capital city of North Macedonia
Europe > Balkans > North Macedonia > Povardarie > Skopje
Skopje is a huge city with several district articles that contain information about specific sights, restaurants, and accommodation.
Skopje (Macedonian: Скопје, Albanian: Shkup, Turkish: Üsküb) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of North Macedonia. Skopje is city of many cultures and many centuries. The various groups that have controlled the city through its history have each left visible reminders of their reign: multiple Dardanian and Roman-era archaeological sites dot the city; Byzantine and Serbian Empire churches and monasteries can be found around the outskirts; a great wealth of Ottoman heritage fills the Stara Čaršija; commieblocks and other Soviet-esque structures recall the Yugoslav era; and the current ruling party is erecting countless historicist neoclassical-style buildings in Centar. All of this comes together to form quite an interesting city.
Skopje's location on the Vardar and its nearby tributaries amongst towering mountains makes it a place of scenic beauty as well. Mount Vodno's highest peak at 1,070 m (3,500 ft), capped by the Millennium Cross, stands visible throughout the city and is a major recreational destination. The Treska River cuts through the mountains of southwest Skopje, forming the stunning landscape at Matka Canyon.
Skopje's districts
The centre of life in North Macedonia's capital. Centar is home to many cultural attractions and to the Parliament and Government of North Macedonia. It underwent many visible and controversial changes in the 2010s.
 Stara Čaršija
Skopje's old town, a well-preserved reminder of Macedonia's five-century Ottoman era. Home to a fortress, countless mosques, Turkish baths, caravansaries (inns), markets, a clock tower, and some churches.
Karpoš is an urban neighborhood adjacent to central Skopje and containing significant places of interest like Vodno Mountain and the Skopje Zoo.
 Outer Skopje
Skopje covers a large area both within its city limits and in the wider Skopje region; this area contains many spread out places of interest
 Matka Canyon
Matka Canyon is one of the country's most popular attractions, home to medieval churches among the rocky cliffs of the canyon
Skopje city panorama, with Mount Vodno in the background
In the Povardarie region, Skopje is the financial and political center of North Macedonia and by far its biggest city. The city population is around 800,000, however unofficially during working-days it can almost reach more than 1 million, which is more than half of the population of the country. The most diverse in the country, Skopje houses many ethnicities; besides the majority Macedonians, many Albanians, Turks, Roma, Serbs, Bosniaks and others call Skopje home.
The 26th of July 1963 is one of the worst dates in the history of Skopje. An earthquake struck the city at 05:17. 75% of the buildings in the city disappeared in just a few seconds. After that, the big rebuilding project began, trying to make Skopje the model city of the socialist world. The plan was drawn by the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, who also designed the new railway station. The plan was never fully carried out. Many reconstruction projects have started. Some towers of Kale Fortress and the old cathedral are being reconstructed, and the old theater is also under reconstruction. Skopje is an eclectic mix of Christian and Islamic culture, with both vying to make themselves visible. However, this cultural mix has also spawned a lively and varied society. You can see people playing chess in the morning in the numerous cafés and green spaces in the summer. In the evening, Skopje comes to life as the locals dine in the cafés before heading to the bars and live music clubs, most of which are open until 01:00 or later.
Apart from being the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje has always been a center of power long coveted by various empires, and occupied by a long list of them, evident by the several Byzantine churches and monasteries around the city, also by a few Roman sites, such as Scupi and Skopje's Aqueduct. The city founded by the Paeonians in the 3rd century BCE under the name ‘Skupi’ was prized for its strategic location, in a long valley between two hills, situated on the banks of the Vardar River, a vital trade route. Under the Romans, Skopje was made administrative center of the Dardanian Province. The city’s prestige grew when the Orthodox Church made it an episcopal seat during the early Byzantine Empire. The arrival of migrating Slavic tribes from the Carpathians in the 6th century CE changed the city’s name and the composition of its people were assimilated by the Slavic newcomers. Throughout the remaining Byzantine centuries, Skopje continued to be an important mercantile center, situated as it was at the crossroads of Balkan trade and communications routes. It was celebrated for its urban life and fortress, and renowned for having the most beautiful church in the region. In the 14th century, Skopje became the capital of the Empire of Serbia, which was one of the largest and strongest countries in Europe during that period. However, the group that left the greatest mark on Skopje were the Ottomans. At the very end of the 14th century, Skopje and all of Macedonia fell under the rule of the Ottoman Turks, who ruled Macedonia for over six hundred years and built a large number of mosques and other buildings. In the ensuing centuries, the look of the town changed with the construction of many mosques, Turkish baths, bridges, and other buildings attesting to the new Oriental influence. Today, the Ottoman legacy remains extremely visible in Skopje’s architecture and small Islamic minority. After North Macedonia was liberated from the Turks in the early 20th century, became a part of Kingdom of Serbia, then it became a republic of the Yugoslav Federation, with Skopje as the capital. At that time, the prosperous city boasted many ornate, Neoclassical buildings laid out harmoniously in a more or less Central European style. However, in 1963 a disastrous earthquake leveled much of the regal old city, and Skopje was reborn in the imaginative, futuristic style in vogue at the time. Today, Skopje is a modern city and North Macedonia’s major political, economical, educational, and cultural center.

