Hours

The museum costs 400 Lek ($4) per person, and you can also rent an audio guide for an additional 100 Lek ($1). We highly recommend getting the English audio guide.

The museum is open at different hours depending on the season. You can visit the official museum website for up-to-date seasonal hours.

  • May 1 – September 30: 9 AM – 6 PM
  • November 1 – April 30: 9 AM – 4 PM | Sundays from 10 AM – 3 PM

10. Church of the Holy Trinity

The Church of the Holy Trinity is located within the fortress of Berat and offers wonderful views of the mountains, Osum River, and valley below.

The 13th century church is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in Berat. The interior of the church isn’t always open for visitors, but if you get a chance, take a peek inside.

One of the church’s most significant features is its interior frescoes depicting scenes from the bible. Although some have faded or been damaged over time, they remain a testament to the intricate artistry of medieval Albania.

11. Ethnographic Museum

Located in the Mangalem quarter, the Ethnographic Museum is one of the best things to do in Berat. Housed in a beautifully preserved 18th-century dwelling, the museum offers a look into Berat’s heritage and traditions over the centuries.

The museum replicates a typical Ottoman-style Berat residence, complete with authentic furniture, household items, and intricate interior details.

The museum also pays homage to the craft traditions of Berat, showcasing hand-woven textiles, intricate embroidery, traditional costumes, and artisanal tools. In total, there are over 1,300 objects on display.

Ethnographic Museum Entrance Fee & Opening Hours

The museum costs 300 Lek ($3) per person.

The opening hours are different depending on the season. You can visit the official museum website for up-to-date seasonal hours.

  • May 1 – September 30: 9 AM – 6 PM
  • November 1 – April 30: 9 AM – 4 PM | Sundays from 10 AM – 3 PM

12. Join the locals on Boulevard Republika

Boulevard Republika, located in the modern part of Berat, is a lively street bustling with locals and tourists alike. Along the street, you’ll find an array of mini-markets, cafes, and local shops.

One of our favorite cafes to wind down after a busy day is Shtëpia e Kafes Gimi. They serve everything from coffee and ice cream to crepes and local cakes. We recommend trying one of the cakes – our favorite was the orange cake soaked in syrup.

In the evening, you can join in the age-old tradition of “xhiro.” Local families and friends come together and enjoy a leisurely evening promenade as they chat and soak in the evening air. This is one of the best ways to get a peek into daily life in Berat.

13. Watch the sunset over the historic city

Experiencing golden hour in Berat is one of the most rewarding things to do during your visit. The city is a spectacle in itself, but add in the sunset and you’re sure to experience some of the best views.

Here are the three best locations to watch the sunset in Berat:

  1. Berat Castle (Kala): Head to the platform on the far end of the fortress. From here, you’ll have unparalleled views of Gorica, the Osum River, and the mountains in the distance. Plan to coordinate your visit to the castle a few hours before sunset, so you don’t have to walk up the hill twice.
  2. The New Bridge: This modern bridge has excellent vantage points of both Gorica and Mangalem. It’s a great spot to get close up views of the city during sunset hour.
  3. Gorica Hill: For one of the best panoramic sunset views, hike up to the top of Gorica Hill for amazing views of Mangalem and the valley below. The hike only takes a maximum of 30-minutes and is worth it for the views. To find the route, we suggest downloading the app Maps.Me and searching for “viewpoint.”

14. Take a day trip to Osum Canyon

Located 1.5 hours southeast of Berat is one of Albania’s most breathtaking natural wonders: the Osum Canyon. Stretching over 26 kilometers, the canyon features dramatic rock formations, steep cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. It is one of the most unique and stunning places in Albania.

Osum Canyon is the perfect day trip from Berat, and we highly suggest visiting if you have the time in your itinerary. It was a bit chilly when we visited in May, so we opted to drive to the canyon, stop at all of the viewpoints, and visit some of the highlights along the way.

If you are visiting between February and June, then you can go on a full-day rafting adventure through the canyon. The tours depart from Berat and take you through rapids and under waterfalls.

During the summer, the river is low enough that you can walk through the river at certain points and go swimming in the water. There are tours that take you from Berat, or you can drive yourself is you’ve rented a car.

Alternatively, if you’re visiting during the cooler months, you can opt to go hiking around the canyon or simply visit some of the viewpoints like we did.

Make sure to pack your own lunch, as there aren’t many facilities available in the area.

Don’t have a car but want to visit Osum Canyon? Check out this full-day Osum Canyon & waterfall tour from Berat.

15. Go wine tasting

The region surrounding Berat is known as one of the best wine regions in Albania. With its Mediterranean climate, rich soil, and generations of expertise, this is a prime spot for wine tasting.

