Things to Do In Skopje

Awesome Things To Do In Skopje (The Strangest Capital City in Europe)

This is your complete travel guide to the strangest city in Europe – Skopje, North Macedonia. Including awesome things to do in Skopje, and helpful tips.

Skopje is one of the most interesting cities I have ever visited. Interesting in a very peculiar way that causes a bit of controversy. While some travellers dismiss it as kitschy and tacky, others thoroughly enjoy the unusual architectural landscape of this North Macedonian capital. I belong to the latter.

I really enjoyed Skopje! Maybe because I did not expect to like it!

It’s weird and great at the same time. Small enough to be explored on foot, but big enough to offer plenty to see and do for a few days!

A stone bridge overlooking the Old Bazaar In Skopje
Things to Do In Skopje

Skopje has a rich history dating back to ancient times. Various civilizations, including Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Yugoslav have influenced the city. But what influenced the city the most was a decision that was made by the government in 2014.

And here starts the controversy!

Skopje is known as the ‘city of statues’. In 1963, a severe earthquake destroyed around 80% of the city. Around 40 years later in order to attract more tourists and make the city look more ‘grand’, a government initiated a controversial initiative known as the “Skopje 2014” project.

The project aimed to give the city a more monumental and neoclassical appearance, adding statues and structures that reflect historical and cultural figures. Basically, they were jealous of cities like Rome or Athens, and wanted to have their own monuments!

The government planned to use the sculptures to create a sense of identity and pride in the city.

Things to Do In Skopje

Yet the project was met with much criticism, mainly because of the unnecessary costs. Critics argued that the funds could have been better spent on social services, infrastructure or other priorities, especially considering the country’s economic problems.

I found the statues bizarre, slightly overwhelming and kind of amusing. I even wondered what the city would look like without them, and came to the conclusion that modern Skopje is now defined by this architectural phenomenon.

What seemed ridiculous at the time, created a city that definitely stays in the memory of anyone who visited. So in a way, maybe they succeeded.

Things to Do In Skopje

But there is more to Skopje than just its statues. It has a lot to offer while being a very affordable European capital. There is a ton of interesting places to see and things to do in Skopje!

So in this Skopje travel guide, I will provide you all the information you need to make your Skopje trip awesome! Let’s go!

How Many Days for Visiting Skopje

When I was planning my trip to Skopje, I asked for advice from many of the travellers I met and was often told a day or two in Skopje was enough. Many said that apart from the statues and bazaar there is not much to see. But a rebellious traveller as I am, I booked a week in Skopje 🙂 I am so glad I did!

Skopje isn’t a large city and most of its attractions are concentrated within walking distance so you could see most of them in one day but I strongly recommend spending at least 3 days in North Macedonia’s capital.

A grand neoclassical building with a dome, featuring a series of statues and ornate lampposts lining a pedestrian bridge leading up to it. The building has a flag on top, and the sky is clear blue.
Things to Do In Skopje

This way you will have enough time to explore the town, spend an evening soaking up the vibe of Skopje Bazaar, see the sunset from the castle and then take a day or two exploring Skopje’s nearby attractions.

It’s very much worth taking half a day to take a cable car or hike to Mount Vodno and take a day trip to Matka Canyon. In fact, you should definitely visit Matka Canyon! Then there is an uber interesting town of Tetovo which you could easily visit by bus from Skopje!

I have exciting news to share with you, my travel friends!

I have just launched my own Backpacking and Budget Solo Travellers FB Group and I would love you to join me there! Travellers of all budgets and ages are welcome! I would like to create a community where we share tips and experiences and where you could ask me all travel and budget backpacking related questions!

I hope to see you there! Pati

Where to Stay in Skopje

If you are a budget traveller you are in luck. There are many great hostels in Skopje as well as great hotels offering great value-for-money accommodation.

I stayed at Shanti Hostel which was recommended to me while I was in Ohrid and and really enjoyed my stay. It’s a lovely and social hostel and they offer free tea, coffee and fruit.

My Mother’s House Hostel offers incredible value for money and and picking up rave reviews too! Hi Skopje Hostel is now a legend on the Skopje hostel scene and a destination hostel for many. There is also this brand new Hostel Central which is also picking up great reviews and love the way their dorm beds look!

