Relaxed, attractive centre, historical bits and pieces dotted about town, beaches
Mafia, Poverty, Corruption
Albania's Las Vegas
The fantastically named King Zog, a name often used in Monty Python's Flying Circus sketches, was the improbable ruler of the first Albanian nation. He was actually an elected president, and shunned by the European royalty for his lack of blue blood, but the local population was still living under the same feudal serfdom that they had since Ottoman...more
The pearl white Madhe Mosque (Xhamia e Madhe) sits overlooking the shady town square, where the sensible old folk of the city take refuge from the burning midday mediterranean sun. Its pristine condition can be attributed to the fact that it is practically brand new. It was built in 1993 with Egyptian money after the previous one had been destroyed...more
The amphitheater in Durres is their biggest tourist sight I would say, and also the biggest amphitheater in the Balkan countries. It was built by the romans in the second century AD, and once it could hold up to 20 000 spectators.Today just half the stadium is above ground, as the city doesn't seem to happy about spending the money it would cost to...more
When the Italian army invaded Durres in the Second World War, British secret agents teamed up with local Albanian resistance fighters to stop the occupation. They didn't succeed, but they did manage to be commemorated down on the seafront, in the form of gun-toting resistance fighter Musa Ulqinaku in bronze, aiming at the sky. The platform...more
The city walls meet Rruga Tregetare at a small tower, now part of a cafe. In the gardens surrounding the tower is a statue of a Dutch soldier, somebody Thomson, who seemed to have died in Durres. I don't know the story behind it, but there is a plaque explaining all about him if your Albanian or Dutch is any better than severely limited!more
Past "Baywatch", close to the university, a long sandy beach stretches off into the distance. Not the cleanest of sands, I was a bit disappointed, although it is right in the centre of a port city, so you can't expect miracles. Still, it was nice enough, backed by cafes and more than a few half-built projects, and overlooked by King Zog's villa on...more
Head north from the port, and you'll find yourself on a seafront promenade. The first part is backed by gardens and a lacklustre funfair, but further on are some cafes and small hotels, as well as a half-finished pier which is popular with fishermen. Keep walking, and you'll eventually arrive at a makeshift shack, calling itself "Baywatch"...don't...more
A short distance from the old centre, archaeologists may find what remains of a Roman market interesting. A few colums and old bricks now lie in an overgrown park, labelled Sheshi Treg in Albanian (treg means market)...I had a quick look, but I think only experts would get off on these ruins.more
Maybe this tip is a bit misleading, as Durres doesn't really have what you'd call an old town. But the lanes surrounding the amphitheatre (i.e. between the city walls and Rruga Tregetare) contain many oldish houses, and its nice to spend half an hour or so wandering around. It feels older than the rest of the city, probably because the streets are...more
The main street of Durres, Rruga Tregetare is quite pretty, with many of the colonial buidings looking like they've been painted recently. Pavement cafes, a couple of postcard shops, lots of bicycles, and a huge mosque (supposedly old, but reconstructed so it actually looks modern)...a good place to people watch!more
Undoubtedly the major attraction in Durres, I was quite disappointed to find the gates of the Roman Amphitheatre fimly padlocked. A sign on the door announced it was open, a radio was playing from somewhere within the ticket office, a coffee cup next to a chair on the terrace, but nobody was there to let me in. Luckily you can walk around the...more
In front of the Byzantine tower, stands a monument to the heroes of the people (hero I popullit) with six names carved on a column on which is standing a man with a machine gun and showing inland with his raised hand. The main carving says “Mujo Ulqinaku”. That refers to Ulqin (Ulcinj in Montengro) but I don’t know what is the connection.Thank you...more
In the outskirts of Durrësi, house owners seem to have completely unleashed their inspiration for the choice of the colors to paint their house. Look at this bright blue and bright yellow house with red stripes! On the second photo, even a garage have been painted in bright blue, may be with the paint that remained from the house!30 km away from...more
In the city center, new buildings have been built with more architectural research. I suppose that the prices are higher in these buildings that in those shown on the previous tip!The first photo shows what seems to be an offices building, on the other side of the street to Fathi Djami, with a bright orange strip.The second photo is for housing and...more
Along the wide main avenue, new buildings for housing are mushrooming. As can be seen on both photos, they are all simple but elegant. The colors range from cream, yellow, orange, blue, pistachio green, brown but even if the result can be amazing they are always elegant.more
The housing buildings from the Enver Hoxha’s period have not vanished in a lightning with the new regime but they have changed. New windows have been open, others have been walled, dormer windows have been widened, balconies have been added and more over, each resident (owner?) has painted his part the (bright) color he wanted! The result is...more
Housed inside a Venentian tower at the base of the Byzantine walls, the Bar Torra has a prime location, and the views of the sea from its open-air turret are worth a coffee. The cafe was the first private establishment in the city, but it still retains all the old communist eastern european charm. Our waiter, when he bothered to show up, was so shocked to discover we wanted to see the menu that he nearly blew the ash off the end of the cigarette stuck to his lower lip. Nobody came to give us the bill in over an hour, so we paid it downstairs. There were more looks of shock when we tipped them. Well, why not? You don't get service like that these days.
