When I added Albania to my itinerary, I had no real expectations of what I would encounter. I suspected the logistics of the country would be challenging — no trains in or out, for example — and that a smaller percentage of the population would speak English given the country was largely isolated from the rest of the world until the 1990s. Both of those things turned out to be true. But, what I couldn’t have anticipated was the fascinating history and culture. I’d read enough about Berat (historically called Antipatreia) to know it was a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I decided to take a day trip.
On the way to Berat, my tour guide Armando took me to the seaside town of Durres, Albania’s second-largest city, where we stopped and had a coffee on the beach. The Albanian seaside is gorgeous, definitely could have spent more time there.
Perhaps the most interesting thing — to me anyway — about the Berat Castle is that people still live within the castle walls. It is like a small village, with homes, guesthouses, cafes and eateries inside the original castle bounds. The castle was burned by the Romans in 200 BC, but later fortified and reconstructed by Justinian in the 5th Century.
Located off one of the main squares (above) is this absolutely adorable guesthouse. I’d definitely consider a stay there. The garden was amazing.
From the castle you get a nice view of Berat, with the Old Town on the left and the newer area to the right.
Inside the castle walls, you will find a number of churches and mosques, like this Orthodox stunner that has classic Byzantine styling.
All good castles need a cistern, or water source, and this one still has water in it.
One of the mosques located inside the castle’s wall — the Red Mosque. The other is cleverly named the White Mosque.
A structure that was taken over by the government during the Communist Era and turned into a community center. It now sits empty.
The view of “new” Berat from the castle. The ninth-largest city in Albania, Berat has about 33,000 residents.
Some of the original castle structure that hasn’t been touched by renovations.
The entrance to the castle, which is lined with little souvenir shops and stalls run by residents selling everything from magnets to intricate lace linens.
A stone pedestrian bridge across the Osum River, which separates the castle from Old Town.
Looking across the river, you get a stunning view of the castle, and you can see the bright red Albanian flag waving in the breeze all the way at the top.
In addition to Old Town, Berat has a very cute pedestrian area lined with cafes and shops that abuts a large green space. It’s perfect for an afternoon drink or a bite to eat.