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Bordered by the majestic Tomorr and Shpirag mountains and divided by the Osum River, the city of Berat is one of the highlights of Albania.
Berat is filled with history; characteristic Ottoman touches blend with Orthodox influence, ancient mosques sit next to churches and quirky cafés line the streets leading to traditional houses. Here’s how to spend a great weekend exploring Berat.
Morning: visit the old town
Start your weekend in Berat with a traditional Turkish coffee; the town has many cafés to try out. Then you will be ready to start your tour of this UNESCO-listed gem. Berat is divided into two districts by the Osum River: Gorica (which is traditionally Orthodox) and Mangalem (which has a strong Ottoman influence.). Stroll through the narrow streets of Gorica admiring the traditional houses and then refresh yourself with a quick lunch at Restaurant Muzaka, where you can try traditional Albanian delicacies such as byrek and baklava. A visit to the ancient and beautiful Monastery of Saint Spyridon in Gorica is a must when you are in this area.
The other area of Berat is Mangalem, famous for its Ottoman-style houses. The best thing to do here is to stroll through the cobblestoned streets and visit the main mosques of the town, such as the Bachelors’ Mosque and King’s Mosque. No visit to Berat would be complete without spending few hours in the city’s old castle (Kala), exploring the labyrinth of narrow streets and its incredibly unique architecture. The main attractions include the remnants of an old mosque, the beautiful towers and the Holy Trinity Church.
Evening: admire breathtaking views and enjoy traditional dishes
The most famous restaurant in town is Antigoni, a traditional restaurant located in Gorica. Antigoni is the best place to eat, not only for the typical Albanian dishes that are served here, but also because it offers breathtaking views over the river and Mangalem. Don’t forget to order a slice of byrek, a pie made with filo pastry and stuffed with spinach, and the baklava cake with nuts.
Pro tip: End your dinner with a glass of raki, the traditional Balkan liquor, which is supposed to aid digestion.
Night: sleep like a king
Spend the night at White City Berat, a beautiful hotel along the Pedonalja of Berat, the main pedestrian street in town. White City has comfortable and well-furnished rooms with terraces that offer spectacular views over Mangalem. Every morning the hotel serves a great breakfast featuring Albanian cheeses, honey and croissants.
Morning: get ready for adventure
Skip the lie-in and get up early to head straight to Çorodovë in southern Albania, just an hour and a half by car from Berat. Hidden here, you’ll find the stunning Osum Canyon, the largest canyon in the country. Outdoor Albania takes adventurous travellers on kayaking tours along the canyon; it’s a great way of exploring the area and costs just £31. After the tour, you can even take a dip in the refreshing water.
Afternoon: drink some great wines
If you need a break from adventures, book a relaxing wine tasting tour at Çobo Winery. Scenically located at the foot of Mount Tomorr in the Berat area, Çobo offers customers the chance to taste five premium Albanian wines. Don’t forget to taste the delicious homemade raki with nuts and grapes, too.
Taverna Panorama is the perfect place for your last dinner in Berat and is located on the foot of Mount Shpirag (this mountain, along with Tomorr, is linked to Berat’s most famous legend). Sit down and enjoy an Albanian feast at surprisingly low prices, while admiring great views over the town.
Night: have fun in the old town
Berat is not as vibrant as the capital city, Tirana, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find chic hipster cafés and the most modern of clubs. Berat is more of a place for a romantic escape from the crowds, and the best thing to do on your last night here is to stroll along the river’s borders, admiring the beautiful Ottoman-era buildings. There is no better way to say goodbye to Berat.