The ancient city of Berat in Albania is one of the most popular destinations among tourists. Despite being located in the mountainous region of the country and 80 kilometers away from the sea, almost every traveler includes this city in their itinerary. Read on, and you will discover everything about this incredibly cool place.
History of the City and General Facts
This section provides a concise and focused overview without unnecessary details, although history may not always be the most captivating aspect. Nevertheless, understanding the city’s history enhances the journey by allowing you to immerse yourself in the atmosphere and spirit of the times.
- Berat is one of the oldest cities not only in Albania but also in the world, boasting more than 2400 years of history.
- The city is included in UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites due to its ancient Ottoman-era architecture.
- The first settlement in this area dates back to the 6th century BCE.
- In the 3rd century BCE, the settlement became a city and was part of the Macedonian Kingdom. It was named Antipatreia at that time.
- In the 2nd century BCE, it was conquered by the Roman Empire.
- Around 700 years later, in the 5th century CE, the city became a part of the Byzantine Empire and was named Pulcheriopolis.
- In the 9th century, the city was captured by the Bulgarians and became a part of the Bulgarian Kingdom for the next 200 years. It was then renamed to Beligrad, meaning the White City.
- From the 11th to the 14th centuries, the city changed hands multiple times, witnessing numerous military conflicts and conquests.
- In the 14th century, the city fell under the rule of the Turks for almost 700 years. The influence of the Ottoman Empire left the most significant mark on Berat’s development.
Useful to Know:The Osumi River, flowing through the center of Berat, divides the city into two quarters. Both quarters are well-preserved today, and all the Ottoman-era buildings in these Turkish neighborhoods are listed as a world heritage site. These Turkish quarters are known as Gorica and Mangalem, and Berat itself has been called the City of a Thousand Windows.
How to Get to Berat?
Getting to Berat is as easy as it gets. While transportation to other cities may present some challenges, it’s not the case here.
The city is located 70 km from Tirana and 80 km from the resort town of Vlora on the coast. You can find detailed information about public transport in Albania, including bus schedules and prices, in the article linked above. But to sum it up:
- From Tirana to Berat, more than 30 buses depart daily, roughly every 30 minutes. Most of them are transit buses heading to more distant cities in the country.
- The ticket price to Berat is 400 lek (approximately $4) one way.
- Travel time is around 2 hours and 30 minutes. Yes, it’s Albania, and it takes 2.5 hours to cover 70 km. Public transport here is indeed quite slow 🙂
- From Vlora to Berat, buses depart approximately every 1.5 hours.
- The ticket price is 300-400 lek.
- Travel time is also around 2.5 hours, give or take 10 minutes.
- The last bus from Vlora to Berat departs at 15:15. There are no departures after that time.
Important to Know:The coordinates of the bus station in Berat are 40.722438, 19.943436. The author’s advice is that even though it’s easy to reach Berat by bus, having a car is essential. There are waterfalls and wineries in the vicinity of the city that you can’t reach by bus. But more about that below.
Berat: Where to Stay?
Although the city is small, with only about 40,000 inhabitants, there are plenty of accommodation options for tourists. You can choose from hotels, apartments, and guesthouses. Below are a few worthy options, and you can find a complete listing of accommodations in Berat at the end of this article.
However, the best hotel in all of Berat is undoubtedly the 4-star Onufri Hotel. It boasts a fantastic location, offers a stunning view from the window, and always serves an excellent breakfast to all guests. Moreover, it has a parking lot, which is crucial in Berat, where parking is not so simple 🙂
You will find the best prices and a description with photos in the form below.
Where to Eat in Berat?
There is a plethora of dining establishments here, especially along the main pedestrian street, which you’ll read about further in the article. However, here, I will recommend the best eatery with Albanian cuisine, according to the author (me). It’s a warm, delicious, and affordable family restaurant specializing in home-cooked meals.
- Coordinates: 40.711694, 19.946506
- It is located 100 meters from the main entrance to Berat Castle.
- The owner is an Albanian of Italian descent, who personally cooks and serves the dishes.
Author’s Tip:The menu here is not extensive, and in such places, it’s always challenging to decide what to choose. Ask for recommendations; they will suggest the most delicious and best options. Simply order grilled vegetables and meat, a large bowl of salad, and tzatziki. You won’t regret it. They also serve homemade rakia and wine here. The prices are standard for Albania.
- Here, you will read about the peculiarities of Albanian cafes and restaurants, everything about tips, portion sizes, and much more.
Berat: Places to Visit
Next, I will tell you about interesting places that attract tourists to this city. This part of the article will focus on the landmarks within the city of Berat. You can find all of them on the Albania travel map.
