Skopje is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, the city that lies in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, at the crossroad of important communications, a city with a 2000 years old tradition.
A modern city with population of almost one million and presents Macedonia’s major political, economic, education and cultural center.
Skopje is a very attractive tourist destination with its fortress, cultural and historical monuments, archaeological sites, sport halls, caves…
When you go there for the first time, you’ll be amazed by the greenery of the town, Vodno’s thick forest, green lawns, parks and Japanese cherry trees… The place where the East meets the West.
Even in the ancient chronicles written by Justiniana Primas, it is said that this is a town with many beautiful squares, amazing wide bridges and taverns for all tastes. The people of Skopje cherish this tradition to this very day.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that numerous generations of artists and architects decorated Skopje with love… Numerous sculptures, fountains, buildings and parks narrate the exotic story of Skopje.
Skopje began to acquire its European charm and spirit with the construction of the first railway station on the Balkans, with line going from Skopje to Thessaloniki in 1873.
The numerous sculptures around the city of generations of patriots and cultural tribunes, silently narrate the tumultuous history and tenacious resistance of the nation.
1. The Old Turkish Bazaar
The Old Turkish Bazaar (Carsija) is the hillside Turkish old town of Skopje and evokes the city’s Ottoman past with its winding lanes filled with tea houses, mosques, craftsmen’s stores and even good night life.
It also boasts Skopje’s best historic structures and a handful of museums, and is the first place any visitor should head. Carsija runs from the Stone Bridge to the Bit Pazar, a big vegetable and household goods market. Expect to get pleasantly lost in its maze of narrow streets.
2. Archaeological Museum of Macedonia
All gleaming and shiny new, with three floors displaying the cream of Macedonian archaeological excavations beneath the dazzle of hundreds of tiny lights.
Highlights include Byzantine treasures, sophisticated 3D reconstructions of early Macedonian faces from sculls, a pint-sized replica of an early Christian basilica showing the life phases of mosaic conservation and a Phoenician royal necropolis.
3. Kale Fortress
Dominating the skyline of Skopje, this Game of Thrones worthy 6th century AD Byzantine fortress is an easy walk up from the Old Turkish Bazaar and its ramparts offer great views over the city and the Vardar river.
Inside the ruins, two mini museums are being built to house various archaeological finds from Neolithic to Ottoman times. The entrance is up the hill inside a lovely park.
4. Square Macedonia
This gigantic square is the center piece of Skopje and has massive statues dedicated to national heroes, as well as a Triumphal Arch in the southwest corner.
The towering, central located “Warrior on a Horse” is bedecked by fountains that are illuminated at night and dance in a harmony with the sounds of the music.
Home to several cafes and hotels, it’s a popular place for locals as well as tourists, particularly when the sun goes down.
5. Stone Bridge
The Stone Bridge, as it stands today, was built by Murat II in the 15th century, but was built in the 6th century by the Byzantine emperor Justinian. It stands as a silent witness of the bitter political history of the city.
6. Triumphal Arc
This arc is dedicated to 20 years of Macedonian independence and its outer surface is covered in reliefs carved in marble, depicting scenes from the history of Macedonia.
7. Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood and Independence
This history museum is a formidable memorial to Macedonia’s historic occupation, land struggles and revolutionary heroes.
8. Memorial House of Mother Teresa
The memory of the most famous citizen of Skopje and humanitarian, Mother Teresa from Calcutta will stay forever tightly connected with the city.
This extraordinary retro futuristic memorial is the most unique church you’ll see in Macedonia. Inside the building there’s a small museum displaying memorabilia relating to the famed Catholic nun of Calcutta, born in Skopje in 1910. On the second floor, there is a mind-boggling chapel, with glass walls wrought in filigree (a traditional craft of Skopje).
The memorial sits on the site of a much earlier church, where Mother Teresa was baptized.
9. St. Spas church
Partially submerged 2 meters underground (the Ottomans banned churches from being taller than mosques), this church dates from the 14th century and is the most historically important in Skopje.
10. Museum of Macedonia
Looking like an abandoned Yugoslav factory, it’s hard to imagine a less inspiring building in which to house the most important museum of them all, the national one. The biggest collection of solid historical and ethnological displays.
11. Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia
A moving museum with fascinating displays that commemorate the all but lost Jewish culture of Macedonia trough a range of photos, wall texts, maps and videos.
The exhibition documents the Jewish community’s history in the Balkans, ending in WWII when some 98% of Macedonian Jews perished in the Holocaust. In the central atrium, 7144 beads hang to represent the individuals who died.
Downstairs you’ll find an original Bulgarian train van used to transport Macedonian Jews to the concentration camp Treblinka in Poland.
12. Mustafa Pasha Mosque
Standing on a plateau at the very top of Skopje’s Old Turkish Bazaar, The Mustafa Pasha Mosque is a working mosque where you can see locals come and go for prayers or chit chat in the lovey rose garden. Although the mosque dates to 1492, it was heavily restored.
13. National Gallery of Macedonia (Cifte Hamam)
The Cifte Amam is a beautiful old Turkish bathhouse, now sometimes used as a temporary exhibition space.
You can usually go in, even if there is no exhibition on display.
14. Museum of the City of Skopje
Occupying the old train station building where the stone fingers of the clock remain frozen in time at 5.17am (the moment Skopje’s devastating earthquake struck on 27 July 1963, killing 1070 people) this museum now operates as an art gallery for rotating exhibitions, with one area dedicated to a moving exhibition chronicling the horrific events of the earthquake through video footage and photos.
15. Millennium Cross
The Millennium Cross is a 66 meter high cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain. It was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world. It is the highest cross in the world. At night the cross shines down over the city.
To be continued…