Even if you only have a day in the capital of North Macedonia, this travel guide shows you the best things to do in Skopje and the most important sights for your city break. The eventful and rich history can still be experienced and felt in many places. In addition to Lake Ohrid, the country’s tourist hotspot, Skopje is somewhat off the beaten track. Let yourself be pleasantly surprised by the renovated city center, which is strongly reminiscent of Paris or Prague and discover exciting neighborhoods during your 24 hours in Skopje.
What do you learn in this article?
BIG5 Things to do in Skopje
You don’t want to miss any must-see spots in Skopje? Find your checklists, travel guide & tips for the Skopje city trip here:
BIG5 Skopje – Speed Date
Skopje has not yet been overrun by tourists and you can relax away from the well-known routes – a great feeling
Traffic in Skopje is really no fun, traffic jams and chaotic driving habits quickly occur. Then standing cars quickly get beggars and window cleaners
Take a look around the districts outside the cheesy-historic center and discover brutalist-communist architecture and the “real” Skopje
Illegal driving on the buses is going to be really expensive! Tip: Use the “Skopska Card” economy bus ticket, which you can buy and top up in kiosks
Don’t tell your mother:
The security in some taxis leaves something to be desired. Buckle up? Door opener? Licence badge ?? Everything is overrated! – If in doubt, better get out again
BIG5 Skopje- Rapid Fire Q&A
- Why should I travel to Skopje? – The city is incredibly diverse, modern, historical, culturally rich and an ideal starting point for hikes – and it’s still very cheap for travellers!
- Is it safe in Skopje / North Macedonia? – Yes, Skopje is absolutely safe for tourists
- How many days should I plan for Skopje? – One day is enough for an extensive tour of the city, with a hike in the Matka Canyon or on the Vodno Mountain you should better take two days
- Is a combi bus ticket worth it? – Much of the city center is within walking distance, but the “Skopsko Card” is worthwhile for Matka, Vodno and other remote spots. It is not available from the bus driver, but from kiosks
- Can you drink the water from the tap in Skopje? – Surprise: Yes, no problem at all, the tap water is drinkable!
BIG5 Skopje – Orga
Best travel time
The best time to visit Skopje is from May to September, with pleasant temperatures and little rainfall. However, it can get quite hot, especially in August
Arrival & Departure
Visua: Check here whether you need a visa for North Macedonia with your passport
- Flights: Skopje and Ohrid international airports in North Macedonia or via Thessaloniki (Greece) or Sofia (Bulgaria)
- Bus: From / to Pristina / Kosovo (several times a day; ~ 2 hours, 5 euros)
- Bus: From / to Ohrid: Several times a day (… hours, approx. … euros)
- Train: From / to Pristina / Kosovo (several times a day; ~ 3 hours, 6-21 euros)
Are you interested in a Balkan road trip? Have a look here: Balkans Road trip – Incredibly versatile adventure
Recommended location: It is best to choose accommodation within walking distance of the city center or with good public transport connections
- Budget: Skopje Hostel (Dimitrie Chupovski 1a 3/4, 1000 Skopje; ~ 10 € dormitory), affordable, well-equipped hostel near the Kamen Most Bridge
- Budget: Skopje Deluxe Apartments (St.Macedonia-downtown (pedestrian street), 1000 Skopje; ~ 20 € DR), apartment near Macedonia Platz
- Medium: SkopjeLUX apartments (various apartments in the center; from € 50 double), great location in the center of Skopje
- Medium: Lazarus Studio Apartment (Boulevard VMRO 1 / 3-18, 1000 Skopje; ~ 50 € double), well-equipped apartment in a central location
- Noble: Skopje Marriott Hotel (Macedonia Square No.7, 1000 Skopje; from 90 € double), 5 * luxury at a reasonable price in North Macedonia, with its location directly on Macedonia Square, the ideal starting point for discovery tours in the city
- Noble: Aleksandar Palace Hotel & Spa (bul. 8-mi Septemvri br.15, 1000 Skopje; from € 90 double room), 5 * hotel with exclusive wellness area
The currency in North Macedonia is the Macedonian Denar (MKD), written “ден”
Withdraw money: Banks and ATMs are everywhere in the city, menuvačnici, “exchange offices” if necessary
Beer indicator: Half a liter of beer costs around 1.50 euros in the restaurant, and quasi German prices are announced in the supermarket.
