Gjirokaster in Albania is famous for its old town and medieval castle that is located on a hill. It offers a variety of attractions that are perfect for tourists who want to explore Albanian culture and history. If you are looking for a place with picturesque landscapes, mountains, castles, and great food in Southern Albania – Gjirokaster is the perfect destination.
This article will provide you with all the information you need to know about this amazing place!
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7 of the best things to do in Gjirokaster
1. Marvel the Gjirokaster Castle
One of the top attractions in Albania is Gjirokaster Castle, which is known for its history and scenic landscapes. With plenty of things to see and do, it’s the perfect destination for anyone who wants an exciting vacation in Albania.
Gjirokaster Castle was built around the 12th century. It has been rebuilt many times during the centuries, and today it stands at 336 meters. You can enjoy great views of Southern Albania from atop Gjirokaster Castle while exploring inside.
2. Tour at Gjirokaster Museum
Gjirokaster Castle and Museum should be visited as a single experience. The Gjirokaster Museum is just inside the castle, and it contains many artifacts and mementos from the history of Gjirokaster. The museum goes into great detail about the history, life under Ottoman’s reign, and war between empires. The biographies of some Gjirokaster citizens are also featured in the museum. There are some interesting facts about the city and its people to discover here.
3. Shop at the bazaar in Gjirokaster Old Town
The bazaar is one of Albania’s most famous markets that has been around for over 500 years. It features an array of traditional Albanian goods such as olive oil, local honey, herbal teas, and even the national drink – Raki. It’s the perfect place for souvenirs to take back home!
The bazaar is also known for its lively atmosphere that offers an authentic experience of Albania. Visitors will enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of this old bazaar, along with its historic buildings, cobblestone streets, and architecture.
4. Stroll through the old town of Gjirokaster
The most popular place to visit in Albania is its Old Town, which has retained much of its original architecture and traditions intact since medieval times. Gjirokaster Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason. It is truly a unique place that offers the great history and culture of Albania.
The town consists of many beautiful stone-paved alleys, traditional homes, and other buildings perfect for visitors to explore. Beyond its historical significance, it’s also a lovely place for sightseeing with stunning landscapes that are perfect for some photos.
The best way to explore everything that this town offers is by walking inside its Old Town. You will get an enjoyable glimpse of life here as you pass by shops, cafes, and homes.
5. Hike to Ali Pasha Bridge
Ali Pasha Bridge is the remains of an enormous aqueduct that was built in the 19th century. The construction has long been abandoned since then, and it has been left in ruins. What makes this place interesting is that visitors can climb inside and see the structure up close.
Today, the structure is used as a footpath, and it has become a popular attraction for hikers and trekkers. The attraction is only 30 minutes from Gjirokaster Old Town, and it is a good way to get away from the crowds.
6. Learn history at Gjirokaster Cold War Tunnel Museum
For history buffs, there is a museum that offers plenty of information about the Cold War in Albania. It features a tunnel built during the Communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha and displays some artifacts from that time.
The museum is especially popular with foreign travelers who want to learn more about how Albanians lived under Communism. The tunnel itself is a fascinating relic, and it gives visitors an idea of what life was like during that period.
7. Visit the Skenduli House
If you are interested in learning about Albania’s traditional lifestyle, then Skenduli House is the place to go. It features a traditional house that has been preserved for many years, and visitors can see how it was lived back in the 17th century. The trip to this house also offers an insight into different aspects of Albanian culture, including food preparation, weddings, and even clothing.
Visitors will be able to see the daily life of an Albanian family back in this period with all authentic furnishings. Skenduli House is just minutes away from Gjirokaster Old Town, so it’s an easy stop to make on a day trip.
How to get to Gjirokaster (from Saranda, Berat, Tirana)
If you are traveling from Saranda, the best option is to take a direct bus from a stop on Rruga Flamurit near the Synagogue remains, bringing you straight to Gjirokaster in about 1-1.5 hours.
If you are coming from Berat, you can take a bus from the terminal directly to Gjirokaster. The journey takes around four hours, and the bus makes frequent stops to pick up couriers.
If you are from Tirana, there are two options that you can take. The first one is to catch a local bus from Regional Bus Terminal, which takes about four hours. The convenient yet pricey option is by riding a taxi but make sure to book one in advance.
Once you have reached Gjirokaster Bus Stop, you should take a local bus along Bulevardi 18 Shtator road to bring you to the Old Town. From here, it’s easy for tourists to access attractions like the castle, bazaar, and old town.
Best time to visit Gjirokaster
It would be best if you visited at the end of summer or middle of August to enjoy comfortable weather being not too hot and not too cold. By that time, the peak season is already over, and you avoid crowded attractions.
Where to stay in Gjirokaster
Where I stayed
Gjirokaster has a range of accommodations for visitors, but the most popular place is the Stone City Hostel. It’s a beautiful old home with a shaded garden, a big roof terrace, and spectacular views of the castle. It’s also located in the heart of Gjirokaster Old Town, making it a great place to stay.
The hostel is close to all major attractions, including Ali Pasha Bridge and Skenduli House. Visitors will have easy access to everything this town has to offer by staying at Stone City Hostel. It’s also a great place for meeting other travelers, which you don’t get with more prominent hotels.
What to eat and drink in Gjirokaster
Gjirokaster is a place that offers plenty of delicious Albanian dishes. The most popular choices are musaka, an oven-baked dish made with eggplant and potatoes; qifqi, a rice ball specialty of Gjirokaster; Albanian meatballs, and Albanian Pie.
The most popular drink is Raki, which has an alcohol level of 40%. It is best paired with light meals or snacks like Gjirokaster’s famous musaka for maximum flavor.
Where to eat
For the ultimate home cooked meal, travelers should eat at Taverna Tradicionale. It’s a family-run restaurant that has been popular with locals for many years, and visitors will get to experience authentic Albanian dishes in an intimate setting.
The food they serve is fresh and made from local ingredients to ensure that you get the best-tasting meal. Tourists frequent this restaurant for their delicious local dishes served in a traditional setting.
There are also plenty of restaurants in the Gjirokaster Old Town for visitors to choose from, like Taverna Kuka or Odaja Restaurant. These restaurants are popular with locals, and visitors will get a taste of traditional Albanian dishes.
Is Albania safe to travel to?How many days do you need when you visit Gjirokaster?
If you want to see all the main attractions of Gjirokaster, we recommend at least two days. This will give you enough time to explore the streets of the town and nearby attractions.
Who built the Gjirokaster Castle?
Records indicate that Petro Korçari directed the construction of the fortress. The castle’s longevity has been attributed to its construction’s high-quality work and materials.
Is Albania safe to travel to?
Albania is currently one of the safest countries in Europe. The crime rates are low, and it’s straightforward to get around with public transportation (taxi or bus) without any issues. Especially in Gjirokaster, it’s very safe to walk around the town and enjoy its sites.
Final thoughts on visiting Gjirokaster
Gjirokaster, Albania is a small city in Southern Albania that offers so much more than just its Old Town and medieval castle. The charming city has an abundance of exciting things for tourists who want to explore Albanian culture and history through various attractions. If you are looking for a place with all these features, Gjirokaster is a must-visit destination for your Albania travel itinerary.
About the author
Catalin Geangos is the Founder and Editor of TravelTrained and a travel blogger who mainly focuses on nightlife, day trips and tours, hostels, and beach resorts while traveling in Southeast Asia.