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By Julia Van Peer
"Once you look beyond this curious get-together of contrasting styles, Skopje will conquer a place in your heart."

More or less divided in two ‘halves’, Skopje is a fascinating destination, as is North Macedonia in its entirety. This ultimate guide combines Ottoman influences with a hint of Modern Times. It shows you how to spend a lovely 2 days in North Macedonia’s capital. 

The Ottoman Old Bazaar with a variety of colourful souvenirs and handcrafted specialties largely covers the East bank of the Vardar river. While profuse imposing sculptures and monuments, refined facades and polished parks reside on the West bank – without doubt the most curious city to visit in the Balkan Peninsula. Combining two contrasting worlds, Skopje displays a charming cultural diversity. Whether you define the city as charming or kitsch, I’ll let you be the judge! 

To get a better understanding of this unusual metropolis 2 days is not nearly enough, however it will navigate you past the most interesting and alluring highlights. You will find relics and artefacts from the devastating ‘63 earthquake, countless polished statues and sculptures, ample covered and open-air stalls in both Bit Pazar and the Old Bazaar, and trendy bars and restaurants.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect place to start your cross-country travel or you want to enjoy your last days buying the perfect souvenirs, a few days in this eccentric city is a must. Here are my favourite things to do in Skopje. 

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One of many religious buildings in the country.



Free Skopje Walking Tours, and Walking In Skopje offer guided tours of the city, giving you a much deeper understanding of North Macedonia’s historical and cultural heritage. Most walking tours commence in the morning (i.e. Free Skopje Walking Tours and Free Skopje Tours), while others can be adjusted to your itinerary (i.e. Walking In Skopje). Opting for a private tour gives you the benefit of being entertained with exclusive insights and amusing anecdotes. At the end of the tour it is a given to leave at tip.


Let me start by saying that this is no ‘fixed’ itinerary, as the proposed two days can be interchanged, blended, expanded or walked through in a more relaxed way altogether. Like I said, two days is not enough to discover Skopje on a deeper level. 


Today you will be covering Skopje’s classical grounds, characterized by Neo-classical style facades, a myriad of unusual modern buildings and more bronze sculptures than you can count. All erected as part of an ambitious project established in 2014, the government attempted to revive old buildings and construct novel architectural sites and statues across the city centre. Intended to attract more tourists, the project has caused a stir among the locals. Whether they succeeded or failed, I will let you decide.


  • Spotting people (and sculptures) on Macedonia Square

  • Cross one of many bridges

  • Pass by Memorial House Mother Theresa

  • Amble in the Museum of the City of Skopje

  • Gaze upon Saint Clement of Ohrid Cathedral

  • Enjoy the view from Kale Fortress


No better place to start your visit than at Skopje’s main plaza. Not only the place to be for people watching, the grandest statue of all can be found at the centre of Macedonia Square. ‘Warrior on a horse’ is an unofficial bronze replica of ‘Alexander the Great’ during his victory years. Aside from this gigantic eye catcher numerous other sculptures, polished facades and curious monuments have been added to the kitschy skyline, many of which can be seen from the square. 


The heart of the city branches off in every direction, creating a web of burnished streets enlivened with bars and cafes. It even stretches over to the Eastside of the Vardar River, connecting the old part with the new. On its south-east end the imposing Porta Macedonia overlooks the square with great elegance. It symbolizes the Macedonian Uprising of the 11th of October 1941, thus mirroring the nation’s strife for independence. Notice the remarkable marble reliefs depicting various historical scenes.


Have your pick in the local bookshop.


From Macedonia Square it is just a matter of random choosing which bridge to cross over. Going one way you can opt for The Stone Bridge, to return via The Art Bridge. The former is the main connection of the ancient historic centre with the contrasting new scene. Built in the 6th century according to some, or in the 15th century according to others, it is no wonder that it found its symbolic place on the city’s coat of arms. Nowadays it symbolises the drift in Skopje’s cultural scene.


The Art Bridge on the other hand was constructed entirely under the Skopje 2014 scheme. With its 29 remarkable sculptures of significant Macedonian artists and musicians, it is one of the more appreciated ‘new’ creations of the project. Other bridges worth passing by (or crossing over) are: The Eye Bridge and The Freedom Bridge. 


If you are not yet done for sculptures after Macedonia Square and the Art Bridge, visit Woman Warrior Park. It is a small park situated at the other end of Porta Macedonia embracing about twenty statues, including the impressive ‘Fallen Heroes of Macedonia’. 

Cross one of many bridges in the town of Skopje.


