Durres, Albania is the country’s second largest city and is a popular resort town. Located just 40-minutes from Tirana, it makes for a great day trip from the capital, or as a nice spot to enjoy the beach for a day or two.
In this guide, we’re sharing the 15 best things to do in Durres, including beach recommendations, popular historical sights, and a few hidden gems. Additionally, we’ve included tips on the best places to eat, where to stay, and some of our favorite day trips nearby.
While Durres wasn’t at the top of our month-long Albania road trip itinerary, we ended up spending a few days here at the end of our trip. We needed a place to relax and take it slow after a whirlwind trip, and it was a great place to do just that.
Read on to discover our Durres, Albania travel guide.
15 Best Things to do in Durres
1. Visit the Durres Amphitheater
The Durres amphitheater is the largest and most important Roman amphitheater in Albania. Built in the 2nd century AD under Emperor Trajan, it once held up to 20,000 people for different spectating events, such as gladiator fights and other ancient games.
The amphitheater was recently discovered in 1966 and is now one of the best ways to experience the city’s ancient history.
We spent 30 minutes walking around the Roman amphitheater and the grounds. For being almost 2 centuries old, it is in decent condition and is one of the best ancient Roman sites that we saw during our trip to Albania.
Our personal opinion: The amphitheater is the main highlight of Durres. It’s pretty cool to see an ancient theater in the middle of the city; however, it’s not as well preserved as some that you may see in Italy.
Practical Info: The Durres amphitheater is open daily from 9AM – 6PM. Tickets cost 300 LEK per adult. Discounts are available for students and children.
2. Hang out at Durres Beach
Over 10 kilometers long, Durres beach is the largest and most popular beach in Albania. During the summer months, Durres beach transforms into a popular resort destination for Albanians.
There are a mix of private and public beaches. We rented a chair for 500 LEK for the two of us for the day. That was in May, so be prepared to spend around 1,000 – 1,500 LEK for two chairs and an umbrella during the high season (June to September).
Plenty of restaurants and snack shops line the beach, so you won’t have any problems finding somewhere to eat lunch. We ordered pizzas for lunch from Alternative Foods Durres, and we’d recommend it!
On our first day at the beach, we stayed closer to the city and the beach was okay. We headed further south to Plazhi I Golemit near Hotel Grint on our second day and much preferred this beach, as it was cleaner and quieter.
There are less restaurant options here, but you can always eat at one of the resorts nearby.
How to get to Durres beach
The closest part of Durres beach is about a 50-minute walk from the center of Durres. To get there, you either need to take a taxi or drive if you have a rental car.
We had a rental car and the drive took around 10-15 minutes. Parking was easy to find on the main street located just on the other side of the beach.
3. Visit the Venetian Tower & Durres castle remains
Durres castle was built in the 5th century during the Byzantine empire and once was a very powerful fortress. Today, only a wall and a tower remain.
The Venetian Tower is a circular stone tower that was built by the Venetians in the 15th century. It was originally part of the city’s defensive walls.
You can climb to the top of the tower for views of the sea and city. However, the tower is only around 30 feet (9 meters) tall, so you won’t be able to see a lot.
Our personal opinion: The tower wasn’t open during our visit to Durres in May, so we just walked by and checked it out for a minute. Don’t expect much because there is only the tower and a portion of the wall remaining. It’s worth a glance and a climb to the top (if open), but you won’t need to spend much time here.
4. Check out the Archaeological museum
The Durres Archaeological museum is the largest museum in Albania and is one of the top things to do in Durres. It houses an extensive collection of artifacts spanning from the prehistoric period (over 3,000 years ago) to the 4th century.
You’ll find everything from ancient pottery, sculptures, and mosaics most notably from the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
The museum showcases an array of local archaeological findings that will take you on a journey throughout Albania’s history.
We recommend spending around 1.5-2 hours exploring the museum.
5. See the Durres Mosque
Located in the historic center of Durres, the Durres Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque, is a significant religious and historical site in the city.
Originally opened in 1938 and built by Italian architects, the Grand Mosque has experienced a turbulent past. During the communist times in the 1960s, the building was converted into a youth center where it hosted performances on the main floor and became a restaurant on the upper floor. Much of the interior was destroyed, damaged, or altered.
