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Your Guide To What To See & Do In Korçë, Albania
Korçë, also known as Korca, is the largest city in eastern Albania, surrounded by the Morava Mountains, standing on a somewhat high plateau about 50 meters above sea level. Often described as the country’s cultural capital, Korçë is a somewhat underrated destination in Europe but remains one of the most beautiful cities you can visit in Albania. In this guide, we are happy to share all the top things to do in Korca, Albania, for a seamless vacation or for a couple of days away.
Where Is Korçë And How To Get There
Korca is a rather small town situated in southeastern Albania, about a 2 to 3-hour drive from the capital, Tirana.
The trip by bus from Tirana takes from 4 to 5 hours, and the ticket is 500 LEK (4 euro). Buses from Tirana to Korca depart from Tirana’s south-east bus terminal with the following schedule: 5:00 – 6:00 – 7:30 – 8:30 – 9:30 – 10:30 – 11:00 – 12:00 – 13:00 – 14:00 – 15:00 – 16:00
By bus from Saranda: One daily bus departs from Saranda at 5:30; the same bus stops one hour later in Gjirokastra and continues for four more hours to Korca. The ticket is between 1000 and 1400 LEK (8-12 euro)
It is also possible to reach Korca from neighboring Greece via Thessaloniki and Florina, passing the Macedonian border. You can also reach Korca by traveling via Gjirokastra.
General Info About Korca
Better known as the cradle of culture in Albania, the city is the largest in its region. Since medieval times, the city was an important trading center and crossroads point for Albanian caravans that, from Korca, started their way to Turkey, Greece, and Russia.
As from the second half of the nineteenth century, the city has been a remarkable economic, trade, and cultural center, a status remaining today thanks to the first Albanian language school along with great museums and churches.
Korca is a typical eastern city with very marked northern Greek influences as well as some French traits when it comes to its urban design and architecture.
The city, quite off-the-beaten-track, is often disregarded by visitors who prefer the more touristic cities of Berat or Gjirokastra; however, spending some time in Korca is something you won’t easily forget.
Korca has plenty of welcoming spaces for you to relax and enjoy, green parks and gardens, gorgeous buildings, and a certain resemblance with neighboring Greece regarding its cultural heritage and delicious cuisine.
Korca is not a typical touristic city. On the contrary, it is a place made to live like a local. There are minimal tourist attractions, and maybe… that’s precisely the best part of a visit.
Unlike Berat or other touristic spots in the Balkans, Korca doesn’t have much to offer to visitors. For that reason, prices are quite affordable despite being one of Albania’s wealthiest cities.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Korca
The city is open all year round with plenty of interesting activities and events; however, if you really want to enjoy its gardens and walk the streets with comfy clothes and some sunshine, we suggest you book the tickets anywhere between May and October. This will let you enjoy Korca at its best.
The weather is quite cold in winter, and snow is not unusual.
Korca For Families
Korca is a picturesque green town where kids can enjoy plenty of time in open spaces. Arguably the most attractive place for kids and adults alike is Korca’s Old Bazaar, where children can discover new foods, check artisan shops and souvenirs, and wander around, satisfying their curiosity.
The Museum of Medieval Art features a huge collection of religious icons, and although this might not be the most entertaining kind of exhibition for kids, they will certainly find it interesting to pay a visit to the workshop inside the museum where these icons are made and restored. They will have the possibility to see skillful artists at work and even ask questions about their unique art.
If your little ones like adventurous day trips, then you will be happy to learn that it is possible to check out some nice and interesting places not far from Korca. Popular day trips include visits to the Morava Mountains, Pogradec, and Ohrid Lake.
The Best Places To See And Things To Do In Korca
This fantastic Korca landmark and impressive Orthodox church is located in the center of the city. The architecture clearly reminds you of the typical Orthodox Greek churches with rounded red-tiled cupolas and austere facades.
The building is of quite recent construction, and it was built to replace the original Church of Saint George, which was demolished back in 1968 during the communist rule of Albania.
