13 Amazing Things to do in Korca, Albania – 2022
Last Updated on February 1, 2022
The unofficial cultural capital of Albania – Korca – is only a three-hour drive from Tirana and a breathtaking spot for tourists from all over the world. Korca is recognized for its architectural significance which dates back to the 13th century. From beautiful churches, mosques, museums and walkways, there is a lot to see and explore in Korca.
Also known as the City of Serenades, Korca promises to serenade you towards its beauty and charm. Not a lot of tourists know about this beauty or intend to travel here – but this guide will prove why you should travel to Korca for your next trip to Albania.
Where is Korca?
Korca is located on the south-eastern border of Albania, a country in Europe. Korca is close to Greece and North Macedonia. The eighth-most populous city of Albania houses more than 75,000 people and spans an area of just 806 km2. Korca is a fertile plateau, just 2800 feet above sea level, and is lined by the Morava Mountains.
Korca is known for its wide wheat-growing fields, luscious apple grapes fields and also has its brewery as well as other food processing units. In fact, coal mining is also done in the mountains in the Korca, towards the south.
When is the best time to visit Korca?
The weather in Korca is delightful for a trip during any time of the year. Though Korca serves the purpose of an all-season tourist spot, the best time that we recommend is during spring. Easter is graciously celebrated in Korca, especially during the spring season, and you don’t want to miss that.
The warmer season in Korca breathes life into the city with its numerous festivals and celebrations, making it an amicable destination for tourists.
Spring is also the busiest season for tourism in Korca, as the neither too cold nor too warm temperature provides the perfect opportunity for tourists to gaze around the cityscapes.
The winter season is also pleasant to travel in as the picturesque snow-covered plateau is a delight to be at. There are skiing spots that open up in Korca and the entire city is gleamed up with lights to provide a breath-taking view.
How many days to spend in Korca?
Korca is a rather compact travel destination, thus it can be explored within three to four days seamlessly – whether you’re a walk and breathe in nature kind of a tourist or prefer local transport, it is possible to witness the scenic and architectural beauty of Korca within three days.
Specifically, if you want to visit every destination mentioned on this itinerary and absorb into the mesmerizing beauty of Korca, that too comfortably and without haste, then three days or two nights and one day are perfect for spending some time in Korca.
It’s not just the destinations in Korca that are worth seeing, but the neighbouring areas like a retreat in the Morava Mountains or a day spent interacting with the locals engaging in their festivities.
13 Best Things to do in Korca
Korca is a compact and walkable city, so you can travel and explore the beauty of this cobblestoned city on foot. Here are thirteen amazing things you can do in Korca, and visit most of these within 3 to four days easily.
1. A panoramic view of Korca
If you want a spectacular panoramic view of the entire city of Korca, and aren’t that petrified of heights, visiting the Red Tower or the Panoramic Tower should be the first spot on your itinerary. It is a concrete tower, serving its utilitarian purpose of giving a bird’s eye view of the entire city and its neighbouring countryside.
There is an elevator, and stairs as well, but to reach the top, there is a hefty flight of eight stairs, but Korca’s beauty is worth the climb. There is also a ticket priced at 50 Lek to reach the top of the tower.
The tower gives an even better view in the evening or at night when buildings surrounding it and the city lights gleam, elucidating Korca’s beauty.
I recommend climbing up to the top of the Red Tower at sunset so you can roister at the golden hour glittering the rooftops of buildings.
2. Hang out in Pazari i Vjetër
The Pazari I Vjeter, also known as the Korca Bazaar and the Bazaar of the Serenades, is a must for anyone who is visiting Korca. You would find some of the most exquisite cultural and traditional items as well as Albanian souvenirs here.
The bazaar dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries, originating most of its structure and landscape to Roman architecture and a Turkish-style bazaar, as the Albania you see today was once under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Previously, the Bazaar harboured over 1000 stores, and two famous inns – the Old Monastery and the Old Elbasan.
In 2015, the Bazaar was completely renovated to take the form of what you might see today – a vibrant and lively space that is more than just a shopping hub, rather a community.
The cobblestoned streets and rustic architecture not just emulate the Ottoman era that the Bazaar dates back to, but strolling through the Bazaar, its vibrant community and ambience make one feel like having teleported to a different time.
