Berat vs Gjirokaster - Why You Should Visit Both Albanian UNESCO Towns!

Berat vs Gjirokaster – Why You Should Visit Both Albanian UNESCO Towns!

During my travel to Albania, I made a decision that many locals and travellers I met found odd at the time. I decided to stay 4 days in Berat and one week in Gjirocaster. But hear me out!

I wanted to stay in a nice, charming town, where I could focus on catching up on my blog for a few days, enjoy walks along historical cobbled streets and blend into the local life somewhere in between.

If I were to make this decision today, I would do it differently now that I’ve been to both Berat and Gjorocaster. I based my decision very much on the photos I saw, and I have been dreaming of Gjirocaster ever since I saw the photos of its old bazaar.

I made it to Berat first, and it stole my heart. I knew then, that I should have planned a longer stay there. But I equally loved Gjirocaster. 

So I get it! If you have to choose between Berat and Gjoricaster, it can be hard.

Many travellers to Albania ask which Unesco city is better, Berat or Gjirocaster? Should you visit both or just one of them?

Are Berat and Gjirocaster similar?

Or maybe you want to visit both but wondering which one should you spend more time in?

Are you wondering what are the best tourist SIM cards in Albania? Head over to this post, where I compare all the sim card providers in Albania and their plans and will tell you what was my favourite sim card provider in Albania and why.

considering renting a car in Albania? If you are travelling in high season, book early. Prices increase the later you book a car. Of course, you can also rent a car at the airport. There are several car rental agencies outside the arrival terminal and you can also negotiate the price.

You can also search for the best prices and pre-book online on Expedia or Discover Cars website

If you’re only staying in Albania for a week or a few days, you might be considering choosing just one of those towns.

If that’s your only option, I am here to help.

In this post, I will highlight all the main differences so you can make your own decision. But I will also tell you why I think you should see both because truly they are so different.

You will learn about the most important things to do and attractions in both Berat and Gjirocaster so you can choose the one that rocks your boat the most.  

Why You Should Visit Both Berat and Gjirocaster

First of all, no two cities are the same, and the same is true for Berat and Gjirocaster. Yes, both are Unesco sites, but so is Venice, which does not make it comparable to Berat, for example.

Both Berat and Gjirocaster are among the most beautiful cities in Albania. Both have stunning, very interesting and remarkably well-preserved Ottoman architecture. They are also, in my opinion, among the best towns in Albania for solo travellers and backpackers.

Berat vs Gjirokaster - Why You Should Visit Both Albanian UNESCO Towns!
Berat vs Gjirokaster - Why You Should Visit Both Albanian UNESCO Towns!

Berat – The Overview

Berat, known as the “city of a thousand windows”, boasts fascinating architecture and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009. Berat has not one, but two distinctive historic old towns – Mangelem and Gorica, situated on the hills on opposite sides of the scenic Osum River. This makes Berat one of the most picturesque towns in Albania.

The grounds of Berat Castle are still inhabited today, and you could easily spend half a day there! It is one of my favourite castles of all time!

To top it up, Berat is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes and you can take an awesome trip to Osumi Canyon, and Bogova Waterfalls.

Berat vs Gjirokaster
Berat vs Gjirokaster

What I loved about Berat

Apart from the incredible surroundings and the beauty of the town, Berat feels somehow cool.

Everything is close by. Whether you want to see the Mangalem, hike to Gorica,  eat a meal out, take evening walks or shop in the supermarket, you just walk out of your hotel or hostel and you are there. 

Berat is small enough that you would not even have to think about public transport but with enough things to do and places to visit to not feel bored.

I also found it pretty cheap and the hostel I stayed in was one of the best hostels in Albania (Hannas Hostel)

Berat vs Gjirokaster
Berat vs Gjirokaster
Berat vs Gjirokaster

Gjirocaster – The Overview

Gjirocaster, known as the Stone City, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and described as “a “rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town”. But don’t be fooled, the architecture of Gjirocaster is very different from that of Berat.
Situated on a hill, Gjirocaster feels a little isolated from the rest of the world. This adds to its charm and magic. It’s also a bit more colourful compared to Berat, as the highlight of the town is definitely its vibrant Old Bazaar!

