Durres, Albania might not be one of the most amazing places to visit in this fascinating country. If you are looking for a nice seaside location in Albania head to the south for better and more beautiful beaches, and nice holiday destinations.
But don’t skip Durres altogether during your trip to Albania!
This is one of the oldest places in Albania, inhabited since the 7th century BC, where you still can find numerous impressive ancient remnants, among other things to do in Durres. Since the city is close to the capital (less than 40 km away), it makes a perfect option for one of the day trips from Tirana (and one day in Durres is definitely enough).
If you decide to visit this underrated city in Albania, I put together this small guide with the best things to do in Durres. Enjoy!
Day trip from Tirana to Durres
If you decide to visit Durres as a day trip from Tirana you can do it independently or with the tour. Both options are good but what you choose depends on the level of hassle you want to deal with.
To do it independently you first need to go to the Regional Bus Terminal – North and South Albania (Terminali i Autobusave të Veriut dhe Jugut) located some 5 km from the center. To get to the terminal you need to take the city bus from the stop behind the National Museum, near Skanderbeg Square.
Buses in the direction of Kamza and Instituti will take you to the bus station. You can get the ticket on the bus, the price is 40 lek and the ticket inspector will come to you when you board the bus to sell you the ticket.
Buses between Tirana and Durres run more or less every 30 minutes throughout the whole day so you don’t need to aim for a specific connection, you just need to show up at the bus station and find the bus (it should be near the entrance on your right), you pay for the ticket inside.
In Durres, the bus station is located near the port, less than a 2km walk from the Amphitheater and the waterfront. The walk itself will give you a good glimpse into the central part of the city, before arriving at the main Durres attractions.
If you decide to go for a tour from Tirana to Durres, here are the best option:
- Private Full-Day Trip to Durres and Berat from Tirana
- Day Tour of Kruja Castle & Durres from Tirana
- Durres and Tirana Day Trip
Things to do in Durres
And here are the best things to do in Durres, in no particular order.
Wander around the center
Durres has a surprisingly pleasant center, perfect for a stroll around. Granted, it’s not like the beautiful old towns you will find in Berat or Gjirokaster but it’s still a nice enough place, easy to enjoy.
The heart of the center is Freedom Square where you will find some of the most important places in Durres, such as the Town Hall, the Theater, or the Great Mosque of Durres.
The buildings in the central part of the city are similar to those in Tirana, a weird version of the Albanian (neo)modernist architecture that somehow works well here. The streets are lined with palm trees that add a nice touch to the overall look of the area.
See the Roman Amphitheater
Dating back to the 2nd century AD, the Roman Amphitheater in Durres is the largest construction of that kind located in the Balkans. Back in the day, it could fit up to 20.000 spectators who gladly came here to watch various performances.
Unfortunately, the amphitheater didn’t serve its purpose for a very long time – it’s been destroyed in two earthquakes, in the mid-4th century and in the 10th century. After the first earthquake the Christan chapel, with frescoes and mosaics, was established here – you can still see its remnants on the site.
The Durres Amphitheater isn’t in the very best condition, to be honest, but it still is an impressive place, located right in the center of the city and surrounded by modern buildings. You can visit the site to wander around and explore all its corners. This is definitely one of the most important places to visit in Durres.
Find the remnants of the Durres castle
The only remaining part of the Durres castle is the city walls, built in the late 5th century to protect the place and strengthen in Middle Ages.
Back in ancient times, Durres was the most fortified place in the Adriatic and the center of the region, the first fortification was built already in the Hellenistic times. In the 16th century, a circular Venetian tower was added to the city walls.
You can find both, the tower and the walls right in the center, next to the Amphitheater. Around one-third of the original walls remained, with a height of up to five meters and three entrances through them.
See King Zog’s Palace
Back when Durres was the capital of the newly independent nation at the beginning of the 20th century, the city grew and flourished. That’s when one of the leaders of the Albanian movement – Ahmed Zogu (later known as King Zog I of Albania) decided to build his villa on the hills above the Durres seaside.
The impressive pink building was considered the most luxurious property in the whole country until it was destroyed by rioters in 1997 and eventually left abandoned. Now the building is fenced and impossible to visit but it’s still worth coming up here to see its interesting architecture (the building looks a bit like a chicken).
Find the Byzantine Forum
This is such a random yet so valuable place to see in Durres.
The Byzantine Forum was established here at the end of the 5th century. It had a diameter of 40 meters, with the marbled, paved ground, and was surrounded by the colonnade.
