The city is one of the oldest in Albania and it is also an important cultural and economic center. It is estimated to have today about 86,000 inhabitants.
Shkodra was founded around the 4th century BC. This was the site of the Illyrian tribe Labeat as well as the capital of the kingdom of King Gent and that of Queen Teuta. In the year 168 BC, the city was taken by the Romans and it became an important trade and military route for them. In 1040 AD, Shkodra was captured by the Serbs and became an important economic and administrative center of the medieval Serbian state known as Zeta. In 1396, the city came under Venetian rule, forming a coalition against Ottoman Empire. Despite resisting attacks for some years, Shkodra fell under Turkish rule in 1479. Many inhabitants fled shortly after the occupation that devastated the city. It did not gain its prosperity until about the 17th century. The Bushati family ruled the area from 1757 to 1831.
During the Balkan Wars and World War I, Montenegro and Serbia tried to gain control of Shkodra. Despite resistance by its inhabitants, the city was conquered by Serbian and Montenegrin armies in early 1913. The London Conference of Ambassadors then forced the Montenegrins to relinquish the lands to the newly formed state of Albania. However, Montenegrin forces entered Shkodra yet again in 1915. In 1916, the city was captured by Austria-Hungary and it became one of their centers until 1924.
Today, Shkodra is an important educational and industrial center. The city produces various mechanical and eletrical components, as well textile and food products. Shkodra is also the site of the Pedagogical Institute and of the Luigj Gurakuqi University of Shkodra. The main library of the city contains more than 250,000 books. Other cultural institutions are the Cultural Center, the Artists and Writers Association, the "Migjeni" (named after Millosh Gjergj Nikolla) Theater, the Gallery of Arts, and the Museum of History. Other noteworthy cultural elements include the Castle of Shkodra (aka Castle of Rozafa), the Turkish Bath, the Mosque of Plumbi.
The very characteristic appearance of the city is formed by the old houses and the narrow streets formed by tall stone walls. After World War II, Shkodra rebuilt with wider streets and new residential buildings. These were built in several new quarters.