The port city of Durres is sure to enchant you with its intoxicating blend of ancient history and a cool modern vibe. It has great beaches, fascinating ruins and wonderful cuisine. It's also close to Tirana if you want to go on a day trip, and makes an excellent base for explorers who'd like to see more of Albania.
Start with one of the oldest places in town: the Durres Amphitheatre. Archaeologists reckon this was built in around 100 AD by Emperor Hadrian. Its ruins are well-preserved, and you're sure to be impressed by its sheer size - it could hold up to 20,000 spectators. Within the complex, you'll also see a fascinating, unusual sight: a small Christian chapel illustrating the changing culture of the Roman Empire.
Your journey through history continues with a visit to the remains of Durres Castle. Once a mighty Byzantine fortress, today, only a single squat tower remains, along with an old wall. The castle has played an important role in many of the city's battles. Surprisingly, it saw action as recently as the Second World War, when a desperate group of locals used it as a defensive base to delay the advancing Italian army.
The beautiful Fatih Mosque is well worth visiting. It has a complicated history: it was built by the Ottomans in 1503 but abandoned in the 20th century when Albania's communist government chose to shun religion. Its beautiful original minaret was even torn down. Today, the minaret has been replaced, and the mosque has become a national heritage site with a stunning interior.
Tired of exploring ancient sites? For a lively buzz, head straight for Durres Beach. This city beach is extremely popular with Albanians and attracts more and more international visitors. Chill out on a sunlounger or join in the water sports. This is a family-friendly beach, and the shallow waters are great for kids who want to splash around.
For a quieter beach day, use a car or van hire in Durres to head to Spille Beach. Although it's just a few kilometres outside the city, the vibe here is completely different. There are no hawkers or huge crowds. Instead, you'll be able to relax here in total peace and quiet.
Car hire in Durres is also great if you want to go on road trips further afield. Albania's capital city, Tirana, is just 35 km away. This is a fascinating city which still bears many of the scars of the country's turbulent recent past. It's an intriguing destination if you're interested in history - but even if you're not, you can enjoy the vibrant nightlife!