Offering mile after mile of sun-soaked sands, and a time portal to the mighty civilisations of the past, Durres is a sun-soaked gem of the Adriatic. Albania's second-largest city has a more airy, laidback atmosphere than the capital, Tirana, which lies just 20 miles away. The beach life draws sun-worshipers to the golden sands, but it's the horseshoe curve of Durres' magnificent Roman amphitheatre, which cements the city as a true must-visit.
Gladiators once battled to the death beneath the steep banks of the arena's stone terraces, and as many as 20,000 people could squeeze into the giant amphitheatre to generate a frenzied, fevered atmosphere. Built by Roman Emperor Trajan in the second century, it remains one of the largest and grandest Roman constructions in the Balkans. Destroyed twice by earthquakes, the site was only re-discovered in 1966, and even now time may be running out to see the wonder in all of its glory - it's listed as one of the world's most endangered cultural treasures. The Archaeological Museum is blessed with a mesmerising collection and has been displaying unearthed relics from the Roman, Greek and Hellenistic periods since it opened its doors in1951.
A stretch of the crumbling walls of the city's castle remains defiantly standing, and the fortifications are headed up by a round Venetian tower. Rise up the narrow staircase to the roof, where you can gaze over the busy beach, and toast the dipping sunset with a drink. Enjoy some traditional Albanian fare in the form of fergese - a clay-baked blend of peppers, feta and tomatoes. Or plump for tender lamb, ladled with cool yoghurt sauce. Spinach-stuffed pies - called Byrek - are the perfect streetfood pick me up in these parts.