Looking for the best Albania castles to visit? Here’s the list!
Albania is home to many historic castles that date back centuries and provide a glimpse into the country’s rich past.
Castles played an important defensive and strategic role throughout Albania’s history and today they continue to stand as symbols of the nation’s culture and heritage.
In this post, we will explore some of the most iconic Albania castles found across the country and the stories they tell.
From coastal fortresses to mountain citadels, Albania castles are well worth visiting to experience history come alive.
- 14 Albania Castles Worth Checking Out
- 1. Durrës Castle
- 2. Gjirokastër Castle
- 3. Himara Castle
- 4. Berat Castle
- 5. Porto Palermo Castle
- 6. Elbasan Castle
- 7. Ali Pasha Tepelena Castle
- 8. Libohovës Castle
- 9. Lëkurësi Castle
- 10. Rozafa Castle
- 11. Kanina Castle
- 12. Preze Castle
- 13. Krujë Castle
- 14. Petrela Castle
- How many castles are there in Albania?
- What makes Albania castles special?
- History of Albanian Castles
- Cultural Significance
- FAQs About Albania Castles
- What’s the history behind Rozafa Castle?
- Can you explore Krujë Castle without a tour guide?
- Which castles in Albania are open to the public for tours?
- What are some castles in Albania that you can actually buy?
- How does the architecture of Libohove Castle differ from Tepelena Castle?
- What should you expect to see during a visit to the oldest castle in Albania?
- Albania Castles: Conclusion
14 Albania Castles Worth Checking Out
1. Durrës Castle
Durrës Castle, also known as the Durrës Fortress, is one of the must-see Albania castles.
What makes this place special? It has history and architecture going for it, dating back to the Byzantine era; plus, you can find it in the intriguing coastal city of Durrës.
As you walk through the castle grounds, imagine the people who’ve passed through here for over a thousand years, from the Byzantines to the Ottomans, and later the Venetians.
The fortress has been through several transformations, and you can see traces of these different architectural styles, making your visit even more fascinating.
Some of the highlights to look for include the Venetian Tower and the Walls, which have resisted several historical invasions.
2. Gjirokastër Castle
You’ll find Gjirokastër Castle perched upon a hill overlooking the old town of Gjirokastër, Albania.
This imposing 12th-century fortress is well-preserved, giving visitors an opportunity to step back in time and experience the castle’s fascinating past.
What makes Gjirokastër Castle particularly special among Albania castles are the unique features and the rich history surrounding it.
The castle sports a mix of architectural styles, showcasing both Ottoman and Venetian influences.
Don’t miss out on checking out the prison cells, which were once used to hold both political prisoners and common criminals and offer a glimpse into the castle’s darker history.
Moreover, don’t forget to check out the Gjirokastër Museum housed within the castle itself. This historical treasure trove offers an array of artifacts, from prehistoric times to the more recent communist era.
3. Himara Castle
Perched on a rocky hill, overlooking the scenic Ionian Sea, this impressive fortress offers you a glimpse into Albania’s rich history.
Its strategic position greatly contributed to its importance, as it played a significant role in defending the region from various invasions throughout the centuries.
What makes Himara Castle special is not just its timeless beauty, but also the many ancient legends that surround it.
Exploring its narrow streets, you can almost feel the whispers of those who once inhabited this remarkable place.
Despite the ravages of time, the castle remains a fascinating reminder of a bygone era that continues to captivate the hearts of visitors.
Some highlights of Himara Castle worth exploring are its 13th century church which features stunning frescoes that showcase Byzantine influence, the stone houses that will give you an authentic Albanian experience, and the panoramic views of the sea.
4. Berat Castle
Berat Castle towers majestically over the town of Berat, giving you breathtaking views of the Osum River.
Dating back to the 13th century, its unique blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture sets it apart from other Albania castles.
Berat Castle is special not only for its incredible architecture and rich history, but also because it’s a living fortress, with locals still inhabiting parts of the castle.
5. Porto Palermo Castle
You’ll find Porto Palermo Castle along the picturesque Albanian Riviera, beautifully situated on a small peninsula.
The castle has a unique triangular structure, making it quite different from other castles you might see in Albania.
The man-made canal that connects it to the mainland, crafted in a rather unusual trapezoidal shape, just adds to its fascinating charm.
Built in the early 19th century by Ali Pasha, the castle was used as a defense against pirates and other threats in the Ionian Sea.
What makes it special is that it’s relatively untouched – remaining more or less the same since its creation.
One of the highlights of Porto Palermo castle is its unique triangular structure.
6. Elbasan Castle
Elbasan Castle is a gem you’d hate to miss when exploring Albania castles.
It’s nestled in the heart of the city of Elbasan and dates back to the 15th century.
The castle has a unique blend of Ottoman and Byzantine architecture that gives it a distinct appearance, making it stand out from other castles in the region.
As you wander through the castle grounds, you’ll encounter well-preserved walls, towers, and gates – each with their own fascinating history.
