A Backpacker's Tale

Skopje Macedonia: 
The 2019 City Guide

Macedonia Square Drone Shot

Reasons to  
Visit Skopje

  • Not Overly Crowded With Tourist
  • Awesome Food
  • Cheap
  • Great Local Food
  • Fun Day Trips
  • Hundreds of Statues
  • Iconic City

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Skopje Macedonia’s capital city, isn’t anything like I expected. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was picturing in my head. Maybe something with a more Mediterranean flare – because of its proximity to Greece. Maybe I expected something more rustic, or a city less geared toward tourism. Whatever my expectations, Skopje Macedonia blew them away!

Skopje isn’t your typical European city. It is an odd melting pot of cultures. The city’s biggest influence is Eastern European, followed closely by middle-eastern and with a little bit of Mediterranean thrown in for good measure.

This gives it a different vibe compared to the hundreds of other cities I have visited backpacking Europe over the years.

What to Expect When 

Visiting Skopje

Skopje is a strange mix. Part of the capital is clearly Eastern European with just a touch of Mediterranean thrown in for flavor, while other sections are slightly middle eastern. Eastern orthodox and catholic churches are minute walking distance to mosques and Bazaars.

Skopje is packed, almost to the point of being covered, with statues that look like they are remnants left over from the ancient world. It makes the entire city a strangely beautiful place.

On the surface, the city looks and feels old. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that most of the statues and buildings are newly reconstructed, yet made to look like they have been aging for hundreds of years. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it is just a little deceiving at first.

The major reason for all the reconstruction is due to the massive earthquake that hit Skopje in 1963, which destroyed 80% of the buildings.

The locals in Skopje are also friendly. As I mentioned above, the city wants more tourism. They are happy to help you, give you directions, share about their city, and suggest local foods to try.

Currency in Macedonia

The Macedonian Denar (MDK / ден) is the currency of Northern Macedonia. 1 USD equals ден52 – ден58 Denar depending on the current exchange rate.

A word of warning, I made the mistake of drawing out too much MDK. I usually avoid currency exchanges like they are a country music concert, but had no choice. 

Unfortunately, I was thwarted as there is no currency exchange at Skopje Airport. And once leaving Macedonia, no currency exchanges will take the Denar.

End result: I have $50 worth of Denars parked in my wallet. So make sure you spend, or exchange, all the MDK you have before heading to the airport.

Here is the current exchange rate

Best time to 

Visit Skopje

Peak Season
June Through November

Skopje gets its highest number of travelers from June – August. With the busiest month being July. The evenings are comfortable, but the days are hot. Temperature’s reach almost 100°F during the day and 60°F at night.

Accommodation is in high demand due to the sheer number of tourists. Which means that the cost of hostels and hotels rise during the summer months. But at no point during the year would I say that accommodation in Skopje is unaffordable.

The fall is the second busiest time of the year for tourism in Skopje. What draws visitors to the city in the fall are the mild temperatures. This makes September – November the second busiest time for tourism in Skopje.

Note: Temperatures drop rapidly in November, and there is a good chance you will see a little snow.

Shoulder Season
March Through May

Spring is the mid-tourist time in Skopje. Shoulder season is a combination of low and high tourist season. Tourists take over the city in March, but April and May are slow months for tourism. 

At night the high humidity and mild temperatures make it feel chilly. The springtime also gets a fair amount of rain with May being the rainiest month of the year.

Off-Season
December through February

The winters in Skopje get chilly with temperatures dipping down into the low 30°F, and sometimes drops as low as 25 °F

The city also receives a fair amount of rain and snow during winter, which slows down tourism drastically. Prices fall with the temperatures making it the cheapest time of the year to visit.

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AVERAGE TEMPERATURES IN SKOPJE

SPRING

 79°F (26°C) – 51°F (10°C)

SUMMER

90-100°F (37°C) – 51°F (16°C)

FALL

84°F (29°C) and 50°F (10°C)

WINTER

48°F (7°C) – 28°F (-2°C)

Cool Things to do 

In Skopje

Skopje! The city of statues, mosque, a mini Arch De Triumph knockoff, and English Double Decker Buses.

Sightseeing in Skopje might make you fill like you are going on a little tour around the world.

One of the recent leaders of Macedonia – I can’t remember which one, sorry – spent a lot of his time in office abroad. He would see things he liked on his travels and come back to Skopje and commission them to be built.

A common joke among the locals goes like this, “Soon, no one will travel the world; instead, they will just come to Skopje.”

“Why,” I asked.