If you are looking for private accommodation, you can find a superb apartment for a great price like this Bright Scandi Apartment or The Shack right in the heart of Skopje.

Looking for a more special experience? Then why not stay at DoubleTree by Hilton or Hotel Senigallia

Is Skopje Safe?

Skopje and North Macedonia as a whole are very safe travel destinations. I generally found the Balkans to be one of the safest parts of the world. I spent a week in Skopje as a solo female traveller and never felt unsafe. I walked everywhere at various times of the day and was perfectly fine.

Of course, as always, I recommend using common sense and being vigilant as things can happen in any city and in any country in the world. But I didn’t find Skopje to be safer than many other European cities I visited.

Things to Do In Skopje

Is Skopje a Walkable City?

Skopje is a very walkable city and apart from day trips outside of the town, you will not have to rent a car or use public transport. You can easily walk between all Skopje attractions and even the furthest Debar Maalo can be easily reached on foot!

If you are planning on taking a couple of day trips such as the one to Matka Canyon or Tetovo, you can reach them both by public transport.

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What to See and Do in Skopje?

Macedonia Square and Alexander The Great Statue

I recommend starting your tour of Skopje from Macedonia Square. It is a focal point of the town and a place where you will very quickly understand what is the whole fuss about!

Right at the center you will spot the colossal statue of Alexander the Great standing in the middle of a fountain.

A towering statue of a Alexander the Great on a rearing horse atop a decorated pedestal, surrounded by fountains. In the foreground, a person is riding a bicycle, and the Macedonian flag is flying in the background under a clear blue sky.
Things to Do In Skopje

It is a lovely square, paved in shiny floor tiles and surrounded by neoclassical buildings and an impressive Marriott hotel.

But as you look around you will notice more statues – all over!

Things to Do In Skopje

Macedonia Street Towards Old Railway Station

From Macedonia Square take Macedonia Street towards the Old Railway Station. It’s a lovely pedestrian street dotted with shops, bars, cafes and cute little book kiosks.

Things to Do In Skopje
Things to Do In Skopje

At the end of the street, you will find Old Railway Station which suffered great damage during the earthquake. The clock on the facade of the station still shows 05:17, the time when in 1963, the earthquake which damaged 70% of the city took place.

The building has been left semi-destroyed and the remaining part is housing a Museum of the City of Skopje – very much worth visiting!

Things to Do In Skopje

Mather Theresa Memorial Building

Halfway between Macedonia Square and Old Railway, you will find a house dedicated to the memory of Mather Theresa, born in Skopje in 1920.

The building itself is not where Mother Theresa was born. It was erected on the site of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church, where she was baptized and is dedicated to her life and work. It features a collection of photographs, documents, and personal belongings of Mother Teresa as well as a multimedia center offering video presentations and interactive displays that provide an in-depth look at Mother Teresa’s life.

Things to Do In Skopje

Macedonia Gate

Not far from Macedonia Square, you will find Skopje its own Thriumph Arch – the Macedonia Gate. If you are lucky, there might even be an event happening there! There was a rock concern when I arrived. Look closely as right next to it you will find a completely random, massive statue of Pavel Shatev.

A large triumphal arch with detailed carvings and statues, labeled "Македонија" at the top. People are walking underneath and around the arch, and trees frame the structure on both sides.
Things to Do In Skopje

The Stone Bridge of Skopje

The Stone Bridge is dividing the old and new part of Skopje and as you cross it and pass another square with equally strange statues, you will find yourself in my favourite part of Skopje – the Old Ottoman Bazaar!

But before that enjoy the views from this beautiful bridge which was built on Roman foundations and is one of very few actual historical sights around. To the left you will see a grand building of the Museum of Macedonian Struggle and to the right the neighbouring Bridge Of Art and Archaeological Museum.

Things to Do In Skopje

Skopje Old Bazaar

This for me is the beating heart of the town and a must-see place in Skopje. I loved Skopje Old Bazaar and visited it many times!

This vibrant and historic market is abundant in Ottoma architecture and winding streets filled with typical shops full of souvenirs but also some strange, unusual second-hand shops and workshops. Plenty of restaurants, street food and quirky cafes and tea shops for you to spend a whole day in there!

Things to Do In Skopje
Things to Do In Skopje

Would you prefer to see it all with a local guide? I highly suggest joining a free walking tour! Those are always so much fun and so informative – it is one of my favourite things to do when arriving in a new city! Here is the Skopje Free Walking Tour!

