Durres, Albania | What to See & Do

Many ask us if it is worth seeing Durres in Albania. Maybe when you have a few days to dedicate to the country which, despite its small size, is full of attractions.

Is Durres worth seeing?

For us the answer is yes, not only because the city boasts an ancient history but also because it allows us to understand the evolution of the country well.

This mini guide of Durres is therefore dedicated to those who intend to discover the city, without prejudice.

This is generally true for the whole Land of Eagles, which in order to be known really needs to put aside all the “I heard that”. But even more for those who intend to see Durres and really look at it.

Before telling you about Durrës, however, we would like to point out some books on Albania that we believe are worth reading to better understand the country. The first is dedicated to the history of the Albanian people and is ” History of Albania and the Albanians “. The second is ” The drums in the rain ” a historical novel by the most famous Albanian writer, Kadarè, which tells the story of his people and the myth of Skanderbeg.

  1. Why see Durres
  2. What to see in Durres in a short time
  3. What to do in Durres
  4. Where sleeping in Durres
  5. How to get to Durres
  6. Where to go to the sea in Durres
  7. Where to eat in Durres
  8. Visit Durres with children
  9. The history of Durres
  10. What to see near Durres

BEFORE YOU GO : If you look for a guide keep in mind that in the market there are not many in Italian: that Albania’s guide is useful for a traveling trip while a rich historical insights is this .Buy the Albania guide on Amazon

The promenade of Durres what to see on a holiday in Albania
The promenade of Durres what to see on a holiday in Albania

Why see Durres in Albania

In our case, the idea of ​​organizing a holiday in Albania – which then more than a holiday was a journey, both for the number of days and for the kilometers traveled – was born in the mind of my travel companion while he was in Durres and, commenting with fascination on what he saw, he was told that the rest of Albania was even more beautiful!

Durres had struck him since his arrival and for this reason right there in Durres – this is the name of this city in Albanian – we concluded our first family trip to Albania, in a sort of a bit melancholy amarcord , as is normal both when you are about to end an intense journey, which has given you so much in terms of emotions and enrichment. A sort of circle to close, let’s face it, we like this kind of circles a lot! Also for this reason, in the reordering of notes and thoughts that follow each of our trips, Durres had a special place and so here I am writing about it!

But when we tell you that in our opinion Durres is worth seeing, we are not joking ! We have in fact returned again during our subsequent trips to Albania, finding it even more beautiful.

What to see in Durres in a short time

Durres in reality, emotion aside, is a city that I recommend you include in your itinerary if you are thinking of organizing a holiday in Albania. Not only because Durres is elegant, with its promenade dotted with cafes that comes alive in the evening, for the stroll, between merry-go-rounds and stalls, or for the ease with which this city knows how to welcome Italian tourists, making them feel at home right from the start. start, thanks to its many restaurants where highly sought-after Italian dishes are cooked to perfection and to the many people who speak Italian or are simply Italian.

The beauty of Durres, and the reason why it is worth visiting in my opinion, goes beyond all this. Here you will certainly not find the most beautiful sea in Albania – for that you should go down to the Albanian Riviera in the south or better still get to Ksamil in front of the island of Corfu – but you can certainly visit the largest Romanesque Amphitheater of all. the Balkans which testifies to the millenary history of Durres when the city was known as Dyrrachium.

It is also worth taking a tour of the historic center, visiting the Archaeological Museum, admiring the mosque and taking a walk along the Durres seafront which is really crowded, especially in the evening. If you have little time a good idea is also to take a guided tour of Durres to better understand the history of the city (find the info in the link).

Durres and the remains of the great Roman amphitheater to see in Durres
Durres and the remains of the great Roman amphitheater to see in Durres

What to do in Durres in two days

Surely the most striking thing about the city is the Roman Amphitheater of Durres. It is the largest Roman amphitheater in the Balkans but despite this … It was forgotten! Rediscovered only in the twentieth century, its real dimensions cannot be understood because in the middle there are… some houses! In short, it is worth seeing and knowing (if you are interested) its history also because it involves one of the universities of Italy, the University of Parma!