“Because we will have copied all the good things,” the locals reply,  why would you need to go anywhere else.”(I never said it was a funny joke)

That being said, Skopje does have a lot to see and do. And while the sites, statues, and buildings aren’t as old as they look, they are still worth checking out.

One thing to note, as you go through this next section, is that many of the museums and churches are closed on Mondays.

Museum of Macedonia

I know what you are thinking, “ Come on, Stephen! Why are you starting this list with a museum.”

I feel your pain, on my travels I’ve literally been to hundreds of museums. After a while, they all the sights in museums tend to run together. Oh, look! Another crumbling statue that I know little to nothing about….wonderful – he said sarcastically.

But the Museum of Macedonia is different, it’s special. You’ll notice this just from looking at the building, which looks like someone picked it up from Ancient Rome and sat it down in Skopje.

From the outside, I can’t recall ever seeing a more beautiful museum, (apart from the Vatican, of course)

What to see at the Museum of Macedonia

Stepping into the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia is time travel to the far past of Macedonia. It houses relics, artifacts, and pieces from different areas of the country.

Some notable things to see are the ancient artifacts, the treasures from the Byzantine era, and the 3d reconstructions of faces from early Macedonia (Which they made using skulls).

There are 3 floors worth of awesome things to see. It is one of the best places in Macedonia to visit. 

Getting to the Museum on Macedonia

The museum is located just on the other side of the Vardar from Macedonia Square. If you cross the river via the Bridge of Civilizations, you cannot miss it.

Statue of the Warrior

It is impossible to miss this 8-story high monument sitting in the middle of Macedonia Square. It’s fairly obvious that this statue is of Alexander the Great.

But due to Northern Macedonia, and Greece, both trying to claim the larger than life conqueror as their own, they can’t “officially” name it after the hero it’s based on.

The statue is an intricately designed tower standing high over the square. Sitting on top is Alexander. His sword is pulled out, his horse is rearing as if he is about to charge into battle.

At the bottom of the tower is a pool of water lined with lions and soldiers. Water sprays into the at varying speeds and colors.

Stone Bridge Skopje

Being the sly you, that you are means you’ve probably already guessed that stone bridge is… made out of stones. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Over 550 years old Stone bridge is one of the oldest parts that remain of Skopje Macedonia. (And it is much older if you count the roman foundations that it was built on).

The bridge spans over 700 feet and is supported by stone columns and semicircle archways. It runs across the Vardar River, which isn’t much of a river (at least in the summer months).

Stone Bridge acts as an invisible dividing line between two distinct sections of the city. The side of the bridge that houses Macedonia Square feels more eastern European, but wander across the bridge, and soon you’ll find yourself sitting in a middle-eastern style cafe sipping hot tea, looking at towering minarets, and listening to the call to prayer.

Skopje Aqueduct

Skopje’s Aqueduct is exceptionally well preserved with over 55 arches remaining. The Aqueduct spans over 1,200 ft. (386 meters).

When this aqueduct was built is unclear, but the best guesses are either during the Roman Era, the Byzantine Empire, or the Ottoman Empire.

This aqueduct is a little off the beaten path is around a mile northwest of the center of Skopje.

Getting to The Skopje Aqueduct

The best way to get to Skopje Aqueduct is by cab. But if you are looking for a budget option and don’t mind 40 minutes of walking (each way), you can take bus 19. Or bus 57 and change to bus 9 at Јајапашина Џамија.

Macedonia Gate

If you’ve always wanted to see the Arch De Triumph, but have never been to Paris, then you can head to Macedonia Gate, which is a mini version of the famous french site. Most Arches tributes to grand military victories.

This is where Macedonia Gate differs. Northern Macedonia is a passive country, and so they don’t have any significant military achievements to showcase. Instead, the reliefs on the gate depict scenes of Macedonia history.

My guide told me that it is the only Arch in the world that doesn’t have military victories. Though I’m not sure if that is true.

Mother Teresa’s House

Ok, there isn’t much to see here. But since it is close to Macedonia Gate, why not stop? Heading back to Macedonia Square from Macedonia Gate, you will see a small golden square on the street.

This is the location of the house where Mother Teresa was born and grew up. Nothing remains of the house. All you can really do here is take a photo, stand inside the square, or say a prayer – if that’s your cup of tea.

Millennium Cross

If you ask anyone local in Skopje what’s the one thing to do in Skopje that you shouldn’t miss, they are most likely to say the Millennium Cross.

The Millennium Cross is at the highest point on Vodno Mountain and sits at 3,497 feet (1,066). And if you are assuming that this means that you get some great views of Skopje, well, then you are right.

The Millennium Cross has become an icon, and one of the first things you’ll notice when entering the city.