Skopje, Macedonia
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches
Get in
By plane
Skopje International Airport (SKP IATA) (SE 20 km). Destinations: Ljubljana, Vienna, Sofia (seasonal), Zagreb, Prague, Zurich, Dubai, Belgrade, Athens, Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Istanbul, Venice - Treviso, and London - Luton, Bratislava, Budapest.
Kosovar capital Pristina may offer cheaper deals than flying directly into Skopje on some routes. However, with no public transport connecting it with the city, consider if it's worth the effort when you add the more than €20 taxi ride into downtown Pristina and €5 bus ride to Skopje on the top of the flight fare. International Airport of Pristina is 3 hours away by bus from Skopje.
Bus to/from the airport
Vardar Express From the terminal, there are buses running into Skopje operated by Vardar Express transport company; a timetable can be seen on the company's website, but a rule of thumb is that the buses depart about 10-15 min after a landing, just outside of the exit gates. It takes 25 min to the city and costs 175 denars one-way; tickets, which are checked on board, can be bought from the Vardar Express office next to the exit gate. (Credit cards are accepted. If you want to pay in cash, you will need Macedonian denars. These can be obtained from an ATM, or an exchange office. Exchange as low as possible—€3 is enough for a single ticket—as the rate at the exchange office just next to the Vardar Express office at the airport is worse than the town as usual.) Vardar Express has a number of stops in the city and the suburbs, the most useful of which is at the "Transportation Centre" (Транспортен Центар Transporten Centar, Skopje's bus & train station) and "Holiday Inn", which is close to the main square and the old town. Upon returning to the airport, buy your ticket from the dedicated Vardar Express office inside the bus station, and catch the bus from the stop signed "Airport Bus" on the street underneath the viaduct of the train station (Kuzman Josifovski Pitu Кузман Јосифовски Питу), in front of the Zegin Pharmacy (Аптека Apteka). Buses are scheduled to arrive about an hour prior to a flight, so you'll have plenty of time for exchanging back your left-over denars, check-in, passport control, security check, and boarding in Skopje's quiet airport.
Taxi to/from the airport
Hailing a taxi would cost approximately €15-25 to centre, or arranging private hire beforehand for a lower price. According to a display board outside of the airport (as of 2017), the standard fare to Skopje is €20; standard taxi fares are established to other cities within North Macedonia as well.
Drive to/from the airport
20 km southeast. The airport is accessed by the main highway Belgrade-Skopje-Thessaloniki which connects it directly with the city.
By train
Skopje Railway Station (Скопска железничка станица) (near the National Central Bank). The transport center includes the train and the bus station together. To get to the city centre from the bus/train station, if you don't have a map, walk west along the main road which passes under the station (Mt Vodno with its cross is south, i.e. on your left). When you get to the river go left and follow the river until you arrive at the old bridge and central square. About 15 minutes walk. 
Pristina, Kosovo (daily, 3 hr, €2.5). It is not possible to buy a train ticket with a credit card, but there is an exchange desk in the bus station in the same building.
The train Belgrade-Skopje-Thessaloniki has been cancelled indefinitely (Oct 2018). Check for instance Seat61 for up-to-date info.
By bus
Buses to cities and towns in North Macedonia leave many times daily. There are also buses to other major European cities.
If you wish to travel to Skopje from Sofia, Matpu 96 run three buses a day. Their office can be found in the Sofia Central Bus Station, and the buses are at 09:30, 16:00 and 19:00. The cost of a ticket is 33 lev as of July 2013, but they accept euros too. This includes 1 leu baggage fee. The journey will take around 6 hours and will also include a time zone change from Sofia (GMT + 2) to Skopje (GMT + 1 or Central European Time), so the 16:00 bus will arrive at Skopje Bus Station at approximately 21:00. The website, in English.
Get around
Map of Skopje
By bus
Skopje has a vast, frequent and efficient bus network. Public buses (red in colour, run by the Skopje Public Transportation Agency (Јавното сообраќајно претпријатие Скопје)) cost 35 denars if you pay the driver, or 30 denars if you buy your ticket in advance from a kiosk. Private buses (all the other colours) cost 25 denars (you pay the driver directly). The new double-deck buses may feature English translations of routes, but it's easier just to stick to the bus numbers. Bus maps can be found on almost all bus stops (still in the process of putting them up). Hotels will help with info. and the odd taxi fare can be saved!
By taxi
Taking a taxi in Skopje should normally not cost more than 300 denars. An example journey is from City Centre to Biser (a shopping centre with many bars and cafes that is popular with young people) which should take about 5-10 mins and cost around 150 denars.
