Unleash Your Inner Explorer in Gjirokastër: Top Must-Do Activities!

Saranda promenade

Nestled in the rugged terrain of southern Albania lies the historic city of Gjirokastër. With its well-preserved Ottoman-era architecture, cobblestone streets, and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, Gjirokastër is a city that captivates its visitors. As a writer and avid traveler, I had the pleasure of exploring this ancient city and its rich history, and I must say, I was thoroughly impressed.

Gjirokastër’s history dates back to ancient times, and the city is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its strategic location and natural resources made it a coveted territory for several empires, including the Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans. The city’s Ottoman legacy is evident in its architecture, which boasts of towering stone houses, winding alleys, and imposing castle walls. Walking through the city streets, one cannot help but feel transported to a different era, where the echoes of the past still reverberate throughout the present.

Despite its rich history, Gjirokastër remains largely untouched by mass tourism, making it a hidden gem for intrepid travelers. Its authentic culture and warm hospitality offer a unique experience for those seeking to immerse themselves in the local way of life. In this article, we’ll delve deeper into what makes Gjirokastër such a captivating city and why it deserves a place on your travel bucket list.

Best time to travel to Gjirokastër.

As someone who has been fortunate enough to visit Gjirokastër in Albania, I can confidently say that there is no bad time to travel to this stunning city. However, there are certainly certain times of the year that hold a special appeal.

Summer, for example, is a popular time to visit Gjirokastër. The warm weather makes it perfect for exploring the city’s many outdoor attractions, from its charming cobblestone streets to its hilltop castle. Plus, the city comes alive with festivals and events during the summer months, offering visitors an authentic glimpse into Albanian culture.

On the other hand, winter can also be a great time to visit Gjirokastër. While the weather may be colder, the city takes on a cozy, intimate atmosphere that is perfect for snuggling up with a warm cup of coffee or tea in one of its charming cafes. Plus, with fewer crowds around, visitors have more opportunity to appreciate the quiet beauty of this historic town.

Ultimately, the best time to travel to Gjirokastër depends on your personal preferences and what you hope to get out of your time there. Whether you’re looking for a bustling, sun-soaked vacation or a quiet, reflective retreat, this city has something to offer everyone.

Is Gjirokastër safe?

We find it quite baffling that people even question the safety of Gjirokastër, Albania. This charming, historic city has a warm and welcoming atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. Of course, like any other city in the world, it has its share of petty crimes such as pickpocketing and scams. However, violent crimes are almost non-existent, and the city has made significant efforts to improve safety for tourists and locals alike.

In fact, Gjirokastër is one of the safest cities in Albania, and the country itself is known for its hospitality. The locals are friendly and eager to help visitors, making it a great destination for solo travelers and families. From our experience, we feel that it’s entirely safe to explore the city on foot, even at night. Stroll through the cobblestone streets, soak up the culture and history, and indulge in some fantastic local cuisine without any worries.

Overall, we firmly believe that Gjirokastër is a hidden gem in Albania that is worth discovering, and safety should never be a concern for anyone planning a visit. By taking some basic precautions, such as sticking to well-lit areas and being aware of your surroundings, you can enjoy everything that this enchanting city has to offer, worry-free.

How to travel to Gjirokastër

As avid travelers, we can attest to the undeniable charm and beauty of Gjirokastër. However, arriving at this hidden gem of Albania can prove to be a challenge for some. Fear not, for we have devised a foolproof plan to make your journey seamless and stress-free.

First and foremost, we highly recommend flying into Tirana International Airport. From there, you can either rent a car or take a bus to Gjirokastër. While the latter option may be more budget-friendly, renting a car will offer more freedom and flexibility during your trip.

Once you arrive in Gjirokastër, we urge you to fully immerse yourself in the vibrant Albanian culture. Stroll through the city’s cobblestone streets, admire the Ottoman architecture, and indulge in the local cuisine. Don’t forget to visit the stunning Gjirokastër Castle, which offers breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings.

In conclusion, traveling to Gjirokastër may require some extra effort, but the reward is undoubtedly worth it. Follow our tips, embrace the Albanian way of life, and prepare to fall in love with this enchanting city.

Best area to stay in Gjirokastër

When it comes to Gjirokastër, deciding on the best area to stay can be a tricky task. However, we believe that the old town is the most charming and convenient location to experience the city’s unique ambience and cultural heritage. The old town’s narrow streets and historic buildings ooze with history and give travelers a glimpse of the city’s past.

