Walking Tour of Historic Durres & the Archeological Museum
- Durres Amphitheater: Explore the half-excavated walls and extensive underground tunnels of one of the Balkans' largest Roman arenas, where 20,000 spectators once watched gladiators mix it up with lions.
- Archeological Museum: Tour a modern facility that houses a treasure trove of artifacts from the region's Greek and Roman eras, from large columns and statuary to a collection of miniature busts of Aphrodite (Venus) and locally minted coins.
- Free time: With its ancient Byzantine walls, steep and narrow streets, palm-lined boulevards, impressive mosques, sidewalk cafes, and beachfront promenades, this is a town made for wandering.
About this Durres Tour
A couple hours' walk through Durres, modern Albania's second-largest city, covers 26 centuries of history – most of it tumultuous.
Things started calmly enough: Greek colonists from Corinth and Corfu founded the settlement in 627 B.C. as Epidamnos. They struck coins circulated widely in the ancient world, and were devoted to the worship of Aphrodite, goddess of love.
When the Romans took over 400 years later, they renamed the town Dyrrachium, and it thrived for centuries as a key military and naval base. By the end of the 5th century A.D., defensive walls wide enough to hold four horseman abreast were built, stretching from the seafront into the hills; sections of these 36-foot-tall ramparts and arched gates stand to this day. But no walls could hold back the onslaughts of the barbarian hordes who took turns seizing control of Durres during the Middle Ages – along with the Byzantines, Bulgarians, Normans, Sicilians, Venetians (twice), Serbians, and Hungarians.
By the 15th century, the Venetian Republic – based 450 miles northwest across the Adriatic – was again in charge. They changed the town's name to Durazzo and put up their own monumental structures, often built atop earlier strongholds – like the powerful Venetian Tower that overlooks the harbor.
Yet history is restless, and ownership soon changed hands again as the Ottomans took the city in 1501. They built the Fatih Mosque as an homage to their great sultan, Mehmet the Conqueror, in a hilltop power-position atop what was once a Byzantine church, and left many other notable structures as testimony of their presence.
And so the turmoil continued through time, with control in the 20th century changing hands between Italy, Austria-Hungary, King Zog I of Albania, Fascists, Nazis, and Communists. The end of the Soviet Union led to the founding of the Republic of Albania in 1991. More turbulence followed, as up to a third of the population got swindled in a vast, government-supported Ponzi scheme, and neighboring Yugoslavia ripped itself apart. But today, democratic self-rule has taken hold, as if 26 centuries of tumult have left Albanians with an understandable yearning for peace and quiet. Their culture is traditionally welcoming of guests, and they're probably relieved that, after such a long history of conquerors, today's guests only stay the length of a holiday.
Make love, and war
If Durres' past could have seen its strife-heavy future coming, the city's earliest citizens might have focused their worship on the war god Ares (that's Mars to you Romans). But the irony is, the locals here had a far bigger thing for the goddess of love, pleasure, and procreation back then – hence all those surviving representations of Aphrodite/Venus at the Archeological Museum. Maybe it's because they believed cool Venus could bless their military conquests just as powerfully as their sexual ones.
Please make your way to the Venetian Tower at Rruga Anastas Durrsaku, Durres to meet your tour representative.
In need of retail therapy after your tour? Shopping is available 7 days a week, although early closing at 3:00pm on Sundays is generally observed. Look for traditional Albanian souvenirs - embroidery, woolen items and Raki Skrapari, the local liquor.
Plan to walk a total of 1 mile with up to 50 steps over varying surfaces including cobblestones and flat surfaces.
Walking Tour, Cultural, Scenic
English, German, Spanish, Italian, French
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Special Medical Restriction
Travelers must be in good health, disclose their physical fitness and advise any conditions that might impact their participation in the tour.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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