So you have to decide to travel to Macedonia and now you are looking for FUN things to do in Skopje? You have come to the right place. In this guide, we share up to date activities, tours and things to do in Skopje.
Here you find all the must things to do in Skopje, as well as some quirky, unusual ideas to spend your time.
A few words about this city: Skopje may be the funniest capital in Europe.
Many people call it the “copy-and-paste city“.
It is called “kitschy“, it is called “funky“. It is even named the „Las Vegas of the Balkan“. Besides the interesting city center and the glorious history of Alexander the Great, there are many other things to discover in Skopje.
We at Hostelgeeks traveled here twice, and stayed in very cool hostels, joined fun tours.
We visited one of the oldest restaurants in town and checked out fun activities for you. We will give a small inside view to the cities local „art scene“, and invite you to cheap drinks at a bar with the youngsters of Skopje.
Sounds pretty cool, right?!
In this guide we cover:
- Best Things to do in Skopje
- facts about Skopje
- Is it worth to visit Skopje?
- How cheap is Skopje?
- How to get to Skopje? (Flights, Train, Bus)
- How to get around?
- Guide books and further information
BEST Things to do in Skopje – to have an awesome time
Before we start, please note the country of Macedonia is officially called “Republic of North Macedonia”. Until 2019, the country was called Macedonia. Now it is called North Macedonia. If interested, read more about the name dispute here.
Let’s get this party started with the best and coolest things to do in Skopje. After all, this is why you are here!
1. Alexander The Great aka Warrior on a horse
Pretty obvious, right?! Okay, it may not be as obvious when you have never been here.
The statue of Alexander The Great is the very heart of the city. Whenever you feel lost, just ask for the statue, and you will know where you are again.
It is impossible to miss!
Good to know: The official name of this statue is “Warrior on a horse”. It is NOT called Alexander the Great.
There is a dispute about Alexander the Great and his nationality between Greece and Republic of Macedonia. Anyway, everybody knows who that guy on a horse is…
In the night, there is a small music show with fountains.
This show does not take place every night. We could not find any official schedule, so please ask the official tourism board. (if you come across a schedule, please share it in the comments, that would be wonderful! )
If are a bit of a history nerd like I am, here is a 2 hours documentary about Alexander The Great. It is really interesting. Did you know Alexander The Great was the biggest conqueror of all time and never lost a battle? He conquered everything between Macedonia and India.
2. Admire more statues…
When we talk about Skopje, we talk about statues. Rumor has it, Macedonia spends the same amount of money in statues as in health care.
You will find statues everywhere.
Until the point that it actually gets really odd. There are four huge statues of the mother of Alexander The Great with him as a baby. It seems totally overloaded. Yet, this is what makes Skopje so unique.
You will find many statues along the two major bridges around the main square:
- The Art Bridge
- The Bridge of Civilization in Macedonia
Actually, you will find them everywhere. Keep your head up and you will see even endless statues put on top of buildings.
Someone has an obsession…
3. Free Walking Tour
Highly recommended, and obviously on top of the list of FREE things to do in Skopje.
We joined the walking tour of Skopje Walks. We learned a lot.
It is an easy-going tour with historic facts, fun facts and current developments in the city and country.
The starting point is at Memorial House of Mother Theresa. The walking tour takes you to all major sights in Skopje you have to see and know. Mika, the guide, knows everything about the cities history and current developments.
This is not a boring Wikipedia-tour. A fun tour with free rakia, fun stories, and many other travelers to mingle with. (Yes, I said Free Rakia. Mika takes you to a nice bar in the Old Bazaar for a break. Here you can use the toilet and get a free shot of Rakia)
Please check the official website for the updated meeting point and schedule.
Official Website: Free Walking Tours in Skopje
Remember: these free walking tours are always tip-based. The tour guides live from the tips and are not paid by the city hall. Tip them fairly if you enjoyed the tour.
4. Matka Canyon – by bus or taxi
This is an absolute must!
The Matka Canyon is slightly outside the city center. Dive into a different world of green nature, blue water and mountains. You can go for a hike, long walks, take boat tours to a cave, and even do Kayaking.
I really recommend the kayaking experience when you visit Skopje in Summer.
You can get to Matka Canyon with Public Transport. The bus is very cheap. Also, make sure you come early in the morning at a maximum of 10 am. Afterward, it will be packed.
There are also tours available. You can book your tour directly here.
5. Millennium Cross
The biggest cross in the world is located on top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje, Macedonia! From this cross you have the best view all over the city. You can take a public bus to the cable car and take it up to the cross.
There is also a hiking trail leading all the way up to the cross.
We recommend: bring some snacks and drinks and have a picnic here. It is a precious place to enjoy views. One side you will see the panoramic view over Skopje, on the other one purest nature.
6. Escape Room (for the hot summer and rainy days)
Maybe this is one of the weird weird things to do in Skopje, but definitely one of the alternative activities. Do you know what’s an Escape Room?
You are trapped in a room for 60 minutes and you have to solve riddles and puzzles to escape the room.
