Top things to do in Durres, Albania
Durres is a port city located on the Adriatic coast, 30km west of Albania’s capital city Tirana. It is the capital of the surrounding Durres county and is the second most populous city in Albania.
However, Durres is so much more than just a city. With the biggest and most popular beach in Albania on one side and stretches of beautiful Albanian countryside and farmland on the other, the area of Durres is the ultimate trio of city, beach and countryside.
For anyone trying to incorporate all three into a short trip, here are my recommendations for all of the best things to do in Durres in just two days…
Start with a coffee at one of the many cafes
The first things you’ll probably notice when visiting any Albanian city is that there’s a thriving cafe culture. No matter what time of day it is, cafe terraces in Durres are always filled with groups of friends, families and individuals enjoying coffee and local pastries.
Get up early, grab a coffee (or maybe a juice if you’re like me and don’t drink coffee) and sit back in the morning sun for a spot of people watching to start your day like a true Albanian.
Mon Cheri is a cute coffee shop in the city centre, or try Mulliri Vjeter for a cosy spot close to the amphitheatre.
Then head to Byrek corner for breakfast
Byrek is a traditional Albanian dish which consists of layers of flakey pastry filled with meat, cheese or spinach. The simple yet tasty dish can be eaten with any meal or simply as a mid-afternoon snack.
The junction of Sheshi Nako Spiru has become known locally as Byrek corner due to the high concentration of Byrek stores in such a small vicinity.
I personally found Byrek to be a delicious and filling way to start the day. Plus if you get down early enough you can get the best Byrek in Durres from Byrektore ‘Sejko’ (as stated by my Albanian friends) before they’re all snapped up by the locals!
Wander through the city centre
Explore the main city streets of Durres for a mix of historic buildings and modern shopping areas. Make sure to head to Bulevardi Dyrrah where you can see the old Byzantine Market, the forum and Roman baths, the Town Hall and the impressive Xhamia E Madhe Mosque.
Explore the Amphitheatre of Durres
The Amphitheatre of Durres is located in the centre of the city and dates all the way back to the 2nd century AD. It is the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Balkans, with an original capacity of 20,000 people. The amphitheatre was excavated in 1966 and has since become an iconic part of the city and one of the most popular things to do in Durres for Albanians and foreign tourists alike.
There is a small charge of just €2 to enter.
Sneak a peek at The Albanian College
The Albanian College Durres is one of those colleges which actually makes you want to go back to school! The impressive building looks more like a museum or theatre than a place of education. If the doors are open make sure to sneak a quick peek inside too to see the equally impressive interior.
Stroll past the walls of Durres Castle and spot the Venetian Tower
As you make your way down from the Amphitheatre of Durres to the seafront, make sure to admire the old city walls which make up Durres Castle. The walls were built in the late 5th century and after several repairs throughout history still stand today, making them the city’s most prominent Roman remains.
The main part of Durres Castle is a structure called the Venetian Tower which now homes a trendy bar with seating on the roof giving great views over the city and water.
Walk down the promenade to Ventus Harbor
Venture out into the Adriatic sea (well just a little bit) by walking down the seafront’s pier-like structure which leads to the uniquely located Ventus Harbour hotel and its public restaurant and bar. From the end, there is a great view looking back across the city from a very different angle than you would find elsewhere.
Portiku Wine Bar and Bistro
End your day with dinner and drinks at Poriku Wine Bar and Bistro close to Durres seafront. Portiku is a stylish and modern restaurant built within the old city walls of Durres. The old walls are openly accessible to guests within the restaurant, including a glass floor where you can see the ancient ruins below.
The restaurant serves a top-class menu of international dishes with an extensive wine menu of Albanian and international wines. Along with its stylish setting and cool atmosphere, Portiku is somewhere that absolutely shouldn’t be missed when visiting Durres!
Relax on Durres beach
After a busy day of exploring the vibrant city of Durres, it’s time to head slightly south to the gorgeous Durres beach for some much-needed relaxation time. Durres beach is the biggest and most visited beach in Albania, lining the seafront of the city itself. Heading to the beach on a sunny day, with its golden sand and shallow blue waters, is certainly one of the most popular things to do in Durres for both the locals and tourists.
There are large stretches of public beach, as well as private areas owned by the beachfront hotels where you can hire sunbeds for the day even if you’re not a guest.
Grab Sufllacqe at Chicken House for lunch
Certainly not the healthiest dish you’ll find in Albania, but delicious all the same. Chicken House is a fast food spot open 24/7 just a few minutes walk from Durres beach. As well as serving your standard fast food such as burgers, Chicken House has the popular Albanian fast food dish of Sufllacqe. Sufllacque consists of bread, chicken, chips, salad and a garlic sauce, served in any way you want (try all of the ingredients inside of the wrap).
Head to the farm for dinner
Finally, complete the ultimate trio of city, beach and countryside by heading inland to Pema e Jetes farm. You’re unlikely to find this suggestion on other guides of things to do in Durres, so this is my little gift to you to help you truly experience everything Durres has to offer!
Pema e Jetes is a beautiful farm in Durres with an on-site restaurant serving up delicious Albanian dishes using fresh local ingredients. You can wander around the farm and see the animals such as cows, deer, goats and rabbits, then head inside for the best meal you will eat in Albania!
The restaurant serves a whole selection of local delicacies, including a platter of home-made cheeses, traditional pickled vegetables, special-of-the-day pasta (always try the pasta!!) and amazingly flavoursome meat dishes. The portions are large, the prices reasonable and the service is always top-notch.