The ancient city of Butrint in Albania, near the town of Ksamil, is an incredibly fascinating landmark. If you want to add some variety to your beach vacation or if you are simply a lover of history and architecture, you must come here.

ancient cities in albania
One of the many ancient buildings in Butrint. You can freely explore everywhere.

A brief history of the ancient city of Butrint

  • For those interested in history, in the article “History of Albania,” you will find everything a tourist needs to know while traveling. Many facts will help you see the lives of Albanians in a different light.

The excavated city of Butrint preserves unique cultural elements from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman civilizations.

So, let’s proceed in order, everything there is to know about the history of the city, succinctly and comprehensively:

  • According to myths, the city was founded by Helen, the son of King Priam, who migrated to these lands after the fall of Troy, and named it Bouthroton.
  • The ancient poet Virgil also narrates the story of the city of Bouthroton in his epic poem “Aeneid.”
  • These events are said to take place in the 11th century BCE!
  • Excavations have revealed that in the 4th century BCE, the city was surrounded by defensive walls.
  • An inscription dating back to the 4th century BCE, found on the wall of the theater, indicates that Bouthroton was an important center for the Greeks on their way to the Adriatic Sea.
  • The city reached its peak after being captured by the Romans in 228 BCE and becoming part of the empire.
    • Butrint became the center of a Roman colony and was included in a program of mass construction of public facilities. Just imagine, there were:
      • New powerful walls around the city.
      • Temples.
      • Forum.
      • Theater.
      • Fountains.
      • Thermal baths.
      • Aqueduct.
  • The fall of the Roman Empire marked the decline of the city of Butrint. By the Middle Ages, there were no remaining mentions of it.
  • The ancient city of Butrint’s walls underwent extensive rebuilding, possibly by Byzantine Emperor Anastasius at the end of the 5th century.
  • The Ostrogoths and Slavs may have raided the region in the 6th century, but Butrint remained one of the few Epirus cities to survive.
  • It is challenging to determine control during the 7th to 10th centuries. Byzantine and Despotate of Epirus rule alternated until Charles of Anjou took control in 1267.
  • Byzantines and Despotate of Epirus allied against the Byzantine Emperor, driving them out in 1278.
  • Angevin control followed, and in 1386, Venice took over Butrint.
  • Ottoman rule began in 1799 until Albania’s independence in 1912.
roman cites albania
Ancient mosaic on the floor of the Great Basilica.

City of Butrint: useful information for tourists

Butrint is located in the southern part of Albania, 6 km from the border with Greece and 3.5 km from the tourist town of Ksamil. You can read all about the city of Ksamil and its beaches in this link.


There is no public transportation to Butrint. The easiest way to get there is from Saranda or Ksamil. Tourists usually come by rental car, which is essential for traveling around Albania. However, you can also walk from Ksamil, which is less than 4 km on a good road, and it takes about 50 minutes. Alternatively, a taxi would be inexpensive, around 5 euro.

General information for travelers:

  • Entrance coordinates: 39.743954, 20.019105.
  • Opening hours: 9 AM to 7 PM.
  • Ticket price: adults 1000 lek (approximately 10 euros), children under 12 years old enter for free. This is actually one of the most expensive attractions in Albania. Usually, entrance fees for castles and fortresses are no more than 3-4 euros.
  • Official website
  • Free parking is available.
  • Plan about 2 hours to explore the ancient city.

Author’s rating:

I am not particularly fond of architectural landmarks; nature, mountains, and the sea are much more interesting to me. However, I would give it a high rating of 7 out of 10. It is a truly vast complex, where you don’t just see old stones and imagine what was once here. Many buildings have been remarkably well-preserved, considering they are over 2000 years old.
butrint albania entrance fee
Ticket prices at Butrint.

Attractions within the city

As you have already understood, Butrint is a genuine city, not just a collection of 2.5 buildings on a foundation level. Here, you can find various Roman structures. The only thing that has not survived is the aqueduct.

If you look at the travel map, you will find all the objects from this guide and see that the city of Butrint is located on a peninsula. It occupies 80% of this peninsula, and the size of the city within the defensive walls is about 500 by 500 meters.

Useful to know:

The entire complex is completely open, and you can explore everywhere. Only some buildings are cordoned off, and there are “do not enter” signs.

Particularly impressive are:

  • The Venetian tower.
  • The Great Basilica with its mosaic floor.
  • The main fortress on the hill and the inner courtyard.
  • And, of course, the Roman theater in an amphitheater style.

Travel Tips

  • You don’t need to travel halfway across the country to Butrint. There is Apollonia closer to Tirana, though it may not be as extensive, it is much closer.
  • But if you are in the south, in Ksamil or Saranda, a visit is a must.
  • The complex is especially beautiful in sunny weather. If time permits, it’s better to postpone the visit to the next day rather than going in gloomy weather.
  • They don’t accept cards, only cash. There are no currency exchange offices here. This is especially relevant for those coming from Greece. You can find all about currency, where to exchange, and much more in the article: Currency of Albania.


Come here in the morning or at least before noon. Afternoon visitors tend to be quite numerous. And if you come on the weekend, there will be even more people. During the season, tourists are brought here by buses. Taking a photo in front of the ancient theater without people in the frame is almost impossible. We arrived around 9 AM and had the place to ourselves. By 11:30, there were quite a few people arriving.

In conclusion: the ancient city of Butrint is an important place not only in the history of Albania but also for the entire region. It is a well-preserved complex where you can envision life from ancient times. If you haven’t been to Pompeii, you will truly enjoy this place. I highly recommend setting aside 2 hours to visit this attraction.

Wishing you bright sunshine and excellent photographs!

Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania

  • Flights at the best prices with best discounts
  • Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
    • DiscoverCars – a major international resource
    • LocalRent – the leader in the Albanian car rental market. Very low deposits, even in cash.
  • Hotels and apartments throughout the country:
    • Hotellook – compares prices among dozens of platforms and offer you the best one.
    • Booking – large online booking platform.
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Albania.
  • Tours, excursions and activities:
    • GetYourGuide – more than 550 tours
    • Viator – 920+ excursions and activities throughout the country
  • Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
  • Internet and Calls:
    • Airalo eSIM in Albania from $4.5
    • DRIMSIM – universal SIM card (or eSIM) in any country in the world.
  • Taxi and airport transfer: Intui.Travel