There is a couple of cool Escape Rooms in Skopje City we enjoyed. It is only 30€ up to 40€, and you can play with 2-6 players, depending on the theme and room.
It has a good storytelling and the riddles are thoughtful. This is also a great family thing to do in Skopje with kids.
Good to know: Some of the escape rooms have horror themes, and some of them are family-friendly too. Please ask directly at the Escape Rooms which theme would be best for your kids.
Great Escape Rooms in Skopje we recommend:
To give you a better idea of the story behind, here is the plot of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom:
According to the legend, sacred stones were given to Sankara by the Hindu god Shiva. These stones contained the most valuable diamonds inside, which would reveal only if the stones were brought together. Many explorers have tried to discover them, but no one on such a quest has ever returned from the Mount Kalisa. Now it’s your turn and you have something valuable: the notes and the clues that the biggest explorer has left! Can you manage to obtain the stones and break free from Shiva’s holy curse, before you meet the destiny of previous explorers?
7. Take photos of the Colorful Revolution
Update: The colorful revolution is already over. The city hall cleaned all the statues and monuments from the colors. However, on the Bridge of Civilizations of Macedonia, you can still see a few leftovers from the color bombs thrown on the statues.
Read more about the protests 2016 here.
Have you heard of the colorful Revolution in Skopje?
It’s the local protest against the „waste of money“ of the government. The Government recently started to rebuild the total city, investing an incredible amount of public money into new architectural buildings.
You will notice: All buildings and statues are placed somehow randomly over the city
The protestors throw color bombs at the expensive monuments. The main square has handprints on it, other monuments have small messages put on them.
8. Cinema 3D (local & cheap!!)
Wanna travel like a local? Then you need to do what the locals do: go to the movies.
Going to the movies is very cheap here, only around 3€. The „Millenium Kino“ is the absolute vintage cinema in the city center. They show the movies in the original voice with Macedonian subtitles.
The cineplex is the most modern cinema located in the huge city mall. It is around 2.5km from the city center. You can watch movies in 3D here. Put this on your list of things to do in Skopje at night.
The movie is around 3€-4€.
9. Bar with Live Music: Gostilnica La Tana
Looking for fun things to do in Skopje at night? Check out the Basilica La Tana, a great restaurant and bar with live music!
This bar is where many young locals love to go to enjoy the nightlife in Skopje. Come here for a cheap beer, you will like it.
Obviously, this place will be busier during the weekend though, bare this in mind.
10. House of Mother Theresa
Mother Theresa was born in the city of Skopje, and she is the daughter of an Albanian Family. She spent most of her lifetime in India. Ugh, I do not want to take away to much, you will learn about Mother Theresa here.
The original house of her family was destroyed in an earthquake, and today you can visit the new house aka. a monument dedicated to the life and achievements of Mother Theresa.
There is nothing left of the original birth house. However, the city marked the birth house in the city center with a few stones. This is part of the free walking tour we mentioned.
11. Get Lost in the Old Bazaar
The Old Bazaar is one of the oldest districts of the town.
And for us, the most interesting part to get lost. Pack a camera and some hunger, it is an interesting journey through the different cultures of Skopje.
12. Walk up Kale Fortress
The little Kale Fortress is the last place you visit on the free walking tour. It is a fairly small fortress. From here you have a view over the main part of Skopje, including the massive US Embassy, the football stadium and even a view to the Millenial Cross.
The entrance is free. For me, it was nothing spectacular, yet since it is free and has great views, it is a good idea to stop by. I would say in around 15 minutes you have seen everything and you can move.
13. Byzantine church: Church of Saint Panteleimon
Of course, you have to enter one of the churches. My favorite one of the Church of Saint Panteleimon. It is a small 12th-century Byzantine church located in a monastery complex.
Where is this church located?
Well, it is not exactly in the city center. When taking a taxi up to the Millenial Cross, it will drive-pass the church Ask the driver to stop so you can have a look.
14. Mustafa Pasha’s Mosque
From a Byzantine Church into one of the most beautiful Mosques in the Balkan. Mustafa Pasha’s Mosque is an Ottoman-era mosque located in the Old Bazaar of Skopje.
So, finally, a religious building you can enter without the need to taking a cab.
Remember to take off the shoes before entering. And remain respectful.
I entered the mosque with a free walking tour. The guide told us what to do, so I was not worried.
15. Museum of Contemporary Art
I already mentioned the fortress. Situated on the top of the hill in the Skopje central area and nearby the medieval fortress the Museum of Contemporary Art is surrounded by the panoramic view of the city.
You just got another reason to walk up the little hill to the fortress.
On their official website you can check upcoming events and exhibitions.
16. Museum of Illusions
For sure you have heard of the famous Museum of Illusions in New York City or Toronto. Yep, and yet again Skopje has it too.
The smaller Museum of Illusions in Skopje is located in the city center. It is fun for families and friends alike. You can take quite a few fun photos and play around.
The entrance fee is around 4€, but please always check time and prices on the official website here.
