Top 8 Things to Do in Berat, Albania
Berat, or as it is known as the City of Thousand Windows, is a charming UNESCO town full of Ottoman-era houses, impressive fortress structures, and mystical churches and mosques, located on the side of the hills and mountains that sandwiched the Osum River, all waiting for you to explore.
With its countless beautiful architectures, Berat castle and its photogenic vista, and your first glimpse at Xhiro, a bizarre but interesting-to-see tradition of Albania, Berat is a city that you should not miss when you are in Albania.
Here is a complete backpacking guide on all the best things you can do in Berat with a full-day itinerary, where to stay, what to eat and drink, and so much more. Without further ado, let's begin with the map of things to do in Berat:Table of Contents
- Berat Things To Do Itinerary Map
- Albania Travel Video
- When to Visit Berat, Albania
- Where to Stay in Berat, Albania
- How to Get to Berat, Albania
- How to Get Around Berat, Albania
- How Many Days to Spend in Berat, Albania
- How Much Money Do I Need for Berat, Albania
- Is it Safe in Berat, Albania?
- Internet in Berat, Albania
- Travel Insurance
Top 8 Things to Do in Berat, Albania
- Explore Berat Castle
- Admire the Beauty of Holy Trinity Church in Berat Castle
- Check Out Other Mosques and Churches in Berat
- Explore Mangalem Quarter
- Explore Gorica Quarter
- Hike Up the Gorica Hill for Sunset
- Walk the Bulevardi Republika at Night and Experience Xhiro Hour First Hand
- Dine Berat Local Cuisine under Moonlight
- What to Eat and Drink in Berat, Albania
- Other Things to Do
- Where to Go After Berat?
- Further Reading for Albania
Berat Things To Do Itinerary Map
Albania Travel Video
When to Visit Berat, Albania
The best time to visit Berat is from April to October where the weather hovers around 15°C in Spring, 20 - 32°C in Summer, and 20°C in Autumn.
The weather in Berat is often dry and can be quite hot in the mid-summer months so prepare a cold bottle of water before you start hiking up to Berat Castle.
Outside of the recommended months, Berat can be quiet and inactive as well chilly where the weather can go down to almost 0°C. If you can choose when to visit, I would recommend sticking to April - October period.
Where to Stay in Berat, Albania
Budget - Berat Backpackers Hostel - 11 USD/Night (Dorm) - Great hostel with comfy beds, cozy atmosphere especially in the evening, and really friendly staff. I highly recommend this hostel over any other in Berat!
Mid-Range - Hotel Gorica - 33 USD / Night (Deluxe Double Room with Castle View)
How to Get to Berat, Albania
How to Get to Tirana
To get to Berat, you will probably have to fly into Tirana, the capital city of Albania. To get to Tirana, you will have to fly and depending on where you are coming from, there are several airlines you can choose from.
From the US, you can fly into Tirana via Turkish Airline through Istanbul, KLM Airline through Amsterdam, Alitalia Airline through Rome, and a few other routes that go through Europe.
From within Europe, you can go with low-cost airlines like WizzAir or RyanAir to get you to Tirana. If you are coming from a place that doesn't have a low-cost direct flight to Tirana, it might be worthwhile to travel by land to a city that has one and fly from there instead of relying on expensive flights.
From Asia, the easiest way is to fly to Tirana is through Istanbul via Turkish Airline. If you want to minimize cost, you can find a way to Turkey and then from there, you can fly with Pegasus Low-Cost Airline to Tirana. Keep in mind that you might have to change airports if you are switching from a regular carrier to a low-cost carrier in Istanbul.
How to Get to Berat, Albania
From Tirana, there are several buses you can take to Berat. The buses leave from Southward Bus Stop and the cost for such a bus is around 400 LEK per person.
The bus from Tirana to Berat leaves twice per hour starting at 05:40 AM and ended around 05:00 PM. The journey will take you around 2 hours and you will be dropped off at Berat Bus Terminal a few kilometers outside of Berat Old Town.
