Berat is one of the most charming cities in Albania and the Balkans, filled with art, culture and exquisite cuisine. From the marvelous traditional houses of Mangalem and Gorica to Kala, the old castle home to Onufri Museum and Holy Trinity Church, Berat has it all. Explore the cobblestoned streets, museums and historical buildings with magnificent hidden courtyards of this UNESCO town in which, as day turns to night they thrives and becomes a hub for quirky cocktail bars and authentic tavernas, with 1001 Albanian Adventures. This is a travel agency located in the heart of Berat, founded 4 years ago by a group of friends, part of the Catholic community of the UNESCO town, and focused on promoting a sustainable tourism by helping the local economy and other people get a job, and protecting nature. You can find more information about 1001 Albanian Adventures story and tours here. There is a lot to explore in Berat, and due to its smallish size, much can be seen in a couple of days. Scroll through our guide to find out our best selection of places to visit.
THE CASTLE, ONUFRI MUSEUM AND HOLY TRINITY CHURCH
Kala is Berat’s beautiful old castle, located on the top of a hill above Mangalem district. The area, one of the most enchanting places you’ll see in Albania, is inhabited since ancient time and still today by locals who turned their homes into pretty guesthouses and tavernas. This it the ideal place to admire the town from above. Between ancient ruins, small courtyards and labyrinthine streets, here lies the Church of the Dormition of Saint Mary, home to Onufri Museum a cultural gem that hosts spectacular sixteenth century paintings created by the greatest Albanian icon-painter of all time, Onufri. The church itself, which dates back to 1797 and was built on the foundations of an earlier chapel, is a masterpiece. Just behind the Kala castle’s walls, Holy Trinity Church, a thirteenth century picturesque church, is totally worth a look and a picture, of course.
MANGALEM AND GORICA
Just below Kala, Mangalem is the most picturesque neighborhood of Berat -and maybe Albania- because it is full of Ottoman-era buildings complete with small windows and brown roofs. Stroll up and down the narrow streets of Mangalem admiring the architecture and three impressive mosques: the Sultan’s Mosque, among the oldest in the country, the Lead Mosque with its sphere-shaped dome made with lead, and the Bachelors’ Mosque built for unmarried men in search of a lady to marry with stunning paintings decorating its external walls. Houses in an eighteenth century Ottoman house located on the street that leads from Mangalem to Kala, the Ethnographic Museum displays the history of Berat and contains several original artifacts from ancient times, including clothes, tools and household objects. Gorica is the other beautiful neighborhood of the town, adorned with cobblestoned streets, stone white houses and small churches, like St. Thomas Church and St. Spiridon Church. A visit here is mandatory not only for its beauty, but also because it has gorgeous views of the Mangalem district and its unique facades.
WHERE TO EAT
Berat is home to many restaurants and tavernas where to eat traditional Albanian meals. Tavë kosi, byrek, cheeses, salads, meat with jufka, Albanian homemade pasta, and olives, are some of the best options to try. 1001 Albanian Adventures suggests to seat at the tables of Restaurant Mangalemi, Klea, Taverna Lazaro, Wildor, White House and Antigoni, among others, where everything is local, fresh and seasonal.
WHERE TO SLEEP? AT MASTER HOTEL
This small family-run hotel in city’s coolest neighborhood, Mangalem, is housed in a traditional restored 140 year old building with white walls and local stones. . Seven guest rooms of different sizes, all with private bathroom and one with private kitchen, each carefully decorated to respect the history of the property while weaving modern touches throughout, original wooden ceilings, linen curtains, and Albanian rugs. Make the family room on the top floor your sanctuary for its private balcony that offers extreme quiet and intimate views over the roofs of Berat. Foodies will appreciate the generous continental breakfast, whose daily-changing menu draws upon locally sourced ingredients, served in the terrace overlooking the UNESCO town. The beauty of Master Hotel is not just the simplicity, position and views, but also the hospitality of the hosts that make clients feel like in a family. The perfect home away from home.
Master Hotel, Rruga Mihal Komnena, Berat; Tel. +355694265298.
WHERE TO BUY
Solidarity Shop Berat is a social enterprise that helps generate income for families coming from vulnerable groups -like rural families, unemployed women, young people, single mothers. The products sold in this cute shop in the city center fill a significant gap for souvenirs in a town that is an important tourism destination in Albania, as well as creating awareness and income among the sellers. Apart from that, Solidarity Shop Berat is a place where to taste local and handmade products of Berat’s area.