In ancient times, Vlora was known as Aulon. The oldest traces of civilization in the area of Vlora date back to the 6th century B.C. In the 4th century B.C., a stone wall is built which surrounds the town. In ancient times, Vlora was known for its wine, olives, and salt, and became the main port of Illyria after the fall of Apolonia and Oricum.
During the Medieval age, the town's fate was linked with the Castle of Kanina. In the year 1081 it was captured by the Normans, in 1205 by Venice, later it was handed over to the German Hohenschtaufs, and in 1272 it was incorporated in the Kingdom of Arbria. In the 14th century, Vlora was under the rule of the Balshaj Albanian feudal family. During this period the town was known for its metal craftsmen, sword makers, silk, and extraction of salt. The town fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1417, it was the first Adriatic port captured by them. In the following centuries it was the center of the sanjak. In 1531, Sultan Suleyman used the stones of Aulon to build a fortress near the town (near the stadium in present Vlora) in a pentagon shape, with walls adapted for artillery fire. Within the fortress were high stone buildings and houses. This structure and the Mosque of Muradia (Xhamia e Muradis ) is believed to be designed by Sinan, an Ottoman architect of Albanian origin. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Vlora once again became a prosperous trade, importing, and exporting center. Vlora was incorporated in Ali Pash Tepelena's kingdom in 1812.
Vlora was the first capital of independent Albania. On November 28th, 1912, the National Assembly of Albania declared the independence of Albania in Vlora, to end a five century Ottoman rule, and formed a provisional government headed by Ismajl Qemali. However, the town was captured by the Italians in 1914. In 1920, the National Defense Committee was formed in Vlora, which organized the forces that fought in the War of Vlora, which was fought between the Albanians and Italians over the control of the town, after the Italians refused to coincide to the ultimatum of the government of Tirana to hand over the city. The 7500 well armed Italian soldiers were forced to withdraw in September, 1920, after the town was surrounded by the Albanians.
Vlora remained a center of democratic movements, in April, 1924, a committee was formed here, which led an uprising against King Zog's rule, which eventually led to the June Revolution, and the establishment of the first democratic government of Albania. The Italians entered the town after their invasion of Albania in 1939. The natives resisted the Italian occupation and the town was liberated in October, 1944.
Before World War II, Vlora had an oil production factory, a flour factory, a power plant and several artisan workshops. The town developed and expanded in the years after World War II. Today it is an industrial city, and an education center. Industries in Vlora include food, building materials, chemicals, and glass. High educational institutions in Vlora include the University of Vlora, the Naval Officers School, and the School of Aviation. The city has a professional theater, a cultural center, library, Museum of History, Museum of Ethnography, History of the Independence Movement Museum, etc.
The city has mostly expanded towards the shore, wider streets were built and tall several story high buildings. The city's main street has been widened, it connects Sheshi i Flamurit (Flag Square) with the center of the city in the Pavarsia (Independence) quarter. The street which enters the city from the north leads to the old bazaar. The Monument of Independence and the Monument of the Unknown Soldier are some of the monuments in Vlora.
Vlora is also a touristic center, many hotels and recreational centers are found along the beaches of Vlora.