Saranda is a coastal town in Albania located along the peaceful Ionian Sea, just opposite the Greek island of Corfu. Saranda is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and is known for its beautiful beaches, stunning views and historical sites. Saranda Christmas Market is held each December in the city centre.
Saranda’s main attractions include Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with ancient ruins dating back to the 6th century BC, the Blue Eye Springs, where visitors can dive into crystal clear waters and spot unique wildlife, and Lekursi Castle, a medieval fortress perched on a hilltop overlooking the city.
Each of these sights is well worth visiting while you’re in Saranda.
As a beach city, Saranda offers a range of outdoor activities such as swimming, snorkelling, sailing and hiking. But the city becomes quiet in winter, making it an ideal time for a peaceful visit and a chance to get some winter sun.
Saranda Christmas Market 2023
Sheshi Nënë Tereza is the main square in Saranda (known as Mother Teresa Square in English) and this is where you’ll find the decorated Christmas tree.
The Christmas market in Saranda may not be taking place this year, but you can see Christmas decorations around the city and along the Saranda Embankment area.
Dates and Location
Saranda Christmas Market dates: Waiting for 2023 dates.
Location: Saranda Embankment and Sheshi Nënë Tereza (Mother Teresa Square).
Opening times: 10am to 7pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Christmas lights: Yes, throughout the old town and along the waterfront.
Ice skating: No.
Vegetarian: Yes, some options.
Vegan: Limited options.
Gluten free: Limited options.
Accessible: Yes, but it can be difficult in some areas.
Pet-friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on a lead.
Reason to visit: Great atmosphere on the coast. You can watch the sunset over the water and Corfu Island.
Recommended tour: Take a city tour of Saranda that includes Lekursi Castle, Saranda Synagogue and the Archaeological Museum.
Specialties: Fresh seafood, petulla with jam (a type of doughnut) and regionally produced cheeses.
Where to stay: Hotel JoAn is a comfortable hotel, 1-minute from the Christmas market.
Hotels near Saranda Christmas Market
Saranda is a safe, walkable city with a small old town and vibrant waterfront area. Anywhere in this central district is a great place to stay to be near the Christmas markets.
I suggest staying at Hotel JoAn as it’s a 1-minute walk to Sheshi Nënë Tereza and the Christmas markets.
Location of Saranda Christmas Market
City and Christmas Tours
Exploring Saranda during winter is a unique experience to discover the hidden treasures of this coastal city. With its mild climate, scenic views, and historical landmarks, Saranda is a city that captures the hearts of its visitors.
I recommend taking a city tour of Saranda to see the most iconic sites, such as the ancient city of Butrint, the charming promenade and the picturesque Castle of Lekuresi or choose a tour that goes further afield to see the stunning Blue Eye natural spring.
During the city tour, you’ll discover Saranda’s rich history and culture and visit the most beautiful landmarks, including the ancient Synagogue and the ruin of the Monastery of 40 Saints.
Alternatively, consider a food tour to taste the local delicacies and learn about the culture and traditions of Albania. Ask at your hotel about finding a local guide to take you on a food tour.
Christmas in Saranda
Specialties in Saranda
Along with international Christma market specialities, there are plenty of opportunities to try Albania meals and side dishes. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Flija: A traditional Albanian dish made of thin layers of crepe-like pancakes, baked in the oven and served with honey or yogurt. It’s usually prepared for special occasions, including Christmas.
- Baklava: A sweet pastry made of layers of filo dough, filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It’s a popular dessert in Saranda during the holiday season.
- Tave kosi: A delicious dish made of baked lamb and rice, topped with yogurt and seasoned with garlic and mint. It’s a popular Albanian main course during Christmas, but a vegetarian option can be made by substituting lamb with vegetables.
- Byrek: A savoury pastry made of thin layers of filo dough filled with cheese, spinach, or other vegetables. It’s a staple of Albanian cuisine and a common dish served during Christmas.
- Kackavall: A type of Albanian cheese that is made from sheep’s milk and aged for several months. It’s often served as an appetizer or added to salads during Christmas, and it’s a great option for vegetarians.
- Qofte: Meatballs made from ground beef or lamb mixed with onions, spices, and herbs. They can be grilled, baked, or fried and are usually served with yogurt or tomato sauce. For vegetarians, qofte can be made with lentils or chickpeas.
- Fasule: A hearty bean soup made with white beans, tomato sauce, onions, and garlic. It’s a popular winter dish in Albania and a great option for vegetarians during Christmas.
At the Saranda Christmas Market, you’ll find a variety of street foods to enjoy while strolling through the festive stalls. Some typical street foods you can expect to find include:
- Qebapa: Small sausages made from beef or lamb, seasoned with garlic and served with bread and onions.
- Pite me Spinaq: A savoury pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese, often served as a quick and delicious snack.
- Fried doughnuts: A popular dessert made of deep-fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with honey.
- Kumpir: A baked potato stuffed with toppings such as cheese, olives, corn and sausage and served with a side of salad.
- Crepes: Thin pancakes filled with Nutella, fruits, or whipped cream, a classic street food that can be found at Christmas markets throughout Europe.
- Roasted chestnuts: A warm and comforting treat, perfect for cold winter nights.
- Hot drinks: Warm beverages, such as mulled wine, hot chocolate and mountain tea, are also available at the Christmas market to keep you cosy and in the holiday spirit.
Plan your Christmas holiday with my Albania Christmas markets guide. Discover where to go, things to do, and the best ways to experience Albanian food, history, and culture.
Saranda Tourism has information regarding things to do in the region and the best ways to experience Saranda at Christmas.
Sustainable Travel Tips
When visiting Saranda for the Christmas markets, being mindful of your environmental and social impact is important. Here are some responsible travel measures you can implement:
- Shop mindfully: Support local artisans and vendors by purchasing items that are unique and have cultural significance. Only buy what you need, and avoid purchasing cheap, disposable goods that will likely end up in landfills.
- Use sustainable transportation: Walking or cycling is a great way to explore Saranda and its surroundings while reducing your carbon footprint. If you need to travel further, use public transportation or consider carpooling to reduce emissions.
- Stay in a sustainable hotel: Look for hotels that prioritise sustainability, such as those powered by renewable energy or those that implement recycling programs. Choose accommodations that support the local economy and culture.
- Avoid plastic: Saranda has a growing waste management problem, and reducing plastic consumption can help to address this issue. Bring a reusable water bottle, shopping bag, and utensils to reduce plastic waste.
- Eat locally sourced, organic food: Supporting local farmers and businesses is a great way to contribute to the local economy while enjoying fresh, delicious food. Look for restaurants that serve locally sourced, organic food, and consider trying some traditional Albanian dishes.
- Limit your consumption of meat and dairy: The meat and dairy industries have a significant environmental impact, and reducing your consumption of these products can help to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Explore beyond the tourist areas: Saranda has many hidden gems that are often overlooked by tourists. Consider exploring local neighbourhoods, parks, and markets to get a more authentic experience of the city.
- Attend local events and support the arts: Saranda has a vibrant cultural scene, and attending local events is a great way to support the local arts community while learning more about Albanian culture. Look for concerts, exhibitions, and festivals that celebrate local traditions and customs.
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Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Saranda, Albania. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.