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Are you wondering if Skopje is worth visiting? If so, my answer is a clear yes! I lived in Skopje for three months in 2021 and it’s one of my favorite hidden gems in the Balkans.
Skopje has an incredible mix of history, culture, and natural beauty that make it a perfect destination for any traveler. I want to share with you 10 reasons why Skopje should be on your travel list so you can see for yourself what makes it so special.
So, pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to explore Skopje’s many treasures!
1. A Relaxed and Peaceful Atmosphere
Are you someone who typically avoids big cities because of their stressful and chaotic nature? Trust me, Skopje is different. Despite being the capital of North Macedonia, it maintains a unique charm and relaxed atmosphere that sets it apart from other European capitals.
As someone who generally avoids to stay in big cities for long, I was pleasantly surprised by Skopje’s peaceful and welcoming ambiance. One of the most exceptional qualities of this city is its laid-back vibe, where people move at their own pace without any sense of rush or urgency.
Despite being a capital city, Skopje is free from the frantic and overwhelming feeling that often comes with such places. It offers all the benefits of a big city, but still manages to maintain its peaceful and inviting atmosphere.
Whether you’re looking for the excitement, variety, and energy of a capital city or a more relaxed vibe, Skopje offers the best of both worlds!
2. Rich History and Cultural Heritage
Skopje has a fascinating history dating back to the Roman Empire, with influences from the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Yugoslav eras.
The city’s history stretches back over 2,000 years, and as a result, the city is steeped in a rich cultural heritage that you can see and feel all around you. From the ancient Roman ruins to the Ottoman-era bazaars, Skopje is a city that is alive with history and culture.
One of the most significant historical sites in Skopje is the Skopje Fortress, which dates back to the 6th century. Back in the days the fortress played a crucial role in many of the region’s conflicts throughout the centuries. Today, the fortress is open to visitors, and it offers some of the best views over the city!
For those interested in more recent history, Skopje also has a number of museums and galleries that are dedicated to preserving and showcasing the city’s heritage. One of the most notable is the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, which tells the story of the region’s struggle for independence in the early 20th century.
3. Unique Architecture
Skopje’s architecture has been heavily influenced by its rich history, with the city’s buildings reflecting the different eras it has gone through. Buildings like the Kapan Han and the colorful Daut Pasha Hamam give you a chance to step back in time and imagine what life was like in the city centuries ago.
However, the city has also undergone a significant modernization in recent years. With the aim of giving the city a more modern, neo-classical European look, the “Skopje 2014” project was launched in 2010.
The project saw the construction of several new cotemporary buildings with a distinct neoclassical style, including the National Arena, the Marriott Hotel, and the Government Building, as well as the renovation of existing buildings in the city center.
Today, you will also find numerous statues and fountains scattered throughout the city center. One of the most notable is the massive statue of Alexander the Great, which stands at the center of Macedonia Square.
The Skopje 2014 project was quite controversial, with many people feeling that it was a waste of money. But regardless of how people feel about it, there’s no denying that it has given Skopje a unique look that you won’t find anywhere else.
4. Beautiful Surroundings
Skopje’s natural surroundings are just as impressive as its cultural heritage. The city is located at the foot of Mount Vodno which is home to the Millennium Cross monument and a popular destination for hikers.
You can either hike all the way up to the top or take the cable car. I personally hiked up to the peak and enjoyed some amazing views on the way!
Another natural attraction in the area is the Matka Canyon, which is just a short drive from the city center. This deep gorge is known for its impressive rock formations, and is surrounded by lush vegetation.
The canyon is also home to several caves, including Vrelo Cave, which is one of the deepest underwater caves in the world. When I was there, I took a kayak to get there, but it’s also possible to just hop on a boat and enjoy the scenery without the physical exercise.
If you like hiking though, then I recommend to combine those two activities and hike from Vodno Mountain to the Matka Canyon. I didn’t manage to do that (shame on me) but several people told me that it’s one of the best things to do there.
