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Gjirokastër

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Gjirokastër is in Southeastern Albania.

View of Gjirokaster from the Castle

Understand[edit]

Get in[edit]

Historic Gjirokaster is one of Albania's three UNESCO sites. The primary Regional Bus & Furgon Station in Gjirokaster is located at the entrance to the town, on the NW corner where the town's main boulevard intersects the National Road. 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, Vlore, Fier, Berat, Tepelene, Korce, Permet, and southbound buses to Sarandë. International buses direct to Ioannina (5 Euro/ 7AM departure) and Athens (20 Euro/ 8:30PM 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 7AM until 12noon, then there is a bus at 2:30PM and a night bus leaving at 11PM (it arrives in Tirane at 5:45AM near Skanderbeg Square).

Transportation and 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 castle.

Get around[edit]

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 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 leke.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Gjirokastër Castle at the top of the hill, 200 leke entrance. The historical and geographical center of the city, the Castle is billed as the second largest in all the Balkans, and is worth a look. The Armaments Museum is located in the castle (separate 200 Leke entrance) and contains a collection of mostly post-War era weapons, photographs and artwork: the main gallery, with its eerily lit corridor, contains two columns of large German and Italian field guns, remnants of WWII. The Castle also contains two Bektashi tekes, the stage for the internationally-renowned Gjirokaster National Folk Festival, a prison (now part of the Armaments Museum and available with an extra charge) and numerous chambers, some in ruins, open to exploration. A second museum gallery, the Zenebishi Gallery, features occasional free art exhibits. Underneath the castle is the recently discovered underground bunker built in the Cold War.
  • 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 entrance fee is 200 lek and includes a guided tour (available in Albanian, English, and German though availability should be checked in advance).
  • Old Bazaar and Historic Ottoman Homes The old bazaar is still the social and commerical 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, Kadare House, Topulli House, and Skenduli House. The Bazaar itself has recently undergone a cleaning and exterior restoration as part of the government's revitalization plan.
  • Zekate House, located in the historic Palorto quarter of the city, 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 (open every day between 07.00 - 07.30 and 19.00 - 19.30; Sunday Service takes place between 7AM and 10AM; can also be visited upon request). Located in the Old Bazaar quarter, this is a well preserved 18th century Orthodox Church.
  • Gjirokaster Mosque. Located in 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 recently restored. One can observe the dedicatory inscriptions on the fountains and the cone shaped traditional roofs of the Hamams.
  • National Folklore Festival[2] is 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 September 2009. An artisans' exhibition took place as well.
An example of some of the old Ottoman houses in Gjirokastër

Archaeological sites[edit]

  • Sofratika, site of an ancient theater and baths
  • Kardhiqi, site of an ancient castle
  • Paleokaster, site of an ancient village
  • Labove, 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 the fortress of Ali Pasha.
  • The Illyrian city of Antigone is located near the village of Asim Zeneli, which is roughly 6km East of Gjirokaster. 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).

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Take a look at the Artisans' Center [3] located near the Information Center featuring many souvenirs and traditional crafts
  • Viroit Park (Parku i Viroit) is a park encompassing the Viroi Lake and surrounding hills located 2 km north of Gjirokastër along the SH4. The park features a relaxing environment and an accommodation area.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Something traditional

Eat[edit][add listing]

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 a number of well established restaurants in Gjirokastër catering to travellers and the local crowd.

Old town

  • 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,
  • The Byrek Shop
  • Muço's Suflaç & Restaurant – Good omelets in the morning
  • Hajri's Coffee Bar
  • Sopoti Cafe...

New town

  • Kufoi's, Pizza Erai
  • Antigone Fast Food Suflaç,
  • Suflaç at the Hotel One Restaurant
  • Modus Cafe – for coffee

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Viva Vino Wine Bar, Lagja 18 shtatori (near supermarket Stroka 1), 00355 694423189, [4]. The first bar of this kind in the Gjirokastra, this bar serves quality wines.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Kotoni Bed&Breakfast, Rr. Bashkim Kokona, 8, +355 84 263 526, +355 69 23 66 846 (), [5]. The first Guest House in Gjirokastra, since 1992, comes up with more traditional rooms and a characteristic restaurant. Each room has coloured satelite Tv, bathroom, heating. Located 200 meters far from the old bazaar, you can have a great view of the old and new part of the town. For more information please visit www.kotonihouse.com. €30.  edit
  • Hashorva Guesthouse, Rr. Varosh, (). for info and booking. The Hashorva Family, a well established name in the Lagjia Varosh Neighborhood, offering one very large, faithfully restored traditional Ottoman Era room, with a double bed and sitting area. The house itself is over 200 years old and is kept in wonderful condition by its original owners. Naturally cool in the summer, the guest bathroom is located off the main hallway with 24 hour hot water and modern facilities. Located 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 [6])  edit
  • Hotel Relax. 9 double rooms and 1 suite, with A/C - €25 inc. breakfast [Sep 2011]. This wonderful hotel lies at the foot of the hilly center of beautiful Gjirokaster (streets Sheshi i Çerçizit). 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.
  • Hotel Sopoti (Sopoti Hostel), Pazar i Vjeter (Old Pazar, Gjirokastër). checkin: anytime; checkout: 11 am. Hotel Sopoti (Sopoti Hostel) is in a great location, at the entrance to the historic pazar. 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. (40.0744670,20.13924) edit
  • Bar GRAND, Rruga Veli Hashorva, 00355697695555, [7]. checkin: 08:00 Am; checkout: 03:am.  edit

Contact[edit]

Internet[edit]

There are a number of 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:

  • Hotel Cajupi (on the roof top terrace/cafe)
  • Restaurant Kuka
  • Bar Karamel
  • Bar Grand

Cope[edit]

Consulates[edit]

  • Gr-flag.png Greece, Konsulata e Pergjithshme e Greqise - Sheshi I Cercizit, Gjirokaster, +355 8426 3804, Emergencies:+355 8426 2010 (, fax: +355 8426 8141). M-F: 09:30-16:30.  edit

Get out[edit]

Characteristic footpath of Gjirokastra
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