What to do in Skopje
Skopje is one of the quirkiest capitals in Europe. I remember that when I first arrived in Skopje, we decided to talk a walk from the bus station to our hotel located at Macedonia Square. The walk there filled in with so many, MANY questions. My brain couldn’t quite process what is going on with Skopje. I didn’t quite imagine Skopje to have such neoclassical architecture with ubiquitous statues. I was in awe – in a good way – and I quickly checked in (the hotel was amazing) and went out straight to explore this mysterious city. I didn’t know what to do in Skopje as I didn’t know what to expect at all.
Soon, I found out that Skopje is perhaps one of the most vibrant jewels in Eastern Europe. People are really well dressed, cafes and bars are always top-notched, friendliness is off the chart, food is ever-appealing… Skopje has ticked off all the boxes to be a nice city to explore!
If you are still figuring out what to do in Skopje, make sure you check this guide out! I sat down with my tour guide after my day tour and bombarded him with god knows how many questions to find out what to do in Skopje from a local’s perspective.
Alexander the Great
To be more politically correct (quite literally), this statue is actually officially named as “The warrior on a horse”. But let’s be honest, we all know who that guy is. I will try my best not to talk about politic in this post as this is purely an article of what to do in Skopje. However, it will be really hard for you to avoid talking about politics if you do meet some locals.
This statue is in the centre of Macedonia Square. It faces a statue which is another man on a horse across the other side of the bridge. The statue is grandiose standing among the buildings surrounding it.
When I was there, it was nearly Christmas so there was a Christmas market going on. Even if there’s no Christmas market, you can try Krofnichki from one of the donuts stand around. It’s a cheap eat that will get you full for just 1 euro!
Explore the Albanian Old Bazaar
This is one of the oldest Ottoman Bazaar in the Balkans. I learnt from my tour guide that the Albanian Muslims who live here were in a really bad situation. Fortunately, things got better after 20 years as the market turned from a disreputable eyesore to a rather trendy hangout.
There are many things to see and do in the old bazaar. What I really recommend is to try out at least 1 restaurant and at least 1 dessert shop there. Like all markets, souks and bazaars in the world, you cannot go wrong with the food there. Going to a market is one of the best things that I do when I’m travelling – I hope that it’s yours too!
To read more about which restaurants and cafés to go to, check out my complete guide about the Old Bazaar in Skopje.
Visit St. Panteleimon Church
St. Panteleimon Church has been around since the 12th century. The most impressive fresco in the building is the Lamentation of Christ. It is considered as a masterpiece by art historians as the fresco displays features from the renaissance era. However, the fresco was done way before the Italian Renaissance. Maybe the artists painting the fresco could predict the future to see what’s gonna be trendy?
Another thing I love about St. Panteleimon Church – its tranquillity. You can escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are so many cats around the church waiting for you to take a photo of the church so they could photobomb it.
What to do in Skopje? STATUES!!
Why do you even ask what to do in Skopje? There are SO MANY STATUES AROUND I’m like what is going on in this parallel universe. Sometimes, I think that there are more statues around me compared to actual people. The statues are omnipresent in Skopje. It looks like a huge department store with different mannequins standing around displaying their clothes.
There are a few funny ones that you have to see – like the shopping lady and the 4 buskers. There are many games that travellers play; see how many statues you can find in 24 hours. When I got back to my accommodation, I was shocked to find out someone actually counted up to 89 before!
Café, Coffee and Pastry
If you are running low on what to do in Skopje, just head to one of the gorgeously-ornamented cafés in Skopje.
In Skopje, you will never run out of thick, smooth coffee. Pair it with some Balkan desserts and pastries, you will be in heaven! Sometimes I do think why do I pay so much for Italian and French pâtisserie when I can have such good pastries in this part of the world as well!
Kale Fortress or Skopje Fortress
For those of you who are wholesome, there is no kale here, unfortunately.
But you can have a good and free view of the city from Kale Fortress! It is a slightly steeper walk from the bazaar but it’s totally worth it. You can admire almost the entirety of Skopje downtown and the contrast of different architectural styles. The radio station – which is of the Brutalist architecture – stands out among its surrounding peers.
Mount Vodno and the Millenium Cross
What to do in Skopje? Mount Vodno is located not too far away from Skopje and it’s perfect for a day trip (or even a half-day trip).
I took a day trip to Mount Vodno to see the biggest cross on the mountain in the world. It is almost two times as big as the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. Hopefully, you are impressed! The cable car ride to the mountain is a mere 2€ and you will be granted with a 360o bird’s-eye view of the city and its surrounding. If you have some time, you can also go for a little walk downhill to the other side of the mountain to enjoy some greenery.
There are many stray dogs around the area so if you are a dog lover, chances are you might just stay here as long as you can.
I came up here on a day tour. If you are more like a DIY person, take the double-decker bus to Sredno Vodno, where you’ll find the cable car station. Just keep in mind that the last bus back to the city leaves from Sredno Vodno at 17:00. If you want to enjoy the sunset, you will have to miss it. The good news is, the taxi to the centre is just around 5€ – works out cheaper if you have someone to share with!
Matka Canyon and Vrelo Cave (the illuminated cave)
Running out of ideas of what to do in Skopje? Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and head to Matka Canyon for a day trip! I went to Matka Canyon in winter and the boat actually runs! I have read many things on the internet saying that the availability is much lower because of the weather. It is true in some sense but if you still want a boat tour, there is still someone who offers it. If you can find more people to share it with, it will work out to be cheaper.
Read more about my experience at Matka Canyon!
Day trip to Kosovo
Kosovo is the youngest country in Europe. It’s safe and I highly recommend a trip to Kosovo. Think about it, when a country just attained independence, the people would definitely want to show you the best that the country can offer.
The best cities in Kosovo to visit are Pristina and Prizren. You can take an arranged day trip to these two places for you to have a feel about the country. Prizren is the most beautiful city in Kosovo that I went to so I highly recommend a trip there.
Where to stay in Skopje
Skopje is not too big but it’s not small either. To properly enjoy the city in just a few days, you should stay in the centre as the attraction can be quite spread out. Base yourself in the centre and explore area by area!
To enjoy a private room by the riverside of this majestic city, book a room for just 45 euros at Solun's Riverside Rooms. The complimentary breakfast will let you have a taste of what a typical Macedonian breakfast looks like!
Do you know that it doesn't cost much to properly pamper yourself in Skopje? For example, you can stay at the Skopje Marriott Hotel for a price of just 130 euros per night and receive amazing Macedonian hospitality!
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Born and raised in Malaysia, Aaron is a medical student who desperately preaches about “Travelling doesn’t have to be expensive” – well, he has a full-on blog about it. When he is free, he checks for the cheapest airfare that would get him out of Australia. Aaron indulges in local cuisine so much that he has to lose some weight before and after he goes travelling. Read more about him here!
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