It’s been called controversial and peculiar, but we call Skopje a great place to visit! While its history is definitely one of a kind and the scores of statues are somewhat odd, travelers who visit Skopje will find plenty of things to do and, of course, plenty of delectable dishes to eat.
We ate our heart’s desire in the capital of North Macedonia but that’s not all! Scenic day trips, wine tastings, historic sites, and figuring out how to use the bus (info below!), Skopje was a very pleasant and memorable part of our digital nomad journey through the Balkans. In this post, we list 16 things to do in Skopje that will have you making a memorable trip too!
What about the food? Check out 10 of the best restaurants in Skopje. From Macedonian to Turkish to Italian to desserts, you’ll find it all!
Skopje Free Walking Tour
Firstly, take a walking tour early on during your stay in Skopje. Free Skopje Walking Tours is a fantastic company that will take you to iconic sites in Skopje while giving you plenty of background on its long history. Our tour was almost 2.5 hours so be prepared for a lot of info and have your camera ready because there will be a lot to see!
There are tours everyday at 10 am and 5 pm. However, take note that the 5 pm time slot requires a reservation; they just want to know if enough people will come. You can message them on their website or Facebook page.
“Warrior on a Horse” and Family
There are many different opinions about this massive statue of Alexander the Great in the center of Skopje, but no one can deny that he catches your eye. In fact, just across the river you’ll also find Alexander’s mother and father.
Why is he called Warrior on a Horse? Greece and North Macedonia have long been in dispute over names, although that is now changing due to recent deals. But we’ll save the surprise for you and tell you to check it out on your free walking tour!
This whole set of statues is quite an impressive work but there are many who think it’s a bit much, especially after costing millions of euros of taxpayers’ money. However, we’re not here to debate policy and fiscal responsibility. We’re here to travel!
Be sure to check out Alexander the Great and his parents when wandering Skopje’s center. You can’t miss them!
Directly in front of Alexander lies the famous Stone Bridge. It dates back to the 15th century and was completed during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. While this bridge isn’t the biggest and brightest spectacle in Skopje, it’s still an important site in the city. While crossing over the Vardar River, it’s like you’re walking back in time. And with the Old Bazaar lying in wait ahead, walk faster for some cheap deliciousness!
The most happening place during the Ottoman Empire, the Old Bazaar hangs onto its centuries-old past. From “gold” street to “silver” street and every other kind of tradable good, every street was known for its particular trade back in the day. Today, it’s not quite the same, but you’ll find gold street is still operating in full swing.
What’s the best part about the Old Bazaar? The food, of course! From Macedonian favorites to classic Turkish dishes like Kebap, you have an array of restaurants to choose from.
The best restaurants? All of them! But seriously, you can’t go wrong with food in the Old Bazaar.
Check Out the Statues – A Lot of Statues
We’ve mentioned Alexander the Great and his family as being quite expensive, but what about plethora of other statues around the city? What about the gold church and tower that don’t look like the rest of Skopje?
Well, these statues and buildings are part of Skopje’s famous project to enhance its city. Did it work? Again, seems like a pretty heated issue to locals and it ended up being much more expensive than planned. You’ll see statues everywhere you look. See for yourself!
Seeking some nature during your stay in the city? You don’t have to go far! Skopje is close to some beautiful escapes, one of them being Matka Canyon. Kayaking, hiking, swimming, simply relaxing and dining by the water, enjoy a day trip to Matka Canyon from Skopje.
From Skopje’s main bus station, take bus 60. Intimidated by Skopje’s bus system? We were! There are no single tickets. You need a bus card. Check out our post on how to get around Skopje to save yourself from confusion!
Taxis or a rental car are other options; however, they are more expensive.
You can’t miss this massive museum as you cross the Vardar River via the Stone Bridge. Inside you’ll find multiple stories of very old artifacts. Statues, busts, ancient history, you can find them all in Skopje’s Archaeological Museum. There is English throughout the museum and it’s a great idea for an afternoon, especially when the hot Macedonian sun is shining!
Museum of Skopje
This is a small museum in an old train station but it houses information and exhibits on a very important part in Skopje’s history: the earthquake of 1963. This earthquake devastated the city. Entry is super cheap and you’ll learn even more about Skopje’s fantastically unique history.
