If you’re planning a visit to North Macedonia, then Skopje must be on your list. One of the most exciting, refined, and unique European capitals, Skopje is a gem nestled in the north of this land-locked Balkan country. You can spend 1 or 2 days in Skopje, getting lost in the streets of the ancient bazaars or among the beautiful nature.
Founded in 3rd century BCE, the city of Skopje is one of the oldest in Europe. And with so much to see and do, having a Skopje itinerary is a must if you do not want to miss anything.
How Many Days in Skopje?
How many days to spend in Skopje will depend on your interests. North Macedonia’s capital has a lot to offer. More than the intriguing architecture with glimpses of the past, or the culture-packed bazaar in the city’s ancient parts, Skopje is also nestled among natural wonders worth venturing out to.
The good news is that even if you want to try all that Skopje offers, you can easily do so even if you are short on time.
It is relatively a small city, so you can explore the highlights in one day in Skopje. That includes the city centre with all of its historic sites and cool things to do.
With 2 days in Skopje, you have the option of heading on a day trip to Matka Canyon, going wine tasting or perhaps spending more time at one of the fascinating museums that Skopje has. This is great if you’re thinking of spending a weekend in Skopje.
Getting To & Around Skopje
Skopje is situated in the northern part of North Macedonia and within close proximity to other Balkan countries, making it easy to add Skopje to your European itinerary. Since it is a capital city it is well connected with any other destinations in North Macedonia and beyond.
If you’re travelling by land, you can easily reach Skopje from nearby locations in the Balkans. For instance, Sofia in Bulgaria is located less than 3 hours away and Pristina in Kosovo is just 1 hour and 30 minutes by bus or car. Serbia and Albania are also a few hours away.
If you’re coming from anywhere else in Europe, you can reach the capital with a cheap flight. The International Airport in Skopje is situated within close proximity to the city centre with local buses leaving regularly.
To get to Skopje from anywhere else in North Macedonia will not be a problem. From Ohrid, the bus takes about 3 hours.
Once you’re in Skopje, you will find that you can walk between all the points of interest. The place is easy to navigate, and it is safe to walk around. What’s more, the bus system is cheap and easy to use with routes operating within and beyond the city.
If you do use the bus system, you will need to purchase a Skopska card as you cannot buy tickets on the bus. Cards can be purchased at the main bus station.
1 to 2-Day Skopje Itinerary
If you only have one day to spend in Skopje, then plan to stick to the city centre. If you want to see the highlights with the help of a local guide, consider taking a free walking tour or a paid walking tour. Alternatively, there are also paid walking tours available if this is of more interest.
Day 1 – Central Skopje Highlights
The obvious first stop on your Skopje tour is the main square, Macedonia Square. So vast, it is the largest square in the country. and, it spreads across the Vardar River and includes the Stone Bridge. Across it, glossy cobblestone with floral patterns, medieval candelabras, benches, and an impressive set of fountains.
This outlandish square is a fantastic place to people-watch, grab a coffee at one of the many cafes around, and get to the feel of the city. Take in sites like the Triumph Arch at one of the entrances to the square – also known as the Macedonia Gate – as well as the imposing Alexander the Great statue in the middle of the square.
The icon of Skopje is the Stone Bridge that connects the Old Bazaar with the modern Macedonia Square, in the new part of the capital city. This shiny arch bridge has been in the heart of the city since the 15th Century when it was constructed by the Ottomans.
Today, it is a popular gathering spot for everyone passing through Skopje. Cross over the Vardar River using this wide pedestrian-only bridge for great views of the city.
After you cross the Stone Bridge and get out of the expansive Macedonia Square, you will find yourself in the old Skopje, overlooking its highest hill.
If you are looking for a panoramic view of Skopje and its landmarks, then you arrived at the best spot.
Skopje Fortress, also known as Kale Fortress, has existed since the 6th century and throughout that time it was used as an arsenal, military hospital, warehouse, and a prison. It boasts medieval looks, which is iconic for other buildings in the city.
Walk down the main Boulevard to the real highlight – the Old Bazaar.
Another reminder of Ottoman rule, this exciting market is lined with ancient cobblestone streets and red-roofed stores with friendly merchants chatting away outside.
Inside the market, you will find everything from handmade souvenirs to jewellery to spices. But the real treat lies in the local restaurants, offering homemade traditional dishes.
This is a great place to rest and fuel up before exploring further.
Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Clement of Ohrid
After your lunch, it’s time to head back to new Skopje to explore more of its highlights. The modern Goce Delchev Bridge will take you straight to the city’s most important church.
