Durres is town and the largest port in Albania, located in the west coast of Albania along the Adriatic Sea, only 39 km from Tirana and 30 km from Tirana International Airport. Durres is nearly joined to the capital by a ceaseless urban corridor full of hypermarkets and car dealership. The city of Durres has a population of 100.000, but this number is doubled during the summer months, when the city attracts many families visiting the local beaches, and visitors from holiday homes. The Adriatic sea is perfect for a family holiday, as the water is warm and the sea is fairly shallow. The broad sandy beaches are popular with tourists.
Durres is one of the oldest towns in Europe and was known by variety of names during its turbulent history /Epidamnos, Dyrrhachion, Dyrr(h)achium, Drač, Draç, Durazzo/. Durres was founded as Epidamnos in 627 BC by ancient Greek colonists from Corcyra and Corinth around a natural rocky harbor which was surrounded by inland swamps and high cliffs on the seaward side, making the city very difficult to attack from either land or sea. Epidamnos was seized by an Illyrian King Glaukias in 312 BC with the help of the locals. Queen Teuta attacked the city in 229 BC but withdraw when Romans arrived and included Epidamnos into their protectorate. Dyrrachium was established as the capital of Epirus nova, the Illyris proper or Illyria Graeca – a province of the Roman Empire founded by Emperor Diocletian (244-311) during his restructuring of provincial boundaries, to become an archbishopric in 449. In the late-antique period, a series of large-scale works were carried out, including the construction of basilicas, villas, the round forum or macellum, the chapel in the amphitheater, the sewer system, etc. As per historical records, the town of Dyrrachium as the center of the Roman province of Epirus Nova during the reign of Emperor Justinian I (527-565) included several towns within its territories : Amantia (Ploča), Apolonija (Apoloni), Aulon (Valona, Vlora, Aulona), Bulis (Byllis, Hekali), Dioklecijanopolis (Kostur, Kastoriju), Lychnidos (Ohrid), Scampa (Elbasan, Elbasani) and Pulcheriopolis (Antipatra, Berat, Belegrad). Romans and Illyrians were fighting for Epidamnos for the next centuries. During the Roman rule it was named Dyrrachium and was very prosperous settlement on the western end of the Via Egnatia Roman trading road that covered total distance of about 1120 km and connected Rome and Byzantium /Constantinople/. The Roman Emperor Caesar August made the city a colony for veterans of his legions proclaiming it a free town /civitas libera/.
After a powerful earthquake it was restored and became the strongest fortifications in the western Balkans. It was controlled by barbarian Ostrogoths and Bulgarians to be taken by Byzantines in the 9th century. It was passing from hands of Normans into the reign of Republic of Venice and Charles of Anjou. After devastating earthquake in 1273 Dyrrachium came into the rule of the Serbian Tzar Stefan Dusan in 1336 and passed into the hands of the Albanian family of Thopias when Tzar Dušan died in 1355. Venice Republic regained its control over the town in 1392 known as Durazzo in those years, as part of the Albania Veneta. It fought against the siege of Sultan Mehmet II in 1466 but fell to Ottoman control in 1501. Although it was Christian city quite early and raised to the status of Archbishopric in 449 and the seat of the Greek Orthodox metropolitan Bishop, under Turkish rule, many inhabitants of Durrës converted to Islam and many mosques were erected. The city that was renamed as Draç did not prosper under the Ottomans and its importance declined greatly. By the mid-19th century, its population was said to have been only about 1,000 people living in some 200 households. It was a sanjak center in Iskodra vilayet before 1912 /Shkodër Province of Ottoman Empire/ to be captured by Serbs during the First Balkan War. It was very active city in the Albanian national liberation movement. During the First WW Durrës was occupied by Italy in 1915 and Austria-Hungary in 1916-1918 and by Allies in October 1918. During the Second WW between 1939 – 1943 Albania was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1944. Albanian sovereignty was regained after the WWII and the communist regime of Enver Hoxa rapidly rebuilt the town establishing a variety of heavy industries in the area and expanding the port. Following the collapse of communist rule in 1990, Durrës became the focus of mass emigrations from Albania mostly to Italy. Durres is the most important seaport in Albania. Nowadays the city of Durres is well known for the nearby Durres Beach resort, its wonderful sand and warm sea water and hundreds of hotels, apartments, bars, cafes and restaurants.
Durres sites of interest : The Roman Amphitheater – the largest amphitheater in the Balkans /discovered in 1966, nominated for UNESCO Heritage site/, the remains of a 15 km long aqueduct built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, the Roman Baths, the Byzantine Forum, The Palace of the former King Zog, the Estrada Theater, the puppet theater and the philharmonic orchestra, the Archaeological Museum, the Ethnographic Museum and Museum of History, sandy beaches of “Plazh-Durres” that are considered among the most beautiful in Albania. The neighboring district of Durres produces wine and a variety of foodstuffs.