While the old town may not provide the same level of comfort as some of the modern areas, it more than makes up for it with its beauty and cultural richness. You can expect to find cafes, restaurants, and traditional shops dotted around the town, serving a wide range of local specialties. Moreover, you get to interact with the locals and learn more about their unique way of life.

We understand that some visitors prefer to stay in modern areas, but if you are someone who wants to get the most out of your trip to Gjirokastër, we highly recommend staying in the old town. From the town’s intricate cobblestone streets lined with pretty old houses and local shops to its numerous museums, historical monuments, and magnificent views, you get to enjoy the best of what the city has to offer.

How to get around in Gjirokastër

We’ve all been there, trying to find our way around a new city. And Gjirokastër in Albania is no exception. But fear not, because we’ve got some insider tips to help you get around this historic city like a pro. First of all, let’s talk about walking. Gjirokastër is full of steep hills and cobblestone streets, which can be challenging for some, but walking is the best way to truly experience the charm and character of this unique city. Don’t be afraid to take your time and explore on foot.

If walking isn’t your thing, taxis are readily available. However, it’s important to negotiate the price ahead of time to avoid any surprises. Another option is to rent a car, but be aware that the narrow streets and lack of parking spots can make driving a bit stressful. We suggest opting for a smaller car if you do decide to rent.

Last but not least, public transportation is also available in Gjirokastër. Buses and minibusses run regularly between the city center and nearby towns and villages. Keep in mind that schedules may not always be reliable, so plan accordingly. No matter how you choose to get around Gjirokastër, the city’s rich history and stunning architecture are sure to make your journey worthwhile.

Places to eat in Gjirokastër


When it comes to eating out in Gjirokastër, there is no better place to try than Tradita restaurant. Not only does the establishment boast a cozy and authentic atmosphere, but the food itself is a true representation of Albanian cuisine at its finest. From the succulent grilled meats to the fragrant stews, every dish is perfectly balanced and served with a smile. We highly recommend giving Tradita a chance on your next visit to Albania, as it truly is one of the best culinary experiences in the country.


As someone who has dined at Era multiple times, I can confidently say that it is one of the best restaurants in Gjirokastër and possibly even in Albania. From the warm and welcoming atmosphere to the exquisite and authentic Albanian cuisine, Era never fails to impress. The ingredients used in their dishes are all sourced from local producers, ensuring that each bite is bursting with fresh flavors. Whether it’s their succulent lamb chops or their traditional flija, Era delivers a culinary experience that is unmatched. It’s a must-visit for anyone traveling to Gjirokastër and looking to indulge in the finest Albanian cuisine.


We highly recommend dining at the restaurant “Odeon” in Gjirokastër, Albania. Not only is the decor stunning, with its traditional architecture and gorgeous views of the city, but the food is also a true masterpiece. Every dish we tried was bursting with flavor and expertly prepared. From the savory appetizers to the mouth-watering main courses and delightful desserts, we were blown away by the quality and presentation of the dishes. The service was also impeccable, with attentive and friendly staff who added an extra touch of warmth to our dining experience. Overall, “Odeon” is a must-visit restaurant for anyone traveling to Gjirokastër.

Things to do in Gjirokastër

Visit the Gjirokastra Castle

We cannot talk about visiting Gjirokastra without mentioning the iconic fortress located at the core of this city. The Gjirokastra Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 13th century and has played a critical role in defending the city from invaders. It is a symbol of resilience, strength, and cultural heritage. Visiting this fortress is not only a fascinating historical journey, but it is a chance for us to appreciate the incredible architecture that makes this castle stand the test of time.

Walking through the castle’s cobbled paths, we cannot help but take a moment to imagine the countless stories that the walls have witnessed over time. From the clashes between the Ottoman and Albanian soldiers to the recent liberation of Albania in 1912, the Gjirokastra Castle is a living museum of Albania’s history. Additionally, the fortress offers mesmerizing panoramic views of the city, providing visitors with a chance to experience the city’s beauty in all its glory.

Finally, visiting Gjirokastra Castle highlights the importance of preserving cultural heritage and valuing history. The fortress represents the resilience of the human spirit, the importance of protecting what is valuable, and the significance of sharing stories through generations. It is a site that must be on your bucket list when visiting Albania, and we assure you that the experience of walking through the fortress’s aged walls will leave a lasting impression on any history or architecture enthusiast.

