This 2,413 years-old city, the pride of Albanian architecture which is under the protection of UNESCO, is located 120 km from Tirana. The city forms a wonderful combination of eastern and western cultures, costumes, traditions and outlook. Berat is a treasure-trove of Albanian history, culture and a testament to the country’s tradition of religious harmony.
The city’s life began in the VI – V century B.C. as an Illyrian settlement. Later, in the III century B.C., it was turned into a castle city known as Antipatrea. The castle expanded east wards, particularly during the feudal dominion of the feudalMuzakaj family. Inside the castle, they built churches with precious frescos and icons and also a calligraphy school of calligraphy. Today, the castle is made unique by the fact that people continue to live inside of it.The three major neighborhoods of the old city are Mangalemi, Gorica, and Kala, where the castle itself is located. In Mangalemi, below the castle, you can see the famous view of the facades of the houses, with windows that seem to stand above each other. In general, a traditional house has two floors, where the second is prominent and has many cambered windows and wood carvings. With its houses built along the steep hill, the view of Mangalemi is the reason that another name for Berati is “City of the Floating Windows.”
Across the Osumi River lies the Gorica neighborhood, whose houses face those of Mangalemi. The arched bridge of Gorica, built in 1780, is a beautiful architectural monument constructed to link Gorica with Mangelemi.
The ensemble of the Byzantine churches in the castle of Berati is extraordinary. At the foot of the castle, there is the Byzantine Church of Shën Mëhilli( Saint Michael) , while the 13th century Church of Shën Maria e Vllahernës ( Saint Mary of Blachernaebuil in XIII century), the Church of Shën Triadha (The Holy Trinity) and the post-Byzantine monumental Cathedral of Shën Maria (Saint Mary) are located within the castle.
The Cathedral of Shën Mëria houses a museum of works by the famous iconographers of the 16th century: Onufri and his son Nikolla. There are over 100 icons on display and they also include works of other artists such as Joan Çetiri, Onufër Qiprioti and many anonymous painters.
You also can visit the Monastery of Shën Spiridhoni in Gorica. In 1417, the Ottomans occupied Berati and this conquest left its mark with the building of monuments to the Islamic faith such as the Xhamia e Kuqe( The Red Mosque) inside the castle, the Xhamia e Plumbit (1555), ( The Lead Mosque) ,Xhamia Mbret ( built in 1481 ) ( The King Mosque), and the Xhamia e Beqarëve (1872). Other sites worth visiting are the Ethnographic Museum, situated inside an 18th century çardak building, and the Gallery of Arts “Edward Lear,” a well known English painter who painted so much of Berati and Albania. In addition, Berati is known for its culinary and traditional dishes. It is worth tasting specialties such as " Pula me përshesh" and "Çorba e Tomorrit" in the local restaurants.