There are several local wineries located within 15-30 minutes of Berat that are noteworthy. During your visit, you can enjoy a guided tour with tastings at the end of the tour.

We suggest visiting 1, 2, or all of these wineries below:

Map of Things to do in Berat

To help you navigate your way around Berat city, here is a map of all of the sights and restaurants listed in this itinerary.

To save the map to Google Maps on your phone or computer, click on the star next to the title. Once you do this, you’ll be able to find the map in your “saved maps” list on your phone.

To see a list of all the items on the map, click the box with arrow on the left. To enlarge the map, click the box on the right.

How long to spend in Berat: 1 & 2-day Berat itinerary

Many people visit Berat on a day trip from Tirana. While seeing Berat in one day is definitely doable, we suggest spending a minimum of 2 days and 2 nights in Berat to make the most out of your time.

We spent a total of 3 nights and 2.5 days in Berat, with one day being a day trip to Osum Canyon. It felt like just the right amount of time to take it slow in the city and see some of the surrounding area. Visiting Berat is like stepping into the past and deserves not to be rushed.

Here is a 1-day & 2-day Berat Itinerary:

Day 1 in Berat:

  • Morning: Gorica Bridge, Gorica neighborhood, Church of St. Spiridon, Ethnographic museum
  • Afternoon: Albanian lunch, Berat castle, Red & White Mosque, Onufri Iconography museum, Holy Trinity Church
  • Evening: Sunset at Berat castle viewpoint or from Gorica Hill. Dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2 in Berat:

  • Morning: Drive to Osum Canyon and visit the viewpoints
  • Afternoon: Hiking or swimming at Osum Canyon + Either visit Bogove waterfall or stop at a winery on the way back to Berat
  • Evening: Dinner in Berat or at a winery

How to get to Berat

Whether you’re planning to travel to Berat by rental car, public transportation, or by joining a group tour, we’re explaining your options in this section.

The closest airport to Berat is Tirana International Airport (TIA), which is a 1 hour and 45 minute drive away.

The easiest option to get to Berat is by renting a car from the airport, as you have the most flexibility. The second best option is to travel by bus, which departs several times per day from the bus station in Tirana.

Bus to Himare

Tirana to Berat: From the main Tirana bus station, there are a many direct routes that go to Berat daily between 5:40am and 5:30pm. The cost for this route is around 500 Lek ($5) each way and must be paid in cash. The journey takes 2 hours and 15 minutes.

If you are arriving from Tirana International Airport, then you’ll have to first get a bus from the airport to the main bus station. This costs 400 Lek ($4) and takes 30 minutes.

Sarande to Berat: There are only a couple of direct routes between Saranda and Berat each day. The bus ride takes 4 hours in total and departs at 8:00 AM and 2:30 PM from Saranda.

The cost for a one-way bus ticket is 1,400 Lek ($14) and must be paid in cash to the driver.

For updated bus timetables and routes, check out the Gjirafa Travel website.

Note: The Berat Bus Terminal is located outside of the city center. It’s either a 30-minute walk to Berat old town, or you can either take a taxi or hop on a local bus to the center.

Driving to Berat

We highly suggest renting a car and driving to Berat if you are spending a few days in Albania. The road from Tirana to Berat is well-paved, wide, and easy to drive on.

The drive takes 1 hour and 45 minutes without traffic to get to Berat from Tirana. Parking in Berat is a bit tricky. You’ll have to park on the main road, Rruga Antipatrea, and the spots fill up pretty quickly.

Since the city is built on a hill, there is no parking available next to the hotels. We suggest reaching out to your hotel in advance and asking if they can reserve a spot for you.

We were on the fence about renting a car in Albania because of all of the horror stories we had heard from other travelers. In the end, we rented a car for a month in Albania, and we are so happy that we did.

To our delight, we found that the roads were all well-paved and not as busy as we were expecting.

We rented our car from Discover Cars for our month-long road trip through Albania and were 100% satisfied with the customer service and care. It’s our go-to site for car rentals in Europe, and we’ve only had positive experiences.

Tour to Berat

If you have limited time in Albania and are looking to do a day trip to Berat, then booking a group tour is the best way to go. We suggest booking this full-day Tirana to Berat tour. On the tour, you will visit some of the most significant sights in Berat with an expert guide.

Where to eat in Berat

The restaurants in Berat are fantastic. In fact, out of our entire month spent traveling around Albania, some of the best local food we ate was in Berat.

From traditional dishes to home-cooked meals, here are a few of the best restaurants in Berat.