The cross is built out of a metal grid. (Think of the style of the Eiffel Tower). Saying it is massive is a bit of an understatement for a monument like this. The Millennium Cross stands at 217 feet tall compared to Christ the Redeemer in Rio, which stands at 98 feet.

Skopje Fortress

Skopje Fortress, also called Kale Fort, sits at the highest point in the city and has sweeping views of Skopje in every direction. This fortress is believed to have been built in the 6th century. The walls of the fort and some of the towers remain.

One point of interest is the neolithic remains found up here. These archeological digs are 6,000 years.

Make sure to check out this free thing to do in Skopje.

From the outside, I can’t recall ever seeing a more beautiful museum, (apart from the Vatican, of course)

The Bridge of Civilizations in Macedonia

The Bridge of Civilizations in Macedonia is a little deceiving as it’s lined with old looking statues. I was a bit disappointing to discover that these statues aren’t actually ancient, just made to look that way. But even though that is the case, the bridge is still gorgeous looking.

It overlooks Stone Bridge and walking across the bridge leads you right to the front door on the Museum of Macedonia (Archaeological Museum of Macedonia).

The statues on the bridge are of all key historical characters throughout Northern Macedonia’s history.

My personal favorite statue on the bridge is the woman in the center of the fountain. This woman is based off what they know about the neolithic remains that they have found on top of Kale Fortress. It has a unique art style that I found intriguing.

Old Bazaar Skopje

The Old Bazaar offers some unique atmosphere and food. The Old Bazaar Skopje; the second-largest bazaar in Europe.

The area is stuffed full of shoe stalls, knock-off electronics, middle eastern clothing for children and women, a few guys clothing shops, and restaurants. The actual market area of the bazaar does have a lot of local produce, which is good if you are cooking your own meals.

The area is known for shopping, but I wasn’t impressed. The prices are over-inflated for tourists, and even though it is a middle eastern style Bazaar, no one seemed willing to haggle.

With that said, if you are looking for some new shoes, then this market is the place to go. I’ve never seen so many shoes in my entire life. And they cost a little over half of what I would pay in the US.

While I wouldn’t recommend going on a shopping spree in the Old Bazaar, I would urge you to visit for the food as some great restaurants serve local dishes. (More on local dishes and Old Bazaar Restaurants down below)

Monument of Karposh

This monument might not seem too impressive when looking at it. ( I mean the gigantic statues of both Alexander and Phillip are visible from the memorial and are much more spectacular). However, this monument has a deep and disturbing history. Karposh, depicted in the statue, lead a short-lived rebellion against the Ottomans in 1689. This uprising was spurred by the burning of the city. His rebellion lasted only two weeks before it was defeated and he was captured.

After captured, he was put to death on the spot where his monument lies. His death is one of the most horrific ways I’ve ever heard of someone dying – it is to messed up to write here. He is known as a national hero because he was the first to rise up. Karposh is basically Northern Macedonia’s William Wallace, and you can hear the full story on this Skopje Free Walking Tour.

Olympias Monument

This is really a monument to Alexander’s mother, but guess who doesn’t want them to call it that. Yep, Greece. So because of this, it is called Olympias Monument, or sometimes the Statue of the Mother.

This statue shows a mother raising a child through 4 different stages of his life. It isn’t as big as the Statue of Alexander. Err… I mean Statue of the Warrior – sorry Greece. But the artwork is exquisite, and since it is right by Stone Bridge, there is no reason not to stop and take a look.

Statue of Philip II of Macedonia Monument

On the far side of the Olympias Monument is Philip II of Macedon Monument. This monument is slightly smaller than the Statue of the warrior but in the same style.

This is a monument to Phillip II, Alexander’s father, who was a strong leader and paved the way for his son. Phillip II died tragically as he was assassinated.

Macedonia Square

Macedonia Square acts as a central point of the Skopje. And almost everything on this list is walkable from the square. There is a little mall near the square with dozens of restaurants and shops. At the center of the square is the Statue of the Warrior. Both Mother Teresa’s birth home(the golden square) and Macedonia Gate are just outside the square.

It is a grand city square. However, being the center, the restaurants are more expensive. For those of you that need to satisfy your western food craving, there is a lot of international restaurants nearby.

From the square head down Macedonia Street (Which is likely going to change its name to Northern Macedonia Street soon). and you will find restaurants from all over the world.

Memorial House of Mother Teresa

Even though there might not be anything left of Mother Teresa’s house, there is still ways to pay homage and learn more about her, by visiting the Memorial House of Mother Teresa.