5. Shopping Opportunities
If you’re a fan of shopping, Skopje won’t disappoint you! The city has a diverse range of shopping opportunities, from modern shopping malls to traditional markets selling handmade crafts and souvenirs.
One of the most popular shopping destinations in the city is the Skopje City Mall. This modern shopping center has over 180 stores, including international brands such as Zara, H&M, and Tommy Hilfiger. It also has a cinema, a bowling alley, and plenty of restaurants and cafes, making it a great place to spend an entire day.
But if you’re looking for a more traditional shopping experience, head to the Old Bazaar. This historic market dates back to the 12th century and is one of the largest and oldest bazaars in the Balkans.
Here you can find everything from traditional Macedonian handicrafts such as pottery, jewelry, and woodcarvings to textiles, spices, and other souvenirs.
6. Delicious Cuisine
One of the best things about visiting a new place is getting to try out the local cuisine, and Skopje certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to food. The Macedonian cuisine is a mix of Mediterranean and Balkan flavors, and it offers a unique and delicious taste that you won’t find anywhere else.
The food in Skopje is typically hearty and filling, with plenty of grilled meats, vegetables, and dairy products. Many restaurants offer traditional Macedonian grilled meat platters with a variety of meats, including lamb, beef, and pork, served with a side of grilled vegetables and ajvar, a very popular and delicious pepper spread in the Balkans.
My favorite place to enjoy the traditional Macedonian cuisine was Restaurant “Old House”. The interior of the restaurant is cozy and inviting, with a rustic décor, and the grilled meat platters were a real highlight!
An all-time classic in the Balkans is the burek, a flaky pastry filled with meat, cheese, or spinach. This savory pastry is a popular street food in Skopje and can be found in most bakeries and cafes.
Speaking of bakeries, if you are looking for the best bakery in town, make sure to stop at Силбо (pronounced “Silbo”). I went there at least once a week, and I was never disappointed!
Another great place to stop by is the Bit Pazar, Skopje’s largest food market. Here, you’ll find a wide range of fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables, as well as spices, meats, and cheeses. It’s one of the best places to get a taste of traditional Macedonian cuisine.
7. Day Trip Opportunities
While Skopje itself has plenty to offer, there are also many incredible day trip opportunities in the surrounding areas that you won’t want to miss.
One must-see destination, personally one of my favorites, is the Mavrovo National Park. Located about an hour and a half from Skopje, this beautiful park is known for its stunning landscapes and offers a range of outdoor activities including hiking and skiing in the winter months.
The park is also home to the beautiful St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery and the Duf Waterfall, which is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. If you ask me, just the Galičnik village is worth the day trip, since it offers an incredible view from the top of the valley.
Another great day trip option is the charming town of Kratovo. This historic town is known for its beautiful stone bridges, colorful houses, and cobblestone streets. Make sure to combine it with a visit to the Kuklica Stone Dolls and the Kokino Observatory to make your day trip is complete.
If you’re interested in exploring more of the Balkans, you can even consider taking a day trip to Kosovo. Just a short drive from Skopje, you can visit the picturesque city of Prizren, which is known for its beautiful Ottoman architecture, ancient fortress, and beautiful riverfront.
Of course, there are many other day trip options to consider as well. Take inspiration from my blog post “30 Best Places to Visit in North Macedonia” and find out what else this beautiful country has to offer.
8. Art and Culture
If you’re an art enthusiast, Skopje is definitely a place you should add to your travel list. The city has a vibrant art scene with several art museums, galleries, and exhibitions showcasing both traditional and contemporary art.
For example, the Museum of Contemporary Art features a vast collection of Macedonian and international contemporary art, and it hosts regular exhibitions and events. Another must-visit museum is the Museum of the City of Skopje, which tells the story of Skopje’s rich history and culture through various exhibits and art pieces.
The city also has a collection of more than 200 sculptures and monuments located throughout the city. These statues are a unique representation of the city’s history and culture, and they have become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Skopje.
Apart from the museums and galleries, Skopje is also famous for its lively music scene, with a lot of music festivals happening throughout the year. In my three months in Skopje almost no week went by without hearing a music festival somewhere in the distance.
