Skopje sights in 2 days: city of monuments and oriental bazaars
Weekend in Skopje

Skopje sights in 2 days: city of monuments and oriental bazaars

Skopje is the capital of Northern Macedonia, a country that had to change several names after the breakup of Yugoslavia due to claims from Greece. After 28 years of disputes, they managed to come to an agreement and this gave a boost to tourism. And Skopje has something to surprise you!
Skopje Attractions

All of Skopje’s main attractions are located within walking distance near the Old Bazaar, one of the city’s iconic sites. Its other name is Stara Čaršija, the largest bazaar in the Balkans, apart from Istanbul in Turkey.

Charshia can be interesting for many reasons — narrow streets, oriental atmosphere, a lot of workshops and souvenir stores, where many sellers speak Russian. Here you can buy silver jewelry at pleasant prices, eat inexpensively, observe the life of the locals and find good accommodation.

The streets of the bazaar
The streets of the bazaar
Silver is one of the main souvenirs in Skopje
Silver is one of the main souvenirs in Skopje
The salespeople in the gift stores are always happy to chat
The salespeople in the gift stores are always happy to chat
Philip of Macedon on the square near Old Charshia
Philip of Macedon on the square near Old Charshia
Hello, Russia.
Hello, Russia.

Kale Fortress (Skopsko Kale)

From the bazaar you can quickly reach the Kale Fortress (Skopsko Kale). The powerful fortress on top of a small hill is visible from everywhere in Charshia. The exact date of its construction is unknown, and during the devastating earthquake of 1963, the walls were severely damaged. Restoration has only recently begun, interrupted by lack of funding and protests from local Albanians.

Climbing up to the fortress is easy — the slope is gentle. Inside the fortress, you can walk along the walls with a view of the scenery: the capital of Northern Macedonia is located in a valley surrounded by picturesque mountains.

  • Open: Mon-Fri, 08:00—19:00
  • Admission: free of charge
In the fortress, the state of repair is permanent
In the fortress, the state of repair is permanent
View of the Millennium Cross
View of the Millennium Cross
Views of Skopje from the walls of the fortress
Views of Skopje from the walls of the fortress

Mustafa Pasha Mosque (Mustafa Pashinata џamija)

The main mosque of Skopje in a country where about a third of the population is Muslim. The temple complex was built in the XV century, but has been rebuilt several times. Now there is a beautiful garden around it, and everyone is allowed inside, regardless of religion, but subject to services.

  • Open: daily
  • Admission: free of charge
View of the mosque from the bazaar
View of the mosque from the bazaar

Stone Bridge (Kameniot Bridge)

Strikingly reminiscent of the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo, it is considered the symbol of the city and is featured on the city’s flag. This bridge over the fast Vardar River dates back to Roman times and today connects the old part of the city and the bazaar with Macedonia Square. On the Old Town side of the bridge, a statue of Philip of Macedon sees off the statue of Philip of Macedonia, while the scandalous «Warrior on a Horse» (Warrior on a Kokњ) stands opposite.

The monument depicts Alexander the Great, who has nothing to do with Skopje or the country as a whole — he was born in Greek Macedonia, which did not prevent the Macedonians from putting up a giant monument of a knight on a horse. It was renamed to avoid international scandal, but everyone can clearly see its resemblance to the great conquering king.

Stone Bridge
Stone Bridge
Stone Bridge - view from Macedonia Square
Stone Bridge — view from Macedonia Square
A warrior on horseback
A warrior on horseback

The Vardar River itself can be considered a landmark — as part of the multi-million dollar renovation of Skopje, the authorities installed hundreds of statues on its embankments in honor of famous Macedonian representatives and numerous saints. The expediency of such a decision is surprising to locals and tourists — there are indeed a lot of sculptures.

Macedonia Square is built up rather chaotically, with modern shopping malls and residential buildings in glass and concrete next to the Arc de Triomphe, theaters, parks and walking areas.