Skopje Bazaar is in fact one of the oldest bazaars in the Balkans and in the world and my opinion is getting nearly as much love as it should! Because I have heard mixed opinions about Skopje, I wasn’t expecting much from the bazaar either. What a wonderful surprise it was!

Things to Do In Skopje

Skopje Green Market – Dont Miss It!

This was such a great surprise when I came across this green market located at the very top of the Old Bazaar. I love visiting local markets and this one is a true treat!

The cheeses, the honey, the olives! And the prices were extremely affordable! If you want to get a feel of real traditional Skopje, don’t miss this market!

Things to Do In Skopje

There is an indoor and outdoor part and apart from food, you can literally buy anything there! So if you running low on supplies like hmm, batteries, headphones, plates, clothes or screwdrivers – that’s your place.

It is located here.

Skopje Fortress

Skopje Fortress (Skopsko Kale) is probably the best place in town to watch the sunset.

Its history dates back to at least the 6th century AD, and it was continuously inhabited, while the fortress was rebuilt and expanded during various periods/. It saw significant development during the Ottoman period, which began in the 14th century, and many of its current features stem from this era.

It is super easy to walk up the hill and there is a lot to discover up there but the views are definitely the best part!

The City Park

If you are tired of sightseeing and looking to retreat into the green oasis, Skopje City Park is where you should head next!

The City Park  (Gradski Park), definitely stands out in comparison to other Skopje attractions. Actually, as I entered the park I totally forgot I was in Skopje.

It covers a substantial area of 454.413 square meters and offers a variety of landscapes, from well-manicured gardens and lakes to sports facilities like tennis courts, basketball courts and children’s playgrounds.

The best part of the park is the serene man-made lake, complete with a charming little island accessible by bridges. The lake is home to ducks and swans, and it’s ideal for fishing enthusiasts too!

Things to Do In Skopje

I managed to spend a couple of hours in the park, walking around, enjoying delicious ice cream and just chilling after a day of sightseeing.

In addition to its recreational offerings, Skopje City Park is also a place of historical significance. It houses several monuments and statues, including those dedicated to notable figures in Macedonian history and culture.

Things to Do In Skopje

Bohemian Debar Maalo

This is exactly why one day in Skopje, will never be enough. There are parts of the city that cannot be missed but you should dedicate them at least half of the day! One of them is Skopje’s bohemian district – Debar Maalo. Which I visited twice!

Very much up and coming, debar Maalo is now one of the must-visit places in Skopje. It is a residential area which recently been renovated and now is a hub for dining, nightlife, and social activities. This is where you want to be if you want to find cool cafes, bars and the best restaurants in town.

But it still has a very much low-key vibe, it still feels local. I liked the long streets lined with trees, charming old houses mixed with few modern buildings and very affordable prices.

Women Warrior Park

Like many other things in Skopje, this park was also a bit peculiar yet charming.

It is a small park located in the city centre and as I approached I started wondering why is it actually called Women Warriors Park. The very first statue I came across was the Monument “Founders of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization” – which according to the monument were all men.

Things to Do In Skopje

Further down you will also find a statue of Prometheus. Then you will find a couple of other weird statues, and yes, you guessed it, also of men heroes.

Only somewhere in the middle of the park, you will finally find a Women Fighters Monument. But to be honest it didn’t bother me a bit. Just made me laugh. It’s a cute little park, worth stopping by!

Cable Car to Vodno Mountain and The Millennium Cross

Getting on top of Vondo Mountain is definitely one of the best attractions in Skopje. It is worth getting there for two main reasons: for the incredible views and to so the Millenium Cross from up close.

The Millennium Cross was built in 2002 and is one of the tallest crosses in the world. Yet unfortunately the monument has become a source of controversy and deeper divisions between different faiths in North Macedonia.

What was supposed to be a declaration of ”Macedonian presence in Skopje”, alienated Muslim and Catholic communities which often stand strongly against it. In fact, just like many other monuments in Skopje, the Millennium Cross was constructed without any public consultation. And many argue that this decision didn’t take into account cultural and religious sensitivities.

If you decide to see it, the most popular way of getting to Vodno is by cable car. You can take bus number 25 from Skopje all the way to Dimitrie Cupovski street. The cable car costs 120MKD one way. The views are awesome!