From the train station to the center of the city is 2 km and should cost 50 denars. Never let yourself be talked into going somewhere where you did not plan to go in the first place. Like many cities in Europe, if you seem unsure and foreign, the charge will probably be higher so appear confident about the price and if the taxi driver still insists on a ridiculous price, find another taxi - there are plenty.
Many taxis have and will use their meter, so there should be no discussion about the price.
Towers of the Skopje Fortress
The Millennium Cross stands atop Mount Vodno
Individual listings can be found in Skopje's district articles
The largest concentrations of sights in Skopje are found in Centar and the Stara Čaršija (Old Town). The former is the modern hub of the city and contains newer attractions, while the latter is home to many of the city's historical sights. Outer Skopje is home to larger sights that are more spread out.
The Skopje Fortress stands above central Skopje, on the right bank of the Vardar. Much of the exterior walls, including several towers, remain, while excavations continue on the interior. The Stara Čaršija sits below the fortress to the south. Countless Ottoman-era structures makeup the historic district. Minarets from mosques like the 15th-century Mustafa Pasha Mosque dominate the district's skyline. The oldest of these mosques dates from 1436. Of the remaining Turkish baths, two are in good condition and now serve as museums. The three caravansaries in the Old Bazaar feature lovely courtyards and are open to the public as cafes or museums. While Islamic buildings are prevalent in the Stara Čaršija, it is also home to central Skopje's most important church, St Saviour Church, known for its wood-carved iconostasis.
One of the main symbols of Skopje, the Stone Bridge connects the Old Town to Centar on the left bank of the Vardar. Centar is home to the main government offices of North Macedonia. It is also home to Macedonia Square, the city's central square. The face of the square has changed with new buildings constructed in older architectural styles, as well as the addition of massive monuments like that of Alexander the Great, the centerpiece. Another major piece of the changes to Centar is Porta Macedonia, a large triumphal arch. The city's best museums are found in Centar, such as the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, the Holocaust Museum, and the Mother Teresa Memorial House, dedicated to the Skopje native.
Some of Skopje's best sights are found outside the city centre. Matka Canyon is one of North Macedonia's gems, both culturally and naturally. It is home to numerous medieval churches and monasteries, often hidden in the scenic mountains. Mount Vodno is capped by the Millennium Cross, overlooking the city and reachable via a cable car. In addition, archaeological sites dot the area, like the 55-arch Skopje Aqueduct. The Skopje Zoo contains a few hundred animals.
This is a huge city article, so detailed listings go in the district articles. This section should only be a brief overview.
Macedonian National Theatre, Iljo Vojvoda. Built in 1945. With its big white walls, and almost without windows and with an incline, it is known as "the bounce board." It was made by Stefan Kacin, Jurij Princes, Bogdan Splindler, and Marjan Urshic. The theatre has a large stage and seats for 850 spectators, and also a small stage for 200 spectators. The State Ballet is also stationed in this building. This theatre holds theatre, opera, and ballet performances all year round. 
Open gallery “Beautiful city” in the Gradski Trgovski Centar.
Day tours
Scenery at Matka Canyon
This is a huge city article, so detailed listings go in the district articles. This section should only be a brief overview.
Markets in the Old Bazaar
Shopping centers and markets
This is a huge city article, so detailed listings go in the district articles. This section should only be a brief overview.
North Macedonia’s capital offers something to satisfy all modern tastes and appetites. Make sure to try the famous Macedonian foods such as burek, Shopska Salata, and others.
Skopje’s eateries are plentiful and offer a diverse range of local and international flavors. International cuisine is well represented in Skopje with Chinese, Italian, Indian, Greek, Mexican, Middle Eastern and French restaurants all found within the city center. In addition, pizza and fast food places abound, as do small bakery cafes selling pastries such as the ubiquitous burek (a flaky filo pie stuffed with meat, cheese or spinach).
This is a huge city article, so detailed listings go in the district articles. This section should only be a brief overview.
It's not hard to find good cafes but a good place to start is by the riverside near the old bridge, and at night this becomes a lively party area as well.
This is a huge city article, so detailed listings go in the district articles. This section should only be a brief overview.
Stay safe
Skopje, just like the rest of Macedonia, is a relatively safe place. But, the usual rules about common sense apply here as they would anywhere. The places where crime occurs most often are in the places where tourists have little reason to be at. Night time in the old market may have roving bands of youth and areas just east of it. Exercise a higher level of caution in these areas or avoid this area at night.
Like many other parts of Eastern and Central Europe, there are people who will beg around the major tourist sites, they especially target tourist-looking people, and sometimes may engage in pickpocketing.
Go next

This city travel guide to Skopje is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.
Last edited on 5 January 2021, at 06:25
Content is available under CC BY-SA 3.0 unless otherwise noted.
Privacy policy
Terms of Use
HomeRandomNearbyLog inSettingsDonateAbout WikivoyageDisclaimer