Hospitality is a hallmark of Albanian culture dating back hundreds of years, written in the Ancient Albanian civil code of the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini: “The house is always open for guests.” Albanians are friendly people and make visitors feel very welcome.
Located at the crossroads of ancient Rome and Byzantine Empire, many conquerors have passed through the region, leaving traces of their cultures. Today, are still visible the treasures and the remains of some of the world’s great civilizations, including Hellenes, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Venetians and modern Italians. Tourists have the opportunity to touch the ruins of some of these mighty civilizations at archaeological parks.
“The land of the eagles”- Albania, is an attractive tourist destination, not only due to its varied landscapes but also thanks to its rich cultural and historical treasures. An assortment of Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches, mosques, monasteries with valuable frescoes and icons, old Ottoman-style bridges and other monuments, will all enrich your visit to Albania.
Crowning the heights of many of the country’s rugged mountains, there are castles dating back to the time of the Illyrians and into the Middle Ages. The cities of Berat and Gjirokastra, with their traditional architecture, have also been highly praised throughout the centuries by the countless visitors who traveled through Albania. Fans of archaeology will surely marvel at the mystic atmosphere of Butrint and will enjoy the beautiful panorama of the ancient city of Apollonia.
UNESCO has also honored Albania by adding three sites to the culturally prestigious World Heritage List.
Albania’s culture does not stop there – artisan practices are alive and flourishing and the country’s tradition of iso-polyphonic singing, under the protection of UNESCO, is recognized as unique in the world.
Albania’s living connection to its rich cultural heritage is also complemented by its commitment to keep in pace with highly vibrant and contemporary life, echoing its affinity and presence in the European cultural environment. Albania is a place where different religions have peacefully coexisted side by side, during all history and have been lauded as an example of religious harmony worldwide.
The Clock Tower in Tirana
The Locked Tower in Theth, North Albania
The Old Tower in Gjirokastra, South Albania
The Tower of Berat Castle
Mic Sokoli Tower in Tropoja
The Clock Tower in Elbasan
Venetian Tower in Durres
Tower House in Tropoja
The Architecture of Albania is a reflection of Albania’s historical and cultural heritage. The country’s architecture was influenced by its location within the Mediterranean Basin and progressed over the course of history as it was once inhabited by numerous civilizations including the Illyrians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans as well as modern Austro-Hungarians and Italians. In addition, missionaries, invaders, colonizers and traders brought cultural changes that had a large profound effect on building styles as well as techniques.
Berat, known as the city of a thousand windows, is a small city in Southern Albania. The architecture of Berat is diverse and enfolds the inheritance of the Illyrians and Ancient Greeks but also of various peoples and empires that have previously ruled the city among others the Byzantines and Ottomans. Nevertheless, the cityscape is notably embossed by the architectural style of the Ottomans and boasts a wealth of structures of exceptional historical and architectural interest. This led the city to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city is separated into three parts such as the residential quarter within the fortress or known as Kalaja, Mangalem and Gorica. The Kalaja is believed to have been found in antiquity as it was the settlement of the Illyrian tribe of the Desaretes. Subsequently, it was known as Antipatrea when the Romans conquered the city and called it Albanorum Oppidum. Over the centuries it has been subject to numerous conquest by the Byzantines and Ottomans.
Kalaja is well-preserved and consists of numerous houses, most of which are built of stone. Numerous churches with extraordinary decorated icons and murals still survive including the Holy Trinity Church and St. Mary of Blachernae Church. Islamic architecture is represented with the ruins of the Red Mosque and White Mosque. Worth seeing is the cistern that was constructed by the Romans. The prominent Onufri Museum of Icons is also located within the castle and displays works of Onufri and other important Albanian painter.
Houses within the Mangalem quarter were built along a steep hill towards the Gorica quarter. The facades that faces the valley have characteristically overhanging windows. Therefore, Berat owes its title to the district, the “city of a thousand windows”. There are three Ottoman mosques that include the King Mosque, Lead Mosque and notably the Bachelors Mosque. The Halveti Teqe stands behind the King Mosque and encloses an impressive carved ceiling.
Gorica was for a long time only connected through the Gorica Bridge to the rest of Berat. It is among the most popular Ottoman bridges in Albania that was built in 1780 by Ahmed Kurt Pasha. The Saint Spyridon Monastery is another prominent attraction due to its admirable Post-Byzantine style.
The architecture in Korçë is characterized by mansions and residential buildings, cobbled streets and wide boulevards with many cafés and restaurants. There is an architectural mix, due to the turbulent history, of Art Nouveau, Neoclassicism and Ottoman styles. Italian and French influences increased after the beginning of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In modernizing its infrastructure through the centuries, the city has preserved some of its history in its streets and facades.
The city was an important trade and economic centre during the eighteenth century. During the Ottoman rule, the Old Bazaar developed rapidly to become the city’s main centre of commerce. Although bazaars were typical Ottoman trading complexes developed in the towns of Albania and elsewhere in the Balkans. The Ottoman architecture is predominant within the bazaar, while recent reconstructions have led to the application of elements specific to modern architecture.
The Resurrection Cathedral is located in the center north of Bulevardi Republika. It is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in Albania, as well as one of the city’s symbols and primary tourist attractions. The cathedral is a three-nave structure and belongs to Byzantine style. It stands slightly elevated on an estrade and consists mainly of cream-white to ivory-colored stones and red bricks. The interior walls and domes are decorated with icons and frescoes.
The Mirahori Mosque was built in 1484 and founded by Iljaz Bey Mirahor. The minaret and dome of the building was damaged by an earthquake and was recently restored. It consists of white limestone blocks that lie on layers of red bricks. It is only one of the few monuments of the Ottoman period in the city and the surrounding county.