By far one of the most famous figures in Catholicism was born in Skopje in 1910. Mother Theresa, born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in an Albanian family, is a highly praised Saint who was baptized in a church at the very site where the Memorial House was later built. The memorial exhibits a time-line of photographs, personal items and relics. A preeminent leader of the poor and the sick, Mother Theresa received the Nobel Prize of Peace in 1979 for founding the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta (of which a copy can be found inside the building). 


Besides the main monument devoted to her, ample citations and dedications can be found distributed all over the city. 

On the way to Memorial House Mother Theresa.


Time for some historical facts and trivia about the disastrous earthquake of 1936, in the Skopje City Museum. As it hit a magnitude of 6.1, close to 80% of the capital was demolished and more than 1 000 lives were lost. Thus the city had to be rebuilt brick by brick, creating the nowadays blend of diverse buildings. Aside from material about the devastating earthquake, the museum houses ancient relics, photographs, and multi-ethnic treasures dating back to the 2nd century BC. 


The enormous clock on the exterior of the Railway Station, in which the museum was founded, is fixed at the precise time (5.17) the earthquake hit Skopje.


Other museums worth visiting are:

  • The Museum of Natural History – The name speaking for itself, the Natural History museum displays ancient fossils, stuffed animals and other valuable finds.

  • Museum of Macedonia – Located near the Mustafa Pasha Mosque, the Museum of Macedonia exhibits a variety of cultural treasures. 

  • National Gallery of Macedonia – A converted Turkish hamam from the 15th century, located in the Old Bazaar, the National Gallery displays various works of art.

  • Suli An Local History Museum – The museum houses a collection of handmade artefacts and antics from Roman times.


The largest Macedonian Orthodox church, Saint Clement of Ohrid’s Cathedral, is an eye catcher non the least. With its impressive arches and domes shaping the exterior, plus a serene fountain in front, it is definitely one of the more interesting constructions of Skopje’s bizarre cityscape. Although finished in 1990 after 18 years of hard work, 24 years before the Skopje 2014 project, it could have belonged to the latter.


Also known as the Ministry Temple, the church embraces a striking chandelier looming over a remarkable Jesus fresco. The light that shines through the stained glass windows takes on distinct hues and tones, creating a divine atmosphere.

The Saint Clement of Ohrid Cathedral in all its glory.


Whether you want to admire the sweeping views over the entire city or end your day by gazing upon the deep red and soft orange shades of the sun dipping below the horizon, Kale Fortress is the place to be. Next to the Stone Bridge, the Sharr Mountain and the Vardar River, the fort received the honour of completing the city’s coat of arms. Located only a few minutes from the Old Bazaar, a steep pathway will lead you to the ancient rampart, built in the 6th Century during the Byzantine era. Unfortunately the disastrous earthquake of 1963 damaged part of the fortress, resulting in years of restoration. 


Once arrived at the entrance (which is free of charge) you can amble along the ancient fortifications or climb one of the lofty towers, all the while overlooking Skopje’s skyline. If you ask me, a perfect ending of your first day.


Ancient ruins in Kale Fortress.


A unique city in the Balkan, with profuse contrasts around every corner, Skopje knows how to lure you in. After a day of robust statues and modern architecture, let’s take a step back in Ottoman times and enjoy some ethnic vibes. A dash of culture, a hint of religion and the opportunity of buying handcrafted souvenirs makes for a delightful day. 


  • Soak up some history in the Archeological Museum

  • The Ascension of Jesus Church

  • Enter Mustafa Pasha’s Mosque

  • Spot the ‘Other Bazaar’, Bit Pazar

  • Get lost in the Old Bazaar

  • End your day on a cultural note


Located on the East bank of the Vardar River, the Archeological Museum illustrates the nation’s historical timeline. Founded in 1924, the oldest Museum the country has known is a real treat for the eye and intellect. As a history buff myself I truly liked this exhibition, with over 7 000 artefacts and relics, divided over three floors. Ranging from the prehistoric era, to the Byzantine dynasty, and Ottoman empire, it delineates the country’s richhistory and culture. Every remnant is a unique piece of the puzzle that formed the independent nation of North Macedonia. 


Not only are the valuable finds interesting to take a closer look at, the exterior of the building is also a treat for the eye. With its giant columns and impressive statues it is worth just passing by. Conveniently the museum is constructed very centrally in Skopje, making it easy to find. 


After embracing the historical scene of the city, get acquainted with the religious one. Although you’re currently roaming the once Ottoman streets, when the Islam was the supreme religion, some forgotten churches can be found. If you wouldn’t be paying attention this small church could easily be overlooked, seeing it was built beneath street level and shielded with a high brick wall. 


