Gjirokastër: The Complete Guide

Gjirokastër is a town located in southern Albania. Although in a valley between the mountains of Gjerë and Drinoat it is still 300 metres above sea level.

Gjirokastër is a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman  and justifiably a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  In some ways a strange looking town, as it is constructed on steep slopes and stone-covered buildings which seem to be standing on top of each other. Most of the traditional looking houses were built in the early 19th century. Steep cobbled streets add to its charm.

It is the birthplace of author Ismail Kadare an the former Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha.

The city houses Gjirokastra Castle, one of the oldest in the Balkans.

 

 

Visiting Gjirokastër 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 Gjirokastër 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 Gjirokastër

The town grew up around the foot of the 13th century castle. The town is first mentioned in 1336 by Greek name, as part of the Byzantine Empire. It was captured in the 15th century and flourished under Ottoman rule. It became the regional capital and a major trading center.

11 Best places to See in Gjirokastër

This complete guide to Gjirokastër not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Gjirokastër and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Gjirokastër Cold War Tunnel Museum

Gjirokastër Cold War Tunnel Museum
© Malik Yavaş
The Cold War Museum is an emergency underground bunker in Gjirokastër. It wass built in secret in the early 1970s. The bunker is 800 m long and has 59 rooms. The bunker is a stark contrast to similar bunkers in Tirana which have been restored, this is in its original state, which is less informative […]
| Hours: 8am-4pm Mon-Fri, 10am-2pm Sat, 9am-3pm Sun | Price: 200 lek | Distance: 0.80km
Visiting Gjirokastër Cold War Tunnel Museum

Gjirokastër Castle

Gjirokastër Castle
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Emilio Poli
Gjirokastër Castle is a large 12th century castle that looks over the town of Gjirokastër, from its hilltop perch. The Ottoman’s renovated and built upon the castle and added a clock tower and aqueduct in the early 19 century. In fact much of the castle that can be seen today dates back from the early […]
Location: Rruga Elvia Celebi Gjirokaster Albania | Hours: April - September, Every Day 9:00- 18:00 October-March 9:00-17:00 | Price: 400 lek | Distance: 0.90km
Visiting Gjirokastër Castle

Gjirokastër Old Bazaar

House In Gjirokastra
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Sali Jonuzi
The Bazaar of lies at the centre of the Old Town in Gjirokastra and sits beneath the castle walls. The neighbourhood has cobblestone streets, medieval facades, and array of wonderfully handcrafted gifts. The history of Bazaar dates back in 17th century although a fire in the 19th century caused parts to be rebuilt. Many of […]
Location: Qafa e Pazarit, Rruga Alqi Kondi, Gjirokastër | Distance: 1.00km
Visiting Gjirokastër Old Bazaar

Gjirokastër Obelisk

Gjirokaster Obelisk Albania
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Xixa
The Gjirokastër Obelisk is a monument in Gjirokastër, Albania which pays tribute to Albanian education in the 20th century. The Obelisk is located adjacent to the area in which the first Albanian school opened in Gjirokastra in 1908, where a new Albanian national alphabet was used. Under Ottoman rule, Albanians were not allowed to use […]
Visiting Gjirokastër Obelisk

Gjirokastër Mosque

Gjirokastër Mosque Albania
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Marcos Escudero Olano
The Bazaar Mosque which, was built in 1757, is located in the Old Bazaar neighborhood in Gjirokastër, Albania. Initially it was built as part of Memi Pasha’s urban plan of the neighborhood, unfortunately a fire the following century, destroyed almost everything apart from the mosque. In the 20th century the mosque was also spared from […]
Location: Rruga Ismail Kadare Gjirokaster Albania | Distance: 1.10km
Visiting Gjirokastër Mosque

Skenduli House

Skenduli House Gjirokastra
CC BY-SA 4.0 / ShkelzenRexha
Skenduli House is a lovingly restored Ottoman-era House in Gjirokaster’s old town. The house dates from the early 1700s, and was partially rebuilt in 1827, and although the property has changed hands during the communist period, it was returned to the original family. You will most likely be shown around by a member of the […]
Location: Rruga Sokaku i te Mareve Gjirokaster Albania | Hours: 9am-7pm Apr-Oct | Price: 200 lek | Distance: 1.20km
Visiting Skenduli House

Gjirokastër Ethnographic Museum

Ethnographic Museum Of Gjirokaster 01
CC BY-SA 4.0 / JoraKasapi
Gjirokastër Ethnographic Museum is based in the site of communist dictator Enver Hoxha’s birth home, in Gjirokastër’s Palorto Quarter, in Albania. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1966 and then rebuilt as a as a model traditional Gjirokastra house. Many features of the house were copied from particular houses around the city. In […]
Location: Rr Ismail Kadare, Gjirokaster, Albania | Hours: April to September 08:00 to 12:00 and 16:00 to 19:00 daily October to March 08:00 to 16:00 Wednesday to Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday) | Price: 200 Lek | Distance: 1.30km
Visiting Gjirokastër Ethnographic Museum

Zekate House

Zekate House, Gjirokastër, Albania
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Llukman Ibrahimi
Zekate House, at the top of Palorto quarter, in Gjirokastër, Albania. This three-story house dates from 1811 and is thought to be the ‘best surviving example of an ottoman tower house in Gjirokastra’. It belonged to Beqir Zeko, who was a general administrator of Ali Pasha. The house has two fortified tower houses and a […]
Location: Rruga Bashkim Kokona Gjirokaster Albania | Hours: The Zekate house is open for visitors. A family member will come out and unlock the door. | Price: 200 Lek | Distance: 1.50km
Visiting Zekate House

Ali Pasha Bridge

Ali Pasha Bridge, Albania
© 2024 Andrew Ashton
Ali Pasha Bridge, was part of a large aqueduct system commissioned by Ali Pasha of Tepelenë in the beginning of the 19th century.Gjirokastra castle didn’t have an available water source at the time, and Ali Pasha quickly discerned the need for this structure. The aqueduct would feed the castle’s cisterns with water from the Mount […]
| Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 2.20km
Visiting Ali Pasha Bridge

Ruins of Antigonea

Antigonea House With Peristyle Albania
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Albinfo
The ruins of Antigonea are located only 14 km to the east of Gjirokastër, near the village of Saraqinishtë in the Drino valley. The ruins of this city offer one the best archaeological sites in south Albania. King Pyrrhus of Epirus (319-272 BC) was the king of the Molossians, one of the three main tribes […]
Location: Gjirokastër - Parku Arkeologjik i Antigonesë | Hours: Weekdays 8:00 - 16.00 Weekends 9:00 -15.00 | Price: 300 lek | Website | Distance: 6.30km
Visiting Ruins of Antigonea

Ruins of Hadrianopolis

Antique Theater Hadrianopolis Sofratika Albania
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Pasztilla aka Attila Terbócs
This valuable archaeological remnant of the Roman period, located only a few kilometers from Gjirokastra. A settlement existed here from the late Classical or Hellenistic period originally inhabited by the tribe of the Chaonians. In the 2nd century it was re-founded by the Emperor Hadrian and was named Hadrianopolis. This occurred after the burning and […]
Visiting Ruins of Hadrianopolis

Tours and Activities from Gjirokastër