You can probably just go up the tower for free. Many people just did. I think they were under the impression it was a tourist attraction rather than a functioning cafe. The staff didn't seem to care. Coffee was ok, service was interesting, the views good, and the price very good. When you've run out of things to do in Durres, you can kick back here until the next train or bus comes.
I have to admit that it maybe wasn't the brightest thing to go to Albania during off season, but what should I have done when FIFA fixed the playing schedule so that we would meet them away in September...?
One of the places in Durres that was still attracting a crowd was the Fly Bar in the old part of town. Very high building where the bar was on the top floor with a terrace without a roof on the sides.
A bit shady to get up there, as the elevator didn't go all the way up, but the view that then welcomed us made it all worth it. It's really high!
Fly Bar is one of the more classy bars in Durres, and it's not the place you go to dressed in shorts and flip flops. The drinks were a bit more expensive then we were used to, but still way cheaper than in western Europe.
Not so much people in september, but I can imagine it's a really nice (and crowded) place during high season.
Dress Code: No dress code written as we could see, but I can imagine they wouldn't be too happy to serve you if you come badly dressed.
Transport in Durres is concentrated in one place. You've got a cavernous train station next to a collection of buses, furgons and taxis, and just up the road is the port where you can sail over to Bari.Buses leave from outside Tirana train station very frequently for Durres, dropping you off by the train station there too. You pay on board, it...more
The Albanian rail website would probably be sued for false advertising in any other country. It's main page depicts a super fast French TGV speeding through the countryside in a blur. I think they may have lifted the picture wholesale from the SNCF site, because there's nothing remotely resembling a TGV on the grassy tracks of Albania's limited...more
We had a good time in both Durres and Tirana, and most of the time we had really good food.But one should consider that it might not be the same kind of food as back home, and the hot weather during the summer-autumn quickly can make the food bad.I made sure to stay away from food that I thought could be in the risk zone, but unfortunately my...more
Food in Albania is generally safe, as long as you are careful about where you eat. The good restaurants should be no problem. There is an issue with Albanian milk, however. Albanian cows are known to suffer from TB and other diseases, which can be passed to humans through milk. You might want to avoid milk, unless you know it is definitely heat...more
Few people speak English, and the locals will be curious to see you if you don't look like them. It's a friendly curiosity. A bit of staring, but they will look away if you notice them. I didn't feel in danger at any time. The only slightly discomforting moment was when I was chased by an overly friendly guy on the way back to the station. I made...more
The pink palace was built by King Zog for himself. During the riots it was looted and nowadays its used by the Italian army. Located up on a small hill above the Amphitheatre it offers nice views on the city. Its also worth to walk up the hill towards the lighthouse a couple of minutes further. The light house can not be seen from the city or the...more
If you can get a taxi or a car, there is little village about 1hr-ish out of Durres called Kruje, the drive there is amazing, it takes you past some of the mines dug into the hillside, and the village itself is ancient, with a very quaint 'shopping street' where you can buy intricate marble carvings and statues, to antique irons and Albanian...more
21 Reviews and Opinions
If you can arrange it, try and have someone meet you at the airport, it can be a bit hustly bustly. If not arrange with the taxi driver where you want to go BEFORE getting in the cab, you can barter. In Albania you need a 4x4, end of. The Police are bribable, and dollars are accepted everywhere, the people are generally very friendly, so don't be...more
One of Albania's oldest cities, the country's main sea port, the second largest industrial center after Tirana. Durrës (pronounced: Dooh-ras) lies on a small peninsula on the coast of the Adriatic sea. Its population is around 85,000 (the second largest city in Albania). Durrës was established in the year 627 B.C. by Korintha and Korkyra colonists,...more