View of the Vardar River
View of the Vardar River
One of the many monuments on the waterfront
One of the many monuments on the waterfront
The other side of Skopje
The other side of Skopje
Triumphal Arch
Triumphal Arch

Millennium Cross (Milenium Cross)

One of the new landmark points of Skopje is located on the top of Mount Vodno. You can get to the cross by bus #25 from the bus station. If you take the front seats on the second floor, the ride will turn into a view of the city from above, especially when the bus starts climbing the mountain.

The end station of the cable car is located at 1,069 meters. The bus rises to an altitude of 570 meters, from where you can go to the top by cable car. From the top of Vodno there are beautiful views of Skopje and the surrounding mountains. You can also visit the viewing platform of the Millennium Cross itself, where a transparent high-speed elevator is installed, although it is mostly closed.

  • The hours of operation of the funicular vary at different times of the year, roughly from 10:00 to 19:30, Tues-Fri. Please note the bus timetable, as there are long intervals during the day.
  • Cost: 100 denars round trip, there are concessions for children and pensioners
  • Website
Funicular to Mt. Vodno
Funicular to Mt. Vodno
The Millennium Cross
The Millennium Cross
The view on the other side of the mountain
The view on the other side of the mountain

Oh, yes, the food! Where to eat in Skopje?

The best answer to this question is still the same Charshiya. In the bazaar there is a huge number of inexpensive cafes and restaurants, many of them work at guest houses and hotels, but all guests are welcome. It is not difficult to find a cafe to suit your taste and wallet.

All over the city hangs advertisements for the local beer «Skopsko», which is served in all establishments. The market has an interesting feature of serving coffee and desserts — they are often on the menu, although the café does not prepare them. Instead, the waiter runs with a tray through the streets of Charshia to a friendly coffee shop, from where he chicly delivers the order directly to the table in his own restaurant.

It is not easy to find a grocery store in the bazaar, but near the Vardar River near the train station there is a huge shopping center with a hypermarket Vero Center Mall, where you can buy local cheeses and delicacies for your trip.

What else is there to see in Skopje?

If you have more than one day to explore the Macedonian capital, you can check out the museum.

  • The Museum of Macedonia (Musej na Makedonija) is the oldest museum in the country, created from several scientific institutes and museums. On an area of 10 thousand square meters next to the Kale Fortress, the history and culture of Macedonia is presented.
  • National Gallery (Nacionalna Galerija na Macedonia) — operates in the premises of the former Turkish bath Daut Pasha Hammam, built in the 15th century. The exposition includes icons, paintings, graphics, photos and much more.
  • The Archaeological Museum (Archeoloski Musej) is a true paradise if you love history and archaeology. Inside the new building, opened only in 2014, on the banks of the Vardar River, you can find a lot of exhibits from antiquity and the Middle Ages, sculptures, coins and historical rarities. The museum has a library with rare editions of books and scientific works.
  • The Memorial House-Museum of Mother Teresa (Spomen kuќa na Majka Tereza) is another new museum opened with the support of the Roman Catholic Church in honor of Mother Teresa, who was born in Skopje to a Kosovo Albanian family.
  • The Church of St. Const antine and Helen (Crkva St. Constantine and Helen) is a church in Byzantine style, erected a few years ago on the site of a church destroyed by an earthquake in 1963.
  • Feudal Tower (Feudalna kula) is a bathhouse built in the Middle Ages. It can be interesting with its architecture and souvenir stores.

Is it worth going to Macedonia?

Skopje can be a good option for a short trip, especially when combined with a trip to Greece or other cities and countries in the Balkans. Russians do not need a visa, prices in rubles remain very affordable, accommodation and food are cheap.

There is plenty to do here for budget travelers and museum buffs alike. You can walk the winding streets of the market, see the life of the local Muslim community Charshia, get acquainted with the Macedonian language by reading Cyrillic signs. For example, what is «ogledalo»? It is very simple — a «mirror» that you can buy at the bazaar.

Be careful crossing the road when walking in the city — traffic in the city is active, and many motorists are far from the ranks of courteous drivers.

Skopje may give you a strange impression — it feels like it’s stuck between past and future, ruin and final renovation — but it’s definitely worth making up your own mind about.