How to spend four days in Skopje if you are a first-timer
by Marija Stambolikj
Saturday, July 7, 2018
Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, is the largest and definitely the most developed city in the country. A great mixture of tradition and actuality flows along the largest river in the state, Vardar. It has huge cultural diversity and a controversial history. Skopje, the city where the Macedonians, Albanians, Turks live in a peaceful harmony can offer you a worth lifetime experience. Here is my example what not to miss when in Skopje.
The Stone Bridge in the city center connects the authentic Skopje Old Bazar on one side with the modern controversial side on the other. Therefore, you can start your walking tour from the very center of the city, the Macedonia square. Right In the middle you can see the Alexander the Great fountain. Moreover, there are a lot of monuments and statues from a different time in history all around. For example, you can see a statue of some Macedonian revolutionary warriors who fought against the Ottoman Empire, statue of Justinian and others.
It is pretty new and people’s opinion about it is divided. Some find it very kitschy and the other think it is impressive. My feelings about it are mixed because sometimes I think it is too much. On the other hand, when it gets crowded in summer and children play and run smiled around the fountain, elder people play chess on the benches, people take photos everywhere, make me think it does not look that bad.
Skopje Old Bazar
Later on, you can continue across the Stone Bridge to the Old Bazar. Few meters after the Bridge, on your left side, you can check the Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia where you can find some original examples of the Macedonian Jews deportation during the World War II.
After a short 2-3 minute walk, you come just in front of the Skopje Old Bazar. You simply cannot miss this place when traveling to Skopje. This is one of the most interesting places in Skopje and in Macedonia in total. Here you can meet Macedonians, Turks, Albanians, Gypsies, homeless or business people, tourists. To get lost in the tiny streets while admiring its Turkish architecture is quite an experience. There are a lot of shops where polite local people are eagerly waiting to serve you with a smile. Here you can try our traditional food Burek with yogurt or eat kebap in the oldest and the most famous kafana (some kind of a restaurant) in Skopje – Destan. After a great meal, you can have baklava for dessert or drink a cup of Turkish tea for just 0,3euro.
There are fourteen mosques which some are turned into museums in the Bazar and three churches. The grave of the most famous Macedonian revolutionary fighter Goce Delcev is in the church Saint Spas. In the evenings the Bazar turns into a place where the young people come to the party in the local bars. At the end of the Bazar, there is the biggest market in Skopje, Bit Pazar. There you can buy cheap clothes, fruit, vegetable, electric machines, cigarettes and maybe everything that comes to your mind. Let’s continue our walk. You can visit the Contemporary Museum and Mustafa Pasha Mosque which was built in 1492 on your way to the Skopje Fortress, better known as Kale. The view of the city center is breathtaking.
As soon as you step in Skopje, you will notice the Millenium Cross on the top of the mountain Vodno. This is actually the highest point in Skopje and it can be seen from everywhere (even from Kosovo). Mountain Vodno 24/7 invites you to go there and hike to the very top of it.
There are a couple of ways to climb there. First, and the most recommendable according to me, is definitely hiking. There are several paths leading to the top. The most attractive and the shortest is the one starting from the primary school Kocho Racin (close the City hospital). You can get to the by bus number 3, 5a, 9, 22a or 41a. Thus, it is easy to reach from every Municipality of Skopje. Likewise, you can catch the bus from the city Bus Station and go to the Medium Vodno directly. If you are a bike lover, then Vodno will be a challenge for you.
Otherwise, after you arrive at the school, you just continue walking down the street and you turn right at the end of the road and start hiking. The path is well marked and the average time to the Medium point is less than 20 min (if you are in a good shape) and 40min with pauses. There you can take a break in the park. As soon as you are ready, you can continue to hike or go with the lift. The price is 2euro in both ways. The view is amazing while riding in the cable car. On the other hand, you can choose between the easy and the harder path. Here you will need more time to climb to the top. Maybe an hour if you are in a good shape and more with breaks. The view from the Millenium Cross is stunning. You can see the whole city. There is a coffee shop where you can grab a drink and enjoy the view. Likewise, there is a park where children can play. If you still feel adventurous, you can continue your hike to the Canyon Matka. It is not very easy and you will need 2 hours or more to get there.
Canyon Matka is a great escape from the city jungle. If you love hiking, kayaking, rocks, water then this is especially a good choice for you. It is located 15 km south of Skopje. Canyon Matka is the most underrated place in Europe and the world. Have you heard that the deepest underwater cave on the Balkans and second in Europe is located here in Matka? Actually, its real depth is not calculated. You can reach it by boat, which is not very cheap (5 euro per person). Likewise, it is also open for kayaking. You can rent a single kayak or share a double with your partner. You will definitely enjoy rowing through the rocks and explore on your own. There are a hotel, restaurant and a bar where you can lunch or drink a coffee. The view from the restaurant is great and therefore the prices are expensive.
Canyon Matka is reachable by bus number 60. Its starting point is the Bus Station and goes down the boulevard Partizanski Odredi. Be careful, if you go late (afternoon), the bus might not come to Matka and you will have to catch a taxi, which usually costs 5 euro per person. As I said before, you can get there if you hike from the Millennium Cross on the top of Vodno.
Macedonian village is an ethnic resort located near the village called Gorno Nerezi. Here you can see the traditional houses that are specific to different cities. They represent the architecture from 19 and 20 century in Macedonia. There are a couple of restaurants at affordable prices. The village is located on mountain Vodno, thus you will have a wonderful view. Likewise, a fresh air is always a great escape from the city heat, especially in the summer period.
Bus number 28 will get you to there. You can catch in on the Bus station.