Very long time Macedonia resident, and City Journey Weblog’s Balkan skilled, Chris Deliso, shares his ideas on what to do in Skopje, from tradition to cult hangouts…. (Pictures by Chris Deliso).
Strung alongside the River Vardar and marked by cultural monuments previous and new, Skopje is a pleasant and more and more visited metropolis in the guts of the Balkans. The Macedonian capital has greater than sufficient sights, sounds and leisure to refill your lengthy weekend break – with shut proximity to nature getaways in each path, and fast and straightforward connections by air, street and rail to European nations.
Skopje’s iconic Ottoman-era Stone Bridge over the River Vardar
In recent times, Skopje has been in the headlines often for the previous authorities’s formidable public works marketing campaign, which overhauled many public buildings with neoclassical facades, erected monuments to nationwide heroes and constructed new museums, in addition to the lesser-discussed, but in addition vital, enhancements made to the general public transport infrastructure and the beforehand bleak metropolis zoo.
This programme infuriated neighboring Greece, which has a Macedonian province of its personal (and has been blocking its northern neighbor since 1992 on membership in golf equipment like NATO and the EU). Different turbulent occasions since 2015 have included a political disaster and a wave of migrants passing by means of from Greece en path to Europe again in 2015. However by means of all of it, Macedonians stay remarkably even-keeled, displaying a distinctive humorousness in a a part of Europe used to such misadventures.
The triumphal Porta Makedonija results in a sq. filled with statues…
Macedonians are extremely pleasant and useful, and English is spoken extensively (particularly by youthful individuals). Skopje is one in every of Europe’s most secure cities, and at lower than a million inhabitants is a pretty simple deal. Most of what you’ll need to see and do is inside a 10 to 30-minute strolling distance, however this small radius accommodates a nice vary of historical past – with stays from Byzantine, Ottoman and Yugoslav occasions. The town hosts frequent live shows, festivals and occasions, and by Western European requirements is pretty cheap.
Better of the Crushed Monitor
The primary sq. radiates with statuary and admiring these artistic endeavors is a apparent begin with regards to issues to do in Skopje. However in addition to the ‘warrior on a horse’ (i.e. Alexander the Nice) and lots of different historic personages of lesser fame, the sq. is thronged with cafés, eating places, purchasing facilities, fountains, a ceremonial arch and road distributors.
Cross the Ottoman-era Kameni Most (Stone Bridge) to enter Skopje’s Previous City (Čaršija), the historic middle of public life in the course of the Ottomans’ five-century rule. This aspect of the river has a bigger ethnic Albanian and Turkish inhabitants, and also you’ll discover many conventional gold and silver outlets interspersed amidst the antiquarian outlets, tea outlets and Ottoman points of interest.
…however, for some vacationers, the fountains are extra exhilarating
Earlier than getting into the Čaršija correct, to the right-hand aspect you could have the Archeological Museum, and to the left, the Museum of the Macedonian Wrestle for Statehood and Independence (which paperwork the unsuccessful struggle for independence from the Turks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), the Macedonian Opera and Ballet, and the Holocaust Memorial Middle for the Jews from Macedonia, which covers the historical past of the Sephardic Jewish civilization in this a part of the Balkans (some 7,200 Jews have been deported to Nazi focus camps by the occupying Bulgarian military throughout WWII- solely a couple hundred Jews stay in the present day).
The Čaršija is residence to the town’s historic buildings from the Church of Sveti Dimitrija, which incorporates elegant frescoes, to the Daut Pasha Hamam, a former Ottoman bathhouse and now the Nationwide Artwork Gallery.
Different Ottoman buildings right here embrace Kapan An and Kurşumli An, former way-stations for touring retailers and now artwork galleries. The long-established Museum of Macedonia stands right here.
Discover Kale, Skopje’s clifftop fortress constructed in the sixth century
Turning up the hill to the left one reaches the ‘sunken’ Church of Sveti Spas, with spectacular 19th-century wooden carvings, and above it the grand Mosque of Mustafa Pasha.
Overlooking each – and the town – from throughout the road is the huge Kale, the fort on a ridge constructed by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the sixth century and retrofitted many centuries later by the Turks.
Bezisten, one other Turkish construction of notice, was initially a coated market. The close by Cifte Amam is one other former hamam with fantastic domes now housing artwork. Isa Beg Mosque, additionally situated in the Previous City, stays operational since being based by the Ottomans.
