Skopje, the capital city of North Macedonia is somewhere that will completely blow you away. A small city in Europe that has been in existence since as far back as 4000 BC. The city of Skopje has had a tumultuous past, being occupied by countries such as Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey to name a few. Despite this, there is (what I felt) quite a Roman feel to the city even though the Romans ruled Skopje in the 1st Century AD.
Having visited cities in Eastern Europe such as Belgrade, I expected to get a similar feel to Skopje – but boy, was I wrong! Skopje is a glorious mix of old traditions and beautiful architecture throughout the entire city. There are two aspects to the city, the ‘Old’ and the ‘New’.
The Old Bazaar
The Old Bazaar is the real heart and soul of Skopje. This area consists of ancient winding cobbled streets with traditional vendors at each door. As the largest Bazaar in the Balkans, you won’t be surprised to find you could spend all day here! There are various tea rooms, original craft makers and vendors selling traditional Macedonian clothes and other items. The Bazaar has had it’s fair share of knocks throughout the years. In 1689, the Bazaar had an overwhelming 2150 stores but were unfortunately burned as the Austrian General Enea Silvio Piccolomini set the town on fire. The Bazaar was rebuilt again in 1908 yet disaster struck again when 700 were caught on fire. In 1963 a fatal earthquake hit the city ensuing even more damage to Macedonias beautiful capital. Despite these events, thankfully the Bazaar is still standing and booming with life.
Skopje City Centre
Before going to Skopje I was under the impression that the only thing to see there was the Old Bazaar. Thinking back now, I’m genuinely ashamed of myself for not looking into it further. If we hadn’t had time to walk around the city we could have potentially moved onto our next destination without ever knowing or experiencing everything Skopje has to offer!
There are a number of absolutely stunning bridges over the Vardar River in Skopje along the waterfront.
The Stone Bridge: This links the old part of the town to the newer part by foot and is the oldest bridge in Skopje.
Art Bridge: This is a pedestrian bridge with statues to tribute notable people in Macedonian history along the edges.
Freedom Bridge: This is another beautiful bridge along the Vardar River that is worth crossing and enjoying.
I have never seen more majestic statues than when I was in Skopje! There are several gargantuan statues paying tribute to their various heros throughout the years. Some have fountains on the base, while others are just stand alone pieces. The most impressive of the lot is, unsurprisingly, their statue of Alexander the Great in Macedonia Square. Towering at 14.5m tall (over 47 ft) and coming in at roughly two million euros to erect, there is really no missing this iconic piece of art in Skopje.
Activities To Do In Skopje
There are a number of different activities that you can do while you are in Skopje, especially the three below.
Millennium Cross: This cross is a 66-metre (217 ft) tall cross situated on the top of Vodno Mountain in the outskirts of Skopje and is actually one of the tallest crosses in the world! If you don’t fancy climbing to the top of Vodno mountain yourself you can hop on the Millennium Cross Cable Car, an 8 minute journey that brings you right to the top!
Matka Canyon: Located roughly 30 minutes drive outside of the city you have the choice of bus, taxi or rental car to reach here. We took our car, but I briefly read about getting a taxi around that time and while I can’t remember the exact figure, it didn’t sound too unreasonable to me! Matka is free to visit and is 100% worth a visit if you are in Skopje. At Matka you can take a boat ride, kayak yourself through the Canyon or hike up to the church of Sveti Nikola which takes about 20 minutes (but be warned in the heat this uphill climb is steep and brutal!).
Kale Fortress: The highest point in the city, the fortress dates back as far as the 6th century and boasts views throughout the city and along the Vardar River. I didn’t visit here myself, but from what I can see online you don’t seem to have to pay to enter, and it is open from 8am – 7pm daily.
We spent one night in Skopje and had a really great night. There are several bars and restaurants dotted along the river so you will be spoiled for choice. We opted to go to a cocktail bar where we enjoyed the night before heading for some food by the main square. I felt that the city was an incredibly safe place to walk around in at night with crowds of people enjoying themselves everywhere. I wouldn’t say that the city is defined by its nightlife like some places I have visited, but if you wish to indulge in a few cocktails or beers know that it also has that side to offer!
Skopje is one of those places that I left feeling pleasantly surprised with just how much it had to offer. I’m not one to set intense itineraries when I visit a new city and Skopje was the perfect place for this relaxed type of travel. We spent every waking moment taking in everything the city yet were never bored. That is when you know you are onto a winner!
Would you ever visit Skopje? Or have you ever considered visiting Macedonia?