Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, is one of the cities we visited during our Balkan tour by car. Skopje is built around the Vardar River and I have prepared a detailed Skopje travel guide for you with a list of places to visit in Skopje.
Skopje is a poor city in terms of appearance. However, although they try to liven up the city a bit with their huge statues and imposing buildings, when you leave Skopje Square, you can clearly see that it still has an identity that has not yet settled.
Information about the history of Skopje
According to the findings found in Skopje, especially in Skopje Castle, the history of Skopje is said to date back to the 4th century BC. Skopje, which has been home to many different civilizations since then, passed into the hands of the Ottomans after Rome and Byzantium. The city, which was called Scupi in Latin and Skopje in Serbian, was named Skoplje with the Ottomans. The name Skopje used today is also Macedonian. Affected by the complex structure of the Balkans, this region was first part of the Serbian Kingdom, then Yugoslavia and then became the capital of North Macedonia.
One of the places to start your sightseeing in Skopje is Macedonia Square. We can even call it the touristic point of the city. Macedonia Square is around the historical stone bridge and is the place where there are all kinds of sculptures. In order to develop the city, they built statues everywhere, and they still continue to build them. During your trip, you may also come across places that are under construction. In Skopje, the city of statues, you can tell you are in the right place by the statue of Alexander the Great in the center of the square. Actually, it is not very clear whether it is Alexander the Great or not. It is recorded as a warrior on a horse. There are many cafes and restaurants in this neighborhood.
Taşköprü is one of the must-see places as it is the first bridge connecting the two sides of the city. You will definitely pass over this bridge during your trip to Skopje. The structure, also known as Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, is a bridge with 12 arches. It is closed to traffic, only pedestrians are allowed. Statues of important people are lined up on the bridge. In the evenings, this place, along with many other parts of the city, gets a beautiful view when the lights are turned on both under the bridge and on the bridge. Make sure you find an excuse to visit the city in the evening.
Mother Teresa Memorial House
Mother Teresa, whose real name was Agnes Gonca Boyacı, devoted her life to philanthropic activities. For this reason, she even received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
In 2010, on the centenary of her birth, it was built as a memorial house for Mother Teresa, similar to the house where she was born. Think of the museum as a house of memory. Mother Teresa’s letters and photographs are on display. One floor of the house is decorated as Mother Teresa’s living space. Her bedroom, kitchen and living room are on one floor. If you go up one more floor, you will also see a small chapel. It can be visited between 09:00 – 20:00 on weekdays and between 09:00 – 14:00 on weekends and the entrance is free.
Skopje City Museum
The museum is housed in an old looking building with a clock on top. It is not a big museum, one of its galleries is a gallery where archaeological artifacts are exhibited. Unusually, one of the rooms is dedicated to earthquakes. Originally a train station, this building was damaged after an earthquake in 1963 and left as it was. Even the clock on it stopped after the earthquake and still shows the time of the earthquake. You can see information and photos about the earthquake. If you continue along Macedonia St. in front of Mother Teresa’s house, you will see the Skopje Museum at the intersection of Macedonia Boulevard. Entrance was free during our visit.
Macedonian Genocide Museum
The museum is a Holocaust museum built and prepared to commemorate the Jews who were murdered or deported. Inside there are documents, photos, videos about the genocide committed by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. There are also interviews with people who escaped and survived. You will see a freight train car in which hungry, thirsty and destitute people were loaded for days and a tank engine that supplied poisonous gas to the gas chambers in Treblinka, where 98% of the Jews in Macedonia were said to have been killed during the genocide. If you watch the documentaries trying to understand them and read the explanations in English, you can get to the bottom of the situation better.
The location of the museum was decided on in an old Jewish neighborhood. The museum is located between the Stone Bridge and Skopje Castle. Inside, you can only take photos at the entrance where you pay. Afterwards, they ask you not to take photos while visiting the museum. Since this is a place of respect, you should understand their request.
Museum of Macedonian Struggle
The Macedonian Museum of Struggle is one of the most interesting museums. This enormous museum, which consists of wax sculptures and paintings of important people about the history of Macedonia, is large inside and has many halls. Each hall has artifacts and scenes from Macedonia’s independence. The efforts of the Macedonian people to build and develop the country are also depicted with visual elements. Unfortunately photography is not allowed in the museum. The museum is open to visitors every day except Monday from 10:00 to 18:00 and costs 300 MKD for adults.
Archaeological Museum of Macedonia
The Archaeological Museum of Macedonia is a museum where the artifacts unearthed as a result of excavations in Macedonia are exhibited and replicas of the artifacts that Macedonia values, but the originals are kept in other countries. This museum, which sheds light on many periods starting from prehistoric archaeology, is a must-see in Skopje.
There are galleries with archaeological artifacts such as ancient coins, pottery, small sculptures, tools, as well as wax statues of the emperors of the period and their valuables. In addition, there is another section of the museum where stone artifacts are exhibited. At the end of this section, you can see a replica of the Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, the original of which is in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. From the outside of the building it looks like a very big museum, but it is not. You can enter the museum for 150 MKD. You are allowed to take photos inside, provided you don’t use flash.
One of the most active parts of the city is the Turkish Bazaar. In this area after crossing the Stone Bridge, you can see restaurants with Turkish and Balkan cuisines, souvenir shops, historical inns, hammams and mosques. It looks like one of the small but popular bazaars in Turkey. You can also have your meal in this area, it is generally affordable.
Along with the Stone Bridge, one of the symbols in Skopje’s coat of arms is Skopje Castle. I can say that there is not much that can be seen from the inside of the castle. The walls of the castle and the center of Skopje, the big sculptures in the center, the Verdar River are just an angle from which you can see and photograph from slightly above.
Usually castles are built on high ground away from the center. However, Skopje Castle is not very high or far from the center. You can walk to Skopje Castle in 10 minutes over the Stone Bridge over the Vardar River. Entrance to the castle is free.
Skopje is a place that can be visited in one day. With a good planning, you can see everything without needing a second day.
See it during the day, but definitely see it in the evening. It has a different atmosphere with its lighting, river, buildings and sculptures.
You can take a cable car to the Millennium Cross (Sredno Vodno) on Mount Vodno and watch the city from the top.
There is a canyon called Matka Canyon in the south of Skopje. It is a place where you can take boat tours and canoe trips, hike and explore historical churches and visit the Vrelo Cave, the deepest underwater cave in the world. It should not be missed.
Where is Skopje and how to get there?
Located in the center of the Balkans, the city has a settlement plan extending on both sides of the Vardar River that divides the city. Since Skopje is a touristic accessible city, there are many transportation routes. There are flights from Istanbul to Skopje Airport (Skopje Alexander the Great Airport) in Skopje. You can go to Skopje for a short time or you can rent a car and visit Skopje and the surrounding Macedonian cities or other Balkan countries. The distance between Skopje Airport and Skopje center is 23km (26 minutes), and the distance between Skopje and Ohrid is 240km (3h 15m).