The castle is deep-rooted in ancient legends, so it’s not only a historical site, but also an integral part of the city’s culture and identity.
7. Ali Pasha Tepelena Castle
This historic castle is entwined with the remarkable life story of its namesake, Ali Pasha, an Ottoman ruler who gained power and influence in the early 19th century.
The castle’s location offers a strategic advantage, making it a vital stronghold during Ali Pasha’s rule.
As you explore the site, you’ll be impressed by the formidable stone structures that represent the architectural styles of both the Venetian and Ottoman empires.
8. Libohovës Castle
Libohovës Castle is one of the best Albania castles to visit if a hidden gem is what you’re after.
Standing atop a hill, this historic castle offers unrivaled panoramic views of the surrounding area that will take your breath away.
The castle has a tumultuous past as the feudal residence of the powerful Zenebishi family that ruled the region during the 18th century.
Make sure to pay attention to the intricate architectural details of the castle, which include distinctive defense towers, intriguing stone carvings, and other remnants of a bygone era.
9. Lëkurësi Castle
You’ll find Lëkurësi Castle perched on a prominent hill overlooking the city of Saranda in southern Albania.
The views from up here are extraordinary, and that’s one of the main reasons this place is so special.
You can see the beautiful Ionian Sea and the nearby island of Corfu, making it a perfect photo spot.
This captivating fortress was built by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1537 to protect the strategic port of Saranda below.
The castle’s romantic aura comes from its weathered stone walls and the mix of Venetian and Ottoman architectural styles.
10. Rozafa Castle
Rozafa Castle is perched high on a rocky hill in the city of Shkodra, Albania.
You’ll be amazed by the castle’s rich history, which dates back to the Illyrian era (4th century B.C.), making it one of the oldest of Albania castles.
It’s special not just for its age, but also for the fact that it has withstood the test of time, seeing numerous civilizations pass through its premises, including the Illyrians, Romans, Venetians, and Ottomans.
he castle’s strategic location at the intersection of three rivers (Buna, Drin, and Kir) allowed its inhabitants to control the surrounding region and trade routes.
(Not so) Fun Fact: You’ll come across the famous legend of the woman buried within the castle walls, said to have been a sacrifice made to ensure the castle’s longevity.
11. Kanina Castle
Kanina Castle is a unique historical site that showcases Albania’s rich and diverse past.
What makes it special is its uncanny ability to survive many centuries of turbulent history, including invasions, restorations, and natural disasters.
As you explore the castle, you’ll notice the distinct architectural styles reflecting various periods and empires.
The 11th-century Byzantine touches blend seamlessly with the later Ottoman features, creating an intriguing visual fusion.
12. Preze Castle
Preze Castle is a remarkable fortress set on a hilltop near the village of Prezë, just a short drive from Tirana, Albania’s capital. It’s one of the easiest Albania castles to visit.
With its preserved architecture and panoramic views, it’s a unique destination that gives you a glimpse into the country’s rich history.
This medieval castle was strategically built to oversee surrounding lands, providing early warning against potential invaders.
Dating back to the 14th century, Preze Castle has witnessed various rulers and wars.
But what makes it stand out is the perfect fusion of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural styles, making it a one-of-a-kind landmark in Albania.
13. Krujë Castle
Perched high above the town of Krujë, this medieval fortress offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
But it’s not just the view that makes it so special – the castle has a rich history, being the center of resistance during the Albanian struggle against the Ottoman Empire.
Krujë Castle was once the home of Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, and has seen action in many battles throughout the centuries.
While you’re at it, don’t miss the chance to explore the Skanderbeg Museum within the fortress grounds, where you can learn more about his incredible life and accomplishments.
14. Petrela Castle
Located on a rocky hill, this castle has a history dating back to the 6th century.
Its unique position made it a crucial strategic point, offering a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.
What makes it even more fascinating is that it remains well-preserved, so you can actually walk along its walls and imagine what life was like back in its glory days.
So, why is Petrela Castle special? Well, its history is closely tied to the renowned Albanian hero, Skanderbeg.
The castle served as an important outpost during his resistance against the invading Ottomans.
Moreover, its distinctive appearance – a beautiful blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural styles – elegantly reflects Albania’s rich cultural past.
How many castles are there in Albania?
There are over 150 castles in Albania!
The country has a rich history of various civilizations, resulting in this impressive number of fortifications.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most famous castles in the land.
- Krujë Castle – Also known as Krujë Fortress, this castle is a true symbol of Albanian resistance against the Ottoman Empire. It’s best known as the headquarters of the national hero, Skanderbeg.
- Gjirokastër Castle – Perched on a hilltop, this castle offers a stunning view of the whole city. Make sure not to miss the Museum of Weapons inside the castle, displaying armaments from different periods in the country’s history.
- Rozafa Castle – Named after a popular Albanian legend, this castle is located by the convergence of three rivers. It’s perfect for a day trip, with the nearby city of Shkodër offering plenty of restaurants and cafes to relax in after exploring the castle grounds.
What makes Albania castles special?
