Tips For Your Vacation In Skopje, North Macedonia april 25, 2022 – Posted in: North Macedonia, Travel – Tags: Bars, Culture, History, Holiday, North Macedonia, Skopje, Vacations, Weekend Breaks
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An amazing – and quite unusual – holiday in Skopje
Let us tell you a bit ob what to expect on a vacation in Skopje! On a Saturday afternoon the sun stands high over Skopje. The three girlfriends giggle across the cobbled streets of the Old Bazaar, one wearing a headscarf and the others without. At the cozy kafanas, the men sip their Turkish coffee and get a little rakija, while the pieces on the backgammon board change places. The women relax in one of the large shopping malls located right next to the old train station, where the 1963 earthquake made the time stand still forever on the station clock.
A few curious tourists try to decipher the Cyrillic letters on one of the countless statues. All over the city is a scent of grilled meat that is just waiting for the evening meal. Welcome to Skopje!
Why should you go to Skopje?
Many only pass through Skopje on a short stop in the longer round trip to the Balkans – and that’s a shame. The small capital on the river Vardar has so much to offer! Do book at least three or four nights to get to experience as much as possible of the local culture, history and the excellent cuisine.
The large tourist crowds have not yet found their way to Skopje, and you can enjoy a relaxed and very authentic holiday. There are tourists in the city, especially from the surrounding countries: Kosovo and Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Albania to the west and Greece and Turkey to the south.
On your vacation you will also encounter a few North Europeans, who come for the beautiful nature and the exciting history. What you won’t yet find in Skopje are horrible tourist trap restaurants and in Skopje, you can walk the streets without getting hassled by servants, sellers and beggars.
History and culture in Skopje
Skopje is known for being the birthplace of Mother Teresa, for Fort Kale, the old bazaar and then the great earthquake of 1963. The latter laid most of what was known as one of the world’s most beautiful cities in ruins. Skopje – and the whole of North Macedonia – also offers lots of unique nature and a long history that goes all the way back to the cradle of civilization.
One of the other great celebrities here is Alexander the Great. Who can actually claim Alexander the Great to be ‘their’ great hero is a controversial issue that is part of the disagreement between Greece and North Macedonia.
Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Macedonia and North Macedonia
North Macedonia makes most people think of the longest country name in the Eurovision Song Contest. FYR Macedonia or just FYROM was the name of the territory until 12 February 2019, when the country officially changed its name to The Republic of North Macedonia. The reason for the name change is to be found in the disagreement with Greece, where in the northern part of the country there is an area also called Macedonia.
To complete the confusion, Alexander the Great at his time ruled over a territory called Macedonia. This area overlaps the present Greek Macedonia – while the later Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Macedonia lay in what is today respectively Greece, Bulgaria and present-day North Macedonia.
Confused? Add to that the fact that the population of North Macedonia has long been composed of many different peoples. With its location on one of the most important trade routes of all times, ruled by, among others, Romans and Ottomans and most recently a part of Yugoslavia, the country, along with an immigration up through the history of slaves and Roma, has an ever-changing population composition.
The largest population group today is Macedonians, who are Macedonian Orthodox, followed by Albanian Muslims and a Turkish minority. Therefore, when sitting in a kafana in the old bazaar, it is not uncommon to have the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer in one ear and Balkan pop music in the other. Skopje has always been and still is a melting pot for many cultures, and it gives a very unique atmosphere in the city.
Prepare for surprises
Nothing about Skopje is like the typical charter holiday, where everything is set out and planned. First, North Macedonia still is an underrated destination, and there are only a few English guide books that mention Skopje at all. Luckily we visted and can now give you the best travel tips for Skopje!
Secondly, one of the really big challenges is that the road signs are in Macedonian-Cyrillic. It increases the difficulty level, when you have to find your way around the city. It is recommended to carry two maps: one with the street names in English and then a local one. That way, you can compare the maps as you go. If you don’t have data on your phone, you can also take a screenshot of your route when you are in a place with wifi.
If you stop a Macedonian to ask for directions, it often happens that they just move on without helping. The Macedonians as a people may seem a bit arrogant, but for the most part it simply hides the fact that many are not fluent in English. It’s no way out of unkindness! If you are at a bar in the late hours, you will find that the locals really want to talk with you – when the alcohol has covered the inhibitions.
Having said that, in Skopje you can go on as many adventures as only the Balkans can provide. If you are used to looking after yourself when traveling, and you generally like to see, taste and hear things you haven’t experienced before, then Skopje and North Macedonia are an dream destination.
The price level in Skopje
Another plus in Skopje is the low prices, because you get a lot of value for your money. A city break in Rome, Milan or London can be quite expensive, but in Skopje a five-star luxury hotel is about €100 a night. Two people can eat 5-6 dishes with a fine wine, coffee and rakija for €40. They locals like to bring a quick lunch from one of the burek bakeries, which will fill you up for €0,50.
It is also a good idea to go to Skopje to buy clothes. There are very nice clothes to choose from – and you get a lot for your money!
Tours out of Skopje
Many people choose to combine a holiday in Skopje with a major round trip in North Macedonia and Albania. A popular tour is to head on to Lake Ohrid or combine a visit to Skopje with an excursion to Matka Canyon.
Find a great hotel in Skopje
Whether you are going on holiday in Skopje or just want to visit the city on a short weekend break, there are many lovely hotels in the city. In general, it is cheap to live in Skopje, and even a tight budget will get you far. If you want to pamper yourself, you can also get a lot of luxury for your money in Skopje.
With those words comes our recommendation for a really good hotel in Skopje that can be booked directly through Booking.com. See more hotels by performing your own search here:
A recommendation: Hotel Arka
We stayed right in the middle of the old bazaar at the five star Hotel Arka. In addition to rooms and suites, the luxury hotel also has three themed rooms: one that is kept completely in white with a bathtub, another that is black and with a whirlpool and a third in classic decor, where you can take a bath overlooking the city’s roofs. As you can see on the photo, we of course chose the one with the bath in the middle of the living room and the view over the city!
The breakfast buffet is completely sumptuous and offers Macedonian specialties and freshly made omelette. On the roof terrace you will find a pool bar that is open 24 hours a day as well as the most amazing view of the city and the old bazaar. From Hotel Arka, it is only a short walk to the restaurants of the Bazaar and Macedonia Square.
Read more: Hotel Arka
How do you get to Skopje?
WizzAir is your #1 choice when flying uot to Skopje. From Skopje Airport, you can take a shuttle bus to the city during the day, and it costs 160 denars (approximately €2,5). In front of the airport there are also taxis with fixed prices. 1500 denar it costs, about €25 – and don’t save your money going in a pirate taxi. The official taxis has a sign on the roof saying ‘Park’ .
When you need to get back to the airport, the bus leaves from the train station at the eastern part of town. Buy a ticket at the train station and stand in front of ‘East Entrance’. The bus does not run in the evening, see the bus schedule here.