Important to Know:I won’t list all the museums and churches of the city in detail. People don’t come here for that. And if you are fond of churches, every city in Albania will have a long list of them to visit.
On the highest hill of the city stands the medieval fortress, which has been remarkably well-preserved. Inside the castle, you will find not only defensive structures but also the Holy Trinity Church, St. Theodore Church, a bust of King Constantine, ruins of the White and Red Mosques, an iconography museum, and residential quarters with medieval architecture.
For me, Berat Castle also offers a superb panoramic view of the old Gorica quarter, a view you can find on all postcards.
- Ticket office hours: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. However, you can enter the castle 24/7. More on this below.
- Ticket price: 300 lek (approximately $3).
- Free parking is available at the main gate.
- Time to allocate for the castle: at least 1 hour. The castle itself is quite large, allowing for a leisurely stroll and exploration. You can’t see it all in just 10 minutes.
Author’s Recommendation:10 out of 10. Undoubtedly, it is the most remarkable attraction of the city, offering stunning views. I even prefer it over strolling through the streets of Gorica and Mangalem. Although those neighborhoods are pretty cool too.
Author’s Tip:You can enter the castle entirely for free. The coordinates for the starting point of the path for the free entrance are 40.708380, 19.948806. For reference: besides the mentioned attractions, there are about 70 residential houses inside the castle, with people living and cars driving around. The paid entrance at the main gate is for tourists only, and only when the ticket office is open. No one closes the gates at night, and nobody checks tickets anywhere. By following these coordinates, you can easily get into the castle through a normal trail within 3 minutes. Even locals use this route.
So, if your conscience allows, go through the main entrance. But if you’re on a tight budget, you can save a little. Personally, I almost always pay 🙂
Gorica Bridge in Berat
Built by the Turks in the 18th century, this is one of the city’s iconic landmarks. The bridge is located in the center, spanning over the Osum River. It connects the two old quarters, Gorica and Mangalem, and it’s these neighborhoods that gave Berat the nickname “City of a Thousand Windows.”
Interesting to Know:Mangalem is the Muslim quarter, while Gorica is the Christian one.
- Coordinates: 40.703197, 19.944693
- The bridge is entirely free and open 24/7.
- Time needed for a visit: 5-10 minutes.
Author’s Rating:5 out of 10. While the bridge is Ottoman and well-preserved, and it is a symbol of the city, it doesn’t leave the same impression as the castle or the old neighborhoods. Moreover, there are much older and more impressive bridges in Albania, such as the Ali Pasha Bridge in Gjirokastër. Now, that’s a magnificent bridge! Nevertheless, you are unlikely to pass by the Gorica Bridge. However hard you try, it will be right on your way.
Old Quarters of Gorica and Mangalem in Berat
I’ve mentioned these quarters five times in the article already. You already understand that this is what tourists come to Berat for. Although the two quarters were built and inhabited by Christians and Muslims respectively, they look visually identical.
In fact, tourists have two options to explore these neighborhoods:
- Observe them from a panoramic view from the embankment of the Osum River or the Gorica Bridge.
- Stroll through the narrow, winding streets of these quarters.
- I recommend doing both. The experiences, atmosphere, and views are entirely different.
What you need to know about this attraction:
- The Gorica and Mangalem Quarters are open to tourists 24/7. They are ordinary residential areas with cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
- Access is entirely free.
- Plan 30-60 minutes for a walk in either of the quarters.
Author’s Rating:9 out of 10. These are very atmospheric and cool places in Berat. I prefer admiring the panoramas from afar. However, there are many people who enjoy wandering through the narrow streets.
Republic Boulevard is a pedestrian street in the new, modern part of the city. The pedestrian part of the boulevard is not very long—about 500 meters. It is the center of Berat’s nightlife and home to many restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops. It offers an excellent view of the Mangalem quarter and the castle.
- Coordinates: 40.704101, 19.952837
- The boulevard is accessible to tourists 24/7.
- Allocate at least half an hour for a visit.
Author’s Rating:8 out of 10. It’s a place designed for tourists to relax. I recommend not to miss it.
There are a few more attractions within Berat that you’ll spend just a few minutes on. You can simply plan your route to pass by these places. I won’t go into detail about them since they pale in comparison to the other landmarks mentioned above:
- St. Michael’s Church
- Coordinates: 40.704839, 19.946681
- Main Mosque of Berat
- Coordinates: 40.704782, 19.955404
- King’s Mosque
- Coordinates: 40.705660, 19.952212
- Ethnographic Museum
- Coordinates: 40.707660, 19.950335
Attractions Outside of Berat
For travelers with a car, Berat has more to offer beyond its city limits. There are still interesting places to see for active tourists. Unfortunately, these places cannot be reached by bus. However, in the author’s opinion, they are worth your attention.