Founded in the 16th-17th Century, during Ottoman reign, it was forbidden to construct new prominent churches which could literally and figuratively transcend the beauty of Islamic buildings. Therefore strict rules had to be followed, explaining the lack of prominent non-Islamic settlements on Skopje’s Eastern grounds.


Most famously known for its wooden craved iconostasis, designed by two talented brothers, a noteworthy timbered bell tower and a stunning garden holding the final resting place of Goce Delche, this magnificent landmark makes for an interesting stopover.


Unfortunately I didn't make any pictures from the inside, so this is a picture of a different church.


Erected amidst the Museum of Macedonia and Kale Fortress, a visit to Mustafa Pasha’s Mosque is one to remember. This mosque is one of the most exquisite illustrations, together with the Painted Mosque in Tetovo, of Islamic architecture in the Balkan Peninsula. The pride of the Old Bazaar was built in 1492, according to the inscription above the entrance, in honour of Mustafa Pasha, an influential vizier under the sultans. 


Originally, the mosque was part of a greater complex encompassing a caravanserai (an encampment for caravans along the Silk Road), a madrasa (a school), an imaret (a public eating house), a türbe (a tomb) and the mosque itself. Currently, only the mosque, türbe and a shardivan (a fountain) still remain. 


Enter the religious ground through a white marble porch and find yourself directly in front of the immaculate white domes with a single lofty minaret at the side. Respect the unspoken rules of the Islam by dressing properly (women must cover their hair) and arriving outside of prayer times. The men and women gathering in the mosque around prayer time are very warm and welcoming. Most of them will take the time to show you around and explain the importance of certain signs and symbols.


You may not want to save all your bidding tactics (and wallet) for the Old Bazaar, as the Bit Pazar is equally entertaining as the former. Located at the Northern end of Skopje, Bit Pazar (or The Flea Market), one of the largest outdoor markets in the Balkan, has it all. 


This is where the residents of Skopje have come to do their shopping since Ottoman days, making it the most authentic market in town. It may not look as fancy and well-polished as the Old Bazaar, but is it not exactly that what makes it so charming? Getting lost several times in the chaotic web of semi-covered and open-air stalls, and at times almost being run over by enthusiastic vendors is a must. 


Once past the first stalls, selling cheap Chinese knock-offs, you’ll come to the fascinating side. Whether you’re snuffling around for fresh fruits and vegetables, craving for various delicious spices and tobacco leafs, getting lured into shops exhibiting absolutely everything, or probing around amidstlow-priced replica designer clothing, you’ve come to the right place. 


And lucky for us, the Bit Pazar is held every day, all year round.


The cutest little coffee shop with traditional Turkish coffee.


After a day and a half of history, religion and culture it’s time for the real deal. Together with Sarajevo’s Old Bazaar (Baščaršija), the historic and famous Carsija in Skopje is my favourite one of the Balkan. It is the second-largest bazaar of its kind, after Istanbul.


A plethora of Ottoman buildings, ancient craftsman shops, delicious restaurants, and trendy bars make up the Old Bazaar. It is one of few districts that survived the ‘63 earthquake, thus mirroring affairs of everyday life going back as far as the 12th Century. Of course you can also find ample other landmarks here, including museums, galleries, mosques, and even churches. 


Branching off in every direction, even the darkest alleys hold cute little shops. It is in these boutiques, held open by generations of handicraft men, that the true hidden gems can be found. Ranging from expert goldsmiths, to artisan carpet makers and dedicated shoemakers, these ‘lost arts’ are disappearing little by little.


Wander around in the maze of historic narrow backstreets, soak in the aromas of grilled meat and relish the orient charm. Some quintessential souvenirs worth roaming the streets for are:

  • Uniquely designed clay pottery

  • Handmade carpets and traditional North-Macedonian costumes

  • Exquisite sweet homemade honey

  • Tailor-made leather shoes

  • Ottoman influenced goods (i.e. Turkish coffee pots, lamps in original colours, delicate fabrics)

  • Gold and silver sparkling jewellery


Whatever you are looking for, you will find it in one of these streets.


The Macedonian National Theatre and Macedonian Opera and Ballet House hold an extensive all-year-round programme. Whether you’re in for a mesmerizing opera, a drama filled with tragedy, or a classical music performance of Macedonia’s finest, these production houses know no boundaries. In addition, captivating ballet choreographies and amusing theatre won’t be missing from the billboards hanging outside. 


Leaning back in a comfortable armchair, with a glass of refined wine in your hand, it’s the perfect way of saying goodbye to Skopje.


