ABOUT SKOPJE

Macedonia’s welcoming capital city, Skopje, the city that lies in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, at the crossroad of important communications, where the ancient meets the contemporary symbolizes the spirit of Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Yugoslavian periods. All of them left permanent traces on the city as shown by its architecture and the mix of cultures. The river Vardar divides the city into two parts, and the Stone Bridge connects the two sides.

During the Roman period the city was known as Skupi, highly valued city due to its strategic position, which grew from an administrative center of the Dardanian Province to an Episcopal seat of the Orthodox Church during the early Byzantine Empire until the very end of the 14th century, when Macedonia fell under the Ottoman Empire. In the early 20th century, Macedonia was liberated from the Ottomans and became a Republic of the Yugoslav federation with Skopje as its capital. Unfortunately, in 1963 a severe earthquake left around 80 percent of the city in ruins, with 1070 persons dead and over 120000 homeless. Medical, engineering and building support and help came from 78 countries from all over the world and from this time Skopje became known as the “City of Solidarity”. An international competition for redesigning the city was won by the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, who reborn the city in an imaginative, futuristic style.

In 2010 the Government of Republic of Macedonia announced and financed a project called Skopje 2014, consisted of the construction of colleges, museums and government buildings and erection of monuments depicting historical figures from Macedonia. It is a controversial project and definitely a number one topic of the visitors of Skopje.

Below you can find descriptions of places to visit and suggestions about things to do in Skopje, starting from historical landmarks through museums and nature.

Places to visit

Tumba Madzari

It’s a Neolithic settlement located in the north-eastern part of Skopje and it’s the most significant Neolithic settlement in Skopje valley. It was discovered in 1961/2 and the first archaeological excavations were conducted in 1978 by the Museum of Macedonia. The stratigraphy of the settlement has a cultural layer that indicates life was taking place here in the period between year 6000 and 4300 BC. The land was used mainly for agriculture, conserving the remains of a multifaceted settlement. One of the first structures found was a sanctuary house and the most representative finding of site is the discovery of Pre-Indo-European sculptures of the Great Mother, suggesting the existence of the Cult of the Great Mother Goddess. They are remarkable evidence of the material and spiritual life as well as the high artistic and aesthetic achievements of the Neolithic man in this area.

The Open Air Museum is open for visitors from Wednesday through Friday from 8 AM to 2 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM, except public holidays.

Skopje Aqueduct

It’s the only surviving aqueduct in Macedonia that dates back to the 1st century and was used to supply water to the Roman colony of Skupi, then to the Byzantines and to the Ottomans until the 18th century. It is an archeological site located just outside of Skopje, 2 km (1.2 mi) northwest of central Skopje.

Skupi

An archeological site located several kilometers from the center of Skopje. A Roman military camp was founded on the site of an older Dardanian settlement in the 2nd century BC. A Roman town was founded in between 81-96 AD and Skupi became the main center for romanizing Dardania. In 518 AD the city was destroyed by an earthquake and was completely abandoned.

Kale Fortress

It’s a historic landmark located on the highest point in the city overlooking the Vardar River. The fortress has stood watch over Skopje since the 6th century during the rule of Roman Emperor Justinian I, on land that had been inhabited during the Neolithic and Bronze ages or roughly 4000 BC.

During Ottoman occupation Kale Fortress was partially destroyed and today only 121 meters of the wall remain intact, along with three watchtowers and some historical findings from the archaeological excavations.

Opening hours are every day from 8 AM to 7 PM.

Old Bazaar (Carsija)

It’s the largest bazaar in the Balkans outside Istanbul and a cultural heritage of particular importance for the country with a permanent protection. Situated on the Eastern bank of the Vardar River, it is the historic center of the city with major Ottoman heritage where you can find mosques and hamams, some of them transferred into museums and galleries. The Carsija is full with life as many cafes, restaurants and shops are located in this area. It was reconstructed several times and today it represents the only remaining cultural monument which has kept its multicultural heritage of different civilizations.

Opening hours are from Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 3 PM. On Sunday the Old Bazaar is closed. The bars and restaurants opening hours are every day from 9 AM to midnight.

