Hotels, motels and where to sleep
Restaurant, taverns and where to eat
Cultural (and not so cultural) events
Interesting information and useful tips
Location: Gjirokastër, Gjirokastër Province
Built: 12th century
Gjirokastër Castle was originally constructed in the 12th century to guard
the strategic route in the river valley below. Western additions were
ordered by Ali Pasha of Tepeline in 1812. At the time of the Ottoman
Empire, this historic fortress was called Ergiri, and the local
Greeks called it Argirokastro, the name also applied to the castle.
Castle Gjirokastra located at an altitude of 336 meters.
Gjirokastra castle was built in the 12th century to protect the
river valley below. During Ottoman rule, the castle remained an
important strategic fortress for the protection of the empire from
the West. The western walls were added by Ali Pasha Tepelin in 1812
after his successful military campaign. The Albanian king Zog
increased the castle and turned it into a prison in 1932.
Today the castle is open to visitors. Here you can see a collection
of military equipment during the Second World War and the Cold War.
Part of the weapon was captured by Albanian partisans during
military operations against the Wehrmacht. Most American planes got
here after they "accidentally" flew into the territory of Albania.
Ethnographic Museum, Rr. Hysen Hoxha, 3. Once
Enver Hoxha's house, it is a well-restored Ottoman house which
displays clothing, kitchenware, tools and other cultural artifacts.
The guided tour (available in Albanian, English, and German though
availability should be checked in advance). The entrance fee is 200
lek and includes a guided tour.
Old Bazaar and Historic Ottoman
Homes. The old bazaar is still the social and commercial center of
the Old Town of Gjirokaster. Though the newer sections of the city
have attracted many businesses and people, the bazaar and its
surrounding homes dating from the 18th, 19th and early 20th
centuries still manages to capture a bit of the bygone era of
Gjirokastrite life. Several of the houses are at various levels of
restoration and are open to the public. Traditional houses include
Cabej House, and Topulli House. The Bazaar has undergone a cleaning
and exterior restoration as part of the government's revitalization
Kadare House. House of renown writer Ismail Kadare
Skenduli House. A renovated
Zekate House, Rruga Mazllëm Shazivari, (in the
historic Palorto quarter). It is the most visited of Gjirokastër's
monumental stone houses. It is one of the largest of its kind,
featuring three floors spread over two large towers. The house was
recently restored again (having undergone earlier restorations
during the Communist era) and is kept open by its owners as a museum
house. In addition to providing an interesting primer of the
characteristic architectural elements of the city's tower houses, it
offers a beautiful view of the city below.
Saint Sotira Church
(in the Old Bazaar quarter). every day between 07:00-07:30 and
19:00-19:30; Sunday Service takes place between 07:00 and 10:00 can
also be visited upon request. this is a well preserved 18th century
Gjirokaster Mosque, Rruga Gjin Zenebisi (in the
Old Bazaar). This mosque is a true testimony of the communist
religious ban in Albania. Spared from destruction from its religious
importance, the mosque was transformed as a circus training centre
only to return to its original setting after the 1990s in the form
of a Muslim school.
Seven Fountains, Mechite Mosque Remains, and
the Hamams. The fountains and the exterior of the Hamams have been
restored. One can observe the dedicatory inscriptions on the
fountains and the cone shaped traditional roofs of the Hamams.
Cold War Museum. Underground bunker of Enver Hoxha with around 70
rooms built for emergency situations.
Sofratike (Sofratikë) (14 km South east of
Gjirokastër). Site of an ancient theater and baths
km North west of Gjirokastër). site of an ancient castle
Paleokaster (Palokastër) (12 km north Gjirokastër). Site of an
Labove (Labovë e Sipërme, Labovë e Madhe) (20
km east via Libohove). Home of one of the oldest standing Orthodox
churches in the Balkans and Tombs of Ali Pasha's sister and nephew
in Libohove village.
