Skopje is the largest city in North Macedonia and was once a stop on the Silk Road. The town was occupied by the Ottomans for over 500 years in the late 1300s. As a result, you can still see the reminiscence of the settlers today.
Our time in Skopje was very short. We joined the morning walking tour where we learnt a lot about the history of the city. We learnt about an earthquake that devastated 80% of the city in 1963 and 1000s of lives were lost. The clock tower on the old railway station still shows the exact time the quake struck. The reconstruction of the city was conducted by a Polish architect, Adolf Ciborowski, who also planned the reconstruction of Warsaw after World War II.
We made a new friend, Leo, during our walking tour. He’s been to over 100 (and counting) countries and every continent. Because of this, he had many stories to tell and spent some time comparing notes with Margo on travel destinations. Since we had some space in our rental car, we offered him a lift to Matka Canyon.
5 things to do in Skopje
1. Visit the Millennium cross on Mount Vodno
This cross is huge, almost twice as big as the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. To get there, you will need to take a London style double-decker red bus 25 from the city to Sredno Vodno. Check the online timetable for bus times, the last bus leaves at 5 pm. From here you can take the gondola (cable car) up or if you are fit enough, walk. The cable car will cost you about €2/return. Views from the top are just breathtaking.
2. Join a Free Walking Tour
We do this in every major city we visit. It’s a great way to find out really interesting things about the city. Usually, this is also first had from a local. It’s also a great way to meet new people on your trip. Most importantly, it’s free. You can, however, donate an amount to your guide for their services. Free tours can take around 2-3 hours and you should be prepared to walk so, don’t forget to take some water with you.
3. Venture into the old bazaar
With the charms of the Ottoman era, the old bazaar feels like time stood still here. Because of this, you get a sense of what things may have looked like in the late 1300s. There is a multitude of places indulge yourself in local and foreign cuisines, buy gifts and trinkets, and get lost in the narrow streets.
4. Count the statues
This one may be a little tricky as there so many of them all over the place. They range from statues of great heroes of the past, Alexandra the Great, to some random shopping girl! While you are counting, do look around you and marvel at the cities raw concrete architecture.
5. Take a trip to Matka Canyon
We recommend spending some time here. There are a few options available to you once there. You can join a boat tour, rent a kayak, or take a walk along the canyon. The water is very clean and the views are spectacular. We took a boat tour of the canyon and included in this was a visit to one of the caves. The cave itself was a bit dark and very small so not much to see there. As this was November, there were no tourists and we had the whole place to ourselves.