Things to do in Skopje, North Macedonia
· ·

Things to do in Skopje, North Macedonia

Heading to Skopje, North Macedonia? Whether it’s your final destination or a quick break before moving on somewhere else like Ohrid, there’s so much to see and do in this fascinating capital city.

I spent a week exploring North Macedonia last year, and really enjoyed visiting this interesting country while on a grand tour of the Balkans. I started off my time in North Macedonia in Skopje, the country’s capital, and was totally bamboozled by the city. It’s truly like nowhere else I’ve visited, and by now I’ve visited almost 60 countries. Whether you end up loving it or hating it, there are plenty of things to do in Skopje, no matter what your interests. With an interesting city structure, buckets of huge, bizarre statues, and a mishmash of old and new, it’s an intriguing place. I recommend spending at least a couple of days in the city to explore everything it has to offer.

Quick tips for visiting Skopje

Get this: a convenient and affordable private airport transfer from Skopje Airport. Save the hassle of overpriced taxis by booking ahead.

Don’t miss: a half day trip from Skopje to Mount Vodno and Matka Canyon. I did this exact trip and it was one of the highlights of my visit with some incredible views and nature.

Bucket list experience: if you don’t have time for a full stay in Ohrid, I really recommend this full day tour to Ohrid from Skopje. Ohrid is just beautiful, and a tranquil break from the hustle and bustle of Skopje.

Flights: find the cheapest flights to Skopje with Skyscanner.

Stay: Find the most affordable hotels in Ohrid on Booking.com

Views of Skopje from Mount Vodno

Things to do in Skopje, North Macedonia

Skopje offers so many unique things to do, and is a city of contrasts. Set in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, the North Macedonia’s capital city offers a blend of history, culture, and modernity. From historic landmarks to vibrant bazaars and lively waterfronts, Skopje has something in store for every traveller. Here’s my guide to making the most of your visit to Skopje with the best things to do:

Explore the Old Bazaar (Stara Čaršija)

Visiting Skopje’s Old Bazaar is like taking a step back in time. It was the first place I visited upon arriving into the city, and I was quite taken aback by how much it reminded me of my travels to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and even Turkey. In fact, Skopje’s Old Bazaar is the second largest bazaar in the Balkans after Istanbul, and you can certainly get a sense of the orient, particularly with mosques in the backdrop. Get lost in the cobbled streets, a maze of narrow alleys and bustling markets.

We set off in search of affordable gold, although unfortunately didn’t actually find it to be much cheaper than in the UK (maybe that’s the tourist tax!) You can find some interesting stalls and shops selling crafts, and antiques, as well as some nice coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants serving local Macedonian dishes. There are also hammams if you fancy some time to relax. The Old Bazaar is quite a contrast to the rest of the relatively modern city of Skopje. You can’t miss the iconic Stone Bridge near the Bazaar, an icon of the city that sits over the Vardar River and connects the bazaar with the modern city centre.

Marvel at the Skopje Fortress (Kale)

Perched on the hill overlooking the city, the Skopje Fortress, also known as Kale, offers panoramic views of Skopje and the surrounding mountains. Explore the medieval walls and towers, and enjoy a leisurely walk through the fortress grounds. You can walk along the walls and climb the tower for views across the city and the Vardar river. I really recommend visiting the site during sunset, where you’ll find a picturesque backdrop for the stunning scenery. The fortress itself isn’t far from the Old Bazaar, so it’s worth taking the short walk there – especially as it’s the highest point in the city. It’s also free to enter.

Visit the Macedonian Square (Makedonija)

At the heart of Skopje, the Macedonian Square is a focal point adorned with grand statues, fountains, and historical monuments. You’ll find one thing for sure when visiting Skopje – it’s not short of a statue or two! Back in 2014, multiple monuments were scattered around the city. In Macedonian Square, you can probably spot around twenty of them, many of which seem to lack context! Spot the colossal statue of Alexander the Great on horseback, and take in the neoclassical architecture surrounding the square. The Archaeological Museum and the Fountain of the Mothers of Macedonia are notable attractions in this central hub, if that’s your thing.