In 1979, the mosque was further damaged in an earthquake. Finally, in 1993, the Durres Mosque was reopened as a religious center and is currently an active place of worship.
It is located in Illyria Square, the main square in Durres, and cannot be missed.
6. See the Byzantine forum
The Byzantine Forum in Durrës is an archaeological site dating back to the 5th century. This ancient marketplace showcases the city’s importance during the Byzantine era.
Characterized by its circular layout and central courtyard, the Byzantine forum was a bustling center of commerce and social interaction.
Unfortunately, the site is not in the best shape. It is surrounded by a fence, so you’ll simply have to enjoy ancient history from afar.
This is a quick visit and shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes.
7. Walk along the waterfront promenade
From the city center, make your way towards Sfinski along the waterfront walkway. This area is surrounded by modern buildings, and you start get the feeling that you’re in a resort town.
The promenade is lined with palm trees, gardens, and is very well-kept. Along the way, you’ll pass a ton of beach bars and restaurants, which is a perfect place to relax, grab a drink, and enjoy the views of the Adriatic Sea.
8. Hang out at Sfinksi
Sfinski, also known as Cape Square of Durres, is a unique structure made up of a set of concrete stairs. It marks the end of the promenade and is a wonderful spot to relax and enjoy a bit of people watching. Plus, the views of the city and the sea from here are amazing.
We took our towels and books and laid out on the steps for an hour or so. We watched some fisherman catch a few fish, read our books, and enjoyed the cool sea breeze.
9. Check out the Royal Villa of Durres
The Royal Villa of Durres, also known as King Zog’s Palace, is a historical landmark that offers a glimpse into the brief Albanian monarchy.
Built in the 1930s as a summer palace for King Zog, the first monarch of Albania, the palace is symbol of the monarchy that once ruled over this country.
While the building itself is not open to the public, you can walk up to it and admire the architecture from the outside. Because the villa is set atop a hill, you can enjoy amazing views of the city and the Adriatic sea from the here.
10. Wander the streets with the locals
Although Durres is considered an ancient city in Albania, nowadays, the city is filled with modern buildings and amenities. Join the locals for the daily “xhiro” – a leisurely walk outside before sunset.
The city comes alive at this time with people hanging out in Illyrian Square, the city’s main square, and along the waterfront promenade. Durres feels a bit like a maze, so we enjoyed turning down some smaller streets to get a taste of the quieter side of the city.
Durres is a popular destination for Albanian tourists, but not as much for foreign tourists. You’ll get a real sense of local Albanian life here and wandering around the city is one of the best ways to experience it.
11. Eat some fresh seafood
Due to its ideal coastal location, Durres is renowned for its fresh (and affordable!) seafood. If you’re looking for one of the best places in the country to east excellent fish, Durres is the place to do it.
Restaurants bring in freshly caught fish and serve everything from codfish to sea bass, shrimp, crab, and so much more. Everything is reasonably priced compared to other European countries.
We personally loved all of the seafood with pasta varieties. Check out our Durres restaurant guide below for some of our recommendations on where to get the best seafood in Durres, Albania.
12. Take a day trip
Durres’ central location makes it a great spot for day trips. Below, we’re sharing a few day trips that we recommend.
Located 44 km (50 minutes by car) northeast of Durres, Kruja is one of our favorite places to visit in northern Albania. The city is famous for its ancient shopping bazaar, iconic castle, and Skanderbeg museum.
You really only need a half-day here to see everything in the city. We suggest spending time shopping for local goods, such as handwoven rugs, olive wood tools, and much more. In our opinion, it’s the best place in Albania to buy local crafts and souvenirs.
Cape of Rodon
Located 49km north of Durres (1h10min by car) is the beautiful Cape of Rodon. Here you’ll find incredible landscapes, a 15th century castle, and gorgeous sandy beaches surrounding the area. This is a perfect day trip for nature lovers.
Tirana is Albania’s capital and is located 36km (30 minute drive) east of Durres. We would recommend taking public transportation into Tirana, as parking and the roads here are a bit chaotic.
Spend the day exploring some of the city’s main highlights, such as Bunk’art, Skanderbeg Square, and the National Historical Museum.