The memorial house is free to enter but runs on donations. Inside the house, you will see a lot of documents, a mini replica of her home, and a lot of items associated with the Saint. At the top of the Memorial House is a small, surprisingly modern, designed chapel, where the pope visited a couple years ago.

The Memorial House of Mother Teresa is on Macedonia Street.

Museum of the City of Skopje (Old Train Station)

The Museum of the City of Skopje is located inside the Old Train Station. This badly damaged building was a casualty of the earthquake of 1963. You can still see the destruction on the side of the building.

The clock on the front is still set to 5:17, stopped at the exact moment the 6.1 magnitude earthquake tore through Skopje. This museum has over 20,000 objects that cover the archeology, ethnology, art, and history of the city.

The main exhibit of the museum is “Walk through the Past”. Which takes you on a journey that starts with artifacts from 3,500 B.C. and takes you through the early 20th century.

It is closed on Mondays and was free entry on the day I visited. (Although, I am not sure if I just came on a free museum day.)

Skopje Free Walking Tour

One last thing I want to recommend, when looking for things to do in Skopje, is to hop on the free walking tour. The tour lasts around 3 hours and takes you to many of the sites around history.

The guide, Vasko, is knowledgeable, friendly, and has a deep passion for his city. During the walking tour, you will also get some free shots, coupons for the city, and more in-depth knowledge of Skopje Macedonia

Something unique about this tour are the couple of stray dogs that follow Vasko around and joined us for the entirety of the tour.

Of course, these tours are run for free, but tips are appreciated.

Skopje-Northern-Macedonia
Bridge-of-Civilizations

Museum of Macedonia Info

Things to See in the Macedonia Museum
  • Coin Collections
  • Prehistoric Artifacts
  • Neolithic Artifacts
  • Old Remains
  • 3d Reconstructions
Ticket Price
The Museum of Macedonia is cheap. The ticket price is only 100 MKD (1.5 Euro).

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Old-Bazzar

Getting to the Millennium Cross

Bus

This might seem a little confusing. But the best way to get there is head to the international bus station. Ask for a ticket on the Millennium Cross Line. This line runs every 30 minutes and cost less than 1 Euro (35 MDK).

Ride the bus for around 30 minutes, depending on how many stops it makes, and get off the bus off at the cable car. Next, take the cable car to the top of Vodno mountain. The cable car ticket is around 2 Euro (120 MDK). The cable car shuts down at 4 p.m.

You can get update prices and bus times here

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5 Awesome Day Trips

From Skopje

MATKA CANYON

I almost included Matka Canyon in the things to do in Skopje section, because practically every tourist in Skopje visits Matka Canyon.

But seeing as the canyon is 45 minutes each way it’s more appropriate in day trips.

Matka canyon is a beautiful area outside the city. There are beautiful lakes with boat tours, a monastery of St. Nikola, kayaking, cave tours; heck, you can even rent a houseboat for the day.

One of the best things about Matka Canyon is that it is cheap. Entrance to the Canyon is free, and all the activities (even the boat ride) will cost you a few dollars.

KOKINO ANCIENT OBSERVATORY

The Stone Dolls of Kuklica are 120 volcanic formed stone pillars near the village of Kuklica – around 100 km from Skopje. The stones look like larger boulders stacked on one another. (Imagine snowmen created out of rocks)

There are legends of how these were formed. One famous myth is that soldiers passing through this area turned to stone. Another is that it is a wedding story gone wrong. A man was planning on marrying two wives.

The second wife found out about it and prayed to God to help her. And the man and his first bride and the people at the wedding all turned to stone.

The Stone Dolls of Kuklica are a little over an hour from Skopje. You can get to them via bus or car.

STONE DOLLS OF KUKLICA

The Stone Dolls of Kuklica are 120 volcanic formed stone pillars near the village of Kuklica – around 100 km from Skopje. The stones look like larger boulders stacked on one another. (Imagine snowmen created out of rocks)

There are legends of how these were formed. One famous myth is that soldiers passing through this area turned to stone. Another is that it is a wedding story gone wrong. A man was planning on marrying two wives.

The second wife found out about it and prayed to God to help her. And the man and his first bride and the people at the wedding all turned to stone.

The Stone Dolls of Kuklica are a little over an hour from Skopje. You can get to them via bus or car.

NATIONAL PARK MAVROVO

Hiking addicts and outdoor enthusiast listen up. You will want to head to Mavrovo National Park as soon as you can.

This mountainous area has some great hiking trails, villages, and monasteries. The landscape is all rolling hill and steep mountains. And it is one of the best places to hike in Northern Macedonia.

Note: that if you are busing, then some walking is required to reach the park.