How to Get from Berat Bus Terminal to Berat Old Town (Mangalem)
The bus from Tirana or Gjirokaster will drop you off at Berat Bus Terminal a few kilometers outside of Berat Old Town and to get to the Old Town, you will need to take a local public bus.
Once your bus dropped you off at the bus terminal, you can wait for a local bus in front of the terminal restaurant (located on the right hand side), and a bus will come every 15 minutes to take you to the Old Town.
Basically, any local bus that goes through the bus terminal will take you to the old town. Do not sweat when the bus goes the opposite direction when they go out of the terminal as they often go a bit further and do a u-turn back and towards the Old Town.
The bus costs 30 LEK per trip and you can pay the guy that will come and give you the ticket when you get on.
To get back to Berat Bus Terminal, simply wait for the bus on the opposite side of where they drop you off and flag one down. If you have a bus to catch out of Berat, be sure to spare at least 40 minutes as the public bus in Berat is ridiculously slow. You will see when you travel from the bus terminal to the Old Town.
How to Get Around Berat, Albania
Berat is a small city with all the tourist attractions I recommended here all concentrated in the old town area so everything is within walking distance.
If you are planning to travel further, say to Berat Bus Terminal, as mentioned in the last section, you can take a public bus that will cost you 30 LEK per trip.
How Many Days to Spend in Berat, Albania
One full day (2 nights) is recommended to see all Berat has to offer. Here is a break down of what you will do in Berat for one full day:
Day 0: On your arrival day, you can spend the first night walking around Gorica Quarter and eat local food at Antigoni restaurant and chill at your hostel/hotel.
Day 1: On your first day, hike up to Berat Castle as early as you can to beat the sun and the crowds. Spend half a day there before you come down and explore the Old Town (Mangalem), checking out all the churches and mosques in the city.
In the afternoon, go explore Gorica Quarter and in the late afternoon, hike up to the top of a mountain on Gorica for Sunset, and come down to see Xhiro at Bulevardi Republika before ending the day.
How Much Money Do I Need for Berat, Albania
Based on the one-day itinerary above, we can calculate the minimum amount of money you will be spending in Berat as follows:
Accommodation: 11 USD x 2 nights = 22 USD (2,463 LKE).
Food: A good meal will cost around 500 LEK. Breakfast is included in most hostel/hotels so from that we will be spending 1000 LEK for a day in Berat. For the itinerary, we can include dinner of the arrival day, so in total, you will spend 1500 LEK on food.
Transportation: For a roundtrip bus ride from the terminal to the Old Town and back, you will spend 60 LEK in total.
Activities: Most of the activities recommended here are free except the Berat Castle which will cost you 100 LEK for the entrance fee.
Total Budget for one full day in Berat: 4,123 LEK (37 USD).
Is it Safe in Berat, Albania?
Berat and most of Albania is very safe and the locals are very nice and extremely friendly, something you can come to expect with Albanians, but from my experience, there are quite a few poor people living in Berat as you will find one or 2 beggers on the street while you are there.
We were also invited by a local guy to try his raki, which we thought was free (very common in Albania for people to invite you in without expecting anything back) but he asked for money at the end. They are not aggressive or intimidating in any way though but just to keep in mind that the locals might expect one or two euros back.
The experience above is not in any way a norm in Albania. It only happened to me once in my travel through Albania. In Gjirokaster, people invited us in and give us fruits without expecting anything so do not be scared when the locals welcome you in.
Internet in Berat, Albania
Reliable Wifi is available in most places like hotels, hostels, and restaurants. If you are looking for a cafe with reliable Wifi, Shtepia e Kafes Gimi is a great place to do so.
A local sim card is also a great option if you want to stay connected all the time. It is also useful to have a local sim card if you are planning to travel around Albania for a while.
For the local sim card, if you are staying for more than 2 weeks in Albania, I would recommend getting the Vodafone Z package, a one-month validity sim card with 5.5 GB of regular data, 10 GB for social network usage, 400 minutes and SMS which cost 1500 LEK + 100 LEK for a new sim card.
