Gjirokastra is one of Albania’s most beautiful and historic cities, leading to its recognition by UNESCO. It’s known for its traditional Ottoman-era architecture, its cobblestone streets, the Old Bazaar and the incredible castle. Gjirokastra Christmas Market is a month-long event starting in December.
In this guide you can find dates and the location for the market along with what you can expect when you’re there.
Gjirokastra Castle is a highlight of a trip to this city, particularly due to its spectacular hilltop location. It’s an impressive fortress that has been standing since the 4th century AD.
The castle has many interesting features, such as its defence walls, two large towers, secret tunnels and watchtowers. In addition, the castle also houses a number of museums, art galleries and other cultural attractions.
Gjirokastra Christmas Market 2023
The Christmas markets in Gjirokastra are part of the Lights Festival that begins on the 5th December and continues into the new year. It’s a great place to buy some Albanian-made handicrafts, gifts and souvenirs.
You can also try all kinds of Albanian foods like burek, grilled meat and vegetables, and oshaf dessert, a specialty of Gjirokastra.
Along with the lighting of the tree and street decorations, there is live music and activities for children, including meeting Santa Claus.
Dates and Location
Gjirokastra Christmas Lights Festival dates: Likely dates: 5th December 2023 to 5th January 2024.
Location: Çerçiz Topulli Square and the Old Bazaar.
Opening times: 10am to 7pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Ice skating: No.
Vegetarian: Yes, some options.
Vegan: Limited options.
Gluten free: Limited options.
Accessible: Yes, if you can manage cobblestones.
Pet-friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on a lead.
Reason to visit: The incredibly scenic location and historic UNESCO listed old town.
Recommended tour: Take a walking tour of the Ottoman-era Old Town. Includes a visit to the Old Bazaar and Cfaka neighbourhood.
Specialties: Oshaf dessert made with figs, sheeps milk and cinnamon. Locally brewed beer, mulled wine, turshi pickled vegetables.
Where to stay: Hotel Kastro is a highly-rated hotel, 3-minutes from the Christmas market.
Hotels near Gjirokastra Christmas Market
Gjirokaster is one of the most beautiful old towns in the country. Cobblestone streets wind through the old Ottoman-era buildings, many of which have now been restored. I recommend staying in one of these historic old buildings for a unique experience in this part of the world.
I suggest staying at Hotel Kastro as it’s located in one of these old buildings. When you enter, you’ll see the intricate, artisanal woodwork on the ceilings. This hotel is situated in the Old Bazaar district and is only a few minutes from the Christmas markets.
Location of Gjirokastra Christmas Market
City and Christmas Tours
A city tour of Gjirokastra is a great way to immerse yourself in this charming city’s rich history and culture. With its picturesque old town, vibrant facades, and magnificent architecture, Gjirokastra offers something for everyone.
I highly recommend taking a walking tour of the Ottoman-era Old Town of Gjirokastra to experience the city’s highlights.
Alternatively, you could try a traditional cooking class to discover the local culture through their delicious cuisine.
During a city tour, you can visit some of the city’s most famous landmarks and attractions, such as the historic Old Bazaar, the elegant Skenduli House, and the imposing Castle of Gjirokastra.
Christmas Specialties in Gjirokastra
Gjirokastra is one of Albania’s best food cities. Here are a few specialties might try on your trip.
- Qifqi: Small, fried balls made of rice and sometimes mixed with other ingredients such as herbs or cheese. They make for a delicious appetizer or snack.
- Tave Elbasani: A hearty casserole made with beef or lamb, onions, and tomatoes, topped with a layer of yogurt and eggs. It’s a popular main dish in Gjirokastra and Albania.
- Japrak: Stuffed grape leaves filled with a mixture of rice, herbs, and sometimes meat. They’re often served as an appetizer or side dish.
- Speca te ferguara: Fried peppers stuffed with cheese or ground meat. They’re a popular street food in Gjirokastra and perfect for a quick snack.
- Pasha qofte: Meatballs made with ground beef or lamb, mixed with rice, and boiled in a flavorful broth. They’re often served as part of a festive meal, such as during the holiday of Bayram.
- Baklava: A sweet pastry made with layers of filo dough and filled with chopped nuts and honey syrup. It’s a classic dessert that’s often enjoyed during the Christmas season.
- Fërgesë: A hearty and comforting dish made with peppers, onions, and tomatoes, mixed with cheese and baked in the oven. It’s a great vegetarian option for a main course.
- Kallamari i mbushur: Stuffed calamari filled with rice, herbs, and spices, served with a side of tzatziki sauce. It’s a popular seafood dish that’s often served during the holidays.
- Byrek: A savoury pastry made with phyllo dough and filled with spinach, cheese, or meat. It’s a staple dish in Albanian cuisine and is often served as an appetiser or snack during the Christmas season.
Add another destination to your Christmas holiday with the help of this list of the best Christmas markets in Albania.
Visit Gjirokastra has information on things to do in this beautiful UNESCO-listed city and the surrounding region. You can also find details on the latest events and festivals and the best ways to experience Gjirokastra at Christmas.
Sustainable Travel Tips for Albania
When visiting Albania’s Christmas markets, it’s important to be mindful of our choices’ environmental and social impact. To travel responsibly, consider implementing the following measures:
- Shop intentionally and avoid purchasing items that you don’t need.
- Use eco-friendly transportation options like walking, cycling, or public transport to get around.
- Choose to stay at sustainable hotels that use renewable energy.
- Refuse plastic products and packaging in favour of more sustainable alternatives.
- Prioritize locally sourced and organic food when dining out.
- Reduce your consumption of meat and dairy products.
- Venture beyond the tourist hotspots and explore lesser-known areas.
- Support the local arts scene by attending events and engaging with the community.
Gjirokastra Christmas Market starts on 5th December 2023 and ends on 5th January 2024.
The Christmas markets in Gjirokastra are held at Çerçiz Topulli Square in the Old Bazaar.
The Christmas markets open at 10am.
The Christmas markets close at 7pm.
Gjirokastra is a charming and historic city located in southern Albania that offers a unique and authentic experience during the Christmas season. The city’s Christmas market and New Year are highlights of the season, and a visit to this festive marketplace is an absolute must for anyone visiting Gjirokastra at this time of year.
At the Christmas market, you’ll be able to sample a variety of traditional Albanian foods and drinks, including local delicacies such as baklava, fërgesë, and qifqi. These dishes are delicious and provide a glimpse into Albanian culture and tradition.
In addition to the food, the Christmas market also features live music and entertainment, adding to the festive atmosphere. You might hear traditional Albanian music or even carol singers performing local versions of classic songs.
The market also offers a wide range of artisanal crafts, including handmade ornaments, textiles, and jewellery, that make for unique and thoughtful gifts or souvenirs.
Overall, a visit to Gjirokastra’s Christmas market is an excellent way to experience the holiday season in Albania and immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions.
If you would like to leave a review of Gjirokaster Xmas Market, feel free to comment below.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Gjirokastra, Albania. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.