Looking for other day trips ideas from Skopje? Visit one of the gems of North Macedonia: Ohrid! Set on a large, clear lake, Ohrid is home to tons of history and beauty. The bus ride there is almost three hours so it will take some planning on your part. Try spending more time there if you can! Check out our post on what to do in Ohrid!
A city center can offer only so much insight into a foreign place. Luckily, Skopje’s hip neighborhood of Debar Maalo isn’t too far off the beaten path. When wandering around Debar Maalo, you don’t realize how close you are to the city center. It’s peaceful, full of locals, and full of tasty Macedonian cuisine.
Kale Fortress, or Skopje Fortress, sits atop a hill overlooking the city and offers a good view of Vodno Mountain. This piece of land has been settled for thousands of years, but the fortress itself dates back to the 5th century. It was updated throughout the years and took on different forms as different empires ruled.
Kale Fortress is a must-see in Skopje, but when you see how much money the city put into statues, you wonder why they didn’t invest anything into this historical site with a great view. It’s free to enter and is worth a look but there’s not too much to do inside. It seems the city isn’t taking care of it which makes us quite sad. But let’s not be downers; go check it out for yourself!
Vodno and Millennium Cross
Skopje’s most iconic site is Vodno Mountain and Millennium Cross. No matter how you enter the city, you can’t miss it.
Looking for a hike? There are plenty of trails; some even descend into Matka Canyon but they’re quite lengthy!
There’s also a lift that will take you to the top if hiking isn’t your thing. Take bus 25 (it’s free on the weekends) from Skopje’s bus station and it will drop you very close to the lift. Information on the lift is very hard to find but we’ve found that it operates every half hour. So, it operates for 30 minutes then stops for 30 minutes. At the top you’ll find beautiful views and a cafe.
We’ve been told that a rotating restaurant is being constructed so that will be another thing to do when finished. However, if past city projects are any indication, it might be a while before it’s done!
Fancy some Macedonian wine during your stay in Skopje? We had no idea that North Macedonia was such a big wine producer. There are, of course, bigger wineries outside of Skopje proper like Stobi Winery, but we sought out something a little closer and we’re so glad we did.
Kartal Winery is owned by two brothers who treat winemaking like an art. They’ll give you a personal tour of their winery, eat and drink with you, and talk to you about anything and everything. We learned a lot about winemaking and North Macedonia as well. Read more on our wine tasting experience at Kartal Winery.
Church of the Ascension of Jesus
Churches weren’t very popular during Ottoman rule, as Islam was the main religion. Churches had to be at a lower point and hidden from public view. The Church of the Ascension of Jesus is literally a hidden gem. You’ll find it within a quaint courtyard just on the outskirts of the Old Bazaar. Entry is only a few USD and inside you’ll observe perfection and precision. These are some of the most intricate wood carvings we’ve ever seen and there are some beautiful iconostases as well.
The infamous earthquake of 1963 damaged the church, but instead of having a negative effect, it revealed some even older frescoes on the wall. Further inspection dates this church back to pre-Ottoman times. There are plenty of surprises in here!
There isn’t any English but there was a woman sitting outside who kindly offered us some explanations for free. Be sure to see this old piece of history when in Skopje! Unfortunately, there are no pictures allowed inside the church.
Whether you’re in Debar Maalo, the city center, or the Old Bazaar, you’ll find enticing Macedonian dishes everywhere. Shopska salad (best eaten when tomatoes are in season!), white cheese, stuffed peppers, sarma, we could go on and on about the food we ate in Skopje and surrounding North Macedonia. No matter where you are, be sure to explore the traditional menu and enjoy!
Memorial House of Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was born in Skopje and there is a fantastic memorial dedicated to her and the good deeds she performed throughout her life. It’s free to enter. See the pictures of her life and read about her story. Everything is in English!
Not only is there a memorial, but you’ll find plaques throughout the city with quotes of Mother Teresa.
Summary of 16 Things to Do in Skopje
As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in Skopje, even though it’s a rather small capital city. We hope you enjoy your time in North Macedonia as much as we did. We reminisced about the food as soon as we left. As always, if you have any questions, comment or contact us!