"Skopje" Skopje by antistar

Skopje Travel Guide: 837 reviews and 2,165 photos

Skopje is a pleasant, relaxing capital with great food and low prices. It has its moments, like the Old Bazaar, the central Makedonija Square and its adjoining boulevards, and the old Kale fortress. The city has a wonderful location too, surrounded by misty mountains. Atop one peak is the massive 66 meter Millennium Cross, which can be seen for 30km around.

For the most part, however, Skopje is a typical east European city suffering from a legacy of socialist city planning, and it doesn't have any of the grand socialist edifices to compensate for the grey urban sprawl. A lot of that can forgiven, as Skopje was victim to a tragic earthquake in 1963, which killed over a thousand people and destroyed most of the old city.

Skopje is a city of ethnic divides. The majority, about two thirds, of the capital is ethnic Macedonian. There's also a large minority, about twenty percent, of ethnic Albanians. Both groups have a different language, a different religion, and even different alphabets. The divide has led to difficulties in the past, especially during heightened political tensions such as the Kosovo War in 1999 when thousands of Albanians took refuge in Macedonia.

For the most part, the two sides get along, and evidence of the potential for peaceful co-existence can be seen in the shared love of Mother Teresa. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in Skopje, she was raised a Roman Catholic. Despite being a Christian, and despite being an Albanian, you will find statues dedicated to her in Skopje, Tirana and Pristina.

Today the north south divide exists in the city, with the area north of the river Vardar being largely Albanian, and the area south being mostly Macedonian. Crossing the old stone bridge from Makedonija Square to the north and you will quickly see a difference. Don't be put off by the initial negative impressions created by the smell of urine and the slum like homes near the Kale, the Old Bazaar behind is wonderful.

And finally, not forgetting the rest of the ethnic mix, Skopje is also home to a large population of Rroma. On the outskirts of the city there is a Rroma settlement called Suto Orizari, where over 40,000 Rroma live. This makes it the largest Rroma settlement in Europe, if not the world. They act pretty much autonomously, and despite large numbers and the anti-Rroma stereotypes, I didn't encounter any plagues of "gypsy thieves" in the city.

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  • Last visit to Skopje: May 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (18)

Comments (8)

  • ELear's Profile Photo
    Jul 22, 2009 at 7:37 PM

    I was twice quoted a fare of 100 Euros for a taxi to take me to Gracanica, waiting for a couple of hours, then bringing me back to Skopje. I suppose that's right - every other taxi driver I met in Macedonia was honest.

  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo
    Feb 17, 2008 at 11:53 AM

    Interesting to see something of today's Skopje. My only visit was not long after the earthquake - restoration had barely begun, we'd never heard of Mother Teresa and Tito's definition of Slavic Macedonia's ethnicity excluded any claim to Alexander. leyle

  • murta's Profile Photo
    Nov 23, 2007 at 12:58 PM

    Thanks for the detailed tips. Esp. "Things to do" seems like a good summary incl. historical information. I'll definetely take some notes from your pages before visiting my mom's hometown for the first time.

  • Anetaka's Profile Photo
    Oct 16, 2007 at 9:15 AM

    Actually,lonley planet is right.Taxi drivers that wait on bus stations(international),train station,airport...are ilegal(withouth licence)and will rip of even locals

  • Jul 1, 2007 at 5:41 AM

    The trains sound like the good ol' days of BR in the 70's - doors hanging open and people sticking their heads out of the window! :) (teeheeing re Elgin marbles! :))

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Jun 28, 2007 at 1:29 PM

    Thanks for the education on Macedonia, a place one does not hear much about since Kosovo crisis! Your 'General' tips were fantastic, nice insights! Truly amazing that a wonderful reilic like Mustafa Pasha Mosque has survived Europe's history until now!

  • Jun 24, 2007 at 5:24 AM

    Definitely an interesting mix of cultures, languages, nations, old and new.... Btw. the master plan for post-earthquake Skopje was made by Japanese Kenzo Tange - I wonder how much is actually built and left so far.....

  • bugulma's Profile Photo
    Jun 15, 2007 at 12:58 AM

    interesting to see Kala ruins and mosques. i think Aleksander the Great name is quite good for the airport of Skopje


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