The Ottomaon-era town of Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an exceptional location in Albania with centuries of historical and cultural significance. This is a town that is known for its religious tolerance, unique architecture, and is famously called the “Town of a thousand windows.”
When I explored Berat, I was on my own and found the city to be very friendly and easy to navigate, although I did get many “There is a stranger in town” looks. It was certainly more low-key than the bustling capital of Tirana.
Berat is about a 2-2.5 hour bus ride from Tirana, considering the local road conditions, and costs around 400 Lek (3.5 euros). It is not difficult to take the bus from the local bus stations in either Tirana or Berat. Once at the bus station, find the bus with the city you want to go to, have cash on hand and hop on board.
Video Watch: My bus trip from Tirana to Berat, Albania
The town of Berat was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, and is one of the main cultural centers of Albania. It contains a unique architectural style with influences from several civilizations, which have coexisted throughout the centuries. Berat is similar to other Albanian cities being an old fortified city with mosques and churches; and painted with murals and frescos.
The location of Berat is in central Albania, which is a beautiful part of the country. The town is surrounded by lovely rolling hills, including the mountain range, Tomorr, which was declared a national park. Running through the city is the river Osum, which is what guided me when I was exploring the city.
Berat’s best feature and popular attraction are the vernacular houses in the urban city center. The traditional Balkan homes, which date from the late 18th and into the 19th centuries, had been adapted to suit the towns hilly slopes. Berat’s homes are built along the hills in a horizontal layout, in order to better the use of daylight.
The city was an influential and traditional Islamic town during the Ottoman period. It was a popular and prosperous place with a long period of craftsmen and merchants.
The town features Kala, a 13th century castle, with origins dating back to the 4th century. There is a citadel area with Byzantine churches (13th century), as the Orthodox Christian traditions were respected here. They were able to continue their cultural and spiritual development while living in Berat. There are also several old mosques dating back to the Ottoman era, which began in 1417.
Berat has also been a great town of religious tolerance even until WWII, when Jews were hid inside the homes and basements of 60 families of both the Muslim and Christian communities. Jewish people were also allowed to worship in the local mosques and a Star of David can still be seen on the walls of Berat’s main Islamic place of worship.
The ancient town of Berat, a UNESCO site, is a fascinating and gorgeous place to visit in Albania; with its architectural history and natural landscapes. It is one location in the Balkans that should not be overlooked while visiting the region.
For additional travel information, please visit- BERAT A Thousand Windows.
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