Skopje’s diligent silversmiths sustain conventional crafts
Again on the brand new aspect of city, the Museum of the Metropolis of Skopje (a brief stroll down the café-lined Macedonia Road- as soon as the town’s unique railway station, it’s stone clock stays frozen in time from the second the 1963 earthquake struck.
Alongside the best way on the left is the Mom Teresa Memorial Home, commemorating the world-famed ethnic Albanian nun born in Skopje in 1910 and, simply previous it, the recently-built Church of Sveti Konstantin and Elena, which changed a historic one destroyed in the earthquake on the sq..
One other new-ish church value seeing is the town’s primary Orthodox Cathedral (Church of Sveti Kliment Ohridski), a 500m stroll from the sq.. In between, observe the Yugoslav-era Essential Publish Workplace, a type of big concrete pineapple gifted to the town by a Japanese architect after the 1963 earthquake.
Previous the cathedral, following Boulevard Partizanski Odredi westward, the laid-back neighborhood of Debar Maalo hosts a few of the most hip cafés in city. One of many few areas of city that survived the earthquake, it’s marked by early Yugoslav-era modernist buildings and filled with little cafés and eating places the place faux-leftists and vacationers alike congregate.
Within the final decade or so, the Čaršija (Previous City) has additionally reclaimed its place as a nightspot, with the immensely widespread Previous City Brewery serving up Macedonia’s solely home microbrews and internet hosting stay music in summer time on the sq. out entrance.
The 66m-high Millennium Cross, set atop lofty Mt. Vodno
Slightly below it’s the Vinoteka Temov, a (relatively expensive) wine bar with an immense number of native and worldwide wines. It’s additionally value exploring the central Čaršija, in addition to some aspect streets between the central sq. and Debar Maalo for the occasional dive bar or neighborhood place enjoying Macedonian or various music.
Expertise & Occasions
To get the complete Skopje expertise, take in a match on the metropolis’s Stadium, situated simply previous the park; it hosts worldwide soccer matches for cheap costs.
Macedonians are additionally very eager on European handball (native membership Vardar gained the European championship in 2017), and you may see matches at Jane Sandanski Sports activities Corridor in the Aerodrom neighborhood.
A priest dispenses candles on the Church of Sveta Petka’s annual feast day
Different sports activities occasions and live shows are held on the Boris Trajkovski Sports activities Corridor, a 20-minute stroll from middle. The location additionally consists of a giant indoor pool adjoining, a bowling alley, carting and a skating rink in winter and water park in summer time.
Close by, proper on the southern financial institution of the river, a lengthy asphalt bike path runs down the town, giving cyclists, runners and walkers a scenic approach of getting train and beating the visitors.
Skopje additionally hosts frequent live shows of native and worldwide music, getting a shocking variety of huge DJs and the occasional graying rock legend. The highest expertise comes unfailingly every October with the Skopje Jazz Pageant, which has featured a few of the world’s most outstanding jazz musicians. Occasions held yearly additionally embrace the Skopje Summer time Pageant, OffFest, and Might Opera Nights.
Matka Canyon and its lake, simply west of Skopje, is a in style getaway
Lastly, you will get a new perspective on Skopje (and escape its persistent smog) by taking a bus or automotive as much as Mt. Vodno, which looms over the town to the south. Take the gondola from the center of the hill (Sredno Vodno) as much as the highest, which is topped by the huge, 66m-high Millennium Cross. Some good climbing and views are discovered right here.
From Vodno, you possibly can hike to Matka Canyon (in any other case, it’s a 30-minute drive (or experience on metropolis bus 60 southwest of city). This lush spot options little church buildings hidden in the wilderness and the Vrelo Cave, accessible by boat.
Worldwide divers proceed to discover Matka’s underwater caverns (which descend properly over 200m). A number of small eating places stand across the lake, making for a enjoyable lunch spot out of the town.