LAKE OHRID

Many people refer to Lake Ohrid as Northern Macedonia’s natural wonder.

Is this possible because Northern Macedonia is landlocked and there isn’t an abundance of water in the country?

Is it because this is one of the oldest (and deepest) lakes in all of Europe?

Or is because of all the fun things that let you take in all the beauty of Northern Macedonia?

My guess, it’s a mix of all three. Some things to check out when visiting Lake Orhid are the Eastern Orthodox Monastery of St. Naum, Church of St. Sophia, traditional homes, and the ancient theatre.

Planning Your Trip 
To Skopje

Matka-Canyon

Matka Canyon Travel Info

Things to do at Matka Canyon
  • Monastery of St. Nikola
  • Kayaking
  • Cave Tours
  • Eat At a Scenic Restaurant
  • HIking
  • Boat Tours
Getting To Matka Canyon

There are 3 main ways to get to Matka Canyon: bus, cab, or drive yourself.

Bus

By bus, it takes around 45 minutes to get to Matka Canyon. From the main bus station take bus 60. A round trip ticket to Matka and back only cost $3.30 (157 MDK).

Cab

Reaching the canyon by cab will also take you around 30 minutes. The typical rate for a cab is $11 one way.

Drive Yourself

If you are driving, then it only takes around 30 minutes to get from downtown Skopje to Matka Canyon.

And you get there easily via google maps. It’s a good idea to get there early in the summer months are there is limited parking.

Mavrovo Park Travel Info

Getting to Mavrovo Park

The Park is an hour and a half away from Skopje. You can get there via bus or driving yourself. With the most straightforward way being the latter. 

If a coach is your only option, then you want to take the bus from Skopje to Mavrovo town which runs from Monday to Saturday at 9.30am and 2.45pm. The bus will cost 350MDK ($6.40)

statue-of-the-mother
Suggested Daily Budgets

BACKPACKERS $20-$25

HostelsSightseeingTransportFood
$8-11$3-$5 $1-$3$6+

Flashpackers $28-$35

HostelsSightseeingTransportFood
$12-$15$3-$5 $5 – $7$6 – $10

Luxury $65-$80

HostelsSightseeingTransportFood
$50+$9+$10-$20$15-$20+
Awesome Hotels in Skopje



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cost of Traveling

Skopje

While Skopje is in southern Europe, it doesn’t carry the price tag of its neighbors like Backpacking Greece.

Yes, budget travelers, you will be right at home in Skopje. I can already see you celebrating as you save money on everything from food, hostels, and local transportation.

Savvy travelers who are staying in hostel dorms and cooking most of their meals should plan on spending $20 -$25 (ден1,093 -ден1,366) per day. This also includes sightseeing, but as we will soon discover a lot of the sights in Skopje are cheap – if not free.

For you flashpackers that want to spend a little more on accommodation – aka staying in a smaller 4 to 6-bed dorm room – and eat out a couple times a day. Then plan on a daily budget of $28 – $35 (ден1,530 – (ден1,912).

Luxury travelers gather round, you will need to plan on spending a lot more since you’ll want a 3 to 4-star hotel room or private room in a hostel.

Plan on spending $50 a night on accommodation – that price is still a bargain for Europe. Plan on having a budget of $65-$80 (ден 3,552 – ден 4,372) a day.

Surprisingly, shopping isn’t as cheap as I expected – Old Bazaar I’m looking at you  and everything, apart from shoes (for some unknown reason) seemed overpriced.

But putting shopping aside you can save a lot of money visiting Skopje.

And Skopje stacks up as one of the cheapest cities I’ve visited when backpacking Southern Europe.

Hotels in Skopje

Hotels in Skopje provide all the luxuries at a fraction of the price. Where else in Europe can you get a 4-star hotel for $50 a night during peak season. The summer months are when the majority of tourists arrive in the city, so it is wise to book your accommodation ahead of time.

If you prefer walking rather than public transportation, then you will want to stay towards the city center or on the other side of the Vardar river from Macedonia Square.

Hostels in Skopje

For budget backpackers, like myself, you will be in heaven as hostel dorms are cheap. And if you are traveling Skopje in the shoulder or low season, there is a good chance you’ll have the dorm all to yourself (which is nice sometimes).

I spent the majority of my time in Skopje during May and June, and I only saw a couple of other travelers in the dorms, so there wasn’t a lot of potential friends to make in the hostels.

My favorite hostel in the Skopje is Urban Hostel. The dorms are excellent; each bed has a privacy curtain, the hostel has fast wifi, and there is a kitchen.

Plus, free coffee all day!! You get all of this for under $15 a night (which is basically the cost of my daily coffee habit).