Some shops sell cultural and traditional artefacts and pieces like carpets, decoration pieces and clothes. The Bazaar also has restaurants and bars for the food you to delve into Albanian cuisine.
The Bazaar serves a different atmosphere particularly in the late hours of the day as locals and tourists step out onto the streets, festive and cheery, making the most of their time with friends and family. If you are a coffee enthusiast, Albanian coffee is a must to try, as well as the beer named Birra Korca, which is brewed in Korca’s famous brewery.
Other than shops, the Bazaar has cafes and museums like the Komiteti Kafe Muzeum and the Kooperativa. The Kooperativa is a communist-themed café, bearing witness to the country’s history of communism.
The entire Bazaar is filled with galleries paying homage to Albanian history and art, as well as antique shops and boutiques.
3. Have a raki at Komiteti Kafe Museum
The Komiteti Kafe Museum is a famous tourist destination within the Korca bazaar. It is an intricately crafted cobblestone cafe with rustic furniture and a cosy ambience for you to take a quick break from roaming the streets of Korca and grab a Birra Korca – a locally brewed beverage.
4. Visit the largest Orthodox church in Korca
If you’re the type of tourist who gravitates towards historical and cultural monuments more than contemporary spots like cafes and bars, then the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral might be your call. This is Albania’s largest Orthodox church and is situated in the middle of the Korca – serving as an important landmark.
The church’s architectural inspiration comes from Greece as the process of renovation was patronized by Greece as well as Romania and some Aromanian patrons. The renovation process began in 1995 after the original cathedral was destroyed during the rule of the Communist Party in 1968 as religion was prohibited all across Albania.
The interior of the Cathedral is not very flamboyantly decorated, instead, it expands like a cavern. The inner walls are decorated with mosaic art and wooden lamps that are carved into the structure. A surprising fact: the structure of the Orthodox church in Korca is similar to that in Tirana, and even has the same name.
For those who are intrigued by buildings and monuments that bear a religious significance, there are plenty of Albanian churches on the eastern side of Korca. Around 24 of the Orthodox churches in Korca were built during the 16th and 18th centuries, and eight are firmly standing on Albanian soil today.
5. Devour Qofte
Qofte, pronounced chof-ta, are meatballs made up of minced meat, spices, and some vegetables. Though not suitable for vegans or vegetarians, these culinary amazeballs are a perfect delight if you’re visiting Korca and are eager to try local food. The crispy exterior and the soft meat melt as you devour the juicy blend of Albanian flavours.
It was perhaps one of the best things I tried in Korca old bazaar and I am feeling a tad bit sad as I reminisce the flavour as I write this.
6. Have Korca in Korca
As I mentioned before, Korca, despite its compact size, has its brewery and well, has its beer brand – with the same name as the city. The Korca beer is produced in Korca and is widely consumed by locals and tourists, there is a high chance you would be served Korca beer on at least one of your food endeavours in Korca.
The brewery itself is not a top site to see, saying from my own experience. Though every guidebook or travel enthusiast would recommend going there, I won’t. The service at the brewery is not commendable and we waited over 30 minutes for someone to come serve us, asking 2 different waiters for a beer. After 30 minutes of no one coming or acknowledging us, we left.
Upon checking reviews for the brewery online, I realized this is a common practice there and a lot of other visitors had some complaints too. Therefore, rather than spending time driving to the brewery, I recommend visiting a bar or café at the old bazaar and devouring amazing Albanian food with some Korca.
7. Take a nightly Gjiro (walk) down Shen Gjergj
When in Korca, you will realize that walking is one of the favourite things to do for the locals, and also the tourists. When you step out on the street, next to the Cathedral, you would notice the St. George Boulevard or Shen Gjergj, Korca’s main walkway.
The pathway is lined with bright and lush green apple trees guarding the pedestrians against sunlight and diverting the pathway of those walking from the outdoor cafes, coffee and ice cream shops, and bars that are situated on both sides of the Shen Gjergj.
Shen Gjergj is most commonly used for an evening walk or xhiro, a prized possession of the Albanian culture. The Bulevardi Fan Noli is also used for walking as it also has a garden situated in its middle – perfect for taking a breather during a stroll.
Doesn’t matter what time of the day it is, these boulevards are filled with people and you would notice a few landmarks along the way like the First Albanian School of Language – another exciting spot for tourists to visit – more about that ahead.
