Skopje

Skopje is a city that often gets overlooked by travelers, who tend to focus on the more popular destinations in the Balkans, such as Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, or Belgrade. However, Skopje has a lot to offer, and it deserves more attention and appreciation. Skopje is a city that has survived wars, earthquakes, and political changes, and has emerged as a modern and dynamic capital, with a unique identity and character. Skopje is a city that combines Eastern and Western influences, ancient and contemporary architecture, and urban and natural landscapes. Skopje is a city that will challenge your expectations, and reward you with unforgettable experiences. In this blog post, I will share with you some of the most important things to know before you visit Skopje, how to get there, what to do and see, and where to eat and stay.

What to Know Before You Visit Skopje

Before you pack your bags and head to Skopje, there are some things you should know to make your trip easier and more enjoyable. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Language: The official language of Skopje is Macedonian, but you will also hear some people speaking Albanian, Turkish, or Roma. Many people in Skopje can speak some English, especially in the tourist areas, but it is always polite and helpful to learn some basic Macedonian phrases, such as hello (zdravo), thank you (blagodaram), and excuse me (izvini).
  • Currency: The currency of Skopje is the Macedonian denar (MKD). You can exchange your money at the airport, banks, or exchange offices, but you will usually get a better rate by using your debit or credit card at ATMs. You can also use your card to pay at most places, but it is always good to have some cash for small purchases, tips, or emergencies.
  • Climate: Skopje has a continental climate, with hot and dry summers and cold and wet winters. The average temperature in Skopje is 13°C (55°F), but it can vary from 1°C (34°F) in January to 25°C (77°F) in July. The best time to visit Skopje is from April to October, when the weather is pleasant and the flowers are blooming. However, you can also visit Skopje in the winter, when the city is covered with snow and offers a different scenery and atmosphere.
  • Transportation: Skopje has a good public transportation system, consisting of buses, trolleybuses, and taxis. You can buy tickets at kiosks, vending machines, or on board, and you need to validate them before boarding. A single ticket costs 35 MKD and is valid for one ride on any bus or trolleybus. You can also buy a 24-hour ticket for 150 MKD, which is valid for unlimited rides on any bus or trolleybus. You can also use taxis, which are cheap and easy to find, but make sure to use a reputable company, such as De Prvo, Ekonomik, or Global. You can also use bike-sharing services, such as Giro, which are free for the first 30 minutes, and then cost 10 MKD per hour.
  • Safety: Skopje is a safe city, but like any big city, it has some risks and dangers. You should be aware of pickpockets, scammers, and beggars, especially in crowded and touristy areas. You should also avoid walking alone at night in dark or isolated streets, and be careful when crossing the roads, as drivers can be aggressive and unpredictable. You should also respect the local laws and customs, and avoid any political or religious demonstrations. If you need any help or emergency, you can call 112, the European emergency number, or 192, the Macedonian police number.

How to Get to Skopje

There are many ways to get to Skopje, depending on where you are coming from and what your budget and preferences are. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • By plane: Skopje has one main airport, Skopje International Airport (SKP), which is about 20 km from the city center. You can take a bus, a taxi, or a private transfer to reach your accommodation. The airport is served by many international and domestic flights, from low-cost to full-service airlines. You can also fly to other nearby airports, such as Pristina (PRN) or Sofia (SOF), and then take a bus or a train to Skopje.
  • By train: Skopje has one main train station, Skopje Railway Station, which is located near the city center and connected to the bus station. You can take trains from many other cities in the region, such as Belgrade, Thessaloniki, or Sofia. You can buy train tickets online, at the station, or at authorized agencies, and you need to validate them before boarding. A train ticket from Belgrade to Skopje costs 20-30 EUR and takes 8-10 hours. A train ticket from Thessaloniki to Skopje costs 15-25 EUR and takes 5-6 hours. A train ticket from Sofia to Skopje costs 10-20 EUR and takes 4-5 hours.
  • By bus: Skopje has one main bus station, Skopje Bus Station, which is located near the city center and connected to the train station. You can take buses from many other cities in Europe, such as Flixbus, Eurolines, or Matpu. Buses are usually cheaper than trains or planes, but they are also slower and less comfortable. You can buy bus tickets online, at the station, or at authorized agencies, and you need to show them to the driver before boarding. A bus ticket from Belgrade to Skopje costs 15-25 EUR and takes 7-8 hours. A bus ticket from Thessaloniki to Skopje costs 10-15 EUR and takes 4-5 hours. A bus ticket from Sofia to Skopje costs 10-15 EUR and takes 4-5 hours.

What to Do and See in Skopje

Skopje is a city that has a lot to offer, and you can easily spend a week or more exploring its attractions. Here are some of the must-do and must-see things in Skopje:

  • See the statues and monuments: Skopje is a city that is full of statues and monuments, which are part of a controversial project called Skopje 2014. The project aimed to revitalize the city and celebrate its history and culture, but it also faced criticism for its cost, style, and political implications. You can see statues and monuments of various historical figures, such as Alexander the Great, Mother Teresa, and Goce Delchev, as well as symbols of the city, such as the Stone Bridge, the Warrior on a Horse, and the Millennium Cross. You can also see some quirky and humorous statues, such as the Man with a Hat, the Woman with a Shopping Bag, and the Man with a Dog.
  • Visit the Old Bazaar: The Old Bazaar is the oldest and most colorful part of Skopje, and a testament to its multicultural heritage. It is a maze of narrow streets and alleys, filled with shops, cafes, mosques, churches, and museums. You can shop for souvenirs, such as jewelry, pottery, carpets, and spices, or enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee, a glass of rakija, or a plate of burek. You can also visit some of the historical and cultural attractions, such as the Mustafa Pasha Mosque, the Suli An, the Kurshumli An, and the Museum of Macedonia.
  • Explore the Matka Canyon: The Matka Canyon is a natural wonder and a popular getaway from the city, located about 15 km from Skopje. It is a gorge carved by the Treska River, and it offers stunning views of the cliffs, the water, and the greenery. You can explore the Matka Canyon by boat, kayak, or hiking, and see some of the attractions, such as the Vrelo Cave, the St. Andrew Monastery, and the Matka Dam. You can also enjoy some activities, such as rock climbing, zip lining, or fishing.
  • Visit the Memorial House of Mother Teresa: The Memorial House of Mother Teresa is a museum and a tribute to one of the most famous and beloved people in the world, who was born in Skopje in 1910. The museum is located in the center of the city, and it resembles a white house with blue windows. You can visit the museum and see some of the exhibits, such as the replica of Mother Teresa’s room, the relics of her life, and the messages of her work. You can also see a statue of Mother Teresa and a mosaic of her face, made of thousands of tiles.