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The coastal city of Durres, Albania, is packed with ancient history, tradition, and Mediterranean culture. It’s been off the tourist radar for quite some time, however, travelers are now clocking-on to its potential. As Albania’s most ancient city, for anyone interested in the past, it’s home to almost 3,000 years of history. There are tons of interesting things to see and do, and when you want to unwind, you can relax on one of the beaches on the Adriatic coast. It’s really one of Eastern Europe’s best-hidden gems. We’ve rounded up the top things to do in Durres, Albania:
1. Durres Amphitheatre
Any self-confessed historian will love to see the remains of a Roman amphitheater. The Durres Amphitheatre was built around 100 AD by Roman Emperor Hadrian and was used for bloody and gory gladiator games over the following centuries. The enormous amphitheater, which is the largest in the Balkan peninsula, could fit as many as 20,000 people at one go, who were all keen to see blood spilled in its arena. Its ruins were only recently excavated in the 1960s and today you can walk around and imagine the roar of the crowd.
2. Visit the Durres Archaeological Museum
The Durres Archaeological Museum is the largest in the country and lies next to 6th-century walls, constructed in the Byzantine era. The museum is home to an incredible display of artifacts from the Ancient Greek, Hellenistic and Roman periods.
3. Explore Durres Castle
Durres Castle was built around 400 AD during the Byzantine period. The castle has passed through the hands of many, from the Byzantines to the Venetians, the Ottomans, and many more. It was also used during the Second World War by Albanians trying to delay the advance of the Italian army. It’s a simple castle with a single tower and you can see some of its original walls still standing. Today, the tower is home to a rooftop bar with beautiful views of the sea and the city. It’s well worth a visit!
4. Head to a Vineyard
There are some fabulous vineyards in the surrounding Gjepalaj area so why not spend an afternoon sampling some of Albania’s finest wines? It will give you a chance to see Albania’s lush green countryside at the same time.
5. Relax on Durres Beach
Arguably one of the most famous beaches in Albania, Durres Beach boasts around five miles of golden sand and warm, Adriatic waters. The beach lines the city’s seafront and there are plenty of hotels and seafood restaurants for you to enjoy. The beach is mainly public, although there are parts that are privately-owned by hotels, however, can hire a sunbed from most spots even if you’re not a guest.
6. Embrace the Cafe Culture
There’s a thriving cafe culture in Durres, and what better way to start the day, or unwind mid-afternoon, than at one of the city’s many cafes that spill out onto the streets. Embrace European coffee culture at its best!
7. Sample Local Albanian Cuisine
When traveling, it’s important to sample local cuisine — and you’re in luck because Albanian food is delicious. Dishes in Durres are filled with Mediterranean flavors and dishes that draw on its past, with a heavy Greek and Arab influence. Be sure to try Byrek, which is a traditional flakey pastry filled with meat, cheese or spinach, and can be eaten at any time of the day. Other dishes to try include Tavë Kosi, which is a quiche-like dish filled with lamb, eggs, and yogurt, or to satisfy your sweet tooth, try Baklava, which can be found everywhere in Albania thanks to the country’s Middle-Eastern influence. The delicious dessert is made from layers of filo pastry and nuts, and is held together by syrup.
8. See the City Center
The streets of Durres city center are filled with an interesting mix of historic and modern buildings. For example, the main street, Bulevardi Dyrrah, is home to shops and a former Byzantine Market. The city center is a great place to explore and do a spot of shopping.
9. Evening Promenade Stroll
The sun is starting to set, so it’s time for a sunset promenade walk. Ventus Harbour has a pier overlooking the Adriatic sea and at the end of the pier you’ll find a public restaurant (which serves great seafood) and bar where you can enjoy sunset drinks.