The city of Skopje is the capital of North Macedonia and a political, economic and cultural centre of the country. The city inhabited since 4000 years B.C. is located in the heart of Balkan Peninsula, about halfway between Athens and Belgrade. Today it is a modern city with a population of almost 550,000 people. The official languages in Skopje are Macedonian and Albanian and the official currency is Macedonian Denar. The country has a Mediterranean subtropical climate, which means that you’ll mostly enjoy nice weather when you decide to visit. The city of Skopje is characterized as warm and temperate with a significant rainfall.
If you plan to visit Skopje, here you have some practical information about what to expect in this charming city!
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Getting to Skopje
Being the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje is well-connected with other cities in the region and the rest of Europe. Below you can find the main airports, train and bus stations from where you can start exploring the city of Skopje.
Skopje by plane: Skopje International Airport (SKP) is one of two international airports in North Macedonia, and other one is St. Paul the Apostle Airport (OHD) in Ohrid. Skopje airport is located about 17 kilometers southeast of the city, in the Municipality of Petrovec. It is part of TAV Airports Holding which has increased the quality of the airport significantly. The airport serves as a hub for low-cost airline Wizz-Air.
Skopje by bus: Skopje has one main bus station providing regular connections with neighbouring and other European countries. The city is also well-connected with all Balkan cities and municipalities, such as Sofia, Pristina or Lake Ohrid.
Skopje by train: North Macedonia has a well-developed train system operated by Macedonian Railways, a member of the International Union of Railways. The country is connected to Greece in the south and Serbia and Kosovo in the north. The principal line is the one connecting Belgrade and Thessaloniki.
The Central train station is located about 2 kilometers from the city centre and adjacent to the bus station.
NOTE: North Macedonia is neither a member of the European Union nor part of the Schengen area. The country has its own visa policy which allows nationals of all European Union countries, neighbouring countries and some additional ones (more information here) to enter North Macedonia visa-free for up to 90 days. People from the European Union, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Serbia and Switzerland may enter using a national ID card instead of a passport.
Nationals of Belarus and Georgia may enter North Macedonia visa-free for up to 90 days, provided that they hold “tourist vouchers”, or travel in a group organized by travel agencies.
Nationals of Montenegro and Turkey may enter North Macedonia visa-free for up to 60 days. Montenegrins may also enter using a national ID card in lieu of a passport.
Nationals of Malaysia may enter North Macedonia visa-free for up to 30 days.
Old Bazaar – Old Bazaar, or Čaršija, stretching from the Stone Bridge to the Bit-Pazar, makes a historic city center. It is located on the eastern bank of the Vardar River and really easy to get lost in. Old Bazaar is the second largest bazaar in Europe, after Istanbul, of course. Filled with mosques, craftsmen shops and old tea houses, it clearly shows Ottoman domination during the time. Orient charm is present everywhere in the maze of narrow streets. Soak up the atmosphere and definitely try some local food.
Tvrdina Kale Fortress – This 6th-century fortress located only a short distance from Čaršija was built on the highest point of the city and offers amazing views over Skopje. The fortress was destroyed in 1962 by an earthquake and later restored to its medieval appearance. Today it is a symbol of the city, present on the coat of arms of Skopje and on the city flag.
Museums – If you travel to Skopje, make sure to visit the largest museum in town, Museum of North Macedonia. It houses a solid collection of historical displays and Macedonia’s largest ethnographic collection. Highlights of the display are definitely original wood-carved iconostases. Archeological Museum of North Macedonia on three floors presents the best of Macedonia’s archeological excavations. In the museum, you can find a replica of early Christian basilica and a Phoenician royal necropolis. Skopje city Museum is a complex covering areas of history, archeology, ethnology, and history of art.
Memorial House of Mother Teresa – This memorial placed on the site of a church where Mother Teresa was baptized, displays memorabilia related to Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun born in Skopje in 1920. Her quotations, such as “If you judge people, you have no time to love them” printed on plaques can be found around the whole city centre.
Mosques – Mosques in Skopje are, more or less, designed quite simply, with a square base, a dome, and minaret. There are also more complexly designed mosques like Sultan Murad and Isa Bey mosque. One of the most prominent mosques in town is Mustafa Pasha mosque sitting high on a hill since the 15th century. The mosque’s dome with 22-meters diameter is among the largest in the country. In case you would also like to visit some churches, there are several recommendations, such as Ministry Temple, Church of the Holy Saviour, Holy Mother of God Church, etc.
Macedonia Square – The largest square in North Macedonia and the main square of Skopje is located in the city centre, crossing the Vardar river. If you take a walk around the square, you will notice different statues and monuments in the course of a few minutes. Project Skopje 2014 had the purpose of giving the city a more classical look and it also covered the renovation of existing bridges and construction of new ones.