Tepelena (33 km North west of Gjirokastër).
the fortress of Ali Pasha
The Illyrian city of Antigone (Qyteti
i vjetër i Antigonesë), near the village of Asim Zeneli (roughly 6
km east). This village is the starting point of a 3-hour round trip
hike to the ruins of Antigone; it makes a nice day hike for the
physically fit (you will want to hire a local shepherd as a guide)
History of Gjirokastra castle
Gjirokastër castle has existed in various forms since before the
12th century. Extensive renovations and a westward addition was
added by Ali Pasha of Tepelene after 1812. The government of King
Zog expanded the castle prison in 1932.
Today it possesses
five towers and houses, the new Gjirokastër Museum, a clock tower, a
church, a cistern, the stage of the National Folk Festival, and many
other points of interest.
The castle's prison was used
extensively by Zog's government and housed political prisoners
during the Communist regime.
Gjirokastra castle is under
protection from UNESCO.
How to get there
The SH4 road passes by the city,
from which well-understood signposts lead to a parking lot in the
old town. It is best to leave your car on this parking lot, as the
streets in the old town are narrow, winding, and pass through the
mountainous terrain, and slopes of 15% are common. Southeast of
Gjirokastra SH4 comes to the border crossing to Greece, and then
continues through northern Greece, resting on the ЕО20 road. To the
south from there you find yourself in Janina and, if necessary, in
southern Greece and Athens, to the north ultimately in Macedonia,
Bulgaria or Turkey, as well as in Thessaloniki. Count on a full
day's ride to any of these boundaries, plus in any case you will
lose a lot of time at the popular border crossing. To the northwest,
the road from Gjirokastra leads to Vlora,
and from there along the coast to Durres
and Tirana. To Tirana a few hours by car.
Regional Bus & Furgon Station (at the entrance to the
town, on the North-West corner where the town's main boulevard
intersects the National Road. It is just past this intersection
going north, on an empty lot opposite a shopping complex which
includes Drino and Kaffe Bar Lani. There is a small shelter there
with seating and a sign saying Autobus Bileta ("bus tickets").).
It's less of a "bus station" and more of a collective gathering
place for buses and furgons (shared minibuses) along the shoulder of
the road. From here you can catch northbound buses to Tirana, Vlorë,
Fier, Berat, Tepelene, Korçë, Permet, and southbound buses to
Sarandë. -International buses direct to Ioannina (€5, 07:0/
departure) and Athens (€20, 20:30 departure) in Greece are available
from the private bus agency offices found around the junction. A
shuttle to the Kakavie border crossing with Greece runs several
times a day. - Buses depart every day on the route Sarandë -
Gjirokastër (300 leke) stopping hourly at the bottom of the hill
until the early afternoon. Buses and minibuses are going to Tirana
(1000 leke) every hour from around 07:00 until 13:00, then there is
a bus at 14:30 and a night bus leaving at 24:00 (it arrives in
Tirane at 05:45 near Skanderbeg Square).
other tourism information is available from the employees of the
Tourism Information Center (TIC), located in the old town, on the
left side of the road leading towards the Gjirokastra castle.