Albania castles hold a unique charm that sets them apart from others found in Europe.
When you visit one of these fortifications, you’re taken on a journey through time, where you can bask in the intriguing history and enjoy the architectural splendor of each site.
Strategic Locations: Albania castles are often found in strategic locations, such as hilltops and coastal areas, providing stunning views.
These picturesque settings not only make for great photo opportunities but also allowed the inhabitants to effectively monitor and defend their territory.
Architectural Influence: The varied architectural styles present in Albania’s castles reflect the region’s diverse history.
You’ll find influences of Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman styles, making each castle a unique fusion of artistic and cultural elements.
For instance, Krujë Castle is widely known for its impressive Venetian architecture.
Legends and Stories: The castles in Albania are often accompanied by fascinating legends and stories.
Visiting these sites, you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder as you uncover tales of valiant heroes and ancient battles.
One noteworthy example is the story of Lady Dajana, a noblewoman who bravely defended Berat Castle from an enemy attack.
History of Albanian Castles
The early beginnings: Albania castles can be traced back to the Illyrian times around 2300 BC.
Byzantine era: As you fast forward to the Byzantine period, you’ll notice the castle designs evolved.
The Byzantine fortifications were characterized by strong, tall walls and strategic locations to guard against enemy invasions.
A great example of this is the Rozafa Castle in Shkodër, which still stands today.
Moving forward to the Venetian and Ottoman times: The landscapes of Albania became dotted with even more castles, demonstrating a mix of architectural styles.
You’ll be impressed by how the styles of the conquerors left their mark on the castle designs.
The Venetians, for example, introduced more advanced techniques, while the Ottomans contributed to the expansion and further fortification of the castles.
Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to discover the castles built during the 19th and 20th centuries, an age when Albania was striving for independence.
Some of these castles, like the Lekursi Castle in Saranda, are particularly remarkable and showcase the continued development of castle designs throughout Albania’s history.
Albania castles often represent the harmony between different cultures and religions that coexisted in the region throughout history.
Each castle tells the story of the various conquerors and empires that have left their mark on this Balkan nation.
Major castles include Rozafa Castle in Shkodër, Krujë Castle in Krujë, and Berat Castle in Berat.
Not only are these architectural gems a source of pride for Albanians, but they also give you, the visitor, a chance to immerse yourself in Albania’s history.
Just imagine the battles, alliances, and medieval life that unfolded at these sites!
FAQs About Albania Castles
What’s the history behind Rozafa Castle?
Rozafa Castle, located in Shkodra, has a rich history dating back to the ancient Illyrian civilization.
It’s said to be built around the 4th century BC and has witnessed numerous battles and conquests.
Throughout the centuries, the castle has been under various ruling powers like the Venetians, the Ottomans, and the Albanians before Albania gained independence in 1912.
Can you explore Krujë Castle without a tour guide?
Yes, you can explore Krujë Castle independently without a tour guide.
Though a guided tour offers informative insights about the castle’s history, you’ll still be able to appreciate the stunning panoramic views and historical significance of Krujë Castle on your own.
Just make sure to wear comfortable shoes and give yourself enough time to explore the castle grounds.
Which castles in Albania are open to the public for tours?
There are several beautiful castles in Albania that are open to the public, some of which include:
- Krujë Castle
- Rozafa Castle
- Gjirokastër Castle
- Berat Castle
- Lëkurësi Castle
These castles showcase Albania’s diverse and fascinating history, making them well worth a visit during your trip to the country.
What are some castles in Albania that you can actually buy?
While it might seem like a fairytale dream, owning a castle in Albania is a possibility.
However, finding one for sale can be a challenge. To purchase a castle, you’ll need to consult a local real estate agency and have a substantial budget for the initial purchase and any necessary renovations.
How does the architecture of Libohove Castle differ from Tepelena Castle?
Libohove Castle and Tepelena Castle, both located in southern Albania, showcase different architectural styles.
Libohove Castle, believed to be built in the 16th century, features a distinct Ottoman architectural influence.
The castle has a square plan and displays many traditional motifs of Ottoman castle design.
On the other hand, Tepelena Castle showcases the Venetian architecture style and was built around the 14th century.
The fortress’s structure is more complex, with an irregular plan and features such as fortified walls and defensive towers.
What should you expect to see during a visit to the oldest castle in Albania?
The oldest castle in Albania is believed to be the Shkodra Castle (Rozafa Castle), with origins dating back to the 4th century BC.
During your visit, expect to see beautiful panoramic views of the Drin and Buna rivers from the castle heights.
The castle grounds feature remnants of Illyrian, Venetian, and Ottoman architecture, as well as a small museum showcasing artifacts from various historical periods.
Albania Castles: Conclusion
Albania castles have endured wars, invasions and the test of time.
Though some now lie in ruins, their stone walls still convey the tales of dynasties past.
Whether you choose to visit the well-preserved castles along the Adriatic or hike to remote mountain fortresses, exploring Albania castles provides an unforgettable glimpse into the nation’s medieval era.