Below we summarize some of the things to see in Durres, depending on how much time you have and how long you stay in the city. And if you want to know more, we advise you not to leave without a guide from Albania.Buy the Albania guide on Amazon

The Mosque of Durres

You can’t miss the Durres mosque: it is located in the Sheshi Liria Square and is a mammoth building of recent construction. The interior is not particularly interesting but it is worth going to see it overlooking the square with its shades of yellow and orange.
This is the Great Mosque of Durres which is different from the Fatih Mosque which is instead located in Rruga Xhamia, which is the street of the mosque.

Fatih Mosque

This Durres mosque takes its name from Muhammad II known as the Conqueror (Fatih Sultan Mehmet) and was built around 1500: closed during the communist regime today it is in the old city.

The Forum and Roman Baths

In the center of Durres there are the ruins of the Roman baths and a Byzantine Forum dated between 600 and 800 AD. You can admire the Corinthian columns, a part of the pavement and the swimming pool of the Roman baths, unfortunately not in a good state of conservation.

The Roman Amphitheater of Durres

The Amphitheater was built between the first and second centuries AD and could hold 15,000 people. The site is open and well maintained.

Durres Castle

The Castle of Durazzo is actually a tower connected to the remains of the walls. Built around the 5th century AD, Durres Castle is now centrally located in a busy area.

Archaeological Museum of Durres

The Archaeological Museum of Durres is the most important in the country and also houses large finds.

The Royal Villa of King Zog in Durres

The Royal Villa was commissioned by King Zog I, who reigned in Albania from 1928 to 1939. Symbol of the country’s monarchical past, it was also the palace of the communist regime. Today it is often closed but from the hill on which it is located you can enjoy a beautiful view.

The seafront of Durres

The seafront of Durres is divided in two by the port and has recently been completely redone. There you will find rides, street vendors, cafes, restaurants and many people who make the rub. If you are looking for an equipped beach in Durres, head to the south.

Where sleeping in Durres

During our travels in the Land of Eagles we have always used booking portals and in particular Booking which is very reliable for hotels in Albania .

When choosing, keep in mind that the standards of the hotels in Durres are excellent . You will therefore have no problem finding a nice hotel with attractive prices, you just need to have the patience to sift through the portals.

The Aragosta Hotel is an excellent hotel in a very convenient location for visiting Durres and with a private beach (find all the info in the link, it is Roberto’s favorite on his solo trips to Albania!). If you prefer a beach house just outside the city, follow the link that leads to the dedicated article with all the details.

How to get to Durres

Reach Durres by ferry and plane

If you choose the ferry as a means for your holiday in Albania this city could be your first stop (and also the last one) since very often it is in Durres that ferries arrive from Bari, Trieste or Ancona .

If you prefer the plane, keep in mind that Tirana and Durres are very close and the Mother Teresa Airport is halfway, perhaps closer to Durres than to the capital, so it might be a good solution to see the city as the conclusion of your trip.

HOW TO CHOOSE: when choosing whether to arrive in Durres by plane or by ferry you must consider the costs of both transport and any car rental. In general, the ferry is convenient if you come from central / southern Italy as long as you book in advance. The plane is certainly faster but it will force you to consider the cost of car rental. To check the prices of ferries to Albania follow the link while to compare the costs for renting the car I leave you the link to the portal that we use .

Reach Durres from Tirana Airport

Tirana Airport and Durres are connected by a nice smooth road and in excellent condition. If you don’t have a car, the most convenient solution is to book the transfer from Durres Airport to the city with a private transfer (info in the link) The buses on the other hand are very slow.

Visit Durres from Tirana

If you are staying in Tirana, you don’t have a car and you want to visit Durres you have two choices: the buses (which are very slow) or take part in one of the guided tours that lead from Tirana to the city. For example, we would like to point out this day trip from Tirana to Durres .

See Durres at sunset in Albania
See Durres at sunset in Albania

Where to go to the sea in Durres

If it is true that Durres is a seaside city, keep in mind that it is not here that you will find the most beautiful sea in Albania, so to speak nothing to do with the beaches of Ksamil ! 🙂 Having said that the beaches are located on the left side of the port, on the right there are some beaches but more than anything else many places with sea views.

Having said that there are beautiful beaches with sea ​​suitable for children not far from Skembi i Kavajes, a small town much loved by families for its sandy beach, the very shallow sea and the games available for children. Beautiful are also the beach of San Petri and the beach of Capo Rodonit.