Gjirokastër can be divided into roughly two
halves, the old town up on the hill, and the new town in the valley
below. You can walk just about anywhere if you're able to handle the
steep cobbled streets. Taxis in Gjirokastra are cheap and there is a
public bus circuit that connects the old town and the new town for
about 30 leke. From the roundabout at the center of town to the bus
station on the National Road is a fairly flat, easy, 10-minute walk
along the main boulevard. Taxis will make this trip for around 200
Kotoni Bed&Breakfast, Rr. Bashkim Kokona, 8, ☎ +355 84 263526,
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The first guest house in Gjirokastra,
since 1992, comes up with more traditional rooms and a
characteristic restaurant. Each room has coloured satellite TV,
bathroom, heating. 200 m from the old bazaar, you can have a great
view of the old and new part of the town. - +phone=+355 69 23 66 846
Hashorva Guesthouse, Rr. Varosh, e-mail:
HashorvaGuestHouse@gmail.com. The Hashorva Family, a well
established name in the Lagjia Varosh Neighborhood, offers one very
large, faithfully restored traditional Ottoman Era room, with a
double bed and sitting area. The house is over 200 years old and is
kept in wonderful condition by its original owners. Naturally cool
in the summer, the guest bathroom is off the main hallway with
24-hour hot water and modern facilities. It's in the heart of
Gjirokastër, an easy 5 to 15 minutes walk from all the major sites
of Historic Old Town and 10 minutes walk to the new town and the bus
station on the National Road. The large guest room is €20/night - it
has a large double bed, a single bed off to the side. (Payment can
be made by cash only in Albanian lek, euros or US dollars - Or you
can book in advance online using a credit card at
Hotel Relax, streets Sheshi i Çerçizit. 9 double rooms and 1 suite,
with A/C. This wonderful hotel lies at the foot of the hilly center
of beautiful Gjirokaster. It is a small hotel owned by a very sweet
family. The father handles business, and is helped by his nice
teenage daughter. They are incredible friendly and the hotel is very
clean and has everything you need, including a cosy sitting area and
balcony, overlooking the square. There is a bar downstairs, also
owned by the family, so after visiting Gjirokaster it is perfect to
relax and have a drink. €25 inc. breakfast.
Hotel Sopoti (Sopoti
Hostel), Pazar i Vjeter (Old Pazar, Gjirokastër). Check-in: anytime,
check-out: 11:00. A formerly grand hotel, it feels somewhat
forgotten; rooms are basic, ask for one with a balcony to get a view
of the castle, bathrooms are shared. The manager of the hotel is a
refined older gentleman who also runs the bar/kafe downstairs. He
knows some English. 1000 leke/person. editprice is 1200 lek per
person. If you ask for wifi internet (which doesnt seem to happen
very often) you will be given the password for a nearby cafe, but it
is too far away so it can only work betwwen 03:00 and 06:00 when
nobody else uses it. still a good choice for a single traveller as
it is cheaper than a dorm bed in one of the towns hostels
Gjirokaster. Modeled after a traditional Ottoman House. Excellent
location that is half-way between the castle and the market area.
Friendly staff and free breakfast included.
Gjirokastër is known for its Qifqi (baked dish made of rice, egg,
and seasonings). The city is also well known for its dairy products,
especially its white cheese.
There are also well established
restaurants in Gjirokastër catering to travellers and the local
Fantazia – specializes in pizza and salad,
but offers traditional Albanian fare, good views of the city.
Kujtim's – serves a wide variety of Gjirokastrian specialties.
The newly renovated Çajupi Hotel's Terrace Restaurant,
Muço's Suflaç & Restaurant – Good omelets in the morning
Hajri's Coffee Bar
Antigone Fast Food Suflaç,
Suflaç at the Hotel One
Modus Cafe – for coffee
Viroit Park (Parku i Viroit), Parku i Viroit (located 2 km north,
along the SH4). A park encompassing the Viroi Lake and surrounding
hills. The park features a relaxing environment and an accommodation
National Folklore Festival. A festival
showcasing traditional Albanian music and dance considered as the
most important event in its genre. Held every 5 years since 1968 in
Gjirokaster Castle, it was last held in May 2015. An artisans'
exhibition took place as well.
Take a look at the
Artisans' Center near the Information Center featuring many
souvenirs and traditional crafts.
There are internet cafes in
Gjirokastër which usually charge between 50 and 100 lek per hour.
Internet Kafe (Opposite the mosque)
Google Internet Kafe
There are also a few cafes which provide free wireless:
Cajupi (on the roof top terrace/cafe)
Gulf fuel station on the road to Saranda. A
coffee is 100 lek, doubtful if you may find a cheaper option
Greece Greece, Konsulata e Pergjithshme e
Greqise - Sheshi I Cercizit, Gjirokaster, ☎ +355 8426 3804, +355
8426 2010 (Emergencies), fax: +355 8426 8141, e-mail:
email@example.com. M-F 09:30-16:30.