Located 90km (1.5 hours) southeast of Durres, Berat is one of our favorite cities in all of Albania. Known as the city of a thousand windows, the ancient city is filled with historical sights and charming streets.
Eat some local Albanian food at one of our favorite local restaurants, such as Homemade Food Lili, and explore the Berat Castle on this day trip from Durres.
Don’t have a car? Book this day trip from Durres to Berat with a local guide. Transportation is included!
13. Check out some of the other beaches nearby
One of the main things to do in Durres is to go to the beach! While Durres beach is a great choice, there are plenty of other beaches nearby worth visiting. Here are a few of our recommendations.
Known for its beautiful white sandy beach, Spille beach is filled with bars and restaurants and is a nice escape from the busier beaches closer to Durres.
Lalzi Bay Beach
Lalzi Bay is one of the most popular beaches in this part of Albania. You’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants as well as water sports available here.
Just north of Durres, Kallmi beach is a small and secluded beach that is a nice escape from the crowds. If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, this is the place to go.
14. Go wine tasting
The countryside surrounding Durres is filled with gorgeous vineyards and wineries. We spent a night at Agroturizem Gjepali, a gorgeous property that’s locally owned where you can enjoy a fantastic multi-course meal with a wine pairing of Albanian wines.
Our dinner here was one of the best we had in all of Albania. Make sure to book in advance to ensure you get a spot!
Here are a few other nearby wineries we recommend:
15. Enjoy the Views
Up on the hill, near the Royal Villa of Durres, you’ll find some great viewpoints overlooking Durres and the Adriatic Sea. Walk towards the lighthouse, or discover some of the concrete bunkers around the hill while taking in the views.
We recommend walking to this viewpoint.
Is Durres, Albania worth visiting?
We have mixed feelings about Durres, Albania. While the beaches are nice in the area, the city itself is okay compared to other places in Albania.
We personally think the beaches and towns in southern Albania are more beautiful and pristine than in Durres.
How many days to spend in Durres?
You only need 1-2 days in Durres to see the main sights in the city center and enjoy a beach day.
We spent 4 days in Durres and spent one day exploring the city and the rest of the time doing day trips to other beaches and towns nearby.
Below, we’re sharing a 1 to 5 day Durres itinerary to help you plan your stay.
One day Durres Itinerary
- Durres Amphitheater
- Venetian Tower
- Durres Mosque
- Byzantine forum
- Royal Villa of Durres & views of the city
- Archaeological museum
- Waterfront promenade
Day 2 Durres Itinerary
- Check out Durres beach or another nearby beach, such as Golem beach or Spille beach
- Go wine tasting and have dinner at a local winery
Day 3 Durres Itinerary
- Day trip to Cape of Rodon
- Relax at one of the beaches close to the cape
Day 4 Durres Itinerary
- Day trip to Kruja and Tirana
- Or spend a half-day in Kruja and the rest of the day at Durres beach
Day 5 Durres Itinerary
- Day trip to Berat
How to get to Durres?
There are a couple of ways to get to Durres from the main cities in Albania. Either you can rent a car or take the public bus.
During our month in Albania, we rented a car for the entire trip. It was affordable and convenient, plus driving in Albania wasn’t bad at all – despite what some people may say!
If you’re on a tighter budget or simply prefer to take public transportation, the bus is another great option. Make sure to have cash on hand to pay the driver directly once you get on the bus. You can check out bus timetables on the Gjirafa website.
Here are a few popular routes to Durres and information on how to get there by both car and bus.
Tirana to Durres
By Bus: The bus ride from Tirana to Durres takes the same amount of time as a car – 35 minutes. Of course, if the bus driver has to stop for other people along the way, it’ll take a bit longer. The bus station in Tirana is a bit outside of the city center, so you’ll either have to take another local bus or taxi to get to the station before heading to Durres.
By Car: The drive from Tirana to Durres takes about 35 minutes without traffic. Driving in Tirana is a bit chaotic, so we recommend staying a little outside of the city if you’re driving. Otherwise, if you’re picking up your car from the Tirana airport and driving to Durres, it’ll take around 30 minutes.
