Updated: Nov 16, 2022
UNESCO is an organization that believes that peace is built in the minds of men and women and opens doors through understanding the values, fostering respect for each other and the planet, and the historical importance of all locations around the world. One of the locations that was turned into an UNESCO site is in Albania. The historic center of Berat is in the top 10 on my list of UNESCO sites. These sites are an exceptional version of this mission. This stunning city is located in central Albania, where several empires had major influence over the city, turning it into a great example of the coexistence of various religious and cultural communities over the centuries.
Berat has seen the influence of Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Slavic, and Turkish cultures, just to name a few. This influence shows today, from the culture to the architecture. In fact, it is one of the few places where you can still see Ottoman architecture and buildings. One of the city's most stunning sites is the historic Kalaja Castle. It overlooks the 'new' town of Berat and the historic center from high in the rocky outcropping of the mountains. Today you can visit the castle's interior, part of which is inhabited. It can be hard to tell what is a historical artifact and what is someone's backyard. In addition to the historical side of the castle, there are restaurants and a hotel if you are looking to extend your stay in Berat.
The rest of the historic city is broken into two cities, straddling the river. The first is Mangalem, the traditionally Muslim quarter and site of many Ottoman structures. One of the most significant is the Sultan's Mosque. Thought to be one of the oldest in Albania, the Sultan's or King's Mosque, was built in the 15th century. This still practicing Mosque was rebuilt in the 19th century for fear of collapse. This Mosque holds incredible religious and cultural value for those of the city today.
Across the river, the other half of the historic city is Gorica. The best view is perhaps from across the river in Mangalem, but exploring the cobblestone streets and strolling through the town is one of my favorite ways to explore. As you cross this historic Ottoman bridge, this side of the city has fewer historically significant buildings but is full of homes that have walls of windows facing the river. That is how it got the name Town of a Thousand Windows. If you are feeling adventurous and would like another bird's eye view of the city from this side of the river, head up to the Gorica ruins. This hiking trail winds you up the mountain to the ruins of a Roman castle. These are a bit hard to find as it is unmarked, but as you near the ruins, you'll see the remains of a stone wall. This castle is less significant than Kalja Castle, but the views are just as stunning.
Now that you've learned a little bit more about the historic city of Berat, are you ready to visit the Town of a Thousand Windows for one of the most breathtaking experiences of your life? Schedule an online consultation to plan your perfect trip to Albania and the historic city of Berat.