Pazari i Vjeter
Strolling along the alleys of Korca Bazaar is one of the best things to do in Korca. Locally known as Pazari i Vjeter, this old Ottoman-style market was completely rebuilt back in 2014-2015.
The bazaar is certainly the place to go for your Albania souvenirs, but there is much more to it. If you are curious about the Balkan – and in particular, the Albanian – tradition of bars and cafés, then this is the right place to visit.
Pazari i Vjeter features dozens of small cafés and typical tavernas where locals sit to enjoy hours of coffee and conversation. The place gets even more alive in the early evenings when people of all ages, families, and groups of friends gather in the Bazaar area to share local food, coffee, or a glass of local beer.
Korca is not just about its imposing Orthodox Cathedral, but it is also home to one of the oldest mosques in the country. This Albanian temple, Iliaz Bej Mirahorit Mosque, dates back to the fifteenth century. It has a majestic elegance and is home to a famous stone clock tower, another local landmark in town. The complex also houses a Madrassa (place for religious studies).
The newly built minaret replaces the original one, which was torn down back in the 1990s by the Communist regime.
Both the minaret and the Orthodox cathedral were reconstructed around the same period, a clear sign that marked the end of very dark times in terms of freedom within the country.
The beautiful cobblestoned alleys of the old side of Korça hide a lesser-known area of town made of aristocratic French villas, quaint little houses, and beautiful corners, perfect for an Instagram shot of Korca.
You can find this area under the shadow of the imposing Orthodox Cathedral, which seems to hide and protect this gorgeous neighborhood.
National Museum Of Education (And First School In Albania)
The First Albanian School and Museum of Education is where, for the first time, the written Albanian alphabet was taught to students. Today, the museum and old school (which opened in 1887) has become the place where locals celebrate and display the history of the national language.
Curious documents at the museum include pieces of writing in the two alphabets of the language, as well as manuscripts and ancient photography.
Not all Korca landmarks are churches, mosques, or interesting museums. Probably the best-known of all Korca landmarks is, in fact, the local beer!
In a country already famous for its beer production, there is no better thing to do than visit the city where the most famous beers are being produced! Korca is home to the most important beer factory in the country, which has been brewing the well-known Korca beer for almost 100 years (since 1928, to be precise). Indeed, this is the first beer ever brewed in Albania!
And remember, if you visit during August, it can be an excellent opportunity to taste some beer and enjoy the Beer Cultural Festival hosted in Korca Bazaar, Pazari i Vjeter.
Another great thing to do in Korca is to climb to the top of the Red Tower. Get your camera ready to capture the best panoramic views of Korca and enjoy the amazing local atmosphere from a distance.
The way to the top is only 50 LEK (less than 0.50 euro) and the best moment of the day to visit is right before sunset when the whole area gets a romantic golden tint that adds to the already nostalgic and beautiful atmosphere of Korca.
Saint George’s Boulevard
Taking a walk up and down this famous street is a thing that locals love to do and that visitors enjoy as well.
Right opposite Saint George’s Cathedral, this main pedestrian street in Korca is a fantastic area where you can discover more about the local vibe and lifestyle. Guarded by lush rows of apple trees, the pedestrian area is populated by coffee shops, bars, cafeterias, and delicious ice cream parlors.
Many of these venues feature outdoor tables with umbrellas and gazebos under which people enjoy spending the late afternoon hours. Families and groups of friends come here for a relaxing walk after dinner during the hottest months of the year.
The most popular place in town, especially among teens and young adults, is Bulevardi Republika. Maybe not as attractive for those who visit, it is undoubtedly a local hit, where all the hip culture of Korca takes place. Cool cafés, expensive restaurants, and exclusive venues to hang out, this is the wealthiest part of town where showing off is a daily habit.
National Museum Of Medieval Art
This unique museum hosts what is arguably the most fantastic exhibition in Albania, more than 7000 pieces of Byzantine and Orthodox art in general, primarily wooden and metal icons.
