Do you have one day in Skopje and you don’t know what to do? You’re in the right place! In this blog, you will find out how to spend a perfect one day in the capital of North Macedonia. And make the most of your trip to this underrated city in Europe.
Why North Macedonia? I have my weakness in less popular places, and southeastern Europe is the one I’m aiming for. Skopje is an example, often skipped by some travelers because they thought there was nothing to see. Some will find it an ugly city, just the same with Serbia and Albania.
It’s a shame they flew over there and directly move on to another place without exploring the capital city. Some of the Balkan countries are not known as destinations in Europe, but these are the kind of places where I love to delve into. To give you an idea of how it is in a neighboring country. Read my blog on Serbia and find out what to do.
Flight to Skopje
There are daily flights to Skopje from anywhere in Europe. If you are a fan of a budget airline Wizz Air they have frequent flights. The truth is, I stay away from low-cost airlines because they don’t give me benefits. What did I mean? You pay for check-in at the airport, expensive luggage charges, and not only that, often delayed.
For this trip, I flew with Austrian Airlines. They are not an economical airline, but I get to Skopje on time and no hassle with delays and all the additional charges at the airport. Your airline ticket may be expensive, but that compensates for the cost of living in North Macedonia. This is the most inexpensive country in Southeastern Europe even cheaper than Serbia and Albania.
Do you need a tourist visa to enter North Macedonia?
Many nationalities can enter North Macedonia visa-free for up to 90 days. For those who weren’t sure about the tourist visa, check the government website HERE. Just in case, bring copy of your return plane ticket and a hotel booking. In my case, they didn’t ask for it, and I traveled with just my ID.
Be aware of ATMs surcharges in North Macedonia.
They were the most expensive ATM surcharges I ever had, costing 7.00 euros for each withdrawal with credit cards. I suggest bringing some cash and exchanging it in North Macedonian Denar (MKD). Credit cards were good for paying bills in hotels and restaurants without additional costs. You can also pay in euros, but smaller shops and buses only take in Denar.
How to get from the airport to Skopje City
There were two choices: taxis or buses. If you arrive in Skopje during the day, the bus will be your best bet. It will cost you only 3.20 euros, but be aware, they have an insufficient schedule. Check the timetable HERE to have an idea of when they are arriving at the airport. It can be frustrating if you waited for a long time.
However, arriving at night you have to consider taking a taxi for safety reasons. Taxis at the airport are expensive, reckon for 20-25 euros. I got it cheaper by settling down my ride weeks before my trip through Booking.com which cost me just 18 euros. If you plan to drive, read my post about driving in North Macedonia.
Where to stay in Skopje?
Even though Skopje is not very popular, they have tremendous hotels from five stars to budget rooms. And which area to stay in the city? The best neighborhood will be the Old Bazaar and around the city square, especially for first-time visitors. I stayed at HOTEL DE KOKA – I paid 34 euros per night at the time of booking including breakfast, which was not too expensive for a three-star hotel.
This is a beautiful hotel in the center of Skopje with a large room and amenities. You can go in two directions once you step out the front door: the new town or the old bazaar. Also, they are open 24 hours an ideal if you have a late-night arrival in Skopje. Also good know that they have an airport transfer but it costs 25 euros.
How safe is Skopje?
I’m self-assured about this trip since everyone says Skopje is safe. As a single traveler, I haven’t experienced such aggravation not in a long time, whilst not in Europe. I don’t want to scare you off, but based on my experience Skopje isn’t very safe.
While wandering in the daytime, taking some photos under the Stone Bridge, I was pestered by two men. Solo female travelers watched out for this area. At night it is safer to go out if there’s someone with you I wouldn’t dare to walk alone. Never felt uncomfortable during my trip to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon. I walk at night without any problems.
Skopje is not a big city you will able to see the tourist attractions in one day. I suggest downloading the offline app Maps. me to your phone because Google Maps is not working without using mobile data. Speaking of roaming, check with your phone provider because North Macedonia is not under the EU roaming. Using your mobile data can be costly. It happened to me once during my trip to Monaco, I was using Google Maps for walking I came home with a jolt in my phone bill.
As you can see below, the things I have done in one day. You will notice my outset is the old bazaar I stayed close by, so it was convenient. Anyway, wherever you start, you will see the tourist attractions in one day that are easy to scope by walking.
Stroll to the Old Bazaar
Morning is the ideal time to wander if you like to avoid the crowd, but it doesn’t matter what time of the day. I’m certain you will come here more than once because this is the place where you find restaurants. In spite is a shopping area if you’re not interested in buying anything.
Just walking through narrow streets is a great enjoyment during your one-day in Skopje. The old bazaar is one of the most atmospheric and authentic parts of the city, reflecting something of the local population. You will notice the Turkish influences where you discover everything from souvenir shops to boutiques with fake luxury stuff.
Visit Mustafa Pasha’s Mosque
Just a short walk from the old bazaar is the towering Mustafa Pasha mosque, which dominates the surrounding areas. It sits on a higher level where you have a great view of the old bazaar.
