What makes Macedonia one of Europe’s up and coming travel destinations? Somewhere between medieval cities, black cloaked monks and deep lakes, there is a curious charm that wins the heart of every backpacker that passes through. Skopje though is where every Macedonian jaunt should begin.
There are a lot of stereotypes about Eastern Europe but maybe more surprising than how many people believe these stereotypes is how well Skopje really fits the shoe. The city is dominated by blocks of flats from the Communist-era and it can look rather drab and grey but it doesn’t take a well-trained eye to pick out the quaint features of the city’s skyline.
The little minarets for example and the winding cobbled streets, elegantly designed bathhouses with copper-coloured domes and Turkish touches accentuate the country’s history and in particular the city’s evolution. Split in two by the Vardar River, old and modern Skopje don’t need to compete with each other, they’re completely different. The south side of the city is buzzing with cafés and small bars filled with the young and trendy of Skopje.
- Daut Pasha Amam: Originally a bath house in the 15th century, today this houses the National Gallery of Macedonia. Undergoing construction after the Second World War, it now hosts international art exhibitions.
- Church of Sveti Spas: This church was built below ground because it was illegal for a church to be taller than a mosque in Ottoman times. Nearby is a Carsija, a small neighbourhood with lovely tea houses and artisan shops.
- Sveti Dimitrija: Just over the bridge from Carsija, is this small 19th c. church. A sight to see among all of the surrounding mosques.
- Stone Bridge: The Stone Bridge in the main city square was built in the 1400s, now representing the connection between the city’s past and present.
- Museum of Contemporary Arts: The most important cultural institute in the country, this is he best place to see how contemporary culture has transformed in Macedonia over the last few decades.
From London there are cheap flights to Skopje with airlines like Malev and Austrian Airlines, but it’s not yet served by low cost airlines, making it more expensive than other nearby Eastern European countries.
Have you ever been to Macedonia? Tell us about your trip!