Skopje is a city that has something to offer everyone.
Whether you are looking for history, culture, nightlife, or natural beauty, Skopje has it all.
In this article, I will discuss the pros and cons of visiting the fascinating city of Skopje in Macedonia, and I will also give you a comprehensive guide to help you make the most of your visit!
The Pros of Visiting Skopje:
The city has a rich history and culture:
Skopje has a long and rich history, dating back to the early Byzantine period. The city was once an important stop on the Via Egnatia, a trade route connecting Rome and Constantinople, which were two of the most important cities in ancient times.
This strategic location contributed to Skopje’s development and importance and made the city the crossroad for major economic, cultural, and political exchanges.
Economically, Skopje’s position on this route made it a bustling hub for trade. Goods from both the East and the West would pass through the city, including spices, silk, gold, and other precious items.
This not only brought wealth to the city but also exposed it to various cultures and ideas.
Culturally, Skopje became a melting pot of different civilizations.
The city absorbed influences from the Romans, Byzantines, Slavs, and later Ottomans, among others. These influences can still be seen today in the city’s architecture, language, and customs.
Politically, Skopje was often at the center of power struggles between empires vying for control over the lucrative Via Egnatia and the surrounding territories.
This led to periods of both prosperity and conflict, shaping the city’s history and character.
Skopje also served as the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire from the 11th century until the Ottoman conquest in the 14th century, when the city also became the site of significant military activities.
With the arrival of the Ottomans in the 14th century, Skopje’s role changed once again.
This time, the city became a vital administrative center in the Ottoman Empire, a position it held for several centuries until Macedonia’s liberation in 1912, when the nations of the Balkan League, who had large parts of their ethnic populations under Ottoman rule, attacked the Ottoman Empire, and came out victorious, ending 500 years of Ottoman rule in the Balkans.
But despite these changes in power and influence, Skopje’s importance as a strategic and cultural hub has remained constant throughout history, contributing to its rich and diverse heritage.
Today, Skopje is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia and is home to a diverse population of Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, and other ethnic groups.
The city is a melting pot of cultures, and you can see this in the architecture, food, and music.
There is something for everyone in Skopje:
Skopje is a city with something for everyone. If you are interested in history and culture, there are plenty of museums and historical sites to visit.
If you are looking for nightlife, Skopje has a lively bar and club scene. And if you want to escape the city, there are plenty of beautiful hiking trails and scenic spots nearby.
Skopje also has a vibrant café culture, which is a distinctive part of its modern identity.
The city is known for its numerous day bars and coffee shops, which are often bustling with locals and tourists alike.
But these establishments serve as more than just places to grab refreshments, enjoy deliciously prepared food, and watch the world go by; they are integral parts of the social fabric where friends gather and business meetings are held, which is something that’s particularly noticeable when seeing a group of professionals dressed in smart business attire enjoying the relaxed yet professional environment.
Skopje’s cafés also reflect the city’s multicultural heritage. You can find traditional Turkish tea houses side by side with modern European-style coffee shops.
This diversity adds to the city’s charm and offers something for every taste.
So whether you’re a coffee lover, a tea enthusiast, or someone who enjoys the lively atmosphere of a bustling café, Skopje’s day bars and coffee shops are sure to provide a memorable experience.
Skopje is very affordable:
Compared to other larger capital European cities, Skopje is very affordable.
Skopje offers a plethora of affordable accommodations, and you can easily find a decent hotel room for under $50.
In addition to affordable accommodations, Skopje’s food scene is also budget-friendly. The city offers a wide variety of eateries, whether that’s a restaurant or a fast-food joint, where you can enjoy delicious meals for under $20.
Moreover, getting around Skopje is quite economical. The city’s public transportation is cheap, and you can easily get around the city by bus for under $1 a ticket or taxi, which costs between $5 and $10, depending on the mileage of your journey.
The city is beautiful, both during the day and at night:
Skopje is a beautiful city, both during the day and at night.
The daytime views are dominated by the towering mountains that surround the city and provide a stunning backdrop of natural majesty that’s perfect for exploring and sightseeing.
As night falls, Skopje transforms into a magical cityscape illuminated by thousands of lights that highlight the city’s architectural gems, including the Old Skopje Fortress, a historical site located on a hill that’s a walking distance from the Macedonia square.
Skopje is a great place to relax and unwind:
Skopje is the perfect place to relax and unwind. The city offers a wide range of options for those seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of the typical city life and is home to numerous parks, green spaces, and walking areas, each offering its unique charm and appeal.
For instance, the City Park, located in the heart of Skopje, is the largest park in the entire country. This expansive green space provides an ideal setting for picnics, leisurely walks, or simply sitting back and soaking in the tranquility.
Here, you will also find many locals enjoying their free time during weekends and hanging out with friends and family, which will give you the perfect opportunity to make new friends as a visitor and get familiar with the local lifestyle or, if you are a parent, connect with other parents and encourage your children to make new friends.
