Skopje Macedonia: 
The 2019 City Guide

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.

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Skopje Macedonia:  The 2019 City Guide

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 Northern 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:

 Current Exchange Rate USD to MDK

Best Time to Visit Skopje

Peak Season (June – 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 — temperatures 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 – 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 – 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.

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.

Top Things to See

  • 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).

Getting to the Museum of 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

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)

Stone Bridge

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.

Getting to the Millennium Cross

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

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

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.

Macedonia Sqaure

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.

Philip II of Macedon 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.

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.

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.

Getting to the Museum of Macedonia.

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.

Top Things to do at Matka Canyon

  • Monastery of St. Nikola
  • Kayaking
  • Cave Tours
  • Eat At a Scenic Restaurant
  • HIking
  • Boat Tours