After 10 years of traveling around all over Europe, I can say that I have 3 favorite countries: Poland, Romania, and Albania. These three underwent dramatic historic changes, boast magnificent sceneries and breathtaking architecture. On top of that, Albania is the best representative of Mediterranean food, with fresh ingredients such as fish, seafood, vegetables, and fruit. Lars and I also had the impression that Albania on a gastronomical level was inspired by two of its neighbors, namely Italy and Greece. But more about Albanian food in another post.

We traveled to Albania two times, once in 2013 to Sarande and the second time in 2015 to Durrës. The latter is one of the biggest cities in Albania and also one of the oldest.

We spent a week in Durrës, but on the first days, we explored the beach and swam a lot. Once we had become accustomed to the summer heat, it was time for some sightseeing: a visit to the biggest attraction of the town, its amphitheater, built in the 2nd century.

Durrës Amphitheatre

Lars and I were in Albania by car, but unfortunately, our GPS had stopped working as soon as we had entered the country. It was even by sheer luck that we had found our hotel! Luckily for us, two hotel employees accompanied us on our drive to the amphitheater – they had an appointment in the center of the town. And thanks to my excellent visual memory, we found the way back again to our hotel. In a nutshell: if you are in Durrës with a car without a trustworthy GPS, better take a taxi!

The address is: Rruga Kalase, Durrës, Albania

Some interesting numbers:

  • Length: 132m.
  • Width: 113m.
  • Height: 20m.
  • Capacity: 15.000 – 20.000 spectators.
  • Founded: the 2nd century.
  • Excavation: 1966.

The Durrës amphitheater is the biggest of its kind in the Balkans.

I can’t remember how much we paid for the entrance fee, but I am very sure that it was a low amount. You cannot visit the amphitheater on your own though, a guide accompanies you. Two words of warning: wear good shoes or proper sandals and take water with you. There is a lot of climbing to do in very hot weather!

Our guide started the tour with a funny anecdote. A professor had a lemon tree in his garden that for unknown reasons didn’t bear any fruit. One day, out of curiosity, he started digging in his garden and that’s exactly how he discovered the ruins.

She showed us the remains of a Christian chapel, dating from the 2nd half of the 4th century.

Performances, also with gladiators, took place until the 4th century.

Excavations took place from late 1966 to the 1980s. Then the amphitheater started slowly decaying because conservation efforts were only taken at the beginning of the 21st century. Moreover, the building is on all sides surrounded by houses.

In the meantime, the Durrës Amphitheatre has made it to the tentative list of Albania for inscribing it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And that seems to be a slow procedure as well. Such a shame that this magnificent building is rotting away…

If you want to know more about the past of Durrës, better visit the archeological museum.

Join us again next week, when we take you to other corners in Europe!


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