The downside is that it is a little bit of a walk to the city center. But hey, we have to hit 10,000 steps a day right!

Getting to

Skopje Macedonia

With trains, planes, and buses entering Northern Macedonia it makes getting to Skopje easy. Skopje airport is around 30 minutes from downtown. While the train station is just outside the center of the city.

So you might be asking, “If it is so easy to get to Skopje, then why even include this section?”.

Valid question. And while it is easy to get to Northern Macedonia for almost anywhere in Europe, it is a little tricky traveling from Greece to Skopje.

The relationship between Greece and Northern Macedonia is strained, to say the least.

If you are not traveling to Skopje from Greece, then feel free to skip this section.

However, if you are going between the two countries, this info is vital!

If you do a google search for how to get from Greece to Skopje – or Northern Macedonia in general – you will find form after form saying there is no way to do it as trains going between the two countries are shut down.

Which is partly true. However, it is possible. I know, because I traveled from Athens to Skopje in a day.

How to Get from From Thessaloniki to Skopje

The internet forms are right; no trains are running between the countries. But it is still possible to get from Greece to Skopje for a €16 ticket from Thessaloniki. This newly opened route is a bus/train combo. You bus over the border of Macedonia and then hop on a train. Both the bus and train are included in the price of one ticket which you can buy from the train ticket counter.

Note: That at the time of writing this post, there are only two buses/trains from Thessaloniki to Skopje each day, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. Even finding the bus over the border is a pain.

It is not right outside the station where the other buses and taxies are. Instead, get your ticket and head out the front door, keep the train station at your back and make a left. Follow the building all the way to the corner.

This is where the bus will pick you up. (If you are looking at the front of the building go to the far right corner)

Train From Athens to Skopje

You can buy the entire ticket from Athens to Skopje (via Thessaloniki) from the train station in Athens. You will first have to train to Thessaloniki in the morning and catch the bus/train combo to Skopje in the afternoon.

This entire journey will cost around €60. This route from Greece to Skopje is newly reopened, and theoretically could be shut down anytime (depending on the tension between the two countries), so it is smart to double-check at the nearest Greek train station a couple days before you plan on leaving.

Pro Tip: Don’t be nervous about how long customs takes – for my bus it took around an hour. The train to Skopje waits for the bus to arrive before it departs.

Packing-List-for-Skopje

Summer Packing List for Skopje

  • Osprey Farpoint
  • 2 Pair of Shorts
  • 4 T-Shirts
  • 4-5 Pairs of Underwear
  • 1 Pair of Light Travel Pants
  • 1 Pair of Jeans
  • Camera
  • All necessary toiletries
Phillip-2-Statue-Skopje

Tips to Stay Safe in Skopje

  • Lock Up Valuables
  • Have a Backup Credit or Debit Card
  • Watch Out for Scams
  • Zip up Your Phone in Your Purse
  • Blend In
  • Watch Out for Beggars 

(Especially, the children. They often distract you while someone else pickpockets you)

Skopje

packing list

Your packing list with change with depending on the season you are visiting Skopje. The heat starts to pick up in May, and the dry climate makes it feel warmer than the thermometer says. If you are traveling in the summer, you will want to make sure you pack light clothes.

One thing I noticed is that even on the hottest days that most people still wear pants. This could because of the middle eastern influence, but I don’t know for sure.

But as a tourist, you won’t have a problem wearing shorts. You will need shorts, if only for day trips when you’ll be in the sun all day.

In the winter it gets chilly in the evenings, so make sure your gear is heavy enough to keep you warm.

Of course, one thing you always want to pack is Travel Insurance. Nothing is more important than protecting yourself while on the road. After all no one wants a hefty hospital bill to dig into their travel budget.

For Insurance I Use WorldNomads. They are the best!

Staying Safe

Traveling Skopje

Skopje is safe. But, like any city, you need to watch your belongings. Keep an eye out for pickpockets.

If your hotel or hostel has a safe or locker, keep everything you don’t need locked up.

You don’t need to carry your passport, laptop, jewelry, etc.

A smart traveler is a prepared traveler, and one good piece of advice is lock up at least one backup debit or credit card.

So if the worst should happen and you get pickpocketed you aren’t cut off from your cash flow.

You should also watch out for basic scams. This is important during your first 24 hours in the city as you are getting on your feet. Scams happen, and you shouldn’t get discouraged if you fall victim to one. It is all part of the learning curve.

Even after years of travel experience I still get tricked sometimes….. I did in Skopje.

I arrived late at night. After exiting the train station, I struck a deal with a cab for a ride to my hostel for 5 Euro ($5.60) which I had on me. I also had Denar on me. 