Skopje’s burgeoning lodging scene has one thing for all budgets. Nicely-located close to Common Corridor and the hip Debar Maalo neighborhood, City Hostel is a spacious and relaxed place which additionally has 14 personal flats on supply in the close to neighborhood. Set proper on Makedonija St. on the Primary Sq., the brand new Hostel Rekord has the most effective location, and presents three dorms and a personal room (however no kitchen). The tiny however pleasant Unity Hostel is situated on Boulevard Ilindenska, close to the shiny retrofitted authorities buildings, a brief stroll from the Metropolis Park and Debar Maalo to the west and the primary sq. to the west. Nearer to the latter two sights is the laid-back Lounge Hostel, with eclectic décor and pleasant employees. If you wish to be shut to coach/bus stations, the bohemian Shanti Hostel (which was the primary comer on Skopje’s trendy hostel scene) is a two-minute stroll, in the Madjir Maalo neighborhood close to the river.
One other spherical of ‘Na Zdravje!’ (‘cheers’) for revelers having fun with the town’s vibrant nightlife (Photograph: Skopje Bar Crawl)
In case your bucket record consists of sleeping on a fake crusing vessel, the brand new Lodge Senigallia presents 18 plush trendy rooms, inside a tethered vessel in the River Vardar, proper off the Foremost Sq.. If you wish to be up in the recent air of the residential Vodno neighborhood in the direction of the mountain, Lodge Tasino Cesmice (1.5km from middle) has nice views over the middle, a vast choice of rooms and two eating places.
On the excessive finish, the slick enterprise lodge Solun Lodge and SPA options arty trendy rooms, a small pool and spa simply off the primary sq.; close by is the brand new Marriott Lodge on the primary sq. is a deluxe choice with a nice breakfast. Lux remedy atop the Čaršija, in the meantime, is offered on the new Bushi Resort & Spa, close to Kale citadel. In the meantime, the Lodge Russia is one other good enterprise choice, in the bustling residential suburb of Aerodrom, close to the Jane Sandanski Sports activities Corridor and with some good native nightlife choices.
Skopje doesn’t have a huge road meals tradition, although you’ll discover the occasional stand with roasted chestnuts and corncobs – and the ever-popular gevrek (a bready ring topped with sesame seeds).
Different snacks ubiquitous to the Balkans embrace burek (a flaky, phyllo-based pastry full of white cheese, spinach or meat) and its shut relative, banicka, each obtainable in quite a few bakeries, one notably well-known one being the very central Rekord on Dimitrija Cupovski.
Skopje’s quite a few Inexperienced Markets supply a broad number of low cost fruit and veg.
Lastly, Skopje is well-known additionally for its kebapi (grilled beef-and-lamb logs served with a aspect of onion and scorching peppers); a number of the greatest can be found on the iconic Kebapcilnica Destan in the Čaršija, in enterprise since 1913.
Having fun with satisfaction of place on the primary sq., Restaurant Pelister is a long-time favourite with worldwide fare and a grand outdoors terrace for watching the town go by.
In the meantime, the tiny, age-old Idadija and different kafanas close to it in Debar Maalo serve good conventional grills.
One such newer place, Skopski Merak, has grow to be a native favourite since opening in 2009, and typically presents stay music.
For wonderful Italian fare in a chic setting, attempt the acclaimed Vodenica Mulino. One other refined (and equally pricy) place, however this one serving Macedonian fare, is Pivnica An. Situated as it’s contained in the Ottoman Kapan An in the Previous City, it’s highly regarded with vacationers however has good ambiance.
One other place with rustic décor is the Stara Gradska Kuka, set in a creaky previous mansion (as befits the identify), serving Macedonian conventional dishes.
Patisserie Pastel, situated a brief stroll from the Church of Sveti Kliment Ohridski and roughly reverse the European Union delegation workplace, does good coffees and provides a extensive number of selfmade muffins and pastries.
Broz Kafe, throughout the road from live performance corridor Universalna Sala (Common Corridor), has a hip really feel and extensive number of coffees.
Wandering round in close by Debar Maalo brings you to different cool cafés (that flip into busy bars come night time) resembling Café Krug and Nano Bar.
Because the identify would recommend, Cocktail Bar (situated downtown, close to Parliament) provides a number of cocktails and visitor DJs.
Whereas it additionally serves pretty genuine Cuban meals, the Casa Cubana is greatest often known as a night time bar and for its cocktails. It’s considered one of a number of bars and eating places stretching from the Principal Sq. down the riverfront, a fast stroll which finally ends up on the compulsory Irish Pub – a bit overpriced, however good for a beer with pals.