The museum is a fairly new addition to the things to do in Korca. It was constructed in 2016 and features a dedicated floor plan and design representing the different elements and details of the iconographic painting.
Where To Stay In Korca
Accommodation is quite affordable in Korca, making it a budget-friendly destination. The city is relatively small, and there is not a wide hotel offer as in other towns and cities in Albania.
Below, you will find my recommendations for the best hotels in town. They are divided into different budget categories, and all of them enjoy a convenient location. Don’t forget that it is always a bright idea to book from 4 to 6 months in advance if you don’t want to miss an offer or a beautiful location. Booking in advance guarantees convenient fees and a better room as well!
Best Korca Budget Hotels
Bujtina Oxhaku is a super affordable 4-star hotel featuring a bar, a garden, and a terrace. All rooms have comfy beds, ample bathrooms, a TV, and air conditioning. Every morning, the polite staff serves a delicious continental breakfast which can also be enjoyed in the garden.
Hotel Romeo is a simple but comfortable hotel in Korca. It is located in a central position, and it has a bar, garden, and a gorgeous terrace with great views of the town. The hotel provides in-room services while free WiFi and free private parking are also among the facilities available. Guests who want to explore the area by car can take advantage of the car rental services provided by this hotel. The rooms offer a seating area, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, and a desk. Continental breakfast is available each morning too.
Best Korca Mid-Range Hotels
Have a higher budget? Then take a look at Hotel Bujtina Bicolli. Located in a beautiful venue with a garden, a terrace, and lots of flowers, this Korca hotel features a bar, air-conditioned rooms with garden views, and free WiFi across the property. The hotel features a delicious morning breakfast, continental style.
Hotel Peroni is a hotel located near the center and the main public park in Korca. This 4-star accommodation offers a well-assorted bar and a garden where it is possible to enjoy breakfast in the morning and snacks or drinks during the day. The rooms come with free WiFi; some of them also feature a balcony with street views, while room service is also available. Breakfast is served in the form of a buffet. The hotel has family rooms available.
Best Korçë Luxury Hotels
Life Gallery Hotel is considered one of the top accommodations in Korca; this stunning property has all you need for an unforgettable vacation in this corner of Albania. The hotel stands in the historic part of Korca and features elegant rooms and suites with free WiFi and LCD satellite TV, as well as three locally popular bars with a different atmosphere. The hotel is in the most popular area of Republika Boulevard, set in a complex of aristocratic mansions. It has a gorgeous summer terrace in the yard, a restaurant, bars, and several suites. The hotel also features an Italian-style villa and a wine bar. The on-site Avenue 55 Bar is an American-style bar serving various cocktails and other drinks. The Oriental Bar features many types of teas, while the Beer 55 Bar serves a wide selection of Albanian and international beers.
Hotel Kocibelli POOL & SPA is located in the center of Korçë. It is a great place to stay in town, featuring free WiFi, an on-site bar, and an a la carte restaurant serving traditional Albanian and Mediterranean cuisine. The on-site fitness center and sauna are available at a surcharge. Guest rooms are air-conditioned, and each one comes with cable TV and a desk. Several local attractions can be found only meters from the property.
Where To Eat In Korca
The best place to consider when visiting such a traditional town is the bazaar. No matter where in the old Korçë bazaar you decide to stop for lunch, you will be rewarded with stunning homemade food and disarming hospitality. Prices will be affordable, and you will immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.
If looking for a restaurant for dinner, the best places to eat are located in Boulevardi Republika:
Republika House Pub
A great place to taste traditional Irish cuisine, delicious pasta dishes, and some fantastic draft beer (no, not just Korca beer).
Address: Rruga Vangjo e Teni Konomi and Boulevardi Republika
Perfect for a dinner with stunning views over the town. The place is good for dinner (great pizza) and a coffee break during the day.
Address: Boulevardi Republika
Antik Restaurant & Pizza
This restaurant serves Mediterranean dishes, especially Italian, and has an excellent vegetarian menu.
Address: Boulevardi Republika