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The City of 1001 Windows is a national cultural and heritage center that reserves beautiful strolls along cobbled alleys in its famous Mangalem, Gorica and Castle neighborhoods and much more.
One of the most historic and oldest cities in Albania, Berat will fill your entire day with beautiful landscapes in addition to its rich culture and heritage. This UNESCO-protected site is divided into three large neighborhoods, those of Mangalem and Gorica, split by Osum River, and the medieval castle, which is amazingly enough, still inhabited. And remember, the city’s famous windows will follow your trail no matter where you go!
The best way to begin your day is with an early breakfast and coffee at Hotel Guva, strategically positioned in the Mangalem side in order to afford the best views of Gorica, right across the river. The atmosphere is so nice and relaxing here that you may want to keep this in mind for the evening, as well. But, read on to see your options!
Once you have finished your breakfast, take some time to stroll around the narrow cobble-stoned alleys which take you along a tour of Berat’s traditional and well-preserved houses. Here, you can study Berat’s windows from up close! Then, make a stop at the Medieval Center, a religious and social complex which includes the Halveti Tekke, King Mosque and other significant monuments and relics from the city’s rich history.
Leave some time in the late morning to head toward the famous Berat Castle. If you like hiking, you can climb to the top of the city where you will find the castle. However, the roads accommodate cars, as well. Here, devote at least one hour to walking around the impressive fortifications and enjoy the amazing panoramas. This is one of those places that makes you feel as if you are traveling in time so it is time well-spent!
Within the castle walls, you will find the Onufri Museum, one of the most important in the entire country. Here, you will enjoy the beautiful paintings of the most famous Albanian iconography painter and the namesake of the museum, Onufri, known for his especially vibrant shade of red. So vibrant, in fact, that it simply must be witnessed in person! You will also have the chance to view works from many other great national artists such as Kostandin Shpataraku and David Selenica, among others.
While still within the castle neighborhood, head straight to the Holy Trinity Church. You should really not miss this one as, along with its beautiful architecture, you will also get a nice chance to see a bit more of the castle grounds. From here, you will get the best views of the Tomorr and Shpirag mountains as well as learn about their haunting legend.
Berat is nationally renowned for its delicious meant-based culinary tradition. Depending on how hungry you feel, you may choose to stay around the castle. While leaving the castle, you will run across several taverna-style restaurants serving traditional cuisine.
If you feel like descending into town, we suggest either Homemade Food Lili or Mangalemi restaurants, located within the neighborhood of the same name. Both are superb and affordable.
If you do choose to come down to Mangalem, make sure to stop by the Ethnographic Museum if you would like to learn more about the culture and lifestyle of Berat throughout the ages.
Take a nice stroll along the Osumi Promenade and stop by at Hotel Turizmi (Tourism Hotel), an iconic landmark and the longest-running hotel in the city. In addition to giving you a taste of the elite Communist-era hangout spots, it also offers a scrumptious nostalgic dessert called “Mont Blanc.” The dessert hails from Milan and is one of the luxurious specialties which this hotel has served for decades. Do not skip on it as you will only find this in Berat!
After dessert, follow the river to Gorica Bridge, one of the most celebrated monuments in the country. This very well-preserved, 18th century bridge is 129 meters long and as traditional as it seems modern, architecturally-speaking. If you walk along this bridge, you will reach the other side of Berat and enter the Gorica neighborhood. Similar to Mangalem, the best way to see the latter is to freely stroll along its roads, discovering spectacular traditional houses at every step.
For dinner, we suggest you visit Restaurant Antigoni, which offers beautiful views of Mangalem or head to Wildor, a well-known local spot serving traditional food. Wherever you choose to sit, do not forget to order tabosh, one of the city’s most celebrated desserts, made like only the chefs in Berat know how!
Other suggestions: If you want to discover the city through the help of a certified local guide, you may contact Miklor Pasku. Thanks to him you may visit also old churches which usually are closed for the public, but he can manage to reserve special openings for visitors or small group of people.
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