My incredible seventh day in Albania continued in the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage town of Berat! Join me as I explore an old UNESCO Ottoman village in Berat, Albania and other local attractions before I have a delicious lunch in Berat Castle!
Berat is located in south-central Albania, about 120 kilometers south of the capital, Tirana. Its old town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list on July 8, 2008 as “a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period.” It became part of a pre-existing UNESCO site of Gjirokastër, which was inscribed onto the list in 2005.
My boy Erjan from Travel Media EU and I started our afternoon adventure on Gorica Bridge, which spans the Osum River. The Osum River separates the old city center into three parts: Kalaja, Mangalem, and Gorica. Across the bridge is the Ottoman village, which is said to have a thousand windows! The Ottomans first arrived here and founded the town in the 15th century. The houses have been renovated over the years and are so beautiful! They’re known for their gorgeous Ottoman architecture. I couldn’t wait to check out the UNESCO Ottoman houses of Berat, Albania!
Gorica Bridge was first mentioned by a famous Turkish traveler in the 17th century. On the left bank of the Osum River is Gorica, where you’ll find lots of historical homes and buildings. Walking along the stone houses was like stepping back in time to the 18th centuries! We had an uphill walk and passed by Guesthouse Hostel Lorenc, which had a gorgeous Ottoman and Mediterranean feel. It reminded me of Çannakale, Turkey outside of the city of Bursa.
I learned that Albanian families lived in one building with lots of entrances, and each entrance was for a different family. Because Berat is a UNESCO site, when renovations occur, they must be in the same style as before. The entrances are low so you have to bow down to the family inside. I could see plaster and other signs of renovations, as well as lots of original stone walls as well.
Next, I saw an old home with a gate that was falling apart, and the Church of Saint Spiridon, a 19th-century church in the area. This side of the city is less touristy than the other side with the castle but this side was really beautiful and felt very authentic. The UNESCO Ottoman houses are a must-see in Berat, Albania!
Across the river was the Mangalem area, which lies at the foot of the castle hill. It was really pretty, but I could see more restaurants and hotels there. We crossed the Ura E Varur steel bridge to get to Mangalem. It was built about 50 years ago. In front of us were a minaret, the town, and the castle hill above it.
In Mangalem, I was told there were more Muslim structures like the 16th-century Bachelor’s Mosque, which was under construction. It was really beautiful and I could see old paintings and Arab scripture on the outside. Along the street were souvenir shops and restaurants, along with hotels and other commercial space. In the Unique Art shop, they had lots of beautiful wood carvings of sites around the city including the Ottoman homes, churches, and the castle. I found one for €65 that was made from an olive tree!
Next, we headed up the town past beautiful hotels and traditional-style buildings. It was so beautiful and authentic. Next, we hit up the Berat National Ethnographic Museum, which is located in a traditional house and is over 400 years old. It shows the way the house was used, and displays clothing, head pieces, pottery, textiles, and more. My favorite thing was the guest room! There are 7-8 rooms inside!
Next, we drove up to Berat Castle in the Kalaja area, which is located on the castle hill. We’d get epic views and then have lunch in the castle. The castle is over 2,400 years old and dates back to Illyrian times, though it was renovated by other empires that controlled the area later. Inside is a map of the grounds, which includes 12 churches. The lowest stones in the walls are from Illyrian times, while the red bricks and cement are from Roman times. The smaller, white stones are from Ottoman times.
The castle is unique because it’s a living castle, so people still live there! It’s full of restaurants, souvenir shops, and stone houses. I saw lots of wood carvings and cool souvenirs. There’s also a church that looks like a house because in the 16th and 17th centuries, having a church in Ottoman towns was forbidden.
Then, we stopped by Restorant Onufri for lunch! We sat outside on their terrace, but they also have indoor seating that looks out over the castle. It felt like a traditional taverna.
We started with some rakija and then got several dishes: stuffed cabbage; okra; fërgesë with red peppers, green peppers, tomatoes, and feta cheese; beans; salad with cucumber, tomatoes, onions, and feta; eggplant; moussaka; cannellonis; byrek; and chicken with rice!
The beans were moist yet crunchy and full of thyme. Next was the fresh and juicy eggplant, and the okra, which contained thyme, tomato sauce, and oil. It was so delicious! Then, I dove into the flaky byrek, which contained a nice, fluffy cheese. The stuffed cabbage was stuffed with rice and tomatoes and was so delicious! Then, I had more strong rakija!
The cannellonis had minced meat, tomatoes, and cheese on top. Next was the moussaka, which is like the Albanian version of lasagna and contained meat, potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant.
It was so different and I loved the crispiness on the bottom! The fërgesë was oily and full of pepper flavor! The chicken and salad were also great, but the eggplant really blew me away!
After lunch, we headed to Muzeu Onufri, which is a museum dedicated to Onufri, a famous 17th-century painter. He used a unique red color in his work. It used to be an 18th-century church but was later converted into a museum. Outside in the courtyard are beautifully preserved frescoes from 1797, but I couldn’t film inside the museum.
Then, we went to the walls atop the hill, where you get incredible views over Berat. I could see homes, churches, hills, and vineyards, as well as the mountains. We continued along the walls and reached Tabja, which is a watchtower that offers the best views of the area. They’re stunning! You can see the city, the river, the old town, the bridges, and the mountains. This was one of my favorite places in Albania so far!
What an incredible afternoon exploring the UNESCO Ottoman houses and sites in Berat, Albania! Huge thanks to my friends at Travel Media EU, Balkan Pearls Tour Operator, and Rental Car Albania for making this adventure possible!
I hope you liked coming with me to check out the UNESCO Ottoman houses and south Albanian food in Berat, Albania! If you did, please give this video a thumbs up and leave a comment below. Also, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and click the notification bell so you don’t miss any of my travel/food adventures around the world!