Skopje – The City of Statues

skopje macedonia statues

The city of Skopje, North Macedonia’s capital, was an interesting and unique stop on our travels. We visited Skopje after our delightful week at Lake Ohrid (see more here). We arrived not knowing much about the city apart from a short paragraph in Tess’s trusty lonely planet book. Overall, Skopje surprised us, and whilst it isn’t a ‘must visit’, it’s definitely a city that is worthy of attention, especially if you are visiting Lake Ohrid! Read on for our thoughts, and some key recommendations for your visit to Skopje!

Walking the streets of the city, we were instantly captivated by the numerous and towering statues that lines the squares, bridges and river. How can you not, there’s 100s of them. Some of these statues, particularly the Alexander the Great statue and fountain that adorns the main square, are particularly impressive. However, as we wandered further, we regularly commented.. “is this a bit much?”.

Why so many statues? In the 2010s, Skopje decided to build these statues in an effort to boost tourism in a project called ‘Skopje 2014’. Apparently it has worked, however, it almost feels a little bit like ‘Warner Brothers’ with these medieval style statues created in modern times seeming a little ‘forced’. Additionally, the build of these statues reportedly cost 100s of millions of euros, with some suggesting this money may have been better spent on local infrastructure or job creation. If you happen to visit Skopje, let us know what you think of the statues!

Is there more to Skopje than the statues? Definitely! The Old Bazaar was a fascinating place to explore. Located over the river, this old town was filled with winding alleys, shops, cafes, restaurants and mosques. We both commented that it felt like we had been transported back to Morocco into one of the many medina’s we explored. We definitely recommend you check out the Old Bazaar, try some of the authentic cevapi with the locals (see our recommendation below), and sit with some Turkish tea and people watch!

We were also impressed with some of the vibrant and well designed parks on the fringes of the city. Particularly, the Skopje City Park was our favourite, and was a great place for an afternoon walk. Additionally, the area of Debar Maalo is worth exploring. This tree lined area had some excellent cafes, restaurants, and bars. Located around 1-1.5kms out of the city, we recommend you check it out, particularly as it had one of the best coffee shops we have visited on our trip so far (see below)!

Things to do when you visit Skopje

Check out the statures and fountains: As mentioned previously, there are 100s of statues! You can’t miss them! Particularly the Alexander the Great statue in the main square and the Monument Philip II are worthy of attention. Some travel bloggers talk about the ‘Statue Game’, where you try to count how many statues you see during 24hrs in the city (see here). If you enjoy a little game when you are visiting, give it a go!

Visit the impressive Macedonia Square and stone bridge: Located in the heart of the city, they are impossible to miss. The main square hosts the Alexander the Great statue, and was on of the more ‘grand’ squares we visited. However, unlike some of the popular plazas around Europe, it lacked the ‘soul’ and vibrance you get from people and restaurants spilling onto the pavement.

Visit the Old Bazaar: This will transport you from the medieval statues and into what feels like another country. Enjoy the sights and smells, try some of the authentic food, and shop at the market stalls.

The Skopje Fortress: Sitting atop the hill, you can see the fortress from most parts of the city. This is a 6th century fortress, and offers excellent views of the city below.

Check out the tree lined suburb of Debar Maalo: As mentioned above, it’s worth a visit.

Food & Coffee in Skopje

  • Kosmas: Located in the Old Bazaar, this place serves up excellent cevapi. Sitting with the locals, we felt like the only tourists in the restaurant (something we love)! The food is cheap and authentic, and definitely worth trying!
  • Nadzak: Located in Debar Maalo, this restaurant offered excellently priced food. Sit outside on the flower-lined terrace and order a few of the traditional dishes to try!
  • Teeny Tajhn: In the Debar Maalo area, this cafe served up one of the best coffee’s of the trip! Highly recommend!
  • Turkish Tea in the Old Bazaar: sit on one of the many outdoor tables in the old bazaar and drink some Turkish tea with the locals.

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