On the background of snow-capped mountains, resting on the slopes of Drino Valley, flanked by a huge castle, lies the magnificent city of Gjirokaster, the ‘City of thousand steps’. The city consists of hundreds of Ottoman-style tower houses having characteristic wooden balconies, whitewashed stone walls and stone roofs. Gjirokaster is an ancient city, supposedly being inhabited since the 1st century B.C. and through years has been ruled by many empires.
The Gjirokaster Castle completely dominates the city with its magnificent sight. Built in the 4th century A.D., it is one of the biggest castles in Albania. The castle has five towers, a church, cistern, stage of National Folk Festival, a military museum, which also displays a captured United States Air Force plane and some other interesting structures worth visiting. Tourists can also enjoy the excellent view of the Gjirokaster city and the Drno Valley from the castle.
The Ethnographic Museum is created in a house where Enver Hoxha was born. The four floor house is open for visitors and is decorated with many artifacts of the Ottoman era of 19th century. Many household items, cultural items and folk costumes from that era have been displayed in the museum. Gjirokaster also offers a 17th century Ottoman style bazaar, which was rebuilt in the 19th century after it was burned. There’s also a mosque in the bazaar known as Gjirokaster Mosque or Bazaar Mosque, built in 1757.
The surroundings of Gjirokaster also have many sites that can be visited like the archaeological site of Antigonea, an ancient settlement of probably 3rd century B.C and the Church of Labova e Kryqit, one of the oldest churches in Albania.
There are lots of attractions Gjirokaster and its surroundings have. To experience the true living of the olden times, tourists can also stay in the bed and breakfast accommodations in the converted Ottoman homes.
Gjirokaster still retains the charm and feel of the Ottoman reign and is very well inscribed as "a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate" in the World Heritage List.