Waterfalls in the Surroundings of Berat
Near Berat, or more accurately, at 40 and 80 kilometers away, there are two waterfalls. They are located in such remote areas that Berat is the nearest proper city from which it is convenient to reach these waterfalls.
- Bogove Waterfall
- Sotira Waterfall
- Both of them are fantastic. You’ll need at least half a day for the first one and a full day for the second one.
- Coordinates, directions, tips, and much more can be found in the “Waterfalls of Albania” article.
Author’s Rating:For nature lovers, it’s a 10 out of 10. You can swim in both waterfalls, and they are entirely free.
Nurellari Winery near Berat
If you have limited time and need to choose between the two waterfalls, the author’s advice is to go to the Bogove Waterfall. You can stop at a private winery for wine tasting on the way to this waterfall. Plus, you can buy authentic Albanian wine there.
Interesting Fact:Berat is the most wine-producing region in Albania.
It’s a fantastic place for wine enthusiasts, and you’ll hardly encounter many tourists here.
- Winery Coordinates: 40.646927, 20.040707
- The door is always open. Even if there’s no one there, you’re free to explore inside. Guests are always welcome.
- The winery has a shop selling wines starting from 7 euros per bottle. The prices are slightly cheaper than in the store.
- Superior wines are around 25-28 euros. All the wines are produced right here.
- If you are not driving, you can arrange a wine tasting.
- Time-wise: without a guided tour, you’ll need about 15-30 minutes. Take a stroll around the area, visit the medieval hall, and choose a bottle of wine for dinner.
Author’s Rating:8 out of 10. Wine is not my drink, but this place is very cool and atmospheric, and you’ll always be warmly welcomed. If you plan to visit the waterfall, don’t pass by. It’s only 15 km or 25 minutes by car from Berat.
Tourist Tips and Itinerary Plan
Now I’ll tell you how much time you’ll need in this city that always leaves travelers wanting more, as there’s so much to see. In essence, there are three possible scenarios to choose from based on the availability of free time.
- No time at all, you have only 5 days in Albania, and Berat is just a quick stop on the way.
- Then allocate 2-3 hours for the city. The usual timing for tourists is as follows:
- Check out from your hotel in Tirana, Durrës, Vlora, or Gjirokastër (these are the cities from where tourists typically come) in the morning.
- By lunchtime, you’ll be in Berat.
- Spend 2-3 hours in the city, including the castle, Gorica and Mangalem quarters, Republic Boulevard, and Gorica Bridge. That’s it; you can continue your journey.
- By evening, you’ll already be 100 km away from Berat, settling into a new city.
- Then allocate 2-3 hours for the city. The usual timing for tourists is as follows:
- You have the possibility of staying overnight in Berat. Great! The timing is approximately as follows:
- Checked out in the morning, the journey to Berat is similar to the first option, and you’ll be in the city by lunchtime.
- You can immediately go to the winery since you won’t have time later.
- Then explore the city. Spending 2-3 hours on the main attractions is the absolute minimum.
- However, in a comfortable pace, you’ll need around 4-5 hours to see all the main sights.
- Have dinner at a restaurant and go to bed.
- Tomorrow morning, a new journey and a new city!
- A plan for those who are in no hurry.
- Ideal for spending two nights in the city.
- On the first evening, take a walk around the city and have dinner at a restaurant.
- The next day, go to the waterfall and winery, and return to Berat in time for dinner.
- Dinner, sleep, and tomorrow you can continue your route.
- This is the most ideal option for Berat.
Tip:Staying in Berat for more than two nights is not really worth it. Even if you have a month of vacation, it’s better to spend an extra day at the sea. Therefore, there’s no point in staying here for 3-4 days.
In Albania, there are two cities that are not located by the sea, but travelers never skip them. They deserve your attention. Here, the entire history of the Albanian people is collected. The atmosphere, architecture, and nature in such places are simply stunning. These are Berat and Gjirokastër. Even if you have very little time, you must take a walk through the ancient streets of Berat.
Wishing you an abundance of excitement and impressions from the ancient city of Berat!
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania
- Flights at the best prices with juicy discounts
- Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
- Hotels and apartments throughout the country: Booking
- Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
- Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual sim card in Albania
- Taxi and transfers: Intui.Travel