No need to be a history buff to be amazed by Albania’s archaeological and historical sites. With its rich heritage of sites dating back to the Illyrian, Greek, Roman and Ottoman periods – some of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list – you are in for a true journey through time.
Apollonia of Illyria
If you are in Albania, don’t miss the intriguing historical site of Apollonia of Illyria. The city was originally called Glyaceia, after its founder Glyax, but it was eventually changed to Apollonia in honor of the god of light and the arts : Apollo. Once a very influential Port on the Adriatic Sea, Apollonia is an ancient Greek city that still holds many secrets. Indeed, it is Albania’s greatest archeological site, and the vast majority of its 100 hectares has yet to be excavated. It is therefore a bit difficult to imagine the importance of the city founded around 550 BC. The park, which has been well preserved, offers a remarkable combination of landmark beauty and natural beauty, immersing the traveler in a spirit of wonder and curiosity.
Must visit : the archeological park, the Apollonia museum, the church of Saint-Mary. The site is open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:99 p.m. – Monday to Sunday.
Entrance fee : around 3 euros.
Berat is a charming village that will take you back in time. It is one of the oldest cities in Albania dating back more than 2,500 years. It was once known as Antipetria before being renamed Berat in 1018, it is now known as “the city of a thousand windows”. Indeed, its typical white houses nestled in the heart of the mountain give the illusion that the windows are stacked on top of each other.
A meeting place for diverse cultures and religion, the city of a thousand windows will astound you with its history, architecture, and landscapes. It is termed an “open-air museum”, and it is no coincidence as the city was designated an museum-city in 1961. It has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.
Must visit : the Kala or Berat Castle, the muslim quarter – Mangalem, the Orthodox quarter – Gorica, the modern quarter – Bulevardi, the Cathedral of the Dormition, the Red Mosque, the Church of Saint-Theodore.
If there is one historical site to visit during your vacation in Albania, it is Butrint! The ancient wonder of Albania was the first to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Just like Berat, the city is almost 2,500 years old and a visit will surely take you back in time. Butrint, which was abandoned in the Middle Ages, will take you through time, following the footsteps of the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Venetians. The town is so rich that you will need many hours to see everything, so don’t be afraid to hire a guide to ensure you don’t miss any anecdotes.
Must visit : the ancient theater, the Roman forum, the baptistery, the basilica, the museum, the castle of Ali Pasha, the lion’s gate, the stadium, the fountain of Nymph, the palace of Triconch. You can also enjoy a walk in the Butrint National Park.
The site is open from Monday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. The entrance fee is approximately 8.30 euros and includes the entrance to the Butrint Museum.
Byllis is a little-known gem of Albanian archaeological heritage. Not only does the site include well-preserved ruins, but it also offers a beautiful view of the Mallakastra Mountains and the Vjosa River, making it one of the most appealing in Albania. The city of Byllis, which dates from the sixth century B.C., is one of the most important archaeological sites in Albania and was the largest city in southern Illyrie (modern Albania). The park covers 30 hectares. Its access is still rather difficult, but it is nevertheless worth the detour.
Must visit : the surroundings walls, the door n°6, the residence B, the prytanea, the stadium and the cistern,, the basilica, the cathedral, and the theater.
The site is open every day from April to September from 9 am to 6 pm and every day from October to March from 9 am to 4 pm. The visit lasts about 2 hours.
Durrës is located on the coast of Albania and is the most important port city in the country. The city, which is about 3,000 years old, is filled with gorgeous ruins and interesting stories, making it a fantastic destination for history buffs. Its amphitheater is the primary tourist attraction, and although visible from the outside, don’t be mistaken as it is definitely worth a visit! You will see rare paleochristian mosaics and a very beautiful chapel. The entrance ticket also grants entry to the archeological museum. Besides its culture and history, you will appreciate Durrës for its beautiful beaches.
Must visit : the the Venetian tower, the amphitheater of Durrës, the hills of Petra, the castle of Durrës, the archaeological museum, the royal villa, the Byzantine forum, the house-museum of Aleksandër Moisiu.
The amphitheater is open from Monday to Sunday from 9 am to 8 pm. The entrance fee is about 3 euros.
It is difficult to talk about historical sites without mentioning Gjirokastra. Between its little streets, its spectacular castle (Albania’s largest! ), its history, and the fact that it is surrounded by wonderful landscape, there is no doubt that the stone city will capture your heart. If you are in Gjirokastra, take the opportunity to visit the Antigone archaeological park, which is less than 20 kilometers away. It is another site very rich in history, you will learn a lot about the Greeks and Romans and enjoy a spectacular view of the mountains.
Must visit : the castle of Gjirokastër, the old bazaar, the ethnographic museum, the clock tower, the museum of armament, the tunnel of the cold war, the Zekate house, the Skenduli house.
The archaeological site of Antigone is open every day from April to September from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. It is also open from Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm from October to March. The visit lasts about 3 hours.
Krujë is an Albanian medieval city that will leave you with beautiful memories. Capital of the country in the Middle Ages and home to the national hero George Castriot, also known as Skanderbeg, Krujë is one of the most famous cities in Albania. Another feature of Krujë is its enigmatic location. It is known as the “Adriatic Balcony” because it leans on a cliff. After exploring Krujë’s castle, don’t be afraid to venture through its cobblestoned and picturesque streets, which will lead you to the old bazaar. The historic market, which is vibrant, one-of-a-kind, and colorful will immerse you in an authentic Albanian folklore atmosphere. One day is plenty to tour the city, which is located around an hour’s drive from Tirana.
Must visit : the Tekke Dollma, the citadel of Krujë, the George Castriot Skanderbeg museum, the ethnographic museum, the old bazaar, Mount Sarisalltik
The entrance to the castle is free and the entrance to the museum costs about 2,50 euros.
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Article written by Julie Aubry.