Durrës is a great port city in the Balkan country of Albania. It presents you with both a modern-day and also old allure. The town is filled with history. There are both Roman and Byzantine ruins and heritage sites you can visit. It also has one of the biggest beaches in Albania. Follow our things to do in Durrës guide to get the most out of your vacation.
Although this holiday destination is looked over by many people, you should include it in your itinerary when you are in Albania. A side journey to Durrës supplies you an opportunity to mingle with regional people in a genuine method.
The local atmosphere, great ruins and the big stretch of beach make Durrës an attractive option. Let’s dive into the things to see and the attractions of Durrës.
Here at the Durrës Castle, you will find the ancient ruin of a fortification. Only a single standing tower and some walls have remained. It is described in several overviews as the Venetian Tower. The castle originates all the way back to the 400s. It was built under the Byzantine Emperor, Anastasius.
Due to the location of Durrës, the castle and castle walls have been part of many fighting throughout the ages. Along with the destruction, every conqueror also added a little to the castle. This makes the historical site in Durrës a great architectural mix.
In 1939 the castle was the base for a makeshift militia of Albanian patriots. They were trying their best to halt the advancement of the Italian military in the region. Approximately 360 citizens held their ground efficiently inside the fortification. The Italian army could only take the city once their armoured division arrived.
Today there is a great bar on the top of the Venetian Tower. If you want some great views and cocktails, consider it for your night out.
The Amphitheater of Durrës is among the oldest ruins in Albania. It’s also the second biggest Roman amphitheatre in the Balkans region. The building was constructed by Hadrian in 100 AD.
At the height of its lifetime, the amphitheatre could house as much as 20000 people. The ancient Romans sure knew how to entertain and have fun! This grand stage and viewing area are what makes the landmark unique. Yet, archaeologists are likewise fascinated by exactly how the structure shows the Roman shift to Christianity.
When the structure was discovered in the 1960s, the archaeologist also discovered a church hidden within. The small chapel is filled with spectacular wall surface mosaics. They form pictures of saints, revealing exactly how the amphitheatre handled a spiritual function later in its lifetime.
Byzantine Market Square
In the middle of Durrës, you will find the old Byzantine market square. It follows the classical Roman style of forums. Today only a couple of building stones and ancient columns remain.
You can also check out the Roman thermal baths next to the forum of Durrës. It’s well known that the Romans loved public baths, and they could not pass up the opportunity to build one everywhere they went. Lucky for us, we can today marvel at the amazing ruins and ancient structures.
One of the attractions you cannot miss in your things to do in Durrës plan is the beach. Although it’s not as fancy as the famous Albanian Rivera, the beach has a much more intimate atmosphere.
You can mingle and mix with locals here. The coastline and beach go on for as much as 10 kilometres! The coastline is insane in the summertime when it is loaded with people from all over the country.
Many locals like to wind off after a long and hot summer day at the beach. They swarm the beach to enjoy activities such as water sports and some great beach football.
Although you will find a lot of great restaurants and bars along the beach, you don’t actually need to leave your seat. There are people going through the rows of sunbeds offering all kinds of snacks and drinks you can buy directly.
We advise investing at the very least 1 day on the beach. Indulge yourself in the sunlight, to experience the vivid power of Durrës. It’s a great way to feel like a local for a day.
Durrës has the biggest ancient archaeological museum in Albania. You can see what all the various civilizations that lived in this area left. The museum is very easy to access. It’s just a couple of minutes away from the coast of Durrës.
You can marvel at archaeological treasures from ancient ages. Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman heritage items are on display. As with the Royal Villa of Durrës, the museum was a victim of civil unrest in the region. The renovation and grand reopening were only recently completed.
The Durrës Royal Villa
The Royal Villa in Durrës is a reminder of the short-lived Albanian Monarchy. It lasted just 11 years between 1928 and 1939. Towards the end of the monarchy, the villa was constructed on the hilltop in Durrës. Unfortunate for Monarch Zog I., the kingdom in Albania was soon dissolved.
After that, the grandiose building was used as a reception for high ranking foreign officials. Among the most famous visitors are Jimmy Carter and Nikita Khrushchev.
At the end of the communist era, there was a lot of civil unrest in Albania. The Royal Villa has fallen victim to the unrest. The place was ransacked. Ever since it has remained in the same state.
You can come up here today to check out one of the few reminders of the Albanian Monarchy. The building is impressive and a great sight to look at. If you turn around you will be presented view another picturesque view of Durrës and the city port.
This place is a beach for those who are looking for a more relaxed experience. As Durrës beach can get quite crowded during summertime, it might be a good idea to find a quieter beach. You have to travel a little to the south of the city to arrive at Spille beach. It’s a nice sandy stretch of land, with sunbeds and great water.
Perfect if you are looking for the laid back beach experience.
The Mosques of Durrës
There are 2 excellent mosques to locate in Durrës. Among the two, The Great Mosque is the youngest. It was built by the Albanian Monarch in 1931. It’s a truly impressive building with sheer sizes. You will be able to marvel at the yellow exterior and enjoy taking some pictures.
The smaller mosque is also older. You will find this place as the Faith Mosque. Date back all the way to 1503. It was the Ottomans who created this place of worship. Today it serves as an official part of the Albanian Cultural Monuments.
If you visit Albania, but your lodging is not in Tirana, then we definitely recommend a day trip. The capital of this beautiful country is an amazing historical and cultural mix. As Albania has seen many nations and conquerors over the years, everyone has seemingly left their fingerprint on the city.
There are amazing historical sights to see and great museums you can visit. A day trip to the capital cannot be missing from your things to do in Durrës itinerary.
Enjoy a Mix of Tastes
Throughout the ages, many cultures were mixed together in this area. As a result, today we can enjoy great, unique cuisine in Albania. You will find many familiar meals from Italian, Greek and Balkan nations. You can try and enjoy them all here.
One of the highlights is the cheap sea-food. As a coastal nation, access to fish and other delicacies from the sea are easily accessible. The locals have mastered the preparation of such foods and you will have a great meal.
Day Trip to Krujë District
One of the other things to do in Durrës is a day trip to the Kruje district of Albania. It’s a great mountainous area. You will be able to check out some of the great traditional building styles of the country.
You can visit the amazing Kruja Castle for a medieval experience. Tall walls, medieval life and amazing views await you in this hilltop fortification.
Right next to it, you will find the Ethnographic Museum of Kruja. Here you can learn about the ways of life for the people of Albania in the past. Another highlight is the bustling Kruje Market. Visiting this place is a truly chaotic experience. You can check out the amazing local produce and wares of the vendors. We recommend buying some memorabilia in the market as a souvenir.
You can enjoy a day trip from this great town with a car rental. You can head over to our rentals page to check the cheapest prices.
As you can tell Durrës is a great local holiday destination in Albania. This is a perfect location for anyone who is looking to get off-the-beaten-path. If you are looking for a quiet holiday or an interesting day trip, you should consider this city.
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