After spending two (or more) days in North Macedonia’s capital, it may be time to retreat to more green areas. However interesting and vibrant the city may be, sometimes the need for fresh air is not far-off. If you are looking for the real nature gems, you have to leave the outskirts of Skopje behind, and retire to Šar PlaninaMavrovo National Park, and Ohrid Lake. Nonetheless, the following day trips are the perfect nearby alternative: 

  • Mount Vodno – Located only a stone’s throw southwest from the city centre, is the 1 066 meters high Mount Vodno. Either take the cable car to the summit or enjoy a 1-hour hike on the zigzagging path. Once at the top, the 66 meters high Millennium Cross, the largest Christian Cross worldwide, looms over Skopje. The top of this superb landmark offers stunning panoramic views of Skopje’s skyline on one side, and thestriking nature on the other. Take a deep breath and let your worries go.

  • Matka Canyon – The second nature getaway is the Matka Canyon, popular with both locals as well as tourists. A lofty gorge, divided in two by the Treska River, houses the large artificial Matka Lake. The lakelet can be discovered by boat ride, kayaking, or swimming. If you’re not a fan of getting into the water, hiking along the banks of the reservoir and through the spectacular gorge is the next-best-activity. Breathtaking views of pristine nature are to be found in this area.

  • Tetovo – Somewhat further than the previous two day trips is Tetovo, a town almost exclusively ethnic Albanian. With mostly Islamic residents, Tetovo’s pride is undoubtedly the Painted Mosque. This house of worship features an incredible facade, covered with nothing but extraordinarymurals. Other worthwhile sights include the Arabati Baba Teke Monasterythe Hamam of Tetovo, and Tetovo Fortress.


The Painted Mosque in Tetovo.


Walking – With the city’s most interesting highlights fairly close to each other, walking is your main form of transportation, giving you the opportunity to stop wherever you want. 

Taxi – They are plentiful and in relative good condition. However, most of the time it will take more time to catch a taxi and drive someplace than to go by foot.

Public Transport – An extensive bus network traverses Skopje, with the main bus station located 2 kilometres outside of the centre. Buses come on regular times and a single travel ticket costs about 35 Macedonian Denar, available at tobacco stalls. To get to Mount Vodno and Matka Canyon a Skopska bus card is required, costing 150 Macedonian Denar.

Driving – This really isn’t an efficient option to discover Skopje. My advice would be to find yourself a parking spot a little bit outside of the centre, take the double-decker bus and discover Skopje’s major highlights by foot. 


Not only does North Macedonia’s capital offer a wide variety of delicious cuisine, the coffee and sweets are to die for. After treating yourself with a tavce gravce (cooked beans served in a clay pot), sarma (stuffed grape leaves), a shopska salad (tomatoes with cucumber and grated cheese) and some savoury ajvar (roasted pepper spread), it is time for dessert! Some desserts you must try are: baklava (the most famous Turkish delight), kadaif (a sweet and crispy dessert soaked in syrup), lokum (a sweet Turkish delight), trilece (a sponge cake soaked in various forms of milk), and many more. A Turkish coffee can’t be missed from this setting, thick, black and rich like it should be. 

  • Debar Maalo – The first one is not a single restaurant, but rather a vibrant neighbourhood. Whether you’re in for an energetic cup of coffee in the morning, an after-lunch sweet treat or a traditional meal accompanied with live music, Debar Maalo has it all. Even nightclubs and lively bars are plenty in this part of town.

  • Hotel Arka 7the floor – There is a bar located at the top of this Hotel, good for a stunning view of Skopje. 

  • Destan – A ‘traditional’ North Macedonian kaffana, serving national dishes.

  • Brewery Old Town – A vibrant outdoor bar, located near Kale Fortress, with various types of beer and pizza. Weekends here are for good company and live music. 

  • Mickitos Cocktails & Coffee – Located below Hostel Mickitos, this is a place where you can enjoy a pleasant morning, afternoon, or evening with friends.

  • Baklava Naxho – Saved the best for last: this is thé place for finding excellent baklava!


Like any capital, Skopje counts endless accommodations ranging from the buget hostel to a mid-range airbnb and luxury hotels. Sites like,, and make your search much easier. These are few of many options: 

  • Hostel Log Inn – Budget

  • Hostel Mickitos – Budget

  • Hotel Senigallia – Mid-range

  • Hotel Arka – Mid-range

  • Skopje Marriott Hotel – Luxury

  • Alexandar Square Boutique Hotel – Luxury


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Hi there!

I'm Julia, a Belgian native who loves to travel and explore off the beaten places all over the world. Discover more on how to fill your travels with adventure, warmth, and colour. Learn more about me here.

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