The mosque is a simple yet attractive building surrounded by a beautiful garden—the most important religious monument in North Macedonia from the time of the Ottoman Empire. This is still in use and open to the public, the interior is very appealing for the most part the ceiling. Appreciate the rules and wear proper clothing when visiting the mosque.
Get a city view from Fortress Kale
Owing to its higher position, the fortress dominates the entire city and is not to be missed during your trip to Skopje. You maybe heard some critical reviews from other travelers, no denying the fortress in North Macedonia is not comparable to other citadels in Europe.
I’ve been to the fort in Ohrid and is just the same poorly maintained. But you can walk along the walls as far as possible, which gives a different angle on the city and mountain views. During my visit, there was a reconstruction, some parts of the walls not even accessible. The good thing here, this is a free site, contrary to Ohrid. Just to remind you, it is a walking incline from the city center, but easier compared to the one in Ohrid.
Skopje main square
Skopje’s main square is the heart of the city, a very modern one embedded with a huge fountain, and the first thing you see from afar is the imposing statue of Alexander the Great. This is also a place for architectural collections.
Since the earthquake in 1963, the city had to rebuild completely. Different from many European capitals you hardly find old buildings in Skopje. And you may see similar buildings from elsewhere replicated.
In addition, it is not just a distinctive feature, Skopje is one of the cities with the most statues…. allegedly too many figures that some can derive in every which corner you go.
The Stone Bridge
You cannot avoid the stone bridge if you are visiting sights in Skopje. The famous pedestrian bridge connects the old town with the new part of the city. This is one of the few authentic bridges in Skopje with a lot of history. It offers a nice view of the city as well as picture-taking opportunities on both sides of the bridge.
Anyway, before you cross the stone bridge, there’s another way to enjoy the city during your walk it is worth seeking out and being granted by important features. On the path along the river that goes under the bridge, but be vigilant because someone may have an eye on you. This is the place, where I have been harassed and followed while taking pictures. I do not recommend going down the bridge at night.
Arc d’triomphe Macedonia
You probably won’t expect to see this in Skopje. The resemblance to the one in Paris, that’s where the name came from Arc de Triomphe in North Macedonia. Part of the project in 2014, together with other monuments in the city.
Though is a smaller version the gate dominates the area a nice piece of art and worth having a quick glance. But this serves nothing more than an entranceway between hotels and the pedestrian shopping street. The gate is dedicated to 20 years of Macedonian independence and is more important as a symbol for the population than a good sight for tourists.
Park Woman Warrior
If you are looking for a residual place after a long walk, the Woman Warrior Park is ideally the place to get away from the crowd. This is a shady patch in Skopje with benches and not very far from the main square precisely next to Macedonia Gate.
Although it doesn’t conform with the name, I really can’t see a connection to Woman Warrior Park. But still, it makes a great spot to have a break because this is not just an ordinary park. If you didn’t see enough statues in the city center, you can fill in here…there are too many monuments for such a small park.
The Memorial House of Mother Teresa
Pretty much everyone knows Mother Teresa, and it’s fascinating to see about her memorial home and the location of her actual birthplace. This is centrally located, a short walk from the stone bridge. I enjoyed checking out this place, and free of charge. The opening time is from Monday – Friday 09:00 – 20:00 Saturday – Sunday 09:00 – 14:00.
This is fairly a modern well-maintained memorial house. The original building has been converted into a tourist museum with a large statue of Mother Teresa in front of it. Inside the museum, you will see a presentation about her life in a series of portraits, photographs, and letters, and some important things that she has done successfully. A restful and really interesting place to visit.
Visit the 7th floor of Hotel Arka for an aerial view
Many travelers may not know this, but I stumbled upon a blog that mentioned going up to the seventh floor of Hotel Arka, which is located in the old town. You will enter at the main door like a hotel guest and walk through the reception hall. The staff here were friendly, just smile at them, or say you’re going to the top. Everyone is welcome at the bar.
In addition, the prices here are totally not expensive, they don’t take advantage of having the best views in the city. I had two drinks and only paid 4.00 euros. There are a few rising buildings in the area, but Hotel Arka has one of the best panoramas in Skopje especially the old bazaar.
Matka Canyon (optional)
I put these sites as optional because it is not feasible if you have just one day in Skopje; you need at least a half day in Matka Canyon. I have one day extra for Ohrid combined with Matka Canyon. And for this trip, I rent a car. Most travelers will spend a day hiking and go for a short boat ride, which I hadn’t done. For me, it was just a short stop. If you are planning to visit Ohrid, have a read this post.
Before I decided to rent a car, I searched how to get there, and it is pretty easy by bus. It takes 30 minutes to get to Matka Canyon and there are frequent buses from Skopje. Also, you can take a taxi, for 15€ one way, but the bus is very cheap it only costs 120 MKD (2€) for a ticket. Another possibility is to book an excursion. Find the available tour for Matka Canyon HERE.