Explore the Old Bazaar

As we step into the old bazaar of Gjirokastër, we are immediately captivated by the charming cobblestone streets and ancient architecture that surrounds us. This bazaar is a true masterpiece of history, culture, and tradition that has been preserved for centuries. From the old stone houses to the artisan shops and the bustling market, there is so much to discover and explore in this vibrant corner of Albania.

We believe that visiting the old bazaar of Gjirokastër is not only a cultural delight but also an enriching experience that connects us to the legacy of ancient Albania. As we walk through the narrow alleys and interact with the friendly locals, we can’t help but feel a sense of kinship and belonging. This bazaar is a living museum that showcases the rich diversity and creativity of Albanian craftsmanship, cuisine, and music.

Overall, we highly recommend exploring the old bazaar of Gjirokastër if you want to immerse yourself in the authentic Albanian lifestyle and taste the true Balkan spirit. As you wander through the colorful stalls and admire the intricacy of the handmade souvenirs, you will discover a world of art, history, and tradition that will never leave you indifferent. Come and get lost in the old bazaar of Gjirokastër, and you will find yourself in the heart of Albania, where the past meets the present in a harmonious symphony of culture and beauty.

Hike to the Drino Valley

As seasoned travelers, we can confidently say that the “Hike to the Drino Valley” in Gjirokastër, Albania, is an activity that should not be missed. It’s a journey that will take you through some of the most awe-inspiring natural landscapes that Albania has to offer. From the serene waters of the river to the magnificent mountains that surround it, this hike has everything that a nature lover could possibly want.

But what makes this hike truly unique is the opportunity to witness the local way of life. As you walk through the valley, you’ll encounter farmers tending to their fields, shepherds guiding their flocks, and perhaps even the occasional fisherman casting his rod. These encounters offer not only a chance to appreciate the beauty of the Albanian countryside but also an insight into the daily routines of the people who call this place home.

Overall, we cannot recommend the “Hike to the Drino Valley” enough. It’s a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Albania. So grab your hiking shoes, pack a picnic, and join us on this unforgettable adventure.

Visit the Ethnographic Museum

When it comes to visiting the Ethnographic Museum in Gjirokastër, we can’t help but feel a deep sense of awe and reverence for the cultural richness on display. The museum houses an endless array of artifacts, ranging from traditional clothing and household items to weaponry and religious objects. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives of Albanians from centuries past, and we feel that any traveler would be remiss to skip out on this must-see attraction.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Ethnographic Museum is the sheer attention to detail that has gone into its curation. Each room is meticulously crafted to showcase the unique regional traditions of the surrounding area. It’s a captivating exploration of the diverse influences that have shaped Albanian culture over the years, and we find ourselves lost in thought as we wander through the exhibits.

Overall, we can’t recommend visiting the Ethnographic Museum in Gjirokastër enough. It’s a fascinating journey through Albania’s rich cultural heritage, and we believe that any traveler with an interest in history, art, or anthropology will find something to love here. So if you’re planning a trip to this beautiful country, be sure to add the museum to your itinerary – you won’t regret it!

Check out the Ottoman-style houses

We cannot stress enough the importance of adding the Ottoman-style houses in Gjirokastër to your travel itinerary. This activity is not just another touristy thing to do, it is an experience that immerses you in the rich history and culture of Albania. Walking through the narrow cobblestone streets, surrounded by houses that have withstood the test of time, we cannot help but feel in awe of the architectural marvels that stand before us.

It is not just the aesthetically pleasing façade and the intricate wood carvings that make these houses special. They hold within them the stories of generations of families who have lived there. Each house is a reflection of the time it was built in, with distinct features tailored to suit the needs of its inhabitants. The houses also serve as a testament to the resilience of the Albanian people, who have survived countless invasions and conflicts over the course of their history.

We implore you not to miss out on this opportunity to learn about the Ottoman-era architecture in Albania. It is not just a sight to behold, it is an experience that allows you to walk in the footsteps of those who came before us, and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of this beautiful country.

Visit the Skenduli House

As one of the best-preserved Ottoman houses in Albania, the Skenduli House in Gjirokastër is a must-visit for anyone interested in history, architecture, or culture. From its impressive stone walls to its ornate ceilings, every inch of the house is a testament to the beauty and sophistication of Ottoman-era design.