Taxi costs: approx. 25.00 ден (~ 0.40 euros) per kilometer
Restaurants, Bars & Cafés
Have a typical North Macedonian meal in a “Kafana“, the typical restaurant
- Pivnica An (Gradishte, 14, Skopje 1000; medium price segment), great restaurant for local cuisine and Ottoman flair located directly in the old bazaar; “To” is the name for an Ottoman inn
- Kafana Staro Skupi (Naum Naumovski Borche, Skopje 1000), affordable restaurant in the bohemian district
- Kantina (Radnjanska no.4, Skopje 1000; cheap), the best burgers in the city in the bohemian district
- District Bar & Kitchen (Plostad Makedonija 7, Skopje 1000; slightly higher prices), located on the ground floor of the Marriott hotel directly on Macedonia Square, known for experimental grilled dishes
- Public Room (Str. 50 Divizija, 22, 1000 Skopje; website), modern co-working space where you can feel the modern vibe of the city
BIG5 Skopje – Activities
- Take a tour of the old bazaar, the historic center
- Up to Vodno mountain with a great panoramic view – by cable car or on Schuster’s black horse
- Discover the many statues and new buildings around Macedonia Square
- Visit the Kale Fortress above the city
- Relax after a long day of sightseeing in the bohemian district “Debar Maalo” and let the flair work on you
BIG5 Skopje – Photo spots
- Take pictures of the giant Alexander the Great statue in Macedonia Square from every perspective
- From the towers of the Kale Fortress with a great view of the city – preferably in the sunset
- The “Bridge of Macedonian Civilizations” is very reminiscent of the Charles Bridge in Prague
- In the old bazaar you also have many great photo spots
- From the local mountain Vodno with the Millennium Cross
BIG5 Skopje – Things to do off the beaten track
- Stroll through the street “Radnjanska” in the trendy hipster district “Debar Maalo” and recharge your batteries in local cafes and restaurants
- Hike to the Kozjak reservoir near Skopje
- Do it like the locals: take a break in the city park (Gradski Park)
- Relax with a cup of coffee in the CoWorking Space “Public Room” and immerse yourself in the lifestyle of local workers, students and founders
- Admire the paintings of the Saint Clement of Ohrid church
BIG5 Skopje- Culinary Journey
- Skopsko Pivo – the local beer. Remember: “Think global, drink local”, stay away from Heinecken and Co. 🙂
- Kebab in the streets of the old bazaar
- Turkish coffee after dinner – also in the old bazaar
- Tavče Gravče – typical oven dish made from white beans, meat, vegetables and peppers
- Skopska salad – typical salad often with sheep’s cheese
BIG5 Skopje – Communication
Macedonian is spoken in North Macedonia.
- thank you – blagodaram / благодарам
- yes – da / Да
- no – nema / нема
- hello – zdravo / Здраво
- goodbye – zbogum / збогум
BIG5 Skopje – Helpful Websites / Links
- Official Website of Skopje City
BIG5 Skopje – Overview map for your city trip
Discover the Skopje sights in one day
Arrival in Skopje – the bus station is not right in the center. We save a two-kilometer walk through the heavy traffic of the city – made difficult by a backpack and high summer temperatures – and take a taxi. We negotiate the price in advance, but – Surprise Surprise – a taximeter is used in many places
Most locals in Ohrid are used to big bus tours with tourists, but only in recent years have more and more individual travelers come to Skopje or the other parts of the country. So don’t be surprised if the locals at least get curious glances or ask very direct questions.
Over the years, the city was an important trading hub for Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. The cityscape is correspondingly historical. But that is currently being worked on diligently …
A perfect day in Skopje 🇲🇰 – here is your overview:
Best suited for screenshots 📷📝
Your morning in Skopje
Take a tour of the city center
- Macedonia square
- Mother Teresa Memorial House
- Porta Macedonia
- Bridge of the civilizations of Macedonia
- Kamen Most (old stone bridge)
Explore the historical center, the old bazaar Stara Čaršija
- Daut Pasha Hamam
- Čifte Hamam
- Mustafa Pasha Mosque
Your afternoon in Skopje
- Climb Skopsko Kale, the fortress over the city
- Relax in Gradski Park
- Saint Clement of Ohrid Church
- If there is enough time: Excursion to Vodno Mountain or Matka Canyon
Your evening in Skopje
- Open End in the Trend & Hipster District “Debar Maalo“
- Light and fountain show in Macedonia Square
In addition to the BIG5, I have summarized the things to do in Skopje and the circular route for you in an overview map:
Click on the icon at the top left to use the full range of map options!
Things to do in Skopje in the morning
Get a picture of the “renovation Skopjes”
To start with, a small quiz: You are standing in a large square in front of impressive buildings. The countless statues and ornate street lamps are elaborately decorated with gold paint. In general, everything is glossy, like in a theme world in a theme park. Loud, lively, classical music can be heard.
Prize question: where are you?