If you are traveling in Albania for 2 weeks, I would recommend you get the 14-days validity Vodafone Tourist sim that gives you 10 GB of data and 500 mins of calls for 1300 LEK.
For more information about Albania local sim card: Albania Prepaid Data Sim Card.
If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Albania, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
Top 8 Things to Do in Berat, Albania
Explore Berat Castle
Berat Castle is one of the most iconic landmarks in the area. This Roman-era castle sits atop a rocky hill on the left bank of Osum River overlooking the city of Berat.
The castle origin can be traced all the way back to the 4th Century BC but most of the structure you will see inside the castle wall is mainly built in the 13th Century when it was part of the Byzantine Empire and Ottoman Empire that followed shortly.
The castle is bigger than it looks from the city. You can spend several hours discovering all the Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques inside the castle district.
The way up to the castle from the Old Town is quite steep and in the mid-summer heat of Albania and the exposed trail, it can be quite unbearable to go up to the castle during the day.
For the best time to visit Berat Castle, I would recommend you go up around 8 AM where the sun is still low and the castle is still empty. Berat Castle is the main attraction in Berat and so by 10 AM, there will be a ton of tourists heading up there so if you want to have the whole place to yourself, go early.
One of the best viewpoints in Berat is at the viewing platform inside Berat Castle, so be sure to get all the way to the end. From up there, you will able to see Berat city, the Gorica Quarter, and the surrounding landscapes from above.
Looking over the surrounding landscape, you will notice 2 mountains on both sides of the Osum River. Those are Mt. Tomorr and Mount Shpirag, and the legend has it that these 2 mountains were once giants who fought each other to win the heart of a woman in Berat.
They both battled each other inflicting damages that can be seen on both mountains. On Mt. Shpirag, you will see several diagonal lines on the side of the mountain, which they said were sword wounds from the battle. Somewhere atop Mt. Tomorr, there is also a giant crater, which they said was a wound inflicted by a mace attack.
Eventually, both died, and the woman in Berat was so sad she cried her eyes out creating the Osum River that flows between the 2 mountains. A fitting story for a beautiful place like Berat, don't you think?
To enter Berat Castle, you will have to pay 100 LEK for the entrance fee and you can spend as long as you like in the city. Be sure to have the exact amount of money as they tend to not have changed.
They didn't have any change when I was there and I just stood in front of the gate awkwardly for about 10 minutes until they let me in for free 😂. For merely a dollar entrance fee, I wouldn't say it was worth the free entrance, but I was not going to walk down to the city to get changes and come back for it 😅.
By the way, if you look at Mt. Shpirag carefully, you will see that there is a name carved on the side of the mountain. "Enver" Hoxha, the name of the cruel dictator that isolated the country during the communist-era was carved there but when the guy died, someone carved an N in front of ENVER to make it look like NEVER. Get it? Never! No more cruel regime! 😉
Admire the Beauty of Holy Trinity Church in Berat Castle
Within the walls of Berat Castle, there is one church that stands out of all, the Holy Trinity Church. This church is a must-visit if you are interested to see a fine example of the great influence the Byzantine Empire left in this area.
This medieval Byzantine church was built somewhere between the 13th and 14th Century and it sits on the western side of Berat Castle on a sloping hill overlooking Mt. Shpirag and the other side of Berat city. It makes quite a photogenic spot to capture the church, the city, and the mountain all in one frame.
Check Out Other Mosques and Churches in Berat
Many civilizations have managed to coexist in Berat for centuries and you can see it from all the mosques and churches you will find in Berat. There are also several other churches and cathedrals that you should check out.
There are the St. Theodore's Church and The St. Mary of Blachernae Church located within Berat Castle, and Saint Demetrius Cathedral located at the Eastern end of Bulevardi Republika, not too far from the Old Town.