Stepping inside the Skenduli House, we were immediately struck by the sense of history that permeated the space. The rooms are filled with antique furniture, hand-woven textiles, and traditional household items that transport visitors back in time to a bygone era. Every detail has been carefully preserved, providing an immersive and unforgettable experience.

But beyond its cultural importance, the Skenduli House is also a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the Albanian people. Despite centuries of political turmoil and cultural upheaval, the house has remained a symbol of national pride and a beacon of hope for future generations. As such, visiting the Skenduli House is not only an opportunity to learn about the past but also a chance to celebrate the enduring spirit of Albania and its people.

See the Gjirokastra Mosque

When it comes to exploring Gjirokastër, one activity that should be at the top of any traveler’s list is visiting the Gjirokastra Mosque. Not only is it an impressive example of Ottoman architecture, but it also holds significant cultural and historical significance.

Now, we understand that some may have reservations about entering a mosque as a non-Muslim. However, we urge you to put those concerns aside and appreciate the beauty and significance of this landmark. It’s important to remember that as travelers, we are guests in these destinations and should prioritize respecting their cultural traditions.

Plus, visiting the Gjirokastra Mosque is a chance to learn more about Albania’s Muslim community and their role in the country’s history and culture. So, whether you are Muslim or not, we strongly encourage you to add this activity to your itinerary and embrace the diversity and richness of Gjirokastër.

Walk through the Bektashi tekke

Walking through the Bektashi tekke in Gjirokastër is an experience that we cannot recommend enough. It is not just a visit to a religious site, but a journey into the history and culture of Albania. The tekke is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture, and this particular one is known for being unique in its design. It is certainly worth a visit just to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship on display.

But what makes this experience truly special is the opportunity to learn about the Bektashi order, as this is one of the few places where you can witness their traditions firsthand. The Bektashis have a reputation for being an open-minded and tolerant sect, so visitors can join in their prayers and rituals without fear of judgment or exclusion. This inclusivity is especially important in today’s world, where differences are often used to divide us. It is a refreshing message of unity and understanding.

Finally, walking through the tekke is also an opportunity to connect with the local community. Gjirokastër is a small town, and the Bektashi tekke is an important part of its history and identity. By visiting the tekke, we can support the local economy and show our appreciation for the town and its people. It is a reminder that no matter how far we travel, we are all connected in some way, and we can find common ground even in the most unexpected places.

Check out the Cold War Tunnel

We cannot stress enough the importance of visiting the Cold War Tunnel in Gjirokastër, Albania. The tunnel is a testament to Albania’s tumultuous past, and provides an intriguing glimpse into the country’s history. It’s one thing to read about the Cold War in books, but to walk through the very tunnels that were used to hide valuable military equipment is a truly unique experience.

As you walk through the narrow passages of the Cold War Tunnel, the walls seem to echo with the whispers of a bygone era. The feeling of being transported back to a time of political unrest and tension is unlike anything else. The tunnel’s eerie atmosphere leaves a lasting impression and is a powerful reminder of how far Albania has come since those days.

In short, a visit to the Cold War Tunnel is a must for anyone visiting Gjirokastër. It offers an unforgettable glimpse into Albania’s past, and a chance to reflect on how much has changed since those tumultuous times. We urge you not to miss out on this fascinating and enlightening experience.


In conclusion, Gjirokastër is a treasure trove of history and culture that leaves every visitor in awe. Its cobbled streets, ancient castles, and colorful bazaars all speak to the rich Albanian heritage that has been preserved for centuries. Despite its fraught past, the city has evolved into a vibrant mosaic of tradition and modernity, attracting tourists from all corners of the globe.

As we explored the city, we couldn’t help but feel enamored by Gjirokastër’s charm, hospitality, and joie de vivre. Every corner holds a new surprise and every building a new story. From the Ottoman-style houses to the scrumptious local cuisine, there is never a dull moment in this quaint city. We left mesmerized by the warmth of its people, the beauty of its landscapes, and the depth of its history.

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination that blends history, adventure, and authenticity, Gjirokastër should be on top of your must-visit list. From the spectacular Ottoman castle to the National Folk Festival, the city offers a unique glimpse into the true essence of Albania. Whether you’re traveling solo, with family, or friends, Gjirokastër is sure to leave an indelible impression on your heart and soul. So pack your bags, book your tickets and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in one of the most enchanting cities in the world.

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