Matka Canyon – Located west of Skopje, covering about 5,000 hectares, this is one of the most famous outdoor destinations. In this natural paradise, you get to choose among different activities; you can take a boat tour on a lake and swim or hike and visit caves and medieval monasteries. In case you are a keen hiker, don’t miss out on Mountain of Vodno, which offers incredible views. On top of the mountain, there is a Millennium Cross, one of the tallest crosses in the world. You can reach it by cable-car.
Also, if you would like to spend more time in the fresh air, you could visit Skopje City Park or Skopje Zoo.
Skopje is a charming city that attracts many young people with various events and festivals. Here are some of the most famous ones you can pay a visit to during your Skopje holidays.
Skopje Jazz Festival is the festival held since 1982, featuring artists from all around the world, including world-renowned musicians and bands; some of the past headliners are Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. The Festival is a member of the Europe Jazz Network and enjoys a high reputation in entire Europe.
OFFest is another music festival presenting a variety of music, including everything from traditional, ethnic and folk music to urban and contemporary music styles. It usually takes place in late May or early June and gathers stars from all over the world.
Skopje Film Festival is a five-day festival taking part every April with films mostly from North Macedonia and the rest of Europe, but it also presents some non-commercial movies from around the world.
Skopje Summer Festival is a cultural event hosting artists and entertainers with music, fine art, theatre, film and multimedia performances all around town.
If you are done with festivals but still wondering what to do, we would recommend visiting the Macedonian Opera and Ballet Theatre. The venue is newly refurbished, performances are great and the prices are affordable.
In case you prefer a bit more active type of vacation and looking for some more things to do, you could consider participating in Skopje marathon, an annual marathon held in May. It is the biggest sports event in North Macedonia with more than 3600 runners from over 36 different countries.
Skopje nightlife has something to offer for everyone; it is a combination of nightclubs, fancy bars and restaurants. It is usual to start the night out in one place, most often in some bar, get into the mood and later party elsewhere.
Every bar has its own story when it comes to music, atmosphere, people, etc. Location of the bar is also crucial; the Old Bazaar places have a loose atmosphere and hip people who know how to party. Within the Old Bazaar, you can also find Kapan Ann with the Ottoman setting: bars and restaurants with terraces are situated within fortified walls. Another area with bars is Debar Maalo with a bit fancier places with urban feeling.
Skopje nightlife scene is surprisingly good so continue with having a good time in the buzzing club scene. The right time to enter a club is between midnight and 1:30 p.m. It is recommended to make a reservation which usually includes a bottle of drink.
Here are some of the most famous nightclubs in Skopje:
Summer Club Central Park – This biggest summer club in the whole country offering varied party program with different music styles, from hip hop and house to Latino music. Loved by both locals and tourists, it is the place to see and be seen. Try some of the finest drinks and dance the night away.
Club Epicentar – The club is a gathering point for all disco lovers. Some of the best classic DJ-parties take place in this stylish club. A night-out in Epicentar will definitely be an unforgettable experience.
Menada – Very popular place with the local art crowd, a lot of different live music performances, from jazz and rock to folk. Good atmosphere until wee hours is guaranteed.
When it comes to shopping, Skopje offers a great range of stores, from luxury boutiques to small local shops.
The Old Bazaar has a special mix of colors, scents and sounds. In between cobblestone streets, you will find a lot of small boutiques and jewelry stores.
If you are looking for a western-style shopping centre in Skopje, the city offers plenty of new and shiny shopping malls. Skopje City Mall, the first modern shopping mall in the country, offers many familiar high street brands, cinema and bowling, food court, a supermarket and underground parking. There are a lot of events such as late night shopping, lucky days and book fairs so, happy shopping! Besides typical European brands like Zara, Stradivarius, Tom Tailor, etc. and American brands, such as Vans and Converse, here you can also find luxury brands, for example, Armani, Versace and Michael Kors.
Capitol Mall is a huge shopping mall spread on 4 floors. Placed in the city centre, it offers different stores, bars and restaurants but also bowling, a lot of entertainment for children and apartments. Ramstore Mall is a mixture of Italian and Turkish brands, with stores such as Liu Jo, Trussardi, LC Waikiki and Koton. Vero centre is home to over 50 different shops and one of the largest supermarkets in the country. There is also a food court and a cinema.
In the city, there are several outlets, such as Sport Vision and Nike outlet.
Macedonian cuisine, reflecting Mediterranean and Middle East influences, has the same characteristics as other Balkan cuisines. Food in Macedonia means much more than simply having a meal, it brings people together; when locals sit down to eat, it usually means a lot of people and a lot of food. All Macedonian dishes taste incredible and they are really affordable.