Explore Mangalem Quarter (Old Town)
Following our trail from the Bachelor's Mosque, you will find yourself in the Old Town of Berat or the Mangalem Quarter as it is called. Back in the days, the Mangalem Quarter was known as the Ottoman Quarter where Muslims resided and the Christians resided in the Gorica Quarter across the river.
Nowadays, it is pretty much identical with Ottoman-era houses with multiple large symmetrical windows, all lined up along the side of rocky hills on both sides of the Osum River.
There are several restaurants and bars within the Old Town with a nice view but in my opinion, the best view you can get of Berat and its thousand windows is not within the Old Town but from Gorica Quarter where you can actually see these windows all lined up and stacked perfectly together.
Explore Gorica Quarter
Crossing the Osum River, you will be in Gorica Quarter, which is a quieter part of town and a perfect place to get away from the crowded Berat Castle. Even though there isn't any outstanding structure to see on Gorica, its perfect view of the Old Town from across the river sure made up for it.
Gorica beauty is also in the detail of these old houses where you will be able to find remnants of the Ottoman influence on architecture choices like the doorbell design and the Ottoman chimneys.
Spend an hour or two and wander around the crisscrossing cobblestone streets of Gorica and when it is around an hour or 2 before sunset, you can go on a hike for sunset.
Hike Up the Gorica Hill for Sunset
Gorica Quarter sits on the side of Gorica Hill and behind the quarter, there is a hiking trail that will take you through the lush green forest, up into an opening with an unmatched panoramic view of Berat Castle, Mangalem Quarter, and Gorica Quarter.
The trail goes even higher than Berat Castle Observation Deck, and get 100% less tourist than if you were to watch the sunset at the castle. I was up there alone for hours before sunset. I only met one local on my way down and that was it.
The hike is not too difficult to follow. The trail begins from the western end of Gorica's main road where you will see a hiking trail sign with an arrow that you can follow.
The trail will take you through a blissful forest as you climb up to an opening where the trail will disappear for a bit. Do not worry, from the opening you can clearly see the top and all you have to do is walk through the grass, and you will be rewarded with an outstanding view of Berat.
If you are not sure where the hiking trail is, I would recommend you get Maps.me and save Berat Map offline for the hike. There should be a trail from behind Gorica Quarter that you can follow to the top.
And the best part of this trail is that it only takes 15 - 30 minutes to complete! I have hiked many more hours for less rewarding viewpoints than this. If you are looking for a sunset spot, this is the place to be.
Walk the Bulevardi Republika at Night and Experience Xhiro Hour First Hand
After the sunset, be sure to check out Bulevardi Republika and experience Xhiro, an Albanian tradition where once the sun is down, the entire city will come together at a boulevard and walk up and down the street, socializing with each other.
A small seemingly quiet city like Berat will lit up with life, it almost feels like a different city. With people out and about, playing chess outdoors, talking to each other while walking up and down a street, I gotta say, I've never seen a tradition quite like it.
What not many people know is that Bulevardi Republika is also the best place to take a photo of Berat. From Bulevardi Republika, looking at the Mangalem Quarter, you will be able to see the old houses all stacked up in a pyramid-shape while the boulevard and the trees along the side go straight to it, creating a picture-perfect photo that captures everything awesome about Berat.
Dine Berat Local Cuisine under Moonlight
Albania is home to many delicious dishes and Berat has a ton of local restaurants for you to indulge yourself in. Food such as fergese, musaka, stuffed peppers and eggplants, and meatballs are something you should definitely try when you are in Berat.
There are several restaurants that serve delicious Albanian cuisine at an affordable price you can try such as Homemade Food Lili, Restaurant WilDor, and my favorite one, Antigoni which I will elaborate more in the next section of what to eat and drink in Berat, Albania.
What to Eat and Drink in Berat, Albania
Dine under Moonlight at Antigoni Restaurant
Antigoni Restaurant is an Albanian restaurant the serves traditional dishes like fergese, qoftë (meatballs), stuffed peppers and eggplants at a very affordable price and a 5-stars view of Berat Old Town.
