Travelling to Macedonia? Without a doubt, you will be spending a bit of time in the capitol of Skopje. We started our Macedonian journey here in Skopje.
Skopje is a funny little place. It’s a city where east meets west, and seems to do it gracefully. It’s a city with modern buildings within sight of a medieval fortress. It’s a city full of grand ideas and hero’s, but which also seems to struggle a little bit with it’s identity. It’s the capitol of Macedonia, and it’s worth the visit.
What to do and see in Skopje
You can easily spend 2 or 3 days in the city of Skopje. We spent two full days in the capitol, and there are still things we did not get time to do. Skopje is a funny little city, with plenty to do and lots to eat.
Things to see around the city
Statues in the City Centre
The first thing you will notice about the city of Skopje are the dozens of statues all throughout the city centre. They seem to be absolutely everywhere, especially clustered around Macedonia square. The biggest and most commanding statue is the one of Alexander the Great… erm…. or should I say the general on horseback? The statue is not officially proclaimed as Alexander the Great, but most people assume it is. The Greeks also assume the same thing, and this landmark statue has rekindled the long debate and political tension between the two countries over who deserves the name of Macedonia.
Around this area there are several other notable statues. Whether you think the statues are kitsch or cool, you certainly can’t avoid them.
The Old Stone bridge
The old stone bridge is one of the symbols of the city. It has been around since the 6th century. This bridge is the main artery connecting the main square across the river to the old bazaar.
The fortress stands on the highest hill and gives you the best view of the city and surrounding area. The fortress was originally built in the 6th century and has been built on and restored several times since.
Museums to explore in Skopje
We didn’t get a chance to visit any of the museums in Skopje, but these two are on our list for when we visit in the future.
Museum of the Macedonian Struggle
Most cities in the former Soviet Union have some sort of museum dedicated to their struggles for independence under that system. What makes the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle different is that it details Macedonian history from the days of the Hajduks against the Turkish occupation during the Ottoman Empire until the declaration of independence from Yugoslavia.
Macedonian National Museum & Icon Gallery
This museum covers pretty much everything, and is your one stop spot to learn about Macedonian history and culture. The ticket covers entrance to all three sections of the museum: Archeological, Historical, and Ethnological.
Churches and Mosques worth a visit
Sveti Spas Church (St. Saviour Church)
During the period of Ottoman rule, no church was allowed to be taller than the city mosque. Sveti Spas was built in the 14th century and is partially sunken into the ground. From the outside it doesn’t look that incredibly impressive. As you enter through a wooden gate from an unassuming street, you will find yourself in a peaceful little courtyard. From there it is not immediately obvious which building is the church. The caretaker ushered us into the church. This church is something not to miss. A giant wooden iconostasis 10m wide and 6m high is the feature of the church. The iconostasis was carved by Makarije Fr?kovski and brothers Petar and Marko Filipovski who are recognized as being the most talented wood carvers in the history of Macedonia.
Mother Teresa House
Mother Teresa is one of Macedonia’s most famous citizens. She was born in Skopje and lived here during her youth. There is a small statue dedicated to her outside of the site that was once her house. There is a small chapel here and a little museum dedicated to her life and work.
Mustafa Pasha Mosque
This mosque is often referred to as the most beautiful mosque in Macedonia. It was built in 1492 and offers great views over the old town of Macedonia.
Where to eat in Skopje
We found two absolutely incredible restaurants in Skopje that we highly recommend.
Skopje – Old House (Stara Kuka)
Located in an old traditional style home, this traditional restaurant is located just across the river from the city centre of Skopje. This is the spot where we tried some of the traditional Macedonian clay pot meals like Turli Tava and Selsko Meso. The traditional home with Macedonian antiques and cultural artifacts on display lends to the atmosphere.
Skopje – Destan
Our guide book promised the best kebapis in Skopje and it certainly didn’t lie. (It did lie a little bit about the location and we spent quite some time trying to find it though!). The kebapi’s here are super fresh and super delicious. The restaurant is always packed. Quick, easy and cheap – this place will not disappoint.