Other notable parks include Park Zena Borec, which can be found by a less-than-a-minute walk from the city’s square and provides lush greenery and ample space for relaxation.
Skopje also boasts natural attractions such as Lake Matka and Matka Canyon, where visitors can enjoy stunning views and engage in outdoor activities like hiking and boating.
For those who prefer indoor relaxation, Skopje has a variety of spas and massage centers that offer a range of services, from traditional massages to modern wellness treatments.
In conclusion, whether you prefer the serenity of nature or the comfort of a spa, Skopje has something to cater to your relaxation needs.
The people are friendly and welcoming:
The people of Skopje are known for being friendly and welcoming.
They are more than willing to offer a helping hand to visitors, making them feel welcomed and at home in this beautiful city.
Whether you’re exploring the historic Old Bazaar, enjoying a meal in one of the city’s many delightful eateries, or simply strolling through its charming streets, you’re likely to engage in friendly conversation with the locals.
They are proud of their city and eager to share its stories and secrets, so don’t be surprised if a short taxi ride turns into a history lesson by an enthusiastic driver.
You’re also more than welcome to contact me if you need tailored advice or travel tips.
The Cons of Visiting Skopje:
The city can be quite dirty:
Unfortunately, Skopje can be quite dirty.
While the city’s square is usually maintained in a pristine state, it’s not uncommon to find side streets littered with trash and overflowing skips.
Additionally, Skopje is known for its graffiti culture, which is sadly apparent on the exterior of most buildings throughout the city, no matter how old or new they are.
The city is also quite polluted due to heavy traffic and industrial emissions, especially during winter when the use of central heating is inevitable for most households.
If you are sensitive to these things, Skopje may not be the city for you.
The city can also be quite noisy, especially during peak traffic hours:
If you are looking for a quiet and peaceful city, Skopje may not be the place for you. The city can be quite noisy, especially during peak traffic hours and at night, which will be amplified if you are residing in the city center where bars and restaurants are heavily concentrated.
That said, you will also find plenty of quiet places and natural parks (Matka) you can visit to escape the bustling city noises.
Skopje can be quite hot in the summer:
If you are visiting Skopje in the summer, be prepared for the heat. The city can be quite hot and humid, especially in July and August.
If you are not used to the heat, Skopje may not be the best place to visit during the summer months.
The best time to visit Skopje is either in the Spring, when the chance for pleasantly warm and sunny days is higher or early Fall, if you prefer crisp and somewhat moody weather without the heavy rains, snow, and uncomfortable cold that is prevalent during winter.
There is a lot of construction going on, which can be disruptive:
Skopje is on the rise, and there is a lot of construction going on. This can be disruptive, especially if you are trying to enjoy the city’s sights and sounds.
The construction can also be dangerous, so it is important to be aware of your surroundings when exploring Skopje.
Like many cities undergoing rapid development and construction, there can be potential hazards such as open potholes or uneven sidewalks, which is why it’s always a good idea to watch where you’re walking, especially in less well-lit areas.
There are a lot of stray dogs on the streets:
One of the things you will notice when walking around Skopje are the stray dogs.
While most of these stray dogs are harmless, there are instances of aggression and even people getting bit, along with the nuisance they pose, especially for those who have a phobia of dogs.
If you plan to visit Skopje, it’s important to be aware of this issue and avoid stray dogs as much as you possibly can or approach them with great caution (which is not advisable, so you will be doing this at your own risk.)
On the other hand, if you feel endangered by a stray dog, it’s important to take safety precautions, such as avoiding direct eye contact, remaining calm and trying to maintain a neutral body posture, and keeping a safe distance, especially if they appear aggressive or protective.
Additionally, if you have a crippling cynophobia, calling local authorities (194 for ambulance or 192 for police) or asking for help from people around you can also be an effective way to handle the situation.
Pickpocketing is not common, but you should still be careful with your belongings:
Although pickpocketing is not common in Skopje, you should still be careful with your belongings.
This means keeping your valuables close to you and being aware of your surroundings.
Avoid leaving your phone on the table in an outdoor restaurant that’s next to a busy sidewalk or street, as opportunistic thieves can seize such moments to snatch unattended items. It’s always best to keep your belongings within sight and reach.
Also, while using public transportation or walking in crowded areas, it’s advisable to keep your bags and pockets secure, as these are places where pickpockets may operate.
In general, Skopje is considered safe for travelers, but like any city, it’s important to exercise common sense and take precautions to ensure a trouble-free visit.
Remember, safety doesn’t have to be complicated – simple habits like zipping up your bag, not flashing expensive items, and being aware of your surroundings can go a long way in keeping your belongings secure!
But is Skopje Worth Visiting?
YES! All in all, Skopje is a great city with plenty of reasons why it’s worth visiting.
It has something for everyone and is very affordable. The city is also beautiful, both during the day and at night.
The people are friendly and welcoming, and there are some great attractions to see.
Of course, there are also some downsides to visiting Skopje, but these are outweighed by the pros.
If you are thinking of visiting Skopje, I would say go for it! You won’t be disappointed.