Berat, Albania: The City of a Thousand Windows Berat, Albania: The City of a Thousand Windows

Berat, Albania: The City of a Thousand Windows

If there’s one place you have to visit in Albania, make it beautiful Berat—also known as ‘the city of a thousand windows’. Discover this wonderful town home to two ancient neighborhoods, filled with traditional Ottoman houses and divided by the River Osum. Use your days to wander the cobblestone streets, explore the bustling markets, and see a beautiful mountain sunset from the ruins of the Byzantine Castle. Enjoy all the top things to do in Berat, Albania!

Things to do in Berat, Albania

Berat is one of the most beautiful places in Albania. Here you’ll discover a stunning bridge crossing the River Osum that unites two hillside neighborhoods. As you wander the cobbled streets, you’ll also find mosques, churches, and ruins home to friendly neighborhood cats.

There’s plenty of history to be discovered in Berat, which is why the historic center is a designated UNESCO site. Additionally, the town has newer parts—namely, the main pedestrian boulevard. Here, you can discover many cafes, restaurants, and shops where families gather at the end of the day.

1. Berat Castle

Berat Castle is one of the top things to do in Berat. This 13th-century structure is also the biggest castle in Albania, its ancient walls telling the story of Berat. Most interesting is that locals still live within the citadel walls, meaning you’ll find houses, shops, and stalls within the castle quarter. It’s essentially its own village!

To get there, you have two roads you can follow up the hill. Halfway up this route, you can also find a shortcut where you zig-zag over a gravel path. Once you reach the top, it’s very picturesque, with beautiful views all over the valley. Plus, you can also climb on the walls for fantastic sunset views.

Entrance Fee and Opening Times for Berat Castle

The entrance fee for Berat Castle is 300 LEK (2.70 USD) between 9 AM  – 6 PM. However, it’s open 24 hours a day, so you can get free entrance if you visit outside the primary hours.

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Berat, Albania: The City of a Thousand Windows

We recommend allowing yourself a few hours for exploring and extra time if you want to visit the museum. You can also join an organized tour of Berat Castle for more information.

2. Visit Berat’s Red Mosque (Top Thing to do in Berat)

On top of the hill, within the citadel, sits the ruins of one of the oldest mosques in the country! An icon of the religion within Albania, the Red Mosque was also the first in Berat. Sadly, there is now only the minaret left and the remains of some of the walls, although this doesn’t take away from its beauty and importance.

Because of its demise, it is not an active place of worship. However, you can still find several active mosques in the old town of Berat (Mangalem)

3. Explore the Old Town of Mangalem

Mangalem is the beating heart of the town and one of the top things to do in Berat. The picture-perfect old city of Berat is home to Ottoman houses sprawled up the hillside and many window panes that have earnt Berat the name ‘the city of a thousand windows’.

Mangalem used to be the Muslim quarter historically, while across the banks of the river lay Gorica, the Christian neighborhood. These days, there is no difference between the two, and both make up the old town of Berat. 

Spend some time in Mangalem, strolling around the cobblestone streets and getting a feel for the medieval atmosphere. Look out for all the beautiful buildings in the area, from Orthodox churches to the distinct Ottoman houses that make the town so unique. 

4. Gorica Bridge

Gorica Bridge is one of the main things to do in Berat and is well-known because of the many photos that have been taken of it. The old stone bridge, with its 7 arches, links the neighborhoods of Mangalem and Gorica across the river. Walk across the bridge to see a view of both neighborhoods with the towering mountains and castle in the background; simply beautiful! 

5. Discover the Neighborhood of Gorica 

Gorica is the lesser visited of the two old town neighborhoods—but it’s just as beautiful! Cross the bridge and discover a maze of cobbled alleys that worm up the steep hill to the top of Gorica Hill. At the top, you’ll get the most incredible views across to Mangalem and the castle (the perfect place to visit at sunset).

Gorica is one of the most authentic neighborhoods in town. It’s the ideal place to see a glimpse of traditional Berat life as you watch locals going about their days, children playing, and people gathering to enjoy a well-earned bite to eat.

Tip: As it’s less visited than Mangalem, the accommodation is more affordable on this side of town. Plus, it’s only a 5-10 minute walk to the historic center.

6. National Ethnographic Museum

Learn more about the Ottoman history of Berat at the National Ethnographic Museum (here is the location). The museum is housed inside one of the city’s most beautiful and grandest Ottoman houses. This gives you a unique chance to see what life would once have been like as you wander among the rooms, including a traditional Ottoman bathroom. 

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7. Church of Saint Spiridon

Within the streets of Gorica, discover a beautiful old church that is well worth visiting on your trip to Berat. The 18th-century church is breathtaking with its nine circular pillars and stone bell tower. You’ll also find some ancient frescoes painted inside. You can find the location of the Church of Saint Spiridon here.

8. Onufri Iconography Museum

To truly understand the intricacies of Berat history, head for the fascinating Onufri Iconography Museum. This interesting museum is located within the castle grounds and housed within the Church of the Dormition of St Mary. Inside, discover the incredible collection of relics (taken from some of Berat’s most important religious buildings). If you want to learn more, audio guides are available in English.

Entrance Fee and Opening Times: Open every day of the week, 9 AM – 6 PM, except Monday. There are reduced opening hours on Sundays(10 AM – 2 PM) and in the winter when the museum closes at 4 PM. The price is 400 LEK (3.50 USD) or 500 LEK (4.50 USD), including the audio guide.