Where to eat
Restaurants in Skopje are excellent, affordable and diverse. The finest eateries are:
Čardak – High-quality restaurant, famous for grilled meat served on wooden boards and traditional pies, it serves top-notch food so it is no wonder that the place gets really crowded on Friday and Saturday evenings. General rustic theme and regular live music are a desirable addition.
Makedonska Kukja – This place could easily be used as a definition of traditional Macedonian restaurant, due to both the interior and the food. The menu consists of traditional meat dishes, all tasting extraordinary.
Dukat – Another locals favourite, this fine restaurant serves only the best food. While you are there, make sure you try čiorba, sour soup served in a hanging pot with fresh white bread. Don’t be surprised in case you need to be carried to the car after dinner.
Skopski Merak – Combining the best of traditional Macedonian cuisine with modern cooking techniques, this restaurant has a menu that will suit everyone’s taste. In case of good weather, sit on the terrace and enjoy with all your senses.
You are tired of local dishes and still wonder where to eat? Prepare your chopsticks and head to Star Ocean restaurant for some Chinese food. The restaurant offers tasty and inexpensive dishes prepared with meat, vegetables and great sauces. In case you would like to try something more familiar, visit the Italian restaurant Senigallia for best pasta.
What to eat
Tavče Gravče – This national Macedonian dish is a bean stew, prepared with garlic, onions, and other spices and served in a traditional clay-made pot. The dish can be found in almost every restaurant in town.
Kebapi – Kebapi or Ćevapi is a dish of grilled minced meat that can traditionally be found in all Balkan countries, it is a regional specialty similar to shish kofte. Ćevapi are usually served in groups of five or ten in a flatbread with onions, sour cream, kajmak and ajvar. Local tip: beer goes great with ćevapi!
Ajvar – This spread is made of red paprika first roasted and then mashed into a puree. The whole preparation of baking and cooking lasts for several hours. Must-try with ćevapi or white salty cheese.
Polneti Piperki – is another traditional dish, also known as stuffed peppers. The top of pepper is removed and stuffed with rice and ground meats.
Sarma – Prepared with cabbage or vine leaves, stuffed with a combination of minced meat, rice and spices, it is a popular dish usually eaten during winter.
Šopska salad -This cold salad popular throughout the Balkans and Central Europe consists of fresh tomato, cucumber, capsicum, onions and white cheese. It is perfect for vegetarians or as a side dish for grilled meat.
Burek – The best pastry in the world, as many would say, can be filled with meat, cheese and spinach. This traditional breakfast is popular throughout the Balkans.
Mekici – Fried dough, similar to doughnuts and very popular in Macedonia. Simple, good and tasty!
In addition to what to eat, check out also what to drink:
Turkish coffee – It is more a ritual than a beverage, it is a perfect excuse to meet for any occasion. You can have several coffees per day, it is usually consumed early in the morning and with a dessert.
Macedonian wine – Macedonia has a rich wine history, with a wine-making tradition dating back to the time of Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. Wine is the second most exported product in the country. There are several local varieties, such as Smederevka, the leading variety for white wine production and Temjanika, one of the oldest varieties in the world. Vranec, known as black wine in North Macedonia, tastes strong and it is associated with success.
Rakija – Probably the most famous alcoholic drink in the Balkans, this fruit brandy is mostly made of grapes and known as Lozova rakija. It is usually associated with important events but no one will judge you if you decide to have one in the middle of the day.
Good to know when travelling to Skopje
Where to stay in Skopje – You will have no problem finding suitable accommodation, Skopje offers plenty of hotels and hostels where you can stay while visiting the city.
Car rental – If you are looking for car rentals in Skopje, there are several rent-a-car companies around the town, such as Europcar, AVIS, and Six. You can also rent a car online. When it comes to parking your car, there are 4 different parking zones in the city, some with a parking time limit. You can pay for parking via SMS or with a parking ticket (scratch card).
Public transport – Buses in Skopje are mostly red double deckers as a tribute to London who gave Skopje several buses after a devastating earthquake in 1963. You have to buy a bus pass at kiosks and put some credit on it because it is not possible to buy a ticket on the bus.
Skopje safety – North Macedonia is a safe country, performing with UL Safety Index of 70 on a scale of 0-100, 100 being the best. The biggest hassle you could experience is children begging on the street.
Police: +389 192
Fire department: +389 193
Ambulance: +389 194
Hospital, Re-Medika General Hospital: +389 2 603 100, XVI Macedonska Brigada 18
- Eurofarm Pharmacy: +389 2 5514537, Mirce Acev 2; +389 2 5514580, Moskovska b.b.
- Zegin Pharmacy: +389 2 3298504, Bul. Partizanski Odredi 25-1/35; +389 2 3112418, 11-ti Oktomvri 15