Macedonia Square

It is the main square of Skopje and the biggest square in Macedonia with total 18.500 m2. It is located in the central part of the city, and it crosses the Vardar River. It commonly serves as the site of cultural, political and other events and it is part of the Skopje 2014 project.

Three main streets merge onto the square: Maksim Gorki, Dimitar Vlahov and Street Macedonia. Dimitar Vlahov Street was converted into a pedestrian street in 2011, Maksim Gorki is not a pedestrian zone, but it’s lined with Japanese Cherry trees, whose blossoms in spring mark a week-long series of Asian cultural events. Macedonia Street, the main pedestrian street, connects Macedonia Square to the Old Railway Station, which houses the City of Skopje Museum and along Macedonia Street is the Mother Teresa Memorial House. A plaque marking the location where Mother Teresa's original family home was located can be found today near Macedonia Square.

Museum of the City of Skopje

It was founded in 1949 and is located in the former railway station that was partly destroyed by the earthquake in 1963. It is home to permanent exhibitions representing the history of Skopje.

Opening hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Stone Bridge

The bridge connects the old and the new part of the city, not only physically, but also with time since many important events throughout history took place on it. It was built during the time of the rule of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, between 1451 and 1469, on Roman foundations. Its solid construction of stone blocks supported by firm columns and connected with semicircular arcs, resisted numerous accidents ad natural disasters. It was reconstructed several times with minor impact s on the original appearance.

Macedonian Museum of Natural History

It is one of the oldest museums in Skopje, built in the 1920s, that collects and stores, studies, and exposes the natural wealth of the country and organizes thematic exhibitions and educational activities for children. The Museum building is located next to the Zoo, but it is a separate institution.

The Museum displays the natural heritage of Macedonia with collections that total more than 270000 specimens of rocks, minerals, fossils, plants, invertebrates, insects, fish, amphibians and reptiles, birds and mammals.

Opening hours are from Tuesday through Sunday from 9 AM to 4 PM.

Museum of Macedonia

It is a national institution and one of the oldest museums in the country. It was created by joining three museums into one: archaeological, historical and ethnological museum, of which the archaeological museum was the oldest one; opened in 1924 and that date is considered as an establishing date of the national museum.

The institution gathers, keeps, conserves and presents the national Macedonian historical and cultural heritage. Within the museum is the Kuršumli An, a historical monument that was built in the 16th century.

The Museum of Macedonia is divided into the following departments or sections: Department of Anthropology, Department of Archaeology, Department of Ethnology, Department of History, and Department of History of Art and Department for conservation.

Opening hours are from Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM and Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM.

Museum of Contemporary Art of Macedonia

It’s one of the largest and most complete national institutions of Macedonia. The building was constructed in 1970 as an example of the late modernism architecture and symbol of the renewal of the city after the 1963 earthquake. It’s made up of three connected wings, beautifully adapted to the configuration of the Kale Fortress and surrounded by a big park area and panoramic view of Skopje.

The artists’ collection is made up of two segments: international and national.

The international segment reflects the modern art from almost all over the world. The bigger part of the collection marks the art movements of the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, as well as around a hundred works of the early modern art. The older exhibits are mainly marked by works of Emil Filla, František Muzika, Fernand Léger, André Masson, etc. The works of the internationally well-known artists are of special importance, such as: Pablo Picasso, Hans Hartung, Victor Vasarely, Alexander Calder, Pierre Soulages, Henryk Staževski, Alberto Burri, Christo, Enrico Bay, Robert Jacobsen, Etienne Hajdu, Zoltan Kemeny, Robert Adams, Emilio Vedova, Antoni Clavé, Georg Baselitz...

The national collection of the Museum follows the development of the fine art in Macedonia starting from the middle of the 20th century with the appearance of the first generation of contemporary artists - the founders of Macedonian modern art: Dimitar Pandilov, Lazar Licenoski, Nikola Martinoski, Dimo Todorovski, all the way to the generations that have appeared after World War II: Dimitar Kondovski, Risto Lozanoski, Petar Mazev, Dušan Percinkov, Rodoljub Anastasov, Tanas Lulovski, Jordan Grabuloski, Aneta Svetieva, Dimitar Manev, Gligor Stefanov, Petre Nikoloski, Blagoja Maneski, Jovan Šumkovski, etc.

Opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM and Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM.

Skopska Crna Gora

It is a mountain range with its bigger part in Macedonia and a smaller part in Kosovo. It is a massive and spacious mountain that lies between the cities of Kaçanik (in southern Kosovo) and Skopje. The highest peak is Ramno (1,651 m or 5,417 ft.). There is the Monastery of St. Nikita from 1307 and the Monastery of the Holy Savior from 1348. There are regular bus lines to the villages in this area.

Archaeological Museum of Macedonia

It is situated on the left bank of Vardar River, next to the old Stone Bridge. Its permanent exhibition presents over 7000 artifacts of extraordinary historical, cultural, and art values that represent the material and spiritual cultures of the local inhabitants from early prehistory to the end of the Ottoman period.

The Museum building is new, with tall columns and huge glass windows, recently constructed as part of the project Skopje 2014.

Opening hours are from Tuesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM.

National Gallery of Macedonia

It is a national art museum and its permanent collection is displayed in the Daut Pasha Hamam in the Old Bazaar.

It is a historical monument of the Islamic culture and the Islamic architecture, built by Daut Pasha in the second half of the 15th century. Originally the Hamam was separated into male and female departments, but in 1948 it was restored and adapted for the function of the National gallery. The interior was redesigned in 1982 and 1999. The present permanent display was set in 2001 and it reviews the development of the Macedonian fine art from the 14th to the 20th century.

The National Gallery of Macedonia now consists of three more objects (Chifte Hamam, Multimedia center “Mala stanica” and the house-museum of Lazar Licenoski).

Memorial House of Mother Teresa

It stands to the east of Macedonia Square, in the center of Skopje, the city the missionary was born in and called home until she was 18. The house opened to the public in 2009, built on the land where the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church once stood, and where Mother Teresa was baptized.

It contains a museum and displays of life-like sculptures depicting Mother Teresa and her family. Exhibits include memorabilia such as letters, awards, relics and photographs. Above the museum is a glass-walled chapel that holds mass twice a week. The floor below the museum has a multimedia center that plays film related to Mother Teresa’s humanitarian mission. Visitors can head to the gift shop on the main floor to browse books and Macedonian souvenirs. The memorial house also occasionally hosts cultural exhibits.

Opening hours are Monday through Friday 9 AM to 8 PM and Saturday and Sunday 9 AM to 2 PM.

Museum of Macedonian Struggle

The Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Sovereignty and Independence - Museum of VMRO - Museum of the Victims of the Communist Regime is a national museum located between the Museum of Archaeology (under construction), the Holocaust Museum of Macedonia, the Stone Bridge and the Vardar River.

The exhibit covers the period from the beginning of the resistance movement against the Ottoman rule, until the declaration of independence from Yugoslavia on 8th of September 1991.

Opening hours are from Tuesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Holy Savior Church

It is a Macedonian Orthodox Church (Sveti Spas in Macedonian), situated east of Kale Fortress. It was built on the remains of an older church that was buried in a fire in 1689 and restored in 1828. It is a simple construction dug in the ground as the Ottoman authorities did not let Christian sanctuaries to dominate the area. The iconostasis is a masterpiece made by deep carving in walnut, presenting biblical scenes, geometrical ornaments and Macedonian flora and fauna elements. It is part of the central throne; 10 meters wide and almost 7 meters high and was made between 1819 and 1824 by the master carver Petre Filipovski Garkata from the village of Gari and the famous group of Mijak woodcarvers. All of them can be seen on the right side – Garkata is presented as he is planning the work and the others as they are working. In 1867 smaller icons for the church were made by Dicho Zograf and his group.

The church is inside a walled compound and can be entered through a heavy oak door. On the left side of the courtyard is the sarcophagus containing the remains of Goce Delcev, the leader of the Macedonian revolutionary movement against the Ottomans around the turn of the 20th century. Within the church complex is the Museum of Goce Delcev as well, where revolutionary clothes and weapons can be seen.

Opening hours are from Thursday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM.

Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia

It is a memorial to the holocaust of the 7,148 Jews from Macedonia and the history of the Jews in the Balkans, a multimedia center, consisting of several functional parts. It is located in the so-called Jewish Quarter of Skopje, which was the center of Jewish life in the city until the deportation of the Jews.

It was officially opened on 10th of March 2011; 68 years after the allied Bulgarian and German forces deported the Macedonian Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp.

It sparked big interest immediately – only three days after the opening, it was visited by more than 3000 people.

Opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 7 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 3 PM.

Church of St. Panteleimon

This 12th century church is one of the oldest and most important in Macedonia, built and painted in 1164 under the patronage of Byzantine Prince Alexios Komnenos. It was dedicated to St. Panteleimon, the protector of health. It’s located near the village of Gorno Nerezi high on the Vodno Mountain. It is well-known for the fresco paintings which convey dramatic facial expression and emotions not commonly found in Byzantine art.

In the 16th century the church was damaged by an earthquake. In the restoration that followed fragments of the old frescoes have been incorporated into new ones and this combination can be noticed in the fresco portrayal of the Communion of the Apostles. Other fresco themes are the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, the Birth of the Mother of God, the Presentation of the Mother of God to the Temple, the Entry into Jerusalem and the Descent from the Cross.

The Lamentation of Christ is the most famous fresco in the church. Created under the influence of apocryphal religious literature, it is considered a masterpiece as it is associated with renaissance art at earlier stage than the time of the Italian Renaissance.

Sultan Murat Mosque

It is an Ottoman-era mosque, built in 1436on top of the Monastery of Saint George, which was destroyed when Ottoman commander Pasha Yiğit Bey captured Skopje in 1392. The money for the construction was donated by Sultan Murad himself.

The Sultan Murat Mosque complex is the only Sultan endowment in Skopje. It was damaged many times, first time was the fire of 1537, after which it was reconstructed two years later. The second time, it was burnt down by the Austrian military leader Piccolomini, who set the whole city on fire on 26th of October, 1689 and it was renewed after twenty three years. The repairment work was undertaken for the last time in 1912.

It is one of the largest mosques in Skopje and in terms of its architectural features it belongs among the most significant specimens of Ottoman building in the Balkans.

The Türbe of Ali Pasha of Dagestan stands next to the east facade of the Sultan Murad Mosque. It contains two stone sarcophagi, the burial site of Ali Pasha’s wife and daughter. The Türbe of Bikiy Han stands on the south side of the mosque and is the largest among this type of edifices which survive in Macedonia.

Sultan Murad Mosque stands on a low hill in the central part of the Old Bazaar. The main architect of the mosque was Husein from Debar. It is rectangular in shape, with a porch including four columns with decorated caplets, connected by arcades.

Vodno Mountain & the Millennium Cross

Vodno is a mountain located southwest of Skopje. The highest point of the mountain is on 1066 meters and is called Krstovar Peak, a place known since the time of the Ottoman Empire, meaning "Place of the cross", as there was a smaller cross at that time. In 2002 the Millennium Cross, one of the biggest Christian Crosses in the world, was built there.

The Millennium Cross is 66 meter-high and it was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world. In 2011 the three and a half km long Millennium Cross ropeway was opened.

Matka Canyon

It’s located 17 km south-west of Skopje, covering around 5,000 hectares. It’s one of the most popular outdoor destinations and home to several historic monasteries (St. Andrew’s, Monastery of the Holy Mother of God and St. Nicholas Shishovski). There are dozens of caves and endemic flora and fauna, such as more than 77 species of small endemic Balkan butterflies and the most venomous snake in South Europe – the Viper. Matka Lake within the canyon is the oldest artificial lake in the country.

The canyon is one of the best areas for alpine hiking in Macedonia. The climbing season starts around Easter and ends in November. Kayaking on the Treska River is a popular activity as well.

On the right bank of the Treska River is Vrelo Cave. It is filled with many stalagmites and stalactites and there are two lakes at the end of the cave. The exact depth of the cave is unknown, but it is possible that could be the deepest underwater cave in the world. It can be reached only by water – by a boat or kayak.