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The major coastal city of Durrës stretches along the Adriatic Sea coast with a significantly long coastline. To this day, this ancient Illyrian city remains one of the world’s centers of national and international heritage. Largely due to its geographical position, it was historically the main gateway to the Western Balkans. It is one of the richest ponds of archaeology and ancient history in Europe. Today, because of its popular beaches and proximity to the capital, this ancient city is a popular toursitic destination.
Durrës has undergone major changes which have left permanent traces in this city. Modern times are imposing a rapid urbanization. As such, the city is adapting its rich heritage to the demands and tastes of modern life and architecture. Illyria Square, a symbol of the city, testifies to this new harmony between tradition and modernity. It reveals the dynamics of a bustling, touristic city which still very much contains a dynamic local life and community.
The City Hall, which sits at the center of the square, exhibits a simultaneously official and typical architecture of a coastal city. Built almost a century earlier, in 1929, for administrative functions, it retains the same position to this day. On its left, sits the city’s clock tower, its façade covered in geometric reliefs. One of the oldest mosques in Albania is located in Durrës, only a few meters from the square. Like many Ottoman religious constructions, the Fatih Mosque was built on top of the ruins of an 11th century basilica. Erected in 1502-1503, at the time of Sultan Mehmet II, this object became a national monument of cultural heritage in 1973. A highly valued building among locals is the Aleksander Moisiu Theater. Built in 1953, this theater is named after the internationally renowned actor, a native of Durrës.
Only 250 meters from the square rests the glorious ancient Amphitheater of Durrës, one of the largest from antiquity and one of the ten most beautiful Roman amphitheatres. Built during the second century B.C., the 2700-year-old Amphitheater remains one of the masterpieces of the Roman Empire. In addition to its own sights, Illyria Square serves as a perfect starting point from where one can easily reach the other beautiful sights of the entire city of Durrës. A walk around the square leading to the cobbled streets of the old city is the best shortcut to the rich history and beauty of this ancient coastal city.