The St. Clement of Ohrid church was built in the 1970s and is now the largest Orthodox church in North Macedonia.
Boasting an impressive and unique design, you should step inside and check out the interior too as it is equally mesmerizing.
The Old Railway Station
Venture away for a glimpse of the devastating effects of the 1963 earthquake.
The Old Railway Station is what remains of the main transportation hub before the earthquake. Although now relocated to a new location, parts of the building still stand carrying scars of the past.
The clock on the forefront is stuck displaying 5:17 – the time the quake struck. Walk around to see the collapsed walls.
This place now serves as a memorial to over 1,000 people who died that day.
End your day with a hike, or a ride up Vodno Mountain. The easiest way to get here would be to take a taxi from your previous destination at the Old Railway Station – it should take about 15 minutes to reach the cable car station.
Home to the Millennium Cross, Vodno towers over the capital, and I am sure you’ve already spotted it during your urban explorations.
Measuring 66 meters it is the second tallest cross in the world, and the tallest in Europe, and an absolute must-see when in Skopje. It was built in 2008 to celebrate 2,000 years of Christianity in the region.
Get there in the evening for golden hour views of the city. The easiest way is to ride the cable car, however, you could opt to hike if you’re keen for a bit of a workout. Note that you need to have a good level of fitness for this to be a viable option.
Whichever way you reach this iconic attraction, there’s no doubt that this is one of the best things to do in Skopje.
Day 2 – Matka Canyon, Wine Tasting or Skopje’s Museums
If you have more than a day to dedicate to your trip to Skopje, visiting Matka Canyon is a must! Situated just 15km from central Skopje, it is easily reachable in 30 minutes by car and un under an hour by public transport.
There are a few ways to get there, one of them being with public transportation. Leaving frequently from Skopje’s Transport Center are buses which can take you to the canyon and back.
Once you get there, take a short hike with breathtaking views of the lake and its rugged mountain walls until you reach the 14th-century Saint Andrew monastery. Watch the view as it unveils the stunning gorge and emerald green lake nestled in between.
You can take a boat trip that includes a visit to a cave, or head to one of the restaurants for a local meal with magnificent views of the canyon. Alternatively, if you’re feeling active it is possible to hike 13km to the canyon after taking the cable to the top of Vodno Mountain.
North Macedonia might not strike you as a wine country. Overshadowed by France or Italy, it remains an undiscovered European wine country. North Macedonia’s ideal climate produces very high-quality wines that are a perfect addition to every hearty Macedonian dish.
Although the wine region is in the south of the country, you can still have a wine experience in Skopje. There are a few wineries located in the capital region – such as Kartal Winery just outside of the city centre – so you do not have to go far.
A visit to the winery is guided by a local sommelier who will share their expertise and knowledge with you, taking you through the whole journey – from grape to wine glass. Of course, no wine tour is complete without the fun wine-tasting session at the end.
If you do not have time or budget for a tour, you can order a glass of Macedonian wine in almost every local restaurant.
Explore Skopje’s Museums
If you have spare time and want to learn more about Macedonia’s fascinating culture and history, pick a museum that interests you.
If there is only one Macedonian museum you will go to, it should be the Museum of Macedonian Struggle. Offering insight into the historical, cultural, and revolutionary traditions of Macedonia in their struggle to establish their state.
The Holocaust Museum dives into the history of the Jewish community from the pre-Christian era until during and after World War II. It includes English displays and also serves as a memorial.
You could also visit the Memorial House of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was a Catholic missionary and a nun, born in Skopje in 1910. The Memorial House presents an exhibit of her life until her death and her beatification.
History buffs will also love the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia which houses artefacts found in North Macedonia and is absolutely fascinating.
Where to Stay in Skopje
Hotel Old Konak – This cosy hotel is a great mid-range option in the centre of Skopje. They have plenty of air-conditioned rooms to choose from and breakfast available each morning.
Alexander Square Boutique Hotel – This 4-star hotel is a great option for those looking for a plush stay in Skopje. It’s centrally located and includes amenities like private parking, an on-site bar, breakfast and room service.
Shanti-Hostel – A highly-rated hostel in the city centre, this is a great option for budget and solo travellers. They have a range of room options along with good common areas.
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Although it boasts the ‘there is nothing to do there’ reputation, Skopje is a very interesting capital city. It is an excellent stopover on your Balkan trip, and a great spot if you want to learn more about North Macedonia.
Are you planning to visit Skopje? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!