17. Toto Restaurant – LOCAL!
This is one of the best places to eat in Skopje. Especially if you wanna mingle with the locals. Toto Restaurant is one of the oldest restaurants in town with cheap prices, and the owner is a super fun guy.
The food is really good (the best food we had here by far), and they have also a terrace to eat outside.
You can order vegetarian dishes too, such as baked potatoes and beans. The Greek salad is also fantastic!
Few Facts about Skopje
How did Skopje gain these nicknames? You remember the nicknames we mentioned above?
- Las Vegas of the Balkans
- Copy-and-paste city
- the most kitschy capital in Europe
Skopje is the capital of Macedonia, and a city with many different facades. Literally.
There are the typical London-styled double Decker buses, architectural buildings looking like in Madrid and Berlin, and even new „pirate boats“ turned into restaurants – like in Rotterdam or Copenhagen.
And last but not least: endless statues like you’d expect more in Rome.
The government started to rebuild the city center, starting in 2010. Since then, the city changed. Important monuments we copied and pasted into the cities look-and-feel.
In Skopje and Macedonia, the currency is denar. Many places like on markets, restaurants, and bars accept euros too. However, we recommend paying in the local currency. It will be cheaper!
Is it worth to visit Skopje?
Let us answer this with a big YES!
Skopje is cheap, Skopje is fun. A curious city with a colorful history. It is a very safe city with many different things too, day tours, trips, and so much culture.
We think it is perfect to visit Skopje for a city break. And when you are traveling the Balkan Area, add Skopje to your Bucket List. It is located in-between Tirane in Albania, Thessaloniki in Greece, Sofia in Bulgaria, Pristina in Kosovo.
Also important to highlight: Skopje is a safe city to travel to! It is also safe for female solo travelers.
Please only be aware that a few individuals started to think they can scam tourists and travelers. This can be overpaying for drinks in a restaurant, paying extra for a few included things in restaurants like bread and such.
And of course, the famous “your hostel is not open anymore”-Scam!
This a worldwide common scam in many tourist destinations.
How does this scam work? You are walking out of the airport, train station or bus station, and first, you see loads of taxi drivers. A black-sheep cab driver would approach you to ask if you need a ride. So far, so good. But once you keep walking, they will keep asking things like “where do you stay”. When telling the name of your place, they will tell you your hostel is closed, full, doesn’t exist – and a bunch of more excuses! The goal is to get you into their taxi and drive you to a hostel/ hotel they know.
Most likely, that “better” hostel or hotel is a cousin, and you overpay a hostel/ hotel you may not even like. Skip that experience, nobody needs this!
During our Free Walking Tour in Skopje, our guide Mika shared more scams and he will take care of you.
How cheap is Skopje?
Skopje is one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. You can stay in hostels for as little as 6€; depending on the season. A meal in a restaurant can be easily 2-3€.
Three bus rides around the city cost 150 Denar. That is around 2.40€.
How to get to Skopje?
Skopje can be reached by bus, train, and flights.
The cheapest airline flying here is Wizzair. Check out their website to find sweet deals. We once took a flight from Barcelona to Skopje for 32€ in two ways. We met a couple of Germany flying from Nuremberg to Skopje for 34€ both ways.
Check out Kiwi.com to compare flights and fly cheap flight connections.
Read: Full review of Kiwi.com – and how to use it properly to save money
The airport of the city is located 17 km (11 miles). You can take a public bus to the city center or a private taxi. When choosing a taxi/ cab, we recommend asking for your accommodation to organize this pick-up for you.
It will be much cheaper than taking spontaneously a random taxi from the Airport. We paid 15€ from the Airport to the city center. However, this was a very cheap deal! The usual rate would be around 20€.
Where to stay in Skopje?
There are lovely (and cheap) Hostels all around the city. We wrote a big guide on the best hostels in Skopje here. We recommend staying around Debar Maalo area.
Here is a quick overview of the coolest hostels to stay:
- NORDIC Hostel – best for couples and solo travelers
- Lounge Hostel – best for couples and solo travelers too
- Shanti Hostel – best for backpackers
How to get around Skopje
Skopje is fairly small.
As said in our section where to stay in Skopje, we recommend staying around Debar Maalo area. Here you are within walking distance to the city center and explore a vibrant city and local life with restaurants and bars. The city park is also right nearby.
The city center is also well connected with the Matka Canyon and the Millenium Cross. You can take a public bus here.
There is also a cable car that takes you up to Vodno mountain to the Millenium Cross.
Unfortunately, we could not find any solid website with updated information on the bus schedules. The staff at the hostels however always had the information on hand and helped us out.
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Hostel Packing List
It is time to see what you should pack in your backpack or suitcase. Make sure you always pick a quality hostel, it totally reduces the things you need to pack. Here is our ultimate hostel packing list. It features 23 items you should really throw in your backpack.The most important things to pack are:
- eye mask
- key chain flashlight
- the right backpack, the Nomatic (our review of Nomatic here) or Lowe Alpine Lightflite 45 Pack
- packing cubes
- generic padlock (fitting all locker types)
- quick-dry travel towel
- universal power adapter
- travel-sized toiletries