9. Church of the Holy Trinity

Within the Citadel walls, discover the beautiful Church of the Holy Trinity, an incredible Byzantine church on the hilltop of Berat. Every ancient stone and tile that makes up this building shows just how extensive the history is. In fact, the church dates all the way back to the 13th century! 

Sadly, you can’t visit inside the church. However, from the exterior, you will have some of the most fantastic views over the valley and sprawling Berat below.

For a different perspective of the Church of the Holy Trinity, head to Gorica Bridge. The bridge sits in the valley beneath the church and offers a good view of the hillside. 

10. Join a Tour of Osum Canyon (Top Thing to do in Berat)

Got more time on your visit to Berat? If you do, don’t miss out on visiting the great Osum Canyon! (Book your tour here) This colossal gorge is Albania’s largest canyon, home to some beautiful nature and some of the most spectacular views. Take a tour, where you’ll experience the views from above the gorge, as well as climb down into the sheer canyon to swim in the refreshing river. This area also becomes popular in the summer for rafting, an exciting activity to do on your trip to Berat. 

Osum Canyon is a 1.5 hour drive from Berat. However, although you can reach it by car, its remoteness means that sometimes the roads aren’t always in the best condition. For this reason, we recommend booking an organized tour, including your activities and return transportation. 

Tours & Tickets 🥾

Best Restaurants in Berat

One of the top things to do in Berat is to enjoy a traditional Albanian dinner. In most restaurants, you’ll find they use locally-sourced products like cheese, butter, vegetables, herbs, and meats. As Berat is so close to the wine region, you’ll also have the opportunity to sample lots of local wines. 

Some of our favorite places to eat in Berat were:

  • Homemade Food Lili (Best restaurant in Berat!)
  • Shtëpia e Kafes Gimi (Good coffee and crepes)
  • Tradita e Beratit Restaurant (Romantic traditional restaurant)
  • Temi Albanian Food (Delicious food near Berat Castle)
  • Eni Traditional Food Berat (Traditional restaurant)
  • 360° Terrace Lounge (Cocktail bar with great view during sunset)
Find all locations in our Google MapsFind in our Google Maps

Where to Stay in Berat

Anywhere in the historical center of Berat is an excellent spot to stay. The town is small, and you’ll easily be able to reach all the things to do in Berat on foot. Stay in a traditional guesthouse or hotel (or book a hostel) and prepare to be mesmerized by the beautiful interiors. Please note that Gorica is cheaper for accommodation than Mangalem if you’re looking for more budget-friendly options. Here are all your hotel options in Berat.

How to Visit Berat

Visiting Berat is very easy from the capital city of Tirana, where the international airport is located. 

By car: We recommend renting a car from the airport and driving directly to Berat. The drive takes approximately 2 hours, and the roads are in good condition (with most of the journey on the highway). 

By Bus: If you’re not planning a road trip in Albania, the buses in Albania are reliable and very cheap. The only downside is that your journey might take a little longer than by car.

From the capital city, buses to Berat are frequent (run roughly every 30 mins) and cost 500 LEK (4.30 USD). The bus ride takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. 

By Organized Tour: If you don’t have much time on your Albania itinerary, you can also visit Berat in 1 full day. Many day tours leave from Tirana, including a guide and return transportation.

Tours & Tickets 🥾

Getting Around Berat

Berat is small and very walkable; you only have to consider the steep hills! However, even the steepest of hills are well worth it for the incredible views you’ll find at the top. The landscape is a bit flatter along the river, for example, on the main pedestrian boulevard where many restaurants and cafes are. 

How Much Does Berat Cost?

Just like much of Albania, Berat is super cheap! For example, you can find good hotels for as little as 15 EUR (15.20 USD), and the entrance fee for most historical sites is very low. 

However, please be aware that Albania is generally a cash-only country, so you’ll need to bring enough cash to last your trip or pay with a Wise card. If you don’t have a Wise Card, Credins bank is the only one that doesn’t seem to charge an excessive fee to take out money. We also recommend always paying in LEK as everyone keeps their own conversion rate to Euros.

Costs of Traveling in Berat

Travel on a budget in Berat, from $150 − $180 USD weekly per person, mid-range $480 − $750 USD, and high-end from $750 − $1040 USD. However, costs depend on factors like accommodation, transportation, and activities. We did not include flights. Check flight prices here

Best Time to Visit Berat

Berat is best visited in the shoulder seasons of Spring or Fall when it’s less busy and accommodation prices are lower. Visiting in the summer is also particularly fun when you can enjoy all the nearby activities in the countryside, like rafting at the gorge or wine tasting at a local vineyard. 

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You can enjoy all the things to do in Berat in 1 or 2 nights. However, if you also want to see the Osum Canyon and go rafting, we recommend staying in Berat for 2-3 nights.

13/02/2024 https://www.saltinourhair.com/albania/berat/
Blog comments (3)

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  • Ina

    The best photos I’ve seen somebody take on Berat and a very resourceful article. You’ve done an amazing job. One thing that all those who come to Berat get wrong though is its title as the city of a thousand windows. Even Albanians from other cities sometimes make the same mistake. Actually, it’s not “the city of a thousand windows” more than “the city of windows upon windows”. Just that in the southern dialect of the Albanian language (called Tosk) nji mi nji (one upon the other) and njemije e nje (one thousand and one) sound very similar. It’s not a big deal though. Locals will wholeheartedly welcome you no matter what you call it. :)

    • Salt in our Hair

      Hi Ina, thanks for pointing that out! We definitely felt very welcome :)

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