Shkoder to Durres
By Bus: There are just a few direct buses that leave from Shkoder to Durres everyday. The direct route takes about 3 hours each way. The indirect route with a stopover in Tirana takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, so it’s actually a bit shorter!
By Car: The drive from Shkoder to Durres takes about 1.5 hours. We drove to Durres from Shkoder and the roads were well-paved and easy to follow.
Berat to Durres
By Bus: There are plenty of buses leaving from Berat to Durres everyday – Durres is the last stop on the route from Berat to Tirana. The ride takes around 2 hours each way.
By Car: The drive from Berat to Durres takes about 1.5 hours, depending on traffic. We felt completely safe driving on this road, as it’s not too crowded and is straightforward to follow.
Where to eat in Durres
There are plenty of good restaurants in Durres, and we’re always scoping out the best places to eat for you! From seafood to Italian cuisine, we’re sharing our favorites below.
- SEMA – This is a fantastic seafood restauarant and cafe that we actually went to twice! After all of the heavy food in Albania, we really enjoyed their seafood salads and pasta. Try one of their cakes for dessert!
- Spaghetteria Luli – This is our favorite restaurant in Durres. It is owned by Granny Luli and her son who dish up incredible homemade pasta. We got the mushroom pasta that they recommended and it was wonderful. She even gave us some soup to try because she insisted! They are only open for lunch and it’s tight on space, so you may have to wait a minute or two!
- Brutal Steakhouse – Located in Golem, about 20 minutes north of the city center by car, this upscale restaurant is known for their high-quality take on local dishes. Definitely worth it if you’re visiting the beaches in Golem.
Where to stay in Durres
When we arrived in Durres, we were expecting to be right on the beach based on the photos we had seen. However, we were in the center of the city and a 10+ minute drive (or an hour long walk) away from Durres beach.
We’ve split up this section into the best hotels in Durres city center and the best resorts on the beach in Durres, so you can choose depending on your preference.
Durres City Center hotels
- Our top pick: Hotel Boutique Vila 8 | We stayed here and loved it. The rooms are beautiful and luxurious at an affordable price point. Plus, the location is just off one of the city’s main streets.
- Hotel Epidamn Boutique & Spa
- Giulia Albérgo Hotel
Durres beachfront hotels
When is the best time to visit Durres, Albania?
The best time to visit Durres is in the spring, summer, and early fall. We visited Durres at the end of May, and while the weather was fairly warm, the beaches weren’t crowded at all.
If you want to avoid the crowds, visit in the late spring and early fall. Summer’s here are very crowded because you have a mix of local and foreign tourists enjoying beach holidays in Durres.
FAQ: Things to do in Durres
What is Durres known for?
Durres is known for a few things. The first one is that it’s known as one of the top beach destinations in northern Albania.
Second, as one of the oldest cities in Albania, Durres is filled with historical sights, such as ancient Byzantine and Roman monuments.
Third, the Port of Durres is the largest in Albania and is a major hub for maritime trade and transportation in the region.
Can you swim in Durres?
Yes, you can swim in the Adriatic Sea at one of the many beaches in Durres. The water gets warm during the summer and the beaches are fairly clean. Do not expect pristine beaches because those don’t really exist in Durres.
Is Durres, Albania safe to visit?
Based on our experience traveling as an American couple, we felt very safe in Durres. We stayed right in the city center and the locals were all super friendly and helpful to us.
More information for your trip to Albania
Central and Northern Albania
- Things to do in Berat
- Things to do in Kruja
- Things to do in Theth
- Blue Eye in Theth
- Driving the road to Theth
Albania Travel Planning Guide
Albania Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Albania? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.
Albania Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Albania? Yes! We rented a car in Albania for one month and it is the best way to see the country. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.
Albania Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Albania, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Albania, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. We even had to rely on it for data to get some work done, and it worked great!
Albania Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Albania? We booked all of our hotels through Booking. All of the hotels were responsive through the messaging tool, and there are endless options to choose from. Note – some hotels in Albania require you to pay in cash. Make sure to message the hotel in advance to be prepared with the correct form of payment.|
Drinking Water in Albania – Wondering if you can drink the tap water in Albania? We were advised to not drink the water by our hotels, so we ended up buying bottled water instead.