To be honest, visiting North Macedonia has never really been on my bucket list. It seemed like a faraway place and very different from the “regular” destinations, such as France or Italy. While studying abroad in Budapest, I got the chance to explore just a tiny part of the country: Skopje. And believe me as I say that this stunning capital should be on your bucket list! Curious to see what you can do in Skopje? Then read on!
Because my Erasmus university had a fall break, I still had a weekend to spare. While searching for cheap flights that departed from Budapest, my eye fell on a unknown destination: Skopje. Other than knowing it was the capital of North Macedonia, I knew nothing about the destination. But, the flights were cheap, and after doing some Instagram research, I decided to take the plunge and book a trip to Skopje.
In total, I spent four days in Skopje, which was just the right amount to discover the city and some neighboring nature. If you’re only visiting the city itself, you might be able to explore it in just two days, but I highly recommend taking some time to visit the Matka Canyon too. Accommodation and food in Skopje is very cheap, making it a budget-friendly destination.
The new part
In the new part, you’ll find four bridges that cross the Vardar river. Each bridge has a different meaning, and for some strange reason, each has it’s own adjacent pirate ship (which are mostly restaurants). My favorite bridges were the Art Bridge and the Bridge of Civilizations, which represented famous artists and other important figures. At night, these bridges are beautifully illuminated, so don’t forget to check them out in the evening! At the bridges, you’ll mainly find some enormous buildings, of which some are museums, and others are important government buildings.
Just across the river, you’ll land on the city’s most famous square: the Macedonia Square (pictured above). A gigantic statue of Alexander the Great is dominating the square, which doubles as a fountain during warmer times of the year. You’ll find numerous restaurants and bars around the square, so it’s definitely the ideal place for some food or drinks. In the square’s adjacent streets, you’ll find some other interesting landmarks, just as Skopje’s Arc de Triomphe and the Memorial House of Mother Teresa (who was born in the city).
In North Macedonia, almost 30% of inhabitants are Muslim. It’s no surprise that you can find a lot of Mosques in and around Skopje. In the Old Bazaar, you’ll feel as if you’re visiting a Middle-Eastern market. Scattered around some narrow streets, you’ll find numerous shops, selling everything from souvenirs, to jewelry, handbags and even wedding dresses. In other words: the ideal place to shop! If you’re in for a treat, try one of the food specialities at a food stall, or settle down at one of the lovely restaurants.
On top of the highest part of the city, you’ll find the Kale Fortress. Climb the hill to discover one of Skopje’s oldest buildings. Although the fortress itself isn’t that impressive, the views are definitely majestic. Since the fortress is located so high, it’s very easy to spot it from a distance!
Another monument that can be seen from inside and far outside the city, is the Millennium Cross. The 66-metre high iron Cross is standing on top of the Vodno Mountain, and one of the tallest crosses in the world. It’s seen as the Symbol of Christianity, but is mostly interesting for it’s stunning views on the city. To reach the cross, take a bus halfway up the mountain. From this point, hop on the Millennium Cross cable car. The ride will last for 8 minutes and only costs €2 (return ticket). Enjoy the 360 degrees view along the way and on top of the mountain! You can even take a rest on one of the benches on top, or enjoy a coffee from the café.
If you’re visiting Skopje for a long weekend, you should check out the Matka Canyon. We opted to take a taxi from the city center, but you can also take bus 60 to get to the canyon, which will take around 40 minutes. From the parking lot, you can easily walk up to the entrance of the park. There are different activities to do in and around the canyon. If you’re in for a walk, then follow the hiking trail, which is approximately 6km long. The trail will take you around the lake and reward you with some beautiful views. You can also take a short boat trip to the opposite side of the lake and climb up to the monastery, to enjoy the view. Be aware that this is a rather steep climb, so only do it if you’re really willing to put a lot of energy in it!
Around the lake, there are a few docks where you can hop on a boat. There are different routes offered: if you’re in a hurry, you can enjoy a small tour from around half an hour. If you have more time on hand, I’d definitely recommend checking out the longer tours which will even take you inside the cave. And if you’re into water sports, you can even rent a kayak and explore the lake on your own. As you can see, there’s a lot to do in and around the canyon. It might seem like a summery destination, but we went there in the fall and were amazed by the beautiful colored trees. Definitely a must-visit all year round!
As you can see, Skopje has a lot to offer. Enjoy a long weekend in North Macedonia’s capital to discover all of it’s curiosities! Have you ever been to Skopje?