Facing the school is the famous Romanian House, standing upright in a bright canary yellow structure. This beautiful building serves as a historical landmark between Romania and Korca.
Lastly, if you have the will and energy to walk up to the Bulevardi Gjergj Kastrioti, you would find yourself at the Rinia Park – the largest one in Korca – lined with bars and cafes, providing the perfect escape into a fusion of contemporary space and nature in Korca.
8. Visit the museum of medieval art
Out of all the museums at Korca, the Museum of Medieval Art, with over 7000 artistic pieces is perhaps the one I enjoyed visiting the most. The museum is located on a road near Birra Korca and is a work of art in itself. It was built in 2016 and the architectural design takes inspiration from certain aspects of iconographic art.
Of the 7000 artistic pieces, most are Orthodox icons carved from different materials like stone, wood and metal. The artistic collection also includes the Byzantine icon of the Archangel Michael, which has notoriously been referred to as the “Mona Lisa of the Balkans”. Artistic pieces crafted by Onufri, an icon painter from Berat, are also placed in this museum.
When you enter the building, right in front of you would be the prestigious Golden Wall – a wall soaring at 9.5m, decorated with 16-century icons that bear cultural and historical significance to Korca. The structure is so beautifully designed and crafted that it can mesmerize you for hours.
The interior of the museum is lined with open staircases, vast foyers and narrow hallways, with an interplay of light and colours to dramatize the art placed inside.
The entry ticket is priced at 700 Lek per visitor, which is pretty expensive for Albania, but once you get in there, it’s worth it.
9. Visit the National Education Museum
Korca offers an expansive culture and history to learn, and if you’re the learner type of a tourist, then the National Education Museum in Korca might be the spot for you.
It is one of the most prestigious and significant museums in Albania and provides an amazing opportunity to learn about Albanian culture, history and language in one place. This building opened up as the first school in Albania in 1887.
The history of Albania’s national language is on display in the form of manuscripts, photographs from the archives and documents. Though it might not excite some of you, it does offer a good view into the linguistic history of Albania, but is a good spot for a future polyglot who wants to study the Albanian language – something I am doing right now!
10. Take a day trip to Voskopoje
Voskopoje is a rather famous spot for tourists visiting Albania, though I didn’t encounter many international tourists when I visited it. It is a beautiful place, perfect for a day trip when you’re in Albania, and bonus: it has plenty of churches for you to visit.
The small village of Voskopoje once housed 24 churches – all built during the 16th and 18th centuries. Unfortunately, only eight of these are left behind today. Only 30 minutes from Korca by car, and you would find yourself in a pleasant countryside
11. Hike to the top of Morava Mountain and get a view of Korca
Remember the Korca beer I mentioned? It is made from natural spring water located near the Morava Mountains. The Morava Mountains is right above the plateau of Korca and is a breathtaking vantage point of the entire city and its outskirts.
The Morava Mountain can be reached by vehicle or even on foot. A lot of tourists prefer cycling their way to the Mountain and some domestic tourists travel from their starting point to the Mountain on a bus.
There is also a hotel near the mountain called Montrelux resort in case you want to spend the night surrounded by hills and mountains.
Among the few attractions at the Morava Mountains is the humongous cross. A small church with some artefacts on display.
Overall, it is a good destination for getting a bird’s eye view of the red rooftops of Korca clustered amongst green fields.
12. Visit the Iljaz Nirahori mosque
Apart from Greek-inspired churches, Korca is also home to the Iljaz Nirahori Mosque which pays homage to its history of being under the reign of the Ottoman Empire. This is also one of the oldest Islamic worship places in Albania.
The mosque is constructed with beautiful stonework with a grey main dome and one minaret. The minaret was destroyed during the Communist rule in the 1990s, however, similar to the reconstruction of the Cathedral, the minaret was rebuilt to signify Albania’s freedom from the communist regime.
The interior of the mosque is lined with frescoes that display Mecca and other Islamic sites. The mosque also has a Madrassah and a clock tower, also called Kulla e Sahatit e Korces, that is constructed using stone.
Overall it is a modestly sized mosque with not a lot to see if you’re not a religious history fan.
13. Do a free walking tour
The Korca Free Walking Tour takes place every day between 10 AM and 6 PM, in front of the Hani I Pazarit Hotel near the Korca Bazaar. It is like a typical walking tour with a guide, but add the beauty and magnificence of Korca.
