Elbasan: The Complete Guide

Elbasan City Wall
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Monika Kostera

Elbasan is situated in Elbasan County in central Albania and is the third largest city in Albania. The name Elbasan comes from the Turkish il-basan or ‘the fortress’.
It stands on the north bank of the Shkumbin River, in the highlands at the east end of a lush, well-watered plateau. Travellers going to Korca, Pogradec and North Macedonia pass through here.

The surviving walls the two-thousand-year-old Roman Castle, are worth visitng as well as the Orthodox church and outside the walls the remains of a 5th – 6th century basilica.

The Elbasan Ethnographic Museum which is located in the center of the city, not far from the Castle of Elbasan (11 Nëntori Street). The museum is housed in a traditional two-story 18th century house that tells the story of Elbasan’s culture and lifestyle. Including showing the work of artisans of felt, qeleshe (the white fez-like cap), and opinga (traditional leather shoes) as well as the saddlers, jewelers, goldsmiths, carpenters, gunsmiths, and bell-makers.

History of Elbasan

Elbasan was originally an Illyrian settlement and by the second century BC was trading post called Mansio Scampa near the Via Egnatia, which connected the Durres with Byzantium. By 400 AD, the city was protected by a substantial Roman fortress with towers and a legion and was called Scampis or Hiscampis. A paleochristian basilica, was built in the 5th or 6th century AD.

Little is know about Elbasan until 1466 when the Ottoman army, under Sultan Mehmet II, built a military camp here and extended the cities fortifications to include a four-sided castle with a deep moat and three gates. The castle was used in the ongoing fight with Skanderbeg.

By the beginning of the 20th century Elbasan was a city with a mixture of eastern and medieval buildings with narrow cobbled streets and a large bazaar.

Visiting Elbasan for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Elbasan on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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Best Time to Visit Elbasan

The best time to visit Elbasan, Albania, depends on your preferences for weather, activities, and crowd levels. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is a pleasant time to visit Elbasan, with mild temperatures and blooming flowers. The weather is comfortably warm, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as exploring the town’s historical sites, hiking in the surrounding mountains, and enjoying picnics in the countryside. Additionally, spring sees fewer tourists compared to the peak summer months, allowing for a more relaxed and authentic experience.
  2. Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Elbasan, with hot temperatures and plenty of sunshine. This is the best time to visit if you enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and outdoor activities. Elbasan is located near the Shkumbin River, providing opportunities for water sports such as rafting and kayaking. However, be prepared for higher accommodation prices and larger crowds, especially in popular tourist areas.
  3. Autumn (September to November): Autumn is another great time to visit Elbasan, with mild temperatures and fewer tourists compared to the summer months. The weather remains pleasant, allowing you to continue enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking, exploring the natural beauty of the surrounding landscapes, and visiting nearby attractions like the Elbasan Castle and the Saint Mary Orthodox Church. Additionally, autumn offers opportunities to attend local festivals and cultural events celebrating Albanian traditions and harvest season.
  4. Winter (December to February): Winter is the quietest time to visit Elbasan, with cooler temperatures and occasional rainfall. While the weather may not be suitable for outdoor activities like swimming or hiking, it’s an excellent time to explore indoor attractions such as museums, art galleries, and historic sites. Additionally, winter offers a unique opportunity to experience Albanian culture and hospitality away from the tourist crowds.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Elbasan depends on your preferences and what you hope to experience during your trip. Whether you prefer the bustling atmosphere of summer, the mild temperatures of spring and autumn, or the peaceful ambiance of winter, Elbasan offers something for every traveler throughout the year.

Average Temperatures in Elbasan

  • January 11°C 15
  • February 13°C 13
  • March 16°C 14
  • April 22°C 11
  • May 24°C 12
  • June 31°C 8
  • July 34°C 3
  • August 33°C 3
  • September 28°C 12
  • October 23°C 13
  • November 17°C 18
  • December 14°C 14

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