Skopje will get loads of big-name worldwide DJs, however golf equipment have a tendency to return and go, with some seasonal (like open-air golf equipment that work throughout summer time in the Metropolis Park, so it’s greatest to examine regionally. In case you’d like to hitch a combined native and worldwide group, the Skopje Bar Crawl begins each Friday at 9PM on the Stone Bridge, and on the similar time on Saturday from Sveti Kliment Ohridski Church (worth 600 denars, or 10 euros).
Skopje Worldwide Airport is situated 23km east of the town. Taxis with said costs (about 20 euros) run repeatedly. The Vardar Categorical airport shuttle bus reaches six major stops in the town; purchase tickets (150 denars, or 2.5 euros) on the small sales space seen earlier than the exit door. It tends to go away when full, so is a extra dependable choice when leaving the airport than when coming again when you’re dashing to catch your flight. If flying out of Skopje, guide a taxi in advance and the worth might be barely cheaper. Time and visitors dependent, the journey can take from 20-45 minutes.
Skopje Bus Station is situated conveniently subsequent to the Practice Station, and reverse the town’s second-largest submit workplace. It’s a 10-minute stroll straight to the middle. Common buses serve nationwide and worldwide locations resembling Prishtina in Kosovo, Belgrade in Serbia and Sofia, Bulgaria and Europe. The close by Greek port metropolis of Thessaloniki (three hours) is served by morning and night buses. Macedonia’s trains stay sluggish and old-school, however are additionally considerably cheaper and supply a good, no-frills method of seeing the nation’ vineyards and mountains whiz by.
Skopje has an in depth and arranged bus system of private and non-private buses, with tickets going for 35 denars. Some locals pay by telephone when boarding buses, nevertheless. Drivers ought to observe that parking in a lot of Skopje now requires paying by telephone; in the event you see a giant placard hovering over your common neighborhood, attempt to comply with the pay-by-phone SMS directions, or danger having an obtrusive wheel cuff positioned on your automotive till you pay to have it eliminated. Nevertheless, there are many quiet residential streets not but troubled by the paid-parking craze, so select appropriately.
Helpful native sources on Skopje embrace the nationwide tourism portal, Exploring Macedonia, together with the Go to Skopje web site, the GoSkopje web site and the Travel2Macedonia web site. The Karti.com.mk web site sells tickets for upcoming sports activities and music occasions on-line and in addition provides info for the place to purchase them in native outlets.
Bradt Journey Guides publishes a devoted information to Macedonia, whereas Lonely Planet’s Southeastern Europe and different regional guides include a chapter on Macedonia.
Macedonia’s most well-known director, Milcho Manchevski, rose to fame with the 1994 movie Earlier than the Rain, a story of tangled love touching on the ethnic divisions and social transitions from the previous Yugoslav time. Newer movies resembling The Liberation of Skopje (Osloboduvanje na Skopje, by Danilo and Rade Serbedzija), concerning the liberation of the town from Nazi management throughout WWII. The town additionally hosts an annual Movie Pageant, that includes native and worldwide productions. And, when you wouldn’t realize it, CGI results for innumerable Hollywood movies (see the listing) have lengthy been animated by Skopje firm Fx3x.
Soundtrack to the Metropolis
Macedonians are a very musical individuals, and the nation gives an intriguing mixture of conventional and trendy music. Like in different former Yugoslav republics, the track most related to the town dates from communist occasions: Skopje, by famed Yugoslav rock group Leb i Sol. The group’s virtuoso guitarist, Vlatko Stefanovski, nonetheless lives in Skopje and places on the occasional present (take a look at Stefanovski’s acoustic shredding right here on the normal Kasapsko Oro, or ‘Butcher’s Dance’). Additionally from Skopje was the belated ‘Queen of Gypsy Music,’ ethnic Roma singer Esma Redzepova.
A decade after his tragic 2007 dying in a automotive crash, Tose Proeski continues to be mourned by Macedonians, revered for his unimaginable voice and humanitarian actions. Take a look at his distinctive vary on the normal Zajdi Zajdi, pop-rock basic The Hardest Factor, and the amped-up Makedonija naviva za vas– because the de-facto nationwide sports activities anthem, you’ll hear it at many a match.
Loved this? Please share…
(perform(d, s, id)
var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s);
if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3&appId=430771690319075”;
(doc, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));