And no matter what type of music you enjoy, whether it’s jazz, classical, rock or electronic, Skopje has something for everyone.
9. Lively Nightlife Scene
Another reason why Skopje is worth visiting is its lively nightlife scene. The Macedonian capital is a city that truly comes to life at night, with a nightlife scene that addresses all tastes and budgets.
If you prefer a laid-back atmosphere, Skopje has plenty of cozy bars to offer. In general, the Old Bazaar area is a popular spot for both locals and tourists to enjoy a drink and some good company. There are even some floating bars located on the Vardar River which you can check out.
Since there are too many good bars to cover them all in this section, I invite you to check out this site which introduces some of the best bars in Skopje.
For those who love to dance, Skopje also has a variety of nightclubs and bars that feature live music and DJs spinning a mix of electronic, pop, and traditional Balkan music until the early hours of the morning. Some of the best clubs are covered in the Nightlife City Guide for Skopje.
And if you prefer alternative music, the MKC (Youth Cultural Center) is the perfect spot, as it hosts a variety of events, from indie rock concerts to techno parties. Whatever it is you are looking for, Skopje has plenty of options to keep you entertained after dark.
10. Affordable Prices
When it comes to traveling, one of the biggest factors to consider is cost. So here’s the good news: Skopje is one of the most affordable capital cities in Europe!
In terms of accommodation, you can find everything from hostels and guesthouses to hotels and apartments, all at very affordable rates. You can often find great deals on hotels and hostels, especially if you book in advance.
Also, transportation is also very affordable in Skopje. The city has a well-developed public transportation system, with buses and taxis readily available and particularly cheap.
And of course, we can’t forget about the food! As mentioned earlier, Skopje’s cuisine is delicious and filling, and it won’t cost you a fortune. There are many budget-friendly options, from street food to local restaurants that won’t hurt your wallet.
Overall, Skopje is a great place to visit if you want to have an amazing travel experience without spending a lot of money!
Where to Stay
If you are looking for a place to stay in Skopje, here are three of the best options to consider.
For budget-friendly accommodation, check out Urban Hostel & Apartments. Located in the heart of the city, this hostel offers private rooms and dormitories with air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. Guests can also enjoy shared kitchen and lounge areas, as well as an outdoor terrace.
If you’re looking for a stylish and modern hotel near Skopje’s Old Bazaar, check out Hotel Alexandar II. The spacious rooms are equipped with everything you need, including air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and minibars.
And for a more luxurious stay, try Hotel Solun. Located in the heart of Skopje’s business and entertainment district, this elegant hotel offers beautifully designed rooms and suites,, a fitness center, sauna, and on-site restaurant serving up delicious local and international cuisine.
Please consider booking your stay in Skopje through these affiliate links and support a great cause while enjoying a great deal on top-rated accommodations. If you do that, I will receive a commission from these bookings, of which I donate 50% to charity, at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
These are 10 reasons why I believe that Skopje is worth visiting. During my own trip to North Macedonia’s capital, I had an amazing time exploring the city and experiencing its unique mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. Plus, the locals were always super friendly and helpful!
If you’re planning a trip to the Balkans, I highly recommend including Skopje on your itinerary. Not only is the city itself a hidden gem, but it also serves as a great base for exploring other nearby destinations. For inspiration, feel free to check out my blog post “The Ultimate 3-Week Balkan Road Trip Along The Adriatic Coast“.
And in case you have more time and would like to combine your trip to Skopje with exploring other beautiful corners of North Macedonia, read my post about the 30 best places to visit in North Macedonia.
If you are now ready to book your trip, I encourage you to consider using Giving Getaway for your travel essentials such as hotels, flights, rental cars, and more.
By booking through Giving Getaway, you’ll not only have an amazing trip, but you’ll also make a difference. 50% of the commission earned from each completed booking goes towards organizing charity events, such as the 2021 Christmas gift drive for kids and teenagers in a children’s home in Montenegro.
So, book your trip with Giving Getaway and make a positive impact while enjoying your travels!