Upon arrival, I handed him the 1,000 MDK ($19). He took it looked at it and said he couldn’t break it. Going through my wallet, I pulled out the 5 Euro bill I had. 

He wasn’t

+happy about taking Euro but handed me back the Denar and took the Euro. The light in his car didn’t “work,” so the entire transaction was done in the dark. It wasn’t until the next morning at breakfast that I realized he didn’t hand me back 1,000 MDK. He handed me back 100 MDK ($1.83)

He must have switched it while I was grabbing the 5 Euro from my wallet. (Slap hand against forehead)

Other than this experience, I had a pleasant time in Skopje. I never felt in danger or unsafe. People are genuinely friendly and respectful, but you should always be on the lookout for scams. 

I never got an uneasy feeling, even when walking alone at night. It is easy to navigate as the major sights are all within walking distance from the city center.

Overall, Skopje Macedonia safe.

Skopje-Beer

Must Try Foods in Skopje

  • Nafora
  • Uvijac
  • Tavce Gravce
  • Polneti Piperki
  • Turli Tava
  • Pindjur
  • Shopska Salata
  • Sarma
  • Pastrmajlija

Where to Eat in Skopje

  • Turist Grill ($)
  • BBQ Pchela ($)
  • Kaj Serdarot ($)
  • Silbo ( Bakery) ($)
  • Distrikt Bar & Kitchen ($$)
  • Kolektiv ($$)
  • Pelister ($$)
  • Skopski Merak ($$)

Drinks to Try in Skopje

  • Skopsko
  • Rakija
  • Wine
  • Boza
  • Turkish Coffee and Teas 

5 Cool Kafanas

  • Debar Maalo
  • Kalabalak Park
  • Destan
  • Turist
  • Lyra
Skopje-Mazaar
Old-Bazzar-Skopje
Skopje-Fountian
Skopje-Building

Skopje Food

Guide

If I were you, then I would stick to the traditional food. It is delicious and cheap. You can get an appetizer, large beer, and main dish for around $5 – $6 (300 MDK).

The traditional dishes have the Mediterranean, eastern European, and middle east influence that fuses together to make some tasty cuisine.

I ate traditional food every day and never grew tired of it. My personal favorite dishes are uvijac (rolled meat stuffed with cheese), the nafora (crispy bread literally covered in cheese), the ajvar (a dip made from paprika, red bell peppers, and garlic).

The most famous traditional dish in Skopje is Tavce Gravce which are beans cooked in a clay pot of skillet.

For those looking for a quick snack at a bakery then you have to try a Pastrmajlija, a long piece of fried dough topped with cheese and meat.

Best Restaurants in Skopje

If you are looking for local cuisine, then the Old Bazaar is your best bet. Kaj Serdarot is a quaint and small restaurant that serves local dishes.

Another good option is BBQ Pchela and Turist Grill. Silbo is the best bakery, although it is a bit of a walk from the city center and there is usually a line, but it is worth it.

Looking to take a break from traditional foods, and instead opt for something more western then head to La Terrazza? This restaurant which serves everything from waffles to steaks, and Amigos Restaurant & Bar.

If you are looking for more eastern food, there is Pekin Garden for Chinese food and Karma for Indian.

Must Try Drinks in Skopje

Skopsko – The beer of Macedonia. It is light, delicious, and cheap.

Rakija – a strong fruit brandy (usually around 40%) that is popular in the Balkans.

Wine – Northern Macedonia has hundreds of years of winemaking culture. The wines are so tasty that even Roman Emperors loved them.

Boza – This low alcohol drink, made from corn and wheat, comes from the Ottoman influence in Skopje. It is a tasty dessert drink, especially with pastries and cakes.

Turkish Coffee and Teas – There are a vast variety of teas to choose from, and you should have at least one Turkish coffee.

Skopje

Nightlife

Skopje gets quiet at night, but there are a couple of popular clubs like Club Epicentar and Club Avenue. And there are hundreds of gambling shops and casinos around the city – if that is more your style.

Rather than have all night ragers the locals tend to hang out at in kafanas ( an area with a lot of bistros, barbecue, live music, and bars) and have a few drinks before heading home. There are almost 1,000 kafanas spread throughout the city with Debar Maalo and Kalabalak Park areas seemingly the most popular.

Shopping

in Skopje

Shopping in Skopje was the biggest disappoint for me, due to the Old Bazaar.

The Old Bazaar of Skopje is one of the biggest in Europe, second only to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul.

Knowing this, I expected the shopping to be better.

