The castle is open all year round (April to September 09:00 to 19:00, October to March 09:00 to 17:00 ) with an admission price of 200 Lek.

The castle has been the nucleus of Gjirokastra, with most of its population living within its walls until the Old Bazaar Quarter (Pazar i Vjetër) developed outside its northern gate in the 15th century.

The first fortifications were probably built since the 5th century BC when Epirus was a battleground between Illyrians, Macedonians and Roman forces. A bigger fortress was erected by the Despotes of Epirus under Byzantine auspices in the 12th and 13th centuries.

During Ottoman times the castle was progressively enlarged and improved until Ali Pasha of Tepelena gave it its present shape by adding the clock tower and its southwest extension in 1811-1812, making it the second largest castle in the Balkans. Through a 12 km aqueduct he brought drinking water from the mountains. The castle housed a garrison in the 19th and a prison in the 20th century. Its last administrative buildings were taken down only after 1968