The city's population is 62,000 (2003; 21st rank in Albania). Burrel is one of the largest districts in Albania. It is also known among Albanians as the "Land of Kings", as Gjon Kastrioti, the father of Gjergj Kastrioti better known as Skanderbeg, was born there. He was a hereditary prince of a large district of Epirus that included Mat. Another famous native of Burrel was Ahmet Zogu, first king of Albania (born Ahmet Zogolli, later changed to Ahmet Zogu) (October 8, 1895 – April 9, 1961) who reigned from 1928 to 1939. He was previously Prime Minister of Albania between 1922 and 1924 and President of Albania between 1925 and 1928.
Burrel used to be a miners' town but the mines are closed now. A ferrochrome plant is still working near Burrel.
During the Kosovo conflict there was a refugee camp near Burrel for 2000 people.
The city used to be the site of one of the most terrible prisons of the communist regime, where both ordinary criminals and political prisoners such as Bashkim Shehu and Fatos Lubonja or the Catholic priest Dom Simon Jubani were held. Another famous inmate was Pjetër Arbnori, later to become a member of the free Albanian Parliament. Arbnori was known as "the Mandela of the Balkans" because of the length of his internment, which lasted for over 28 years. The political prisoners used to be condemned for attempts at overthrowing the state or anti-communist propaganda and agitation, for terms of at least 20 years. Often they were re-condemned while in prison. After the fall of the communist regime, the government of the Democratic Party closed the prison and made it a prison-museum. However in 1997, Sali Berisha readopted it as an active prison.
Klubi Sportiv Burreli (KS Burreli) is an Albanian football (soccer) club based in Burrel. Its home arena is Burreli Stadium, containing 2,500 seats. Founded in 1952 under the name "KS 31 Korriku Burrel", the club first participated in the Albanian First Division in 1982. As of the 2006-2007 season, KS Burreli is playing in the Albanian First Division.