What to do in Skopje, Macedonia: 11 things you can’t miss
Macedonia is one of the most historically exciting countries in Europe. An ancient Greek kingdom, a vital part of the Ottoman Empire, a former state of the Republic of Yugoslavia. And now, at last, an independent and thriving republic.
All of this varied and rich history means that this colourful nation has a cuisine, a host of architecture and religious buildings, and a language that has been so influenced by the lands around it.
This means that Skopje, Macedonia’s capital city, is a hotbed of exciting and fascinating historic sights and experiences. Most of what to do in Skopje is historically engrossing, to say the least. And here are the best things to do in Skopje when you visit.
What to do in Skopje
The grandest sight and experience to be had in Skopje is visiting Skopje Fortress (sometimes referred to as Kale Fortress – ‘Kale’ coming from the Turkish word for fortress). This fortress is the highest point in Skopje, giving visitors a complete view of the city and the Vardar River flowing out to the horizon. Skopje Fortress itself is now 1500 years old and was built by Roman emperor Justinian I.
Skopje Fortress has stood almost untouched for all that time, with the most damaged actually dealt by an earthquake in the 1960s. This fortress, in so many ways, embodies the history of the city and has stood through the rise and fall of so many empires.
© badahos / Adobe Stock
For eight hundred years, since the Ottoman Empire, the Old Bazaar of Skopje has been the centrepoint for trade in Macedonia. It sits at the edge of the river, from which most of the trade was traditionally done.
Today, the Old Bazaar stands as a shining example of Ottoman architecture in Skopje, and visiting this incredible historic building is certainly one of the best things to do in Skopje. It might even be your first port of call, so to speak. The Old Bazaar also exists as the largest bazaar in the Balkans, and today it is still a place where local wares can be bought and sold.
Visit Matka Canyon
At first glance, this canyon just outside of Skopje looks like something you’d more likely find in The Philippines, Indonesia, or Jurassic Park. Naturally, it’s a huge and epic landmark of jagged cliffs, high and dramatic walls, and a wide flowing river that’s hugely popular amongst locals and visitors alike.
But this canyon also hides a few hidden gems that make it a must-visit when considering what to see in Skopje: the monasteries. While you can hike and take a boat trip along the river of Matka Canyon, you can also visit medieval monasteries like St. Andrews, which sits quietly on the water’s edge.
© dudlajzov / Adobe Stock
This enormous, 66 metre cross stands proud atop a hill just a few miles outside of Skopje. Built to commemorate two millennia of Christianity at the turn of the 21st century, it has since become one of the great landmarks of Skopje. Visiting it, to marvel at the intricacies of design that went into it, is one of the best things to do in Skopje.
Up close, you can see the platform it stands on which has twelve columns; one for each apostle. There’s even an elevator hidden inside which will take you up to one of the best views in the area, making this cross top of the list of what to see in Skopje.
Mother Teresa Memorial House
Though she is a world famous and globally celebrated humanitarian, few people know that Mother Teresa was born in Skopje. The Mother Teresa Memorial House is not her home, however. It was instead built on the grounds where once stood the church where she was baptized as a child. Mother Teresa lived in Skopje for the first eighteen years of her life, and so this Memorial House is perhaps the closest link that any country has to her and her legacy, making it an essential place to visit.
© kanuman / Adobe Stock
Plostad Makedonija (Macedonia Square)
The town square of Skopje, Plostad Makedonija, is perhaps most famous for the enormous statue at its heart: that of Alexander the Great. This towering of him astride a horse stands tall atop a white pillar as the rest of the city spreads out like spokes on a wheel from there. The square has a host of other statues to photograph and admire, and from here the whole city opens up before you.
Church of the Holy Savior
Nestled beneath Skopje Fortress is the city’s most spectacular church. The church has more in common with a temple than a church, with a tall pagoda-like structure and an enormous hall of grandiose art and Christian artefacts adorning the walls and ceilings. You won’t find anything else like it in Macedonia, making visiting it one of the major things to do in Skopje.
Museum of Illusions
Putting history aside for a moment, if you’re looking for what to see in Skopje that’s modern, turn to the Museum of Illusions, a fun and interactive museum of art that uses shifting perspectives to make you gasp and laugh as you explore with friends.
© Jerome / Adobe Stock
Mustafa Pasha Mosque
Given Skopje’s wealth of history, it’s fitting that the city has both a unique church and an incredible mosque. Found in the Old Bazaar, Mustafa Pasha Mosque has stood since 1492, during the Ottoman Empire, and has even been recently and lovingly renovated by the city to maintain its original beauty and spectacle.
Museum of the Macedonian Struggle
Macedonia’s history has been a struggle for independence under the thumbs of both the Ottman Empire and the Soviet Union. This new museum commemorates that struggle with some of the most vital history lessons you’ll ever learn about the Balkans.
Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia
Contemporary art museums are everywhere the world over, but what makes Skopje’s so delightful is how postmodern its design and architecture is in the face of the city’s ancient architectural history. So much of the city is dripping in deep, dark history. This museum is a symbol of the artistic future of Macedonia, and it is captivating!
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