  • Homemade Food Lili – This is the top-rated restaurant in Berat and for good reason. The restaurant is owned by Lili and his wife – Lili is the host and his wife is the cook. The food is some of the freshest and tastiest food in all of Albania, and we highly recommend making a reservation in advance via the phone number on Google Maps. You can either call or message via WhatsApp.
  • Eni Traditional Food Berat – Another popular Berat restaurant, Eni is located near the Gorica bridge and has a wonderful view looking over the river. They serve classic Albanian food, and you really can’t go wrong with any dishes.
  • Friendly House – Located in the busy center of Mangalem, Friendly House is a fantastic restaurant serving everything from fresh salads to hearty Albanian food.

We recommend trying stuffed peppers, meatballs, and Fergese while in Berat.

Where to stay in Berat

Berat has many charming boutique hotels to choose from. We stayed at Beratino Hotel, which was one of our favorite places we stayed during our entire trip in Albania.

The breakfast was delicious and the hotel staff was extremely kind and helpful. We would highly recommend staying at Beratino Hotel during your stay in Berat.

Hotel Ansel is another top-rated boutique hotel in Berat that features traditional Ottoman style decoration and also comes with free breakfast.

How do you get around Berat?

The historical center of Berat is small enough that you can walk everywhere. The only thing to be aware of is that since the city is built on two hills, you will have to walk uphill to access some of the main sights.

For example, the Berat Castle is a 15-minute walk from the center up a steep hill. You can always rent a taxi if needed.

If you plan to take some day trips, then the best option is to rent a car or join a group tour to get around. We rented our car through Discover Cars in Albania and it was extremely convenient for accessing some of the hard-to-get-to destinations.

When is the best time to visit Berat?

The best time to visit Berat is during the spring and fall months. The weather is mild during this time of the year, and it’s much less crowded than during the summer.

If you plan to go rafting in Osum Canyon, then you will need to visit between February to early June. As this is when the water levels are high enough for white water rafting.

For those of you that are interested in winery visits and wine tastings, then the early fall months are a great time to visit when the vineyards are at their height and the harvest has begun.

What is the cost to visit Berat?

Berat is a very affordable city to visit, especially compared to other destinations in Europe. Of course, the time of year you visit will greatly affect the costs. With summer being more expensive than the shoulder season, you may want to consider this when choosing when to travel to Albania.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the costs to help give you an idea of the prices in Berat.

  • Accommodation: On average, you can find a hotel room for $50-$80 per night.
  • Transportation: $25-$40 per day for a rental car, depending on the season. Local buses are about $2.50 for a short ride.
  • Food: A meal costs anywhere between $5-$15 per person on average.

Berat, Albania: Frequently Asked Questions

Is Berat Albania worth visiting?

Yes, Berat is a must-visit destination in Albania! It was one of our top 3 places we went to during our month-long trip in Albania, and we’d go back in a heartbeat.

Is one day in Berat enough?

Yes, one day in Berat is enough time to see all of the main sights and eat at a delicious traditional restaurant. However, we highly recommend spending a minimum of 2 nights in Berat.

What is special about Berat?

Berat’s UNESCO World Heritage Status, along with its stunning hillside dotted with traditional Ottoman houses makes it one of the most unique places to visit in Albania. Not to mention the Berat Castle, which is one of the largest in the country. Berat should, without a doubt, be added to everyone’s Albania itinerary.

Is it safe to go to Berat?

Speaking from our personal experience, yes, it is safe to go to Berat. All of the locals we encountered were incredibly helpful, chatty, and kind. We alway felt safe and knew we could ask for help if needed.

More information for your Albania Trip

Southern Albania

KSAMIL: Planning to head down south to the beaches? Check out our post on the Best Things to do in Ksamil and discover the 13 Best Beaches in Ksamil. Make sure to visit the Blue Eye on a day trip from Ksamil as well.

HIMARE: Read about the most incredible Beaches in Himare and the top Things to do in Himare to help plan your trip to the Albanian Riviera.

GJIROKASTER: This historic city is well worth a visit. Read our post on the best things to do in Gjirokaster to help plan your day in this town.

Northern Albania

THETH: Heading to the mountains? Check out our posts on driving the Road to Theth, the Best Things to do in Theth, and visiting the Blue Eye in Theth.

FROM TIRANA: Check out our guides on Berat, Kruja, and Durres, which are all great day trips from Tirana, or worth visiting on their own.

Albania Travel Planning Guide

Albania Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Albania? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.

Albania Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Albania? Yes! We rented a car in Albania for one month and it is the best way to see the country. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.

Albania Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Albania, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Albania, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. We even had to rely on it for data to get some work done, and it worked great!

Albania Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Albania? We booked all of our hotels through Booking. All of the hotels were responsive through the messaging tool, and there are endless options to choose from. Note – some hotels in Albania require you to pay in cash. Make sure to message the hotel in advance to be prepared with the correct form of payment.

Drinking Water in Albania – Wondering if you can drink the tap water in Albania? We were advised to not drink the water by our hotels, so we ended up buying bottled water instead.

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