Where to eat in Durres

Eating well in Durres is not difficult at all , especially if you are looking for Italian cuisine based on fish. In fact, many restaurants offer fish specialties and very often the chefs are Albanian who worked in Italy and then returned to Albania opening their own restaurant.

Among other things, the costs are by no means exorbitant as one might expect, bearing in mind both the quality of the food and the environments are normally well cared for. To make you understand, I tell you that the three of us with a pizza, two first courses of fish and a second one spent € 18. 

Below I point out some of the restaurants and bars where we stayed as a family and where Roberto was in his two previous stays in Durres.

Restaurants in Durres

  • Two Guitars : Very famous and with a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea, it is considered one of the best restaurants in Durres. Roberto loves it and always recommends it to everyone! 🙂
  • Vertigo Restaurant: The thing that is probably most striking about this restaurant is the panoramic view, since it is located right on the roof of Durres. The fish and pizza are excellent but if you want some advice go there at sunset (even if in Albania you eat later!) To fully appreciate it.
  • Antinori Restaurant : This is a sea view bar restaurant that makes excellent pizza in a wood oven and has a large playground where children can play while their parents eat or relax with a coffee. It is located on the seafront, leaving the city.
  • Tirona : This restaurant is not located in Durres but not far in Skembi i Kavajes and is directly on the beach. If you decide to sleep in the city you probably won’t need it because there are so many restaurants but if you prefer to sleep out here we ate very good fish and right in front there are the beach games to the delight of our son and all the children .
  • Pasticceria Cialda : It seems to be one of the best pastry shops in Durres, the coffee is excellent, the pastries too, it is located in a side street not far from the sea.

Visit Durres with children

The first thing to remember when visiting Durres with children is that it is a seaside city and therefore the beaches – although not as beautiful as those in the south – are certainly one of the attractions to consider if you decide to spend a few days in the city.

Our son then loved the seafront, not so much for its cafes – which I liked very much – but for the many carousels, stalls and the like that come alive in the evening. So be warned, the Durres seafront with children is the place of perdition but for more advice follow the link! 😉

The History of Durres in Albania

Centuries have passed but Durres is still today the most important Albanian port and due to its importance in the past it was for a period under the control of the Serenissima, as evidenced by the fortified tower of the fifteenth century still visible today, even if transformed into a bar. But its fame was known since ancient times when the poet Catullus sang it calling it the ” tavern of the Adriatic ” and even now the liveliness of the bars and restaurants of this city has no equal in Albania, at least as far as we have seen.

Not even in the white city, Saranda, one of the most renowned tourist centers in Albania, did we find such a lively promenade and restaurants that offered cuisine with the same quality and the same prices that were not at all high.

In short, if you are planning a holiday in Albania, in our opinion Durres is an almost obligatory stop , at least for a day, and if you want some advice, stay in the city until late in the evening, enjoying the sunset in one of the many cafes with a view and then walking on the promenade crowded with families and couples. In our case we did just that and it was the perfect end to our trip to Albania!

What to see in Durres and the Venetian Castle Fortress
What to see in Durres and the Venetian Castle Fortress

What to see near Durres

Then there are some interesting destinations to see near Durres if you stop a few days in the city, here are some ideas, follow the links to find out more:

  • Krujë with Skanderbeg Castle: You can reach the city in less than an hour by car from the center of Durres.
  • Lezhe : Another symbolic city of Albania with the Skanderbeg Mausoleum.
  • Spille Beach: Spille Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches near Durres, reachable in about 45 minutes not far from Durres.
  • Kepi ​​i Rodonit (Capo Rodoni) : A nature reserve with a small beach and the Castle. You pay the entrance and if you want you can rent sun beds and umbrellas and have lunch at the beach bar. If you don’t have a car there is an organized tour from Durres to Cape Rodonit .
  • San Petri and the Bay of Lalezi: A long beach of light sand with a green pine forest behind it.
  • The General’s Beach: It is located in a southerly direction and an endangered turtle lays its eggs.
  • A day in Tirana : If you decide to base yourself in Durres, you cannot miss the capital which is less than 40 kilometers away.

If you want more information about our itinerary in Albania you will find many blog posts, so please share it with your friends and comment below.

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