Things To Do In Skopje
Macedonia is a land of rushing rivers and high mountains clad with forests of beech, oak, and pine. Skopje is the capital city and forms part of the large historic region that was disputed in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. As a result of these wars, most of its territory was taken by Serbia. Most of its people are Slavs and another large group is Albanian.
About half of the population lives in rural areas. Many are involved in farming, growing tobacco and corn, or logging. Most factories and businesses were the property of the state during the communist era and are still owned by the government. Most of the industry centers on the city of Skopje, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1963 but was rapidly rebuilt.
When To Go:
Skopje has a mostly sunny and warm climate during the spring and the fall harvest time. It also has dry and hot summers, and chilly and blustery winters. July and August (summer season) may be hot but it is the most ideal time to visit the lakes, while November through March is the most exceedingly awful time to travel because of the cold winter season. January through February, and in addition June through September, are the best times to visit the ski areas.
There are likewise more travelers that come during national occasions, including May 1, August 2, September 8, New Year's, and Christmas (January 7). Costs don't vary much from one season to another, so there's truly no specific time to go and be sure of saving money. Since there is no savings for going during the low season, the high and shoulder seasons are probably the most perfect times to go. Occasionally, hotel rates may be a bit lower in the shoulder season.
Here are the things to do when in the city of Skopje:
Old Bazaar of Skopje
Located in the heart of the city, the Old Bazaar of Skopje is a small, quiet, series of adjacent streets, with a neat market where you can buy the best souvenirs from the city and Macedonia. The most wonderful part of the market is the row of antique shops. Everything that is offered here is very interesting and the merchandise is not overpriced. It is interesting to walk around and see a lot of mosques, folk-art shops, and fine dining restaurants. There are shops that sell authentic Macedonian products, especially things that use the method called filigree. In these shops you might find an interesting brooch in the form of butterflies -- and other similar handmade products -- crafted in the filigree technique.
More popularly known as the “Turkish Quarter” of Macedonia, this small corner of Turkey in Skopje is filled with narrow alleys, cobbled roads, the smell of kebabs and spices, and freshly brewed Turkish coffee. Take time to wander and see locals enjoying their idle time in small coffee houses -- giving the impression that life in Skopje is simple and very relaxed. Here you can also find Indian and Turkish fabrics that suit all tastes -- from the finest chiffon to lavishly decorated apparel adorned with an elegant designer lace.
The Lake Matka has emerald-green water and is surrounded by steep mountains. At the end of the lake you can find a deep cave that measures almost a thousand feet. To reach this majestic lake, take bus number 60 that runs on a schedule from the main bus terminal station. You need at least 4-5 hours to walk along the emerald waters of the canyon along the path, cut through the rocks and pass through the forest. In fair weather, you can hear the singing cicadas -- myriads of insects that sometimes drown out your own voice. If the weather is hot, you can take a dip or enjoy a refreshing drink in one of the restaurants.
The tour of Lake Matka can be filled with a religious meaning if you take a hike and climb all the way up to the Orthodox monasteries. Afterwards, go down to the lake and rent a boat that goes into the deep cave filled with stalactites. Take the boats departing from the lovely church, they carry tourists at acceptable costs. The trip will be charming and full of wonderful landscape views. The visit to the caves is really a nice surprise and highly recommended. Be especially sure to go in good weather.
The Macedonia Square is the recognized main center of the capital and of the country. On the square is a monument to the man after whom the country is named - Alexander the Great, King of Macedon. The area also has a stone bridge that connects the modern part to the Old Town of Skopje.
This square is filled with lots of sculptures and monuments of the famous personalities and heroes of the past from Skopje (Cyril and Methodius, Alexander Makdonsky, Mother Teresa, etc.). There is also a small pedestrian street that highlights the beautiful triumphal arch of Macedonia. Near the statue of Alexander is a fountain where the light and music show at night is worth watching. The square includes two distinct sides of the river where the left side resembles a mini Istanbul (Old Bazaar).
Warrior on a Horse
The Warrior on a Horse is an old landmark in the city center and in the evening it gets beautifully illuminated. This place and this statue are among the main symbols of the city. National heroes are honored here and it is also a great place where locals and tourists gather every night as the musical fountain plays. This bronze monument of Alexander the Great is at such a height that it gives the impression he is looking over the city and still protecting it from any invasion -- he is in an imposing battle stance with his sword raised high.
It is certainly a striking statue during the day because of its size, but it gets even more striking in the evening when the fountains with colored lights sway and dance to the classical music. The statue is definitely remarkable and dominates the entire center of Macedonia Square. It may seem unusual that it is now surrounded by huge and modern hotels that slightly affect the authentic and ancient spirit of the place, but it is definitely worth visiting.