Berat vs Gjirokaster
Berat vs Gjirokaster

The castle of Gjirocaster is also not too shabby and offers incredible panoramic views!
One of the most striking features of Gjirocaster are its stone houses from the Ottoman period. These houses with their characteristic slate roofs and whitewashed walls create a charming and unique atmosphere.

Berat vs Gjirokaster
Berat vs Gjirokaster

What I loved about Gjirocaster

Gjirocaster is magical and the architecture and atmosphere are top-notch! I very much enjoyed the Old Bazar for its colours and unique vibe. Plenty of fantastic restaurants and quirky bars too!

I couldn’t stop admiring the surrounding landscapes. The setting of this historical town is unbeatable.

I also liked how nothing is too far away from each other even I stayed in the neighbouring quarter of Manalat.

What I didn’t love, however, was the fact that apart from the tourist attractions, there wasn’t much more to the town. For anything like grocery shopping or bus transfers, I had to walk all the way down to the new part of town and then all the way back up again a proper steep hill or opt for the bus. 

Berat vs Gjirokaster
Berat vs Gjirokaster

If you decided that want to visit both Berat and Gjirocaster and now wondering how long should you stay – both can be visited for one day if you are short on time. 

I do recommend spending at least two days in each, and even three, especially if you want to take a day trip like Osumi Canyon from Berat or Blue Eye from Gjirocaster.

If you are looking for a place to stay for a little longer, then definitely, you should choose Berat as it is more of a town than just a tourist spot.  If I was to return to one of these towns and stay put for a while, Berat would be my number one choice. This is mostly due to friendly prices, an abundance of facilities like shops, supermarkets and more of a unique local feel. 

The Main Differences Between Berat and Gjirocaster

The main difference between Gjirocaster and Berat is that the first feels more like an open-air museum and the latter is an actual town where people live normal lives and not everything is turning around tourism. 

Berat is also a slightly bigger town with more facilities. Gjirocaster on the other hand is just oozing charm from every single corner. 

Also, Berat is a little closer to Tirana so if you are planning a quick stopover, it could be a better choice. 

If you staying around the Albanian Riviera like Sarande or Ksamil, Gjirocaster could be easier to reach and you could stop by the Blur Eye!

How to Choose Between Berat and Gjirocaster

Why choose Berat?

Berat is more affordable! You will pay less for accommodation and eating out. If you choose to cook at Airbnb or a hostel, you will find a very decent large supermarket too. 

Berat is closer to Tirana and Vlore.

Berat is better if you want to stay for longer or are a digital nomad.

Berat is better if you are not keen on constantly walking up and down and want to just walk around the flat and a flat town once in a while. Both historical districts are located on the hill but the town itself is pretty flat.

Berat has the best castle and citadel in Albania (in my humble opinion)

Berat vs Gjirokaster
Berat vs Gjirokaster

Why Choose Gjirocaster?

Gjirocaster’s Old Bazaar is stunning and there is an abundance of historical stone houses, museums and colourful cobbled streets to get lost around.

Gjirocaster is better if you are looking for an incredible and somewhat dramatic location.

Gjirocaster is better if you want to visit the Blue Eye.

Gjirokaster is closer to Sarande and the Albanian Riviera.

Gjirokaster is better if you want to stay in the best hostel in Albania, the  Stone City Hostel.

Gjirokaster is better if you are looking for a vibrant backpacking scene, although Berat is pretty cool in that matter too!

Berat vs Gjirokaster
Berat vs Gjirokaster

So I hope this post helped you and now you have your itinerary set. I really hope you will manage to see both Berat and Gjirocaster as they are both very unique and equally worth visiting!

Exploring North of Albania next?

If you are visiting Shkoder, be sure to read my complete guide to all the wonderful things to do in Shkoder as well as a guide on how to visit Shala River. And if you are planning a visit to Theth and hiking the Albanian Alps I have you covered too!

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