Still today you can see a few Corinthian columns scratted around – the best remnant of the bustling forum that used to operate here until the 7th century. Once the place was abandoned it served as the cemetery.
Now it’s easy to miss the place as it’s surrounded by random buildings and blocks of flats but when you find it you will surely appreciate this great reminder of the long history of Durres.
Visit the Archeological Museum
With its long and interesting history, dating back to the 7th century BC, it’s not surprising that Durres is home to the largest Archeological Museum in Albania, established in 1951. Inside you can find a few thousand artifacts from the Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine period (some of them the most valuable items of that kind in the country), a perfect testimony to the city and surrounding area.
The Archeological Museum is located in the center, a few steps away from the seaside promenade, and is a very easy place to include in your trip to Durres. Just keep in mind that the place is closed on Mondays.
Find great viewpoints
Every place looks better from above and Durres is no exception here. There are a few great viewpoints from where you can admire a lovely panorama of the city and beyond, as well as the Adriatic Sea.
When you go to see King Zog’s Palace continue a bit further on the same road until you find the clearance with a nice view of the sea down below as well as one of the piers on the promenade. On your right, you will also see the lighthouse from where the view is even better.
Another place, slightly more difficult to find (here is the exact location) is the so-called “Durres Balcony”, also located not far from King Zog’s Palace. From here not only you can see the extensive city panorama but also the Roman Amphitheater, the impressive port (the largest one in Albania), and the mountains beyond Durres.
Walk along the seaside promenade
Right in the center you should go for a walk along the seaside promenade. This is a place to see and be seen in Durres, packed with people strolling around despite the time, day, or the weather (when I was there it was raining a bit, but there were still people wandering around).
There are two piers on the promenade, not far from each other (the newer, concrete one and the steel one), both offering nice views of the sea and the waterfront. You can also sit down in one of the cafes or restaurants to relax a bit and observe the world around you.
When walking down the promenade you will find some interesting statues as well, including the random combination of Mick Jagger, John Lennon, and Bob Dylan playing together or the brutalist monument dedicated to the Unknown Soldier.
Bunkers are the unofficial symbol of Albania. Back in Hoxha’s regime time, around 750.000 of these concrete structures were built all over the country, including the most remote locations. Still today you can find many of them around, and that includes the central part of Durres.
When wandering around you will surely stumble across the mushroom-shaped bunkers scattered around in the parks or located right next to the road. Near Durres, you can even find bunkers on the beach or in the sea!
Relax on the beach
To be honest, there are so many better places for the seaside holidays in Albania than Durres (mostly in the south of the country) but if you happen to be here, there is a long and sandy beach in the city, a bit away from the center. Durres is a popular resort place and there are plenty of hotels along the seaside line to choose from.
The beach can get a bit crowded, especially in the summer season, but it offers all the facilities you might need. The sea is also known for having a long shallow part, which makes Durres beach a popular place for families with children.
Go for day trips
If you decided to spend your holidays in Durres, you can use the city as the base for day trips to some of the best places to visit in Albania. There are plenty of great places not far from the city, that you can easily visit: the funky capital Tirana, the impressive Kruja, or the beautiful town Berat, just to name a few. You might even hop across the border and visit Montenegro, Kosovo or North Macedonia!
The best way to travel around on day trips from Durres is by tour (as getting around by public transport might be a bit tricky and can require going to Tirana first). Here are some recommended tours from Durres:
- Berat Sightseeing Day Tour from Durres
- Kruje and Holy Mountain Half-Day Tour from Durres
- Gjirokaster Guided tour – from Durrës
- Ohrid Lake Full-Day Tour from Durrës
- Town of Prizren Full Day Tour from Durrës
Final thoughts on visiting Durres
Even if Durres isn’t the most exciting place to visit in Albania I must say I enjoyed the time I spent there, despite the gloomy weather. I really liked to ancient remnants scratted around the modern city as well as the funky vibe so unique for Albania.
I would never choose the place for the seaside holidays but for a few hours this is a really interesting city to visit and I hope you will give Durres a chance too!
I published many articles about Albania that you might find useful when planning your trip there. Here are some of them:
- What to see in Albania – my favorite places and more!
- 27 Great Things to Do in Tirana, Albania
- Your Ultimate Travel Guide to Saranda, Albania
- 7 Perfect Things to Do in Shkoder, Albania
- A Complete Guide to Visiting Lake Koman, Albania
- Kruja, Albania – a Perfect Day Trip from Tirana
- Gjirokaster, Albania – the stone gem of the Balkans
- and more!
If you are looking for articles about a specific destination – check out the map with all the articles I’ve published (and their locations).
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