Berat is known as the “City of One-Thousands windows” due to the characteristic architecture of its houses. The city was originally Illyrian, as one can see from the great blocks of stone at the base of the fortress walls. As an ancient Illyrian settlement founded in the 4th and 5th centuries B.C. on the territory of the Illyrian tribe of Desarettes, Berat was transformed at the beginning of the 3rd century AD into fortified city known by the name of Antipatrea. Berat is a “Museum City” built on the slopes of a mountain with a castle dominating the site. The castle is of great interest. Within its walls, there is a residential quarter consisting of a considerable number of characteristic houses, cobblestone roads, and several churches belonging to different historical periods. The most interesting are the church of Saint Mary Vllaherna (13th century), the church of Saint Trinity, which is one of the most outstanding examples of Byzantine architecture in Albania. The Cathedral of Saint Mary was rebuilding in 1797 on the ruins of a previous church. Berat was occupied by the Ottomans and several mosques were constructed just below the castle, such as the King’s Mosque and Leaden Mosque. The “Onufri Museum” is well worth visiting for its paintings and icons created by Onufri, the remarkable 16th century painter, and the works of other artists.
The town is composed of three parts: Gorica, Mangalem and the residential quarter within the fortress known as Kalaja.
The city of Berat lies on the shores of the Osum River. With its well-preserved Ottoman architecture, the city boasts a wealth of buildings of exceptional historical and architectural interest. In 1961 it was declared a Museum City of Albania and is anticipated to be named a UNESCO World Heritage City in 2007 or 2008. Berat has been inhabited since prehistoric times and its extraordinary value relates to this 2400-year existence. A number of interesting sites of both cultural and natural significance are to be found here, which makes it one of the most complete tourism destinations in Albania, attracting many tourists throughout the entire year.
Cultural attractions in Berat include the castle, the ethnographic museum, the Onufri Museum, and the historic Medieval Center, where the current offices of the Institute of Cultural Monuments can be located.
The historic districts of Mangalem and Gorica are not to be missed, either. Other cultural activities in the city of Berat include taking an evening promenade along the Osum River and visiting the local artisans and Edward Lear Art Gallery.
Natural attractions include the Osum River, where one can fish and canoe, and Tomorr Mountain, a refreshing refuge from the city where “chai mali” (mountain tea) can be picked in the late spring through the early fall.