Albania is home to numerous historic sites that are worth visiting. They include the archaeological sites of Butrint and Apollonia, where visitors can explore the ruins of ancient cities, and the impressive citadel of Berat. Here is our list of the best historic sites in Albania.
Butrint is an archaeological national park in Albania and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Butrint is one of the best historic sites in Albania. Butrint was a city occupied by the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Venetians. It’s renowned for its ancient ruins, which date to the 7th century BC.
Butrint’s impressive archaeological structures include a Greek theatre, fortifications, Roman villas and public baths and a Christian basilica. Butrint was abandoned during the Ottoman period when the surrounding area turned to marshland. The classical authors Virgil and Dionysius of Halicarnassus record that Aeneas visited ancient Butrint following the fall of Troy.
Berat is one of the most popular historic destinations in Albania. Berat has been continually inhabited since its foundation in antiquity.
An early Macedonian city was built in Berat in the 3rd or 4th centuries BC named Antipatreia after the Macedonian general Antipater. Berat later formed part of the Roman and Byzantine empires. During this time it was known as Pulcheriopolis. It was at various times ruled by Bulgarians, Angevins, Serbs and Ottomans.
Among the most popular sites in Berat is its castle. The current structure dates to the 13th century AD. The citadel, known as the Kala, provides for excellent views over the area. Inside, visitors will find the material remains of Christian and Muslim religious sites. The cathedral of St Nicholas has been restored as the Onufri Museum. It collects works by the 16th century painter Onufri. Visitors to Berat can also observe the striking houses that cover the slopes beneath its castle. They have given cause to label the city as the ‘town of a thousand windows’.
Apollonia was an ancient city founded by ancient Greek colonists from Corinth and Corfu around 600 BC. Today it is an archaeological site in Albania which covers 137 hectares. It incorporates the ruins of a triumphal arch, a library and several temples.
There are also the remains of a city council building with a surviving façade, while a museum collects artefacts from the site. The interpretations at the museum and site have both French and English translations.
The Greek colony of Apollonia was founded on a largely abandoned site on the bank of the Aous (Vjosë) River. This riverside location was vital in making Apollonia the trade and economic hub it later became. The Romans ruled Apollonia from the 3rd century BC. An earthquake in 234 AD altered the riverbed, silting up Apollonia’s harbour and contributing to its decline.
Krujë Castle is located in the north central Albanian city of Krujë. It was most famously ruled by the Albanian feudal lord Skanderbeg following his 1443 rebellion against the Ottoman Empire.
The first construction on the site of Krujë Castle likely dates to the early Middle Ages. In the 15th century, Krujë Castle became the centre of Skanderbeg’s rebellion against the Ottomans. During the Battle of Niš (1443), Skanderbeg deserted the Ottomans with 300 loyal Albanians. He captured Krujë Castle and embarked on a 25-year long rebellion against Ottoman rule.
For his resistance, Skanderbeg has been celebrated as a national hero in Albania. The castle houses the Skanderbeg Museum, one of the most visited museums in Albania. The castle itself is depicted on the reverse of the 5000 lekë banknote.
The Amphitheatre of Durrës is a Roman amphitheatre that was built in the 2nd century AD by emperor Trajan, and is the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Balkans. It was destroyed by earthquakes in the 6th and 10th centuries.
Its main function was hosting gladiator combat and it could have hosted between 10,000 and 20,000 spectators. An early medieval chapel was built on the site, as well as a later 13th century chapel.
The Amphitheatre of Durrës is a unique monument in Albania. It is located in the centre of Durrës and is close to other archaeological sites, as well as the Archaeological Museum.