There are few better places to be in Albania than standing on the footbridge in the charming, easy-going town of BERAT. From this vantage point, you’ll be surrounded by huddles of Ottoman houses, their dark, rectangular windows staring from whitewashed walls like a thousand eyes. On the south bank is the sleepy Gorica district, kept in shadow for much of the day by a muscular backdrop of rock; to the north is the relatively sun-drenched Mangalemi district, from which steep, cobblestoned paths lead up to the hill-top Kalasa, an old citadel whose wonderful interior is up there with the best old towns in the Balkans.
You’ll have great views of Berat from the fourteenth-century Kalasa, a splendidly restored citadel citadel (daily: April–Sept 8am–8pm; Oct–March 8am–5pm; 100L or free out of hours) towering above town, which is accessed via a steep, cobbled road. This is still a functioning part of town and home to hundreds, yet almost nothing dilutes its centuries-old vibe; visit at night and you’re in for a wonderfully eerie treat. There were once over thirty churches here but just a handful remain; oldest and most beautiful is the thirteenth-century Church of the Holy Trinity, sitting on the slope below the inner fortifications. Churches remain locked for most of the year, but the key-keepers are usually hanging around nearby. Also within the grounds is the Onufri Museum (Tues–Sun 9am–4pm; 200L), dedicated to the country’s foremost icon painter, famed for his use of a particularly vivid red. Heading back down the access road, you’ll come across the diverting Ethnographic Museum (daily: May–Sept 9am–1pm & 4–7pm, Sun 9am–2pm; Oct–April 9am–4pm, Sun 9am–2pm; 200L) and the first of the centre’s three main mosques.