Some visitors opt for a hike up. A few different thinking trails start from Middle Vodno (where the cable car station is). All have various levels of difficulty. The shortest Buran and Olympic trails are marked as difficult. The Pensioner Path (haha) is the longest and marked as easy. The last one takes around 2 hours to complete.

Hike From Vodno Mountain to Matka Canyon

If you are feeling adventurous you can hike all the way to Matka Canyon from Vodno. I haven’t hiked it myself, but a bunch of people from my hostel have hiked to Matka Canyon and I’ve seen them come back the same day in one piece – so it’s doable. Pretty exhausting, but doable.

The trail starts at Vodno Mountain by the Millenium Cross. The hike can take between 4 and 5 hours and the majority of it is moderately easy. The hardest part is the steep descent to the canyon. But you can of course do just the part of the trail and then come back and take the Matka Canyon trip the traditional way 😉

It’s your hike, enjoy!

Matka Canyon

Visiting Matka Canyon, after Lake Ohrid, is one of the most recommended things to do in North Macedonia.

Matka Canyon is an incredible natural wonder, only about an hour’s bus ride from Skopje. This dramatic canyon was formed by the Treska River and is known for its dramatic landscapes, dramatic cliffs, dense forests, clear waters and mysterious caves.

Around the canyon, you will find numerous hiking trails, many of which offer incredible views, medieval monasteries, caves and even ruins. But Matka is worth visiting if only just for its beauty! And it’s super easy to get to Matka from Skopje on a local bus. So there is no excuse!

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

Half-Day Trip to Tetovo

Tetovo is a great half-day trip from Skopje and is most known for its stunning painted mosque, which is its biggest attraction. But Tetovo is a very interesting town to visit and for reasons that are not immediately obvious. If you are a curious traveller, it can become an insight into complicated and complex Balkans history and international relationships.

Tetovo has a large Albanian population and you will notice the difference as you arrive.  The signs are not in Cyrillic, but often in Albanian and the city just seems different from other parts of the country. In many strange ways.

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

Apart from the Painted Mosque, you can also visit the stunning Arabati Baba Teke dervish monastery, which I highly recommend and just experience a completely different North Macedonia! It’s a trip worth taking!

Mavrovo Park Tour

Mavrovo is a breathtaking National Park only one hour’s drive from Skopje and if you get a chance you should definitely take this trip! It’s a perfect wilderness escape from the city. Mavrovo Lake is definitely the biggest attraction of the park but there are also great hiking trails and plenty of landmarks like The submerged in the lake Old Mavrovo Church, Radika Canyon or the Galichnik Village.

The best way of exploring the park is by renting a car but if this is not an option you can also book a private Mavrovo Park tour.

Unfortunately, there is no way of visiting the park by public transport. At least I wasn’t able to find one.

Heading to Ohrid next? Excellent choice! Ohrid is one of my favour places in the whole of Balkans. Here is a complete guide to the Ohrid town and be sure you save a day to visit Naum Monastery too!

I also got you covered if are not sure where to stay around Lake Ohrid.

Still drafting your North Macedonia itinerary. Here you will find a complete list of all the best must-see places in North Macedonia.

Best Museums in Skopje

There are a few interesting museums in Skopje but a couple of them are definitely worth visiting.

The Museum of Macedonian Struggle is dedicated to the history of Macedonian national movements and the struggle to reach independence and features detailed exhibits, wax figures, and historical documents.

The Holocaust Memorial Center is a museum portraying the story of the Jewish people in Macedonia throughout the years. It includes video testimonies and all explanations are also in English! Very thought-provoking museum.

Other museums in Skopje:

  • National Museum of Macedonia – great for those searching for brutalist architecture.
  • Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia – not the best museum, but interesting building and a good hike
  • Macedonian Museum of Natural History – again, average display but super interesting building
  • Archaeological Museum of Macedonia – super grand building
Things to Do In Skopje

Is Skopje Actually Worth Visiting?

Skopje is a fascinating city and very much worth visiting. Don’t listen to nay-sayers and be sure to book at least a couple of days in Skopje. The city is vibrant, uber interesting and offers plenty of things to see in the city as well as some great options for day trips!

I am definitely going to come back to Skopje!

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