The land of fairytale castles and breathtaking beauty, Albania, is in Balkans. This South European country is a refreshing place to be. With two cities as UNESCO cultural heritage i.e., Berat and Gjirokaster, Albania has so much to offer. From lush green fields to cobbled streets, you will find wonders at every step. You will find one the best- preserved Ottoman towns in modern day, bustling with life. Also, you will come across many signs of communism, its rise and fall. We are going to walk you through these three incredible cities:
Many of us have our first encounter with Tirana or Tiranë. The capital of Albania. If you decide to just pass through this city, then my friend, you will miss a lot. Tirana is a modern city, at the heartbeat of development.
Skanderbeg Square is a vast public square, with the statue of Skanderbeg on a horse. Before the fall of communism in 1985, at the same place, Stalin’s statue used to stand. The square is full of colors, sounds and festivities. It holds some of the biggest public events such as concerts in spring and summer. You are very likely to meet many locals there.
A little far from the Skanderbeg Square is the Blloku district. It presents the best cafes, shops, bookstores etc. in the city. To get a gist of the city, do visit here.
Unlike many other museums countrywide, this museum focuses on all aspects of Albanian history. It is divided into eight different sections, starting with Paleolithic era to the Communis era, and post communism.
Enver Hoxha was the communist dictator, who built more than 750,000 nuclear bunkers all over the country, fearing foreign attack. Bunk Art 1 and Bunk Art 2 are preserved and converted into museums, to showcase the dark past. Bunk Art 1 is on the outskirts of Tirana while Bunk Art 2 is in the south of the Clock Tower. A little away from the Skanderbeg Square.
Mosques and Cathedrals
You will find religious harmony all over Albania, and Tirana is no exception. Et’hem Bej Mosque is an Ottomon built mosques, that was reopened in 1991. You can also visit Christ Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana.
A calm town with twin mountains i.e., Mount Tomorr and Mount Shpirag, divided with Osumi River, is Berat. It is known as a “City of Thousand Windows”, giving life to the Ottomon styled multipaneled windows.
The Berat Castle
The main attraction of Berat is the Berat Castle. It is alive with its rosy roofs and stone alleys inhabiting many people. The castle is not one structure, but a collection of different buildings inside the wall. It was first built by Romans in 4 th century. Later, Byzantine and Ottomon empires did most of the development in 13 th century. You can hike to reach the castle. Make sure to be early to avoid crowds. 200 Leks is the usual entrance fee. Don’t forget to visit the Gorcia and Mangalem Quarters.
Onufri Iconography Museum
This museum houses all the religious relics obtained from the Berat Castle. It has both Christian and Muslim relics. It symbolizes the harmony with which two religions have existed in the region.
The Ethnographic Museum sheds light on the culture and heritage of the city and especially the castle. It is in the St. Mary Cathedral and has different parts. The 2 nd portion of the museum houses some of the original works of Onufri, a master painter of the Balkans.
Xhiro at Boulevard Republika
The people are very friendly here. The best example is Xhiro, a tradition you can find all over Albania. At the dusk, people come out of their homes, and walk the length of the Boulevard Republika in the Old Town Square. With Osumi flowing on the side, and glowing lanterns, it will feel like a festival. People will just gather around, have chit chat, chess boards arranged, and children laughing. It is not a sight to miss. Book now to experience this joyous moment.
Gjirokaster is often called as the “City of Thousand Steps”. The city of Ismail Kadare, a famous Albanian writer. It is one of the best conserved Ottomon cities. It has golden grass with wild grey hills, cobbled streets, and many bunkers. Gjirokaster may look like Berat, but it is not. Let’s find how:
It is the 2 nd largest castle in the whole of the Balkans, first is the Kruje castle. It has a citadel that dates to 12 th century. Most of its structure was built by Ali Pasha in the 19 th century and King Zog in the 20 th century. You can visit the Clock Tower, an underground Cold War Tunnel, along with many churches and museums in the castle. It also displays a shot-down USA air force plane.
Gjirokaster Old Bazaar
If you are looking for an authentic experience, must visit the Old Bazaar. It has a medieval feel to it. The lights at night add to the magic and it feels like fairy dust. You will also find many local run small restaurants serving amazing food.
Skenduli or Zekate Traditional Houses
Gjirokaster was a house to many rich Ottomons, which reflects in the architecture. Skenduli is a high-rise traditional house, with many rooms. Some rooms were only for certain events such as a wedding room, etc. This is the best place to get an insight into what life people had here. If Skenduli is not open, you can also visit Zekate House. It has the same traditional aura. Summing it all up, these three cities are a must visit in Albania. If you are a culture enthusiast, do add these to your itinerary of Albania, and contact us to get more details.