I frequented there quite often just to try all their main dishes like their delicious fergese, a thick dip-like dish mixed with pepper, tomato, egg, cheese, and sometimes, liver, or the healthy and filling stuffed eggplant or pepper that goes very well with a basket of bread.
One of the highlights for eating at Antigoni restaurant is the unbeatable view of the Mangalem Quarter where all the houses where the thousand windows name came from can be seen from your dinner table. Be sure to go there at night so you can see how colorful Berat actually is.
Get Your Coffee Fix at Shtepia e Kafes Gimi
Shtepia e Kafes Gimi is a great cafe to drop by if you are looking to find a place to take a break from a day of exploration. The cafe serves delicious coffee, both ice and hot, some pastries, and ice cream, which is perfect for a hot day in Berat.
They also have great air-conditioned indoor and outdoor seating areas, and a front-row seat to seeing Xhiro on Bulevardi Republika at night. They also have a reliable WIFI for you to stay connected if you have to.
Other Things to Do
Visit the Ethnographic Museum
Ethnographic Museum is a great place to visit if you want to learn about the history of Berat, Albanian cultures, and allow you to get a glimpse of what life was like back then.
The view is also pretty amazing from the balcony of the museum, overlooking the city. It is a great place to stop for an hour after you came down from the castle.
Hike the Osumi Canyon
If you have another day to spare, I would recommend you spend that day in nature and explore the surrounding landscape of Berat. Osumi Canyon is the largest canyon in Albania, and it is one of the greatest hikes you can do in Berat.
The trail will take you through a scenic part of this 18km Canyon along the side of the canyon, on wooden bridges, and there may also be a chance for you to relax and swim in the canyon.
You can book the Osumi Tour through here for 77 USD and they will take you on a jam-packed adventure day through the canyon as well as a walk around Polican city, and a scenic drive around Berat's stunning landscape.
Where to Go After Berat?
The next place I would recommend you visit is Gjirokaster, another UNESCO Heritage Site dubbed the City of Thousand Steps or the Stone City. The bus from Berat leaves twice per day to Gjirokaster at 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM. The bus takes 3 hours and will cost you 900 LEK.
Other popular destinations from Berat are Vlore, Saranda, and back to Tirana. The bus schedule as of 2019 for these places and many more are shown above.
And there you have it, a complete backpacking guide and the best things to do in Berat. Are you planning to visit Berat soon? Do you have any questions regarding your travel to the city of thousand windows? If so, feel free to ask me in the comments below. Safe journey!
Further Reading for Albania
Looking for more information for your trip to Albania? Here is a collection of articles about Albania that will help you with your trip planning:
- Albania, a country once isolated, now opened up to travelers to uncover the beauty that has been hidden for a century. Here is a travel guide to help you uncover it: 2 Weeks Itinerary for Albania.
- Tirana is an excellent place to start your journey in Albania. Here’s a complete guide on things to do in Tirana.
- Gjirokaster, the stone city of a thousand steps is another excellent UNESCO heritage site waiting for you to explore. Here are: 8 Best Things to Do in Gjirokaster.
- Albanian Riviera, a place you will find hidden beaches pristine coastline, and one of the best places to see the sunset in Albania. Here is a complete 5-days itinerary and travel guide on backpacking the Albanian Riviera.
- "Is this really Albania?" is a question you will ask yourself the moment you step foot into the Albanian Alps. Here is a complete hiking guide on the Theth-Valbona and the Albanian Alps.
- My words are not convincing you about traveling to Albania? How about you see it for yourself with my Albania travel video? Adoralbania, the Albanian Adventure Travel Video
- For all articles about Albania, visit Albania Travel Guide page.
- Looking to travel the Balkans, check out all my articles about the region here: The Balkans Travel Guide page.
- You can see all my Eastern Europe related articles on my Eastern Europe Travel Guide page.
- You can also see all my Europe related articles here: Europe Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides like this, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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