Experience the Memorial House of Mother Teresa

If there’s one thing that North Macedonia is proud of, it’s the fact it’s said to be the birthplace of Mother Teresa herself. Dedicated to the humanitarian icon Mother Teresa, the Memorial House provides insights into her life and work. Exhibits include personal artefacts, photographs, and presentations, creating a poignant tribute to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Stroll Along the Vardar River Promenade

One thing I did quite like about Skopje is the Vardar River that runs through the city. In fact, the Vardar River Promenade is lined with various bars and restaurants, as well as cafes, shops, and picturesque bridges. We walked along the promenade a few times during our stay in Skopje, and I actually had no idea the nightlife in the city was so good (and cheap!) By daylight, you can admire the contemporary art installations, and take in the vibrant atmosphere of this popular meeting place for both locals and tourists alike.

The architecture along the Vardar River is a little out there – what might seemingly appear to be an ancient looking building likely only dates back to around 2010, when project Skopje 2014 attempted to give the city a more classical look and feel. Many of these buildings nowadays are home to cultural and political institutions. There’s a dark history behind the modern – and often brutalist – architecture in Skopje. A major earthquake hit the city badly back in 1963 which killed over a thousand people, and much of the city centre was destroyed. That’s why you won’t really see any old monuments in Skopje, except for the Old Bazaar.

Discover the Museum of Contemporary Art

Art enthusiasts shouldn’t visit Skopje and miss the Museum of Contemporary Art, located near the city centre. The museum showcases a diverse collection of Macedonian and international contemporary art, providing a unique perspective on the country’s cultural landscape. It can give you a better feel for what the city – and country – is about.

Sample Local Delights at the Green Market (Bit Pazar)

A must when it comes to things to do in Skopje is to immerse yourself in the city’s culinary scene by exploring the Green Market, also known as Bit Pazar. This bustling market offers a vibrant array of fresh produce, local specialties, and traditional Macedonian dishes. Engage with vendors, savour local flavours, and experience the authentic charm of Skopje’s culinary offerings. I really enjoyed the dining scene in Skopje – the grilled meats and local wine in particular were truly delicious.

Visit the Mustafa Pasha Mosque

Discover Skopje’s religious diversity with a visit to the Mustafa Pasha Mosque. This Ottoman-era mosque, characterised by its opulent architecture and serene courtyard, provides a tranquil escape in the midst of the city.

Enjoy the views over Skopje on Mount Vodno

It’s hard to avoid the huge Millennium Cross perched on Mount Vodno, especially when it’s lit up in all its glory at night. In fact, it’s the Millennium Cross is nearly double the size of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. It’s seriously impressive. So, you can begin to imagine the magnitude of the views from the top of Mount Vodno, right across the city of Skopje. There are a couple of ways to reach Mount Vodno. You can either take one of the London style red double-decker buses (number 25) to Sredno Vodno and take the cable car to the top, or you can do what we did and take a half day trip from Skopje to Mount Vodno and Matka Canyon. I loved this day trip, as we literally got a private tour in our guide’s car, and saw the best bits of the surrounding areas of Skopje. Once you’re at the top of Mount Vodno, take in the breathtaking views across Skopje (I had no idea it would be so lush and green), hike, or simply enjoy a coffee with a view.

Get into nature at Matka Canyon

Another brilliant thing to do in Skopje is to visit Matka Canyon. This was part of our half day trip from Skopje to Mount Vodno and Matka Canyon, but I’m so glad it was. It’s a little further of a drive from Mount Vodno, so you can go as part of a tour like we did, or take bus number 60 from central Skopje to reach it. Once you reach the car park, you hike a little before reaching the beautiful scenery over Matka Canyon. Once at the canyon, we paid a few dinar to go on a rasta style boat to some caves. It was perfect getting out into nature and seeing the crystal clear water. The air quality in Skopje isn’t the best, so it was lovely to get some fresh air in such a pretty place.