Even after inserting the 50:50 joker twice on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” you would still be unsure of the answer. “Skopje ?? Are you serious??” Macedonia – Sorry, NORTH Macedonia’s capital Skopje surprises with a very modern flair, pretty cafes and many statues, which is towered over by an imposing 22 meter high statue of Alexander the Great on central Macedonia Square.
The government has been investing a lot of money in the “Skopje 2014” project since 2014, in a kind of city facelift with the aim of promoting national pride. In the city center, the renovated parts along the river are somewhat reminiscent of Paris – or Charles Bridge in Prague with all its statues. The project is even controversially discussed across national borders, there is talk of “Caesaren craze” and “Disneyland”.
It’s best to convince yourself!
Start your tour of the central Macedonia square at the imposing 22 meter high (!) Statue of Alexander the Great on his warhorse. Nearby you can admire the new building of the “Porta Macedonia“, the North Macedonian “Arc de Triomphe”.
If you have time and interest, you can visit the “Mother Teresa Memorial House” in the center. It stands on the place where the famous saint was born in 1910. Yes, she was born in North Macedonia.
When crossing the Vardar River via “Bridge of Macedonian Civilizations” you have a great view of the old stone bridge (“Kamen Most”) and of the Kale Fortress, which towers over the historic old town. From the bridges you can also see a total of four replicas of galleons, i.e. historical battleships, which were built in the river and are now used as cafés and restaurants. I leave it up to you whether you find it useful or nice …
Explore the historic center: Stara Čaršija, the old bazaar
Passing the North Macedonian Opera and Philharmonic you come to the square “Philipp II.” You can easily recognize this by a huge statue of Philip II, who looks at the statue of his son Alexander on the other side of the river. Here, too, the statue inflation continues, everywhere you will find richly decorated fountains and images of important people from the history of North Macedonia.
Now you enter the old bazaar (Стара скопска чаршија – Stara skopska čaršija) the largest in the Balkans outside of Istanbul. Admire the Ottoman architecture and buildings typical of culture such as mosques, the caravanserai and hamams that still shape the cityscape today. These include the Mustafa Pasha Mosque, the Daut Pasha and the Čifte Hamam.
The winding little streets are now full of souvenir shops, small restaurants (already time for kebab for lunch !?) and a striking number of jewelers with magnificent gold and silver jewelry in the shop windows.
Things to do in Skopje in the afternoon
Further up, climb the towers of “Skopsko Kale“, the fortress of Skopje.
The weir probably dates from the 6th century and has been destroyed several times over the years, by human hands and tremendous earthquakes. She has seen many rulers come and go, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgarians, Serbs, Ottomans. One part is well restored today, from the towers you can enjoy a great overview of both sides of the Vardar river.
So far, that was quite a walk, right? Do not underestimate the sometimes very hot weather in the summer of North Macedonia. For a break and switch off from the hustle and bustle, do as the locals do and sit down on a bench in the city park (Gradski Park).
Are you receptive to some culture now? Check out the imposing Saint Clement of Ohrid Church (Soborna Crkva). The interior in particular impresses with countless frescoes and paintings.
Do you still have enough time or don’t feel like parks and churches? How about a trip to Vodno Mountain or the Matka Canyon? Skopje’s local mountain Vodno is known for its great panoramic views of the city and the entire metropolitan region. In 2000 a 66-meter high cross – the “Millennium Cross” – was erected on the top of the mountain to celebrate 2000 years of Christianity in North Macedonia. Matka stands for its natural beauty somewhat away from the hectic city center.
Things to do in Skopje in the evening
After a long day in Skopje and a decent footpath you deserve it: relax with an open end in the lively trend district “Debar Maalo“.
There are a variety of cozy restaurants, cafes and small shops here, especially on Radnjanska Street. Mingle with the locals and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. A dinner in a Kafana, a traditional North Macedonian restaurant, is particularly recommended, where you are sure to get the “BIG5 culinary highlights”.
If you are not back in Macedonia Square too late, you will experience a light and fountain show that will make Skopje look like a little Las Vegas. Not only the few tourists, but especially the locals, whether young or old, have fun here.
If you have brought more time with you
Skopje is an ideal starting point for tours to the Matka Canyon or other hiking trails in the region.
Take a look around the city’s many museums, especially when it rains. We recommend, for example, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Gallery, the Archaeological Museum or the City Museum of Skopje in the old train station, all very centrally located and easy to reach.
There are a lot of great convenient tours and day trips available from Skopje:
Now you know the Skopje sights for a day and you are well prepared for a trip to North Macedonia. Did you imagine the city like this? Neither do I … Are there any questions? Feel free to write to me! 🇲🇰
Are you interested in a Balkan road trip? Have a look here: Balkans Road trip – Incredibly versatile adventure
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