But the Old Bazaar is mainly shoes, outdated electronics, overpriced jewelry, a handful of clothing stores, and souvenirs.

The two things that bothered me most were the high prices, and that none of the stalls seemed willing to bargain.

Which is a typical trait of a Bazaar, especially one with a lot of middle eastern influence. I even brought this up to the reception, and they agreed and said that the mall is the best place to go for cheaper clothes.

I only went to one small mall so I cannot confirm this 100%, but the mall I went to seemed much better for clothes shopping.

The Bazaar isn’t a complete loss. In fact, I visited that part of town every day.

It is a great place to buy local produce, as well as shop for some things. There are literally thousands of every type of shoes you can imagine.

Some of the shoes were styles and designs I haven’t seen anywhere else.

The prices on shoes were reasonable and expect to pay about half the amount you would in the US, UK, and Europe.

Do You Need

to Tip?

Light tipping in Macedonia is common. At restaurants, most people round up the bill.

Say you spend 360 MDK on a meal, then leave 400 MDK. If your service was out of this world, then feel free to tip 10% – 15%.

Tipping cabs is not required unless they help you with your bags.

A Brief History

Of Skopje

Skopje; Macedonia, in general, has a strange and tragic history. Humans have called Skopje and the surrounding area home for over 6,000 years. We know this because of the remains of neolithic settlements that have been discovered.

Most people believe that these settlements are the Paionians – an ancient matriarchal society.

A statue dedicated to a matriarchal priestess, from the Paionians, is on The Bridge of Civilizations.

Throughout its long history, a lot of Kingdoms and Empires have wanted Macedonia. Skopje Macedonia has changed hands between powerful nations throughout the centuries.

Scupi, the ancient name for Skopje, was part of the Roman Empire in 148 BC. As well as The Kingdom of Tzar Samuil. Then it traded hands between the Byzantines, in 395 AD, and the Serbian Empire.

Next, Skopje was part of the Ottoman and Austro- Hungarian Empire.

Finally, it was part of Yugoslavia before the republic fell apart. Today it stands tall as the Capital of Northern Macedonia.

Today we know the city as Skopje, but Macedonian capital has changed names four times in the last 2,000 years. The most well-known name is Skupi (Or Scupi), which is the ancient name of the city. But it was also known as Ushkup.

earthquakes

Another big part of Skopje’s history are earthquakes – sad but true. This region has been the victim of massive tremors for thousands of years. At one point in the ancient world, they even moved the city over a little bit after a massive earthquake. In 518 AD there was an earthquake that almost completely destroyed the city.

In recent history, the most tragic earthquake that hit Skopje was in 1963. This 6.1 magnitude earthquake devastated the area. Over 80% of the city was left in ruins which left 200,000 people homeless. Over 1,000 people lost their lives, and over 3,000 were injured. This is why so much of the city is new, yet they built it to look old.

Great Fire of Skopje

Another tragic event is the fire of Skopje. This fire was set by the Piccolomini, an Austro-Hungarian general, sent to who was sent to capture the city.

The fire lasted for two days, left the city in ashes, and killed over 50,000 people(remember when I was talking about Karposh, well, this is the fire that started his rebellion) .

While Skopje might seem tragic and the events left many dead, and much of their history destroyed, you don’t see it on the streets. The people remain optimistic about the cities future and seem happy.

Final Thoughts

On Skopje

Skopje is more than thousands of statues, iconic bridges, and shopping bazaars. Once you look deeper and you’ll find exceptional hospitality and history.

And a city that is striving to make a name for itself. And while I don’t think Skopje is the next European “hotspot”, that doesn’t mean it is not worth visiting.

It’s easy to judge Skopje. Yes, many of the statues and buildings aren’t as old as they look.

And it’s not the best city for nightlife in Europe.

Yet, the charming atmosphere, friendly people, and distinct neighborhoods make Skopje an awesome place to visit. The sights are still great – Museum of Macedonia I’m looking at you – and the clash of cultures give the city a rare vibe unlike anywhere else in Europe.

What do you think? Did reading this guide put Skopje Macedonia on your bucket list?

If you are looking for local cuisine, then the Old Bazaar is your best bet. Kaj Serdarot is a quaint and small restaurant that serves local dishes. 

Another good option is BBQ Pchela and Turist Grill. Silbo is the best bakery, although it is a bit of a walk from the city center and there is usually a line, but it is worth it.

Looking to take a break from traditional foods, and instead opt for something more western then head to La Terrazza? This restaurant which serves everything from waffles to steaks, and Amigos Restaurant & Bar.

If you are looking for more eastern food, there is Pekin Garden for Chinese food and Karma for Indian.

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