Have you ever dreamed of visiting a place that is still far from the mass tourism, a place where you can easily be part of the local life and feel the real atmosphere? Have you ever heard of the city of the seven gates? The city with good food, beautiful people kissed by the sun? If you have never heard of this place, now it’s the right moment to pack your bag and book your flight to this unexplored beauty.
Skopje is the capital of Macedonia and it is very small city compared to other european cities, this is maybe one of the biggest reasons that makes this place really interesting for travellers. Once you arrive here you can get lost between old and new, between culture, tradition, food, nature and religion.
The best way to explore a new place is always to be with the locals, walk through the streets, chill on the squares or simply drink your coffee in one of the local bars around the city.
The best start of your first day in Skopje should always be a good traditional Macedonian breakfast. You can find lot of bakeries behind every corner of the city, most of them are open 24/7 so at least you know that in Skopje it is impossible to stay hungry. Our suggestion for breakfast is one piece of burek or banichka (you can choose between cheese, meat or spinach) and the traditional Macedonian yogurt, or you can have mekica with traditional white cheese and yogurt. After good breakfast you will be definitely ready to explore the city.
If you decide to start from the main pedestrian street Macedonia, you should know that exactly this street in the past was the main point in town where people were coming to socialize, to show their newest clothes, to see and to be seen and for someone also to fall in love. Today you will see only long street with bars and restaurants but people are still coming here to see and to be seen. Walking between the bars you can see from far one destroyed building and a big clock in front of it. That is a sad story and a sad memory for Skopje. It’s a symbol of the biggest earthquake that happen here in 1963, and that building in the past was the first railway station in the city, unfortunately it was very destroyed during the earthquake and the clock stopped during that time so even today it is still showing the time when the earthquake happened, it was 5.17 am.
Walking back to the main square, you will go back to the history, starting from Ancient Macedonia, Byzantine time, Ottoman Empire, everywhere around there is someone or something that will tell you a part of the story.
Walking through the oldest Stone Bridge in the city slowly you will reach another world. In few steps you will be already inside of the old part of Skopje, inside of something totally different from the things you used to see before. The Ottoman Empire had a strong impact on this city and Macedonia in general. Here for a moment you will fell that the whole atmosphere is like you are in some Turkish place, some old Turkish city. That will be the perfect moment for you to get lost between caravanserais, hamams, mosques and churches. People here do like travelers, so you shouldn’t be surprised if someone stopes you and start to tell you stories from the past or complaining about the present. Here you can see how christians and muslims seat on the same table and drink their Turkish tea together. Maybe this part is the real face of Skopje, maybe only here you will understand why this city is so unique.
People say that in every place you go, you should visit the local market, so you shouldn’t miss Bit Pazar -the biggest market in Skopje and Balkans. Here you can find everything, our suggestion is definitelly to buy some fresh fruit, vegetables or spices. Try to be in the Old Bazaar around lunch time so you can stop for a lunch in one of the local street restaurants and try some traditional meat dish, baked beans, shopska salad, grilled bread with spices, don’t forget to choose some local beer or glass of macedonian wine as well.
Once you finish your lunch it will be again time to get inside of Chifte Hamam or Kapan An, hear the story and feel how was the life during the Ottoman Empire. Don’t forget to visit one of the most beautiful church in Skopje – the church of St.Saviour, which is the home of one of the most beautiful iconostasi in Macedonia. Finish your day by catching the sunset from the Fortress Kale, see how the golden light is going down above the city and how for a moment everything becomes magical.
In the end you will realize that Skopje is like a puzzle, you need to pass through all the places, squares, churches, mosques, museums, bars and restaurants so you can have the complete image of the city and you will feel how despite all the difficulties, bad moments and sad stories this city continue to smile and shine.
To collect all the pieces from the puzzle easily you can choose to walk through the city with our local guide and photographer. That way you will definitely have the best local Skopje photo story. Book your tour via When In X on the following link.
Written and photographed by: Elena Mitkovska