Things to do in Skopje: FAQs

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the things to do in Skopje.

Is Skopje, North Macedonia worth visiting?

I’d be lying if I said Skopje was one of my favourite cities, but I do think it’s well worth a visit. It’s truly bizarre, and unlike any other city I’ve visited before. It’s an interesting mix of history, vibrant culture, and modern dynamism. You can experience some of its history in the Old Bazaar and Skopje Fortress, contrasted with modern classical and Brutalist architecture. You can barely miss the many grand statues and neoclassical structures. I found the people of Skopje very welcoming and friendly, and the culinary scene is truly delicious. Don’t miss the nightlife, either. It’s a bustling city with plenty of things to do for everyone. Plus, the city’s natural backdrop is well worth exploring further, with some of the prettiest scenery in the Balkans.

How many days do you need in Skopje?

Of course, the ideal amount of days to stay in Skopje really depends on your own preferences and goals for your visit. For me, I’d say 2 or 3 days is plenty. We stayed for 2 days, and it was enough. This timeframe gives you enough time to explore the city’s historical sites, wander through the Old Bazaar, visit museums, enjoy local cuisine, and take in the vibrant atmosphere of the Macedonian capital. It also gives you a day to get beyond the city, and visit spots like Mount Vodno and Matka Canyon, both of which I highly recommend visiting during your stay.

Is there much to do in Skopje?

Yes! As you’ll see from my list above, there are so many things to do in Skopje. There’s a diverse range of attractions and activities, making it a fun city to visit with plenty to see and do. From historical landmarks and museums to unique architecture, great food, and fun nightlife, I think there’s truly something for every traveller in Skopje.

What is Skopje known for?

This is a good question, and admittedly I didn’t really know either before visiting myself. Here are a few things Skopje is well known for:

  • A rich history, that encompasses Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Yugoslav influences. It’s a true melting pot, which comes across as you wander around the city.
  • Architectural diversity. I can genuinely saw I’ve never witnessed such a random mix of architecture in any other city I’ve visited!
  • The Old Bazaar. This is a real highlight of Skopje, with quaint cobblestone streets, good food, and a vibrant atmosphere.
  • Vardar River Promenade. This is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, lined with cafes, shops, and bars, making it a great setting for a relaxed walk.

Is Skopje safe at night?

I would say so. In fact, I felt safer in Skopje than other major cities in Europe including London. I visited with a female friend, and we made the most of the nightlife while visiting, walking around in the city. As with anywhere you visit, I’d just recommend following practical advice, like sticking to well-lit areas, using licensed taxis, and being mindful of your belongings, just in case. If you’re drinking, I’d be especially careful of your drinks, too.

Do they speak English in Skopje?

Although English isn’t as widely spoken in Skopje as in some other European capitals, I never experienced a problem with communication. Most people we interacted with in the city had at least some basic English skills, often more. You’ll likely find that the younger generations and those working in the tourism industry are more likely to speak English well. I also recommend learning a few basic phrases in Macedonian – it always goes down well with locals! Here are a few words as a starter for ten:

  • Hello: Здраво (Zdravo)
  • Goodbye: Довиждување (Dovižduvaǰne)
  • Please: Ве молам (Ve molam)
  • Thank you: Благодарам (Blagodaram)
  • Excuse me / I’m sorry: Извинете (Izvinete)
  • Yes: Да (Da)
  • No: Не (Ne)
  • Good morning: Добро утро (Dobro utro)
  • Good afternoon: Добар ден (Dobar den)
  • Good evening: Добра вечер (Dobra večer)
  • Good night: Ноќ (Noḱ)

That’s my guide on the best things to do in Skopje! I hope you found it useful. If you have any questions, or want more information on anything I’ve shared above, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to come back to you.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.