The Stone Bridge
This bridge is acknowledged as an historical point, and joins the two banks of the Vardar River in the city center. The Stone Bridge is decorated with a variety of decorative elements that are commonly found in Islamic architecture.
In addition to the bridge, there is a lot of sculpture around; one of the pillars you can shows a group of bathing people with one woman preparing to dive, while the second person has already done so and has one leg sticking out of the river. This is one of the few structures in Skopje that survived the 1963 earthquake that leveled almost the entire city center. This beautiful all-white marble bridge is considered as one of the official symbols of the country.
Memorial House of Mother Teresa
Everything about the life of Mother Teresa can be found here except for a few photos with famous statesmen. The building itself is interesting and is crowned by a modern chapel. Once you enter, you will be welcomed by the resident curator (an Albanian catholic like Mother Teresa,) who will discuss everything and answer every question about the late Nobel Peace Prize winner. The Memorial House of Mother Teresa is located in the center of Skopje and very hard to miss. It is just a stone’s throw away from the famous landmark called the Macedonia Square.
The small but brilliant and honest woman who dedicated her life to helping others certainly deserves a tribute, and everything here is well done and touching. It is a very moving place that truly merits a visit when in the city of Skopje. It is on the pedestrian walkway, and you can learn so much from this place: it serves as a testimony to the spiritual path and the great courage of this famous nun who was so humble and generous.
Holocaust Memorial Center
The Holocaust Memorial Center is within walking distance from the Stone Bridge and covers the history of the Jews in Macedonia and the movement of the Jews in Europe. Most of the exhibits, which are constantly updated, are presented in both the Macedonian and English languages. The museum is housed in a brand-new building that stands opposite the Bridge Hotel. Upon entering you will be immediately confronted with dozens of photographs of Jews killed in the region.
Situated in one corner in the building is an actual train carriage that hauled thousands of Jews to Trblinka. This historic carriage can only be found displayed in the city of Skopje. You can look inside and imagine how awful it must have been. Later, the museum guides explain Jewish customs and there is a video presentation with stories of some survivors. There is also one room in the museum that is focused on the contributions of the Jewish population in Europe and the rehabilitation of the city during the Ottoman Empire.
Church of St. Clement of Ohrid
The Church of St. Clement of Ohrid presents some interesting architecture and a creative interpretation of the Byzantine tradition of construction. The result is a type of architecture that is surprising and pleasing to the eye. It is highly recommended to go inside to see the paintings that have been created using the Byzantine style combined with concepts of modern art. The beginning of its construction dates back only to 1972, but the orthodox faith and design style in some portions of the church is still kept and well preserved.
Walk around and get to know the church; it provides a good lesson in history especially if you meet the priest who welcomes everyone who enters this unusual basilica in the center of Skopje. Every corner and every detail refers in some way to the history of the people of the region, and it is possible to learn very important things based on the images and sculptures alone. Outside this building may look simple and unassuming, but the inside is always full of tourists and locals who not only find time to meditate and hear a scheduled holy mass, but also to admire its immense walls and ceilings filled with modern style and colorful frescoes.
Daut Pasha Hamam
The Daut Pasha Hamam in Skopje was a real hammam (Turkish bath house) and dates back to the time when the Turks still ruled this city. It was established in the 15th century and is reminiscent of the Ottoman time here in Macedonia. Today it no longer functions as a hammam, but instead serves the city as the National Art Gallery of Macedonia, with artworks and ancient artifacts displayed and preserved since the 19th century.
The architectural style of the building is one of the highlights of this place. The roof has 13 asymmetrical domes of different sizes, and there are small star-shaped windows along the top of the walls that create interesting patterns when the sun shines through. The rooms and ceilings are meticulously decorated and every design is different from the others -- making every guest look upward and be in awe of the artisan skills the early Turkish inhabitants contributed in this very old structure.
Skopje Fortress Kale
You can get to the Skopje Fortress Kale by crossing the bridge located in front of the Main Post Office. The fortress really looks interesting although it is still undergoing restoration. Climb to the top and see Skopje and the entire neighborhood. This fortress stands on a hill and can be seen from almost all over the city. It looks very beautiful and unusual. The original fortress was built in the 6th century AD but destroyed by an earthquake in 518; it was rebuilt during the Byzantine and Medieval periods, and again many times since.
Take a walk around the picturesque park where you can make a lot of photos with the background of the fortress and from there a beautiful view of the city and the river Vardar. Nearby is the Mustafa Pasha Mosque, which is also worth a visit. Add to it a visit to the Museum of Macedonia to view informative exhibits and artifacts about Macedonia. The fort is very quiet and calm, there are only a few tourists and you can simply relax and enjoy the vivid scenery.