The guides show you around the city of Korca, its landmarks, share the history of Korca and Albania with you and leave you with a lot of great recommendations of what to eat or do next in Korca. It is recommended if you don’t have a lot of time but would love to learn about and see Korca as much as you can.
Where to eat in Korca?
There’s no travelling journey without the adventure and excitement of devouring new culinary dishes, especially if you’re in a place like Korca. I recommend trying the traditional food in Korca, like the Lakror pie or Qofte, and there are a few restaurants and cafes that you should check out when visiting Korca for these dishes and more.
The Lakror pie is a leek byrek, but with an Albanian touch. For those who don’t know, a byrek is a pastry that is filled with meat, potatoes, spinach or cheese. This is a different type of byrek as compared with other ones normally found in the Balkans, as it is less greasy and doesn’t feel heavy.
Speaking of Lakror, every July, there is a Lakror Pie Fest in Korca to portray the love and appreciation for the pastry and other culinary dishes of Korca, so if you are planning to visit Korca in July, do check the festival.
Now that we’ve got the culinary dishes aside, let’s talk about the restaurants or cafes you should try out when visiting Korca.
1. Find Four
This café on the Bulevardi Republika offers delicious white bean lakror pies that are too die for and a really tasty homemade pasta. Other offerings include bacon, almond and bacon risotto. They do have special diet options like vegan and gluten-free food and offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, coffee and drinks.
The cuisines offered are mainly Albanian and Italian, along with some seafood options.
The best part about this café, and the secret behind its name, is that you can enjoy your meal on any of its four floors – the bar, terrace, restaurant or the pizza place. Every floor offers the same quality experience.
2. Vila Cofiel
The Vila Cofiel is also one of Korca’s best dine-in spots. They offer European, Mediterranean and Albanian cuisines, and have vegetarian options.
They serve lunch, breakfast and dinner, along with some live music and both indoor and outdoor seating. Be sure to check them out when visiting Korca.
3. Vila 95
Another popular, yet amazing eatery in Korca is Vila 95. They offer European, Albanian and Mediterranean cuisines, along with vegetarian-friendly options. They don’t offer breakfast but are open for lunch, dinner and late-night food adventures. From pizza and pasta to traditional Albanian dishes, they have a lot to offer.
Where to stay in Korca?
Now that you are fully convinced that you have to book a trip to Korca, and know which places to see, let’s discuss one of the most important aspects of any trip – accommodation.
Accommodation in Korca depends on your budget and what type of service you prefer.
For a boutique-style experience, we recommend staying at the Hani i Pazarit, which is a historical boutique-style inn located inside the Korca Bazaar. The inn has a courtyard and its own restaurant.
The rooms are intricately decorated, with a little Albanian touch with their exposed brick walls.
The next recommendation is the luxurious Villa Ester – truly a work of modern interior design with its wooden ceilings, perfect for a hotel based in Korca. It has a restaurant, shared lounge, garden as well as a bar and offers family rooms as well.
Some of the rooms also come with a terrace to enjoy the breathtaking view of Korca. Villa Ester has a very hospitable staff and even provides currency exchange for its guests.
Their service comes with everything a modern tourist might need – a safety deposit box, desk, free WiFi and a lot more.
Another beautiful villa worth staying at is the Vila Eden Boutique Hotel. The villa is located on a hilly incline and has arched doorways with cobblestone and stonework on the exterior and interior. This hotel also has a shared lounge, garden, bar and a fitness centre for its guests.
The rooms are fully equipped to meet the needs of modern tourists – television, free WiFi, bathroom fitted with necessary tools and a desk.
A concrete structure with wooden rooftops and ceilings, the Hotel Bujtina e Bardhe offers all the facilities any tourist might need in Korca. The best part is its location – it’s situated right behind the Cathedral.
Just like the other hotels, this one offers a bar, shared lounge, free WiFi, air conditioning and an amazing buffet breakfast every day.
Korca is a magical city to visit. It is filled with so many amazing spots for every type of traveller – the nature lover, culture enthusiast or a fan of trying new cuisines. Korca’s beautiful cobblestone architecture and natural landscapes from the Morava Mountain are perfect for your next trip.
Other articles you will love: