In this article, you will learn about the Albanian city of Korce (Korca), its main attractions, and receive valuable tips and recommendations. Most importantly, you will decide whether to include it in your travel itinerary through Albania or not.
The city of Korça is situated relatively far from the main tourist attractions in Albania, practically on the border with Greece and Macedonia. However, this city has surprises even for experienced travelers.
General facts about the city of Korça
Unlike Durres or Shkodra, Korça does not have an ancient history. It was founded by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century as a garrison. Traders and artisans from all over the region gathered in Korça, and over time, the city became one of the largest in the area. It boasts an impressive architectural heritage, which we will explore further.
Today, Korça is home to around 75,000 people, including the suburbs, with the city itself having around 50,000 inhabitants.
The majority of the population is Christian. Besides Albanians, there are also many Greeks, Macedonians, and Albanian Romanians (Aromanians) living in the city. Many residents of Korça are proficient in Greek and Macedonian languages, in addition to their native Albanian.
Interesting to know:In Macedonian, the city is called “Gorica”.
The city is situated in a large valley, which has made Korça a significant agro-industrial center in Albania. Additionally, Korça is renowned for its textile products, especially unique carpets.
- The nearest major city to Korça is the resort town of Pogradec on Lake Ohrid, which is only 40 km away.
- Another interesting fact, rare for Albanian cities, is that Korça occasionally experiences snow during winter, which is not common in coastal cities. You can read more about Albania in winter in this article.
How to get to Korça:
In 99% of cases, there are three main ways to reach Korça:
- From the north of Albania – the most popular and fastest route if you are coming from Tirana. You will pass through the major highway city of Elbasan. The journey from Tirana to Korça is about 163 kilometers, which is a good road by Albanian standards. Along the way, you will pass through Elbasan and Pogradec, a beautiful town on the shores of Lake Ohrid.
- From the south – if you are coming from the southern resorts (Saranda and Ksamil) via the tourist city of Gjirokastër and Përmet. The SH75 road is considered the most beautiful in Albania but has the worst road surface.
- If you are traveling through the Balkans and are coming (most likely by private car) from Greece or Macedonia, it’s only about 15-20 kilometers from the border to Korça.
Useful to know:You can also reach Korça by bus. From Tirana, it takes about 4 hours and costs 500 leks (there are 6-7 buses daily). From Saranda, it takes 6 hours (4 hours from Gjirokastër), with one daily departure at 4 am. However, taking the bus might limit your ability to stop at many interesting places along the way. Therefore, the optimal option for traveling around Albania is renting a car.
You can read about the country’s public transport, which is not great but exists, in the article via the link. There, you will find the coordinates of the Tirana bus station and bus schedules.
Where to stay in Korça
Korça offers plenty of excellent accommodation options for a one or two-day stay or even a short vacation. Prices for accommodation start from 20 euros. Even for this amount, you can find decent apartments in the center of Korça with good ratings. For 50 euros per day, you can book a premium room in a hotel with a pool and breakfast included.
Here is my personal ranking:
- Price range up to 40 euros per day:
- Petro’s Apartment – This “two-bedroom” apartment is located in the center of Korça, bright, spacious, with two bedrooms and a very pleasant host. An excellent choice if you are traveling with children.
- Koa Apartment – A cozy and spacious studio.
- Vila Ridvani – Slightly further from the center but a whole villa at your disposal. It has two bedrooms, a large living room, and a lovely fireplace to spend a cozy evening in Korça.
- Price range up to 50 euros per day:
- Finally, options up to 100 euros per day. If you are going to indulge, do it in style!
- RICHMOND HOTEL – A very “European” hotel with modern interiors. They serve a buffet breakfast, and there is underground parking.
- IN Gallery Hotel & Spa – Stylishly designed rooms, a spa center, indoor pool, fitness center, and magnificent sunsets on the terrace. Almost everything you need for a perfect vacation is included.
- Belle, Littleparis – Small designer apartments for two. Truly, a little piece of Paris right in the heart of Albania.
- Villa Elezi – A spacious villa with two bedrooms and interesting decor. A great option for families with children or a small group.
While Korça may not be abundant in tourist attractions, the city still offers plenty of interesting things to explore. Here are some highlights in Korça:
- The Korça Brewery.
- The streets of Korça: Republic Boulevard, Fan Noli Boulevard, and St. George Boulevard.
- The Resurrection of Christ Cathedral.
- Museums: National Museum of Education (the first Albanian school), Museum of Medieval Art, and Vangjush Mio’s House-Museum.
- Mirahori Mosque and Clock Tower.
- Panoramic tower.
- The Old Bazaar.
One of the first things a tourist will mention after spending at least a day in Albania is what the city of Korca is famous for – its brewery.
Korca is home to one of the three largest breweries in Albania. It produces beer that you can order in any café or bar as “local beer.” In about 90% of cases, you will be served “Korca” beer. The brewery offers tours, tastings, and hosts an annual beer festival in August.
For detailed information about Albanian beer, wine, and alcoholic drinks, check this out.
- Official website of the brewery: https://birrakorca.com.al/
- Coordinates: 40.611139, 20.790533
- Restaurant opening hours at the brewery: 9 AM to midnight daily.
- Allow yourself about two hours to visit the brewery.
Author’s rating:10 out of 10. For Korca, this is the main attraction (according to the author). You can explore all other sights in a couple of hours and then spend the rest of your day here.
Pedestrian Streets of Korca
Several pedestrian boulevards lead to the main attractions of the city, adorned with numerous cafes and restaurants beloved by locals. The boulevards of Republic and Saint George form the heart of Korca, while Fan Noli Boulevard is also a popular place for locals to relax.
- They are free to enter and open 24/7.
- Boulevard Saint George is fully pedestrianized.
- Plan at least an hour for a leisurely stroll along these streets. That should be enough time.
Author’s rating:8 out of 10. I love such streets in any city. Life thrives around these areas. I enjoy simply walking, having coffee, and in Korca’s case, having beer, while watching people.
The Resurrection Cathedral is a central landmark of Korca, located right in the heart of the city. It was built on the site of the St. George Cathedral, which was destroyed by the Communists. Today, it is the largest Orthodox church in Albania. The cathedral’s architectural uniqueness lies in its bell towers, which resemble minarets of mosques.
- Coordinates: 40.615683, 20.780747
- Open 24/7
- Free admission
- Allow about 15 minutes of your time.
Author’s rating:6 out of 10. The exterior of the cathedral looks impressive. Inside, it is quite modest. In any case, it is located right in the center, so you can’t miss it.
Mirahori Mosque and Clock Tower
Next to the Old Bazaar, you’ll find the Mirahori Mosque. The name comes from the city’s founder, Iljaz Bey Mirahori. The mosque was built in 1496 and is considered one of the oldest in Albania. In the 18th century, a clock tower was erected nearby, which was reconstructed after an earthquake in 1960.
- Coordinates: 40.61588756364092, 20.77544656731328
- Plan about 15 minutes for this place.
- I have been here several times, and the main entrance is always closed, but the mosque is still functioning.
If you enjoy visiting museums, this information is for you. It is believed that the first Albanian school was opened in Korca. At least that’s what the locals say. Today, the school building houses the National Education Museum.
If you are more interested in antiquities, visit the Museum of Medieval Art. It houses the largest collection of icons created during the early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era in Europe.
The House-Museum of the renowned Albanian artist Vangjush Mio boasts the largest collection of his paintings in Albania.
Additionally, Korca has an Archaeological Museum.
- Allocate no more than half an hour for each museum.
- The museums typically open from 9 AM to 7 PM or 9 AM to 6 PM.
- The entrance fees are usually symbolic. For example, a ticket to the Archaeological Museum costs 200 Lek (2$).
- You can find all the museums and other attractions of Korca mentioned in this article on the Travel Map.
Author’s rating:3 out of 10. I’m not a big fan of museums. I visit them when there’s nothing else to see, and I still have time. If you enjoy museums, I recommend visiting the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Medieval Art from the four mentioned here. The latter one, however, costs 700 Lek, which is quite expensive for Albania!
The Old Bazaar in Korca is a fairly large district that dates back 600 years. It was once the home of artisans and traders, bustling with vibrant trade on its streets and squares. The district has nearly 100 government-protected houses, and the government allocated over 4 million dollars for their restoration. Today, it is a popular area filled with cafes and restaurants.
- It is a fully pedestrianized area, along with the adjacent streets.
- There are numerous shops and cafes here. This is the best place for tourists in Korca.
- Every inch of this place is steeped in history.
- Coordinates: 40.617640, 20.774499
- Admission to the Old Bazaar is free, and it is open 24/7.
- Just set aside 30-40 minutes for a walk through the bazaar and its shops. You can enjoy a cup of coffee as well.
Author’s rating:8 out of 10. This place is a must-visit for every tourist. If the Old Bazaar were a bit larger in size, it would be even better.
Also called as Red Tower. A rather unconventional structure can be spotted not far from the Old Bazaar. This peculiar building is actually an observation platform. You can reach the top using an elevator. The tower is not very tall, but you’ll get a nice panoramic view of the city’s rooftops.
- Coordinates: 40.618414, 20.777383
- Open from 7 AM to 10 PM daily.
- Ticket price: 50 Lek (0.5$). Cash only.
- Plan about 15-20 minutes for the entire visit.
Author’s rating:7 out of 10. Well, this place is at least original and stands out from the rest. You won’t be overwhelmed with excitement after visiting the observation platform, but you can get a nice view of the city from above, and it’s almost free.
Tips and recommendations
Exploring all the attractions of Korca can easily be done in just one day, and realistically, you can cover everything in 3-4 hours. Though, after visiting the brewery, where else will you go?
If you plan to combine your visit to Korca with a brewery tour, here are some life hacks for you:
- Come to the city in August when the brewery organizes its beer festival. The dates vary each year, so keep an eye on the brewery’s website.
- For tours and tastings, contact the brewery at least a day or two in advance.
- At the restaurant by the brewery, you can enjoy affordable and delicious meals and, importantly, have some drinks. The prices for draft beer here are the lowest in the country.
- If you intend to visit the brewery, consider planning for two days because time flies unnoticed in the company of Korca’s fine beer.
In reality, there isn’t much to do in the city of Korca. It’s not a popular destination among tourists. However, if your journey takes you through Korca, make sure to stop by, book some great apartments for a night, take a stroll through the city, and have dinner at a restaurant in Korca. And in the morning, continue on your way. The most exciting adventures are still ahead. There’s really no need to spend more than one day here.
Wishing you vibrant emotions on the streets of Korca!
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