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.

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. Top help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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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.

Tours and Activities from Elbasan

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