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North Macedonia

Great place to visit Macedonian and Greek history, without the crowds of tourists. After all, this is the home of Alexander the Great.

If you are visiting SE Europe, this sits in the middle of it all. Nestled between Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Albania.  

During my visit, I kept to the capitol, but on my next visit, I definitely want to visit some of the 4 national parks. Especially the newest, Sar Mountains, just an hour north of Skopje.  And, I should probably visit Lake Ohrid in the south of the country, as I heard from many people it is quite beautiful.  Visiting both shouldn't be a problem, as  the country is only a 2-3 hour drive from north to south. so, I could even stop into Mavrovo National Park along the way.


The Bridge of Civilizations

Great lead to the Archeological Museum

Skopje Fortress

Various fortresses have been built on this site site the 6th century.  The latest was destroyed by an earthquake in 1963, and restoration happened in 2006 and 2007.  However, it seems clear that neglect is taking over again.  Hopefully, more tourists in the future will provide the impetus for more restoration



City of just over 500,000 and the Capital of North Macedonia. The history is deep here, starting 7000 years ago with Neolithic farmers.  The city started a documented history as the Illyrian city named Scupi and later became part of The Roman Empire in the 5th century. 

Having been destroyed in the earthquake of 518, and rebuilt; the city grew for centuries until the Serbian rule started in 1189 and the Ottoman rule in 1392.

Again being destroyed, this time by the Austrians in 1689 to stop a cholera epidemic, the city declined until the 19th century rail lines revived its fortunes. In 1963, another devasting earthquake hit, leveling 80% of the city.    

WW1, Serbian rule, and Yugoslavian rule dominated the 20th century, finally leading to its current independence in 1991.

Today, you will find the old city on the north side of the river, leading up to the fortress dominating the landscape. On the south side of the river is an ever modernizing economy bustling with construction. At this point, North Macedonia is the third smallest economy in Europe, only ahead of its neighbors, Montenegro, and Kosovo.

Skopje Fortress

Getting to Skopje

I took the bus from Pristina, and it was an easy 2 hour ride.  Like most busses in the Balkans, they will say they have services like WIFI and restrooms, but they really don’t.  Be prepared. The Pristina bus station also is supposed to have WIFI. It didn’t.  At least the station had a restroom, and it was only 50 cents.

Crossing the border from Kosovo to North Macedonia was simple.  They handed out a clipboard on the way, you fill in your name and passport number. On the Kosovo side, an official boards the bus, collects passports and the clipboard, and leaves.  10 minutes later, he returns with all the passports.

Then, we drive forward to the North Macedonia side, and we disembark and queue up at the immigration booth.  Get your stamp, walk forward 30 meters across the border and wait for the bus to come through and pick you back up.  This was also about 10 minutes for all of us.  

Luggage Storage is located in the central bus station.  You can go to window #2 inside the station, and they will take your bag and payment.  It was only 50 Denar as of September 2022.  They didn’t ask me how long I needed.

There are also buses that go to Skopje from Thessaloniki Greece (4 hours) and Tirana Albania (7 hours),  Even from Zagreb, Croatia (12 hours). It seems that Flixbus goes everywhere!

You can also fly into and out of Skopje, and I did on the way out as I was headed to France for a month. Transport form the airport is spotty, so a taxi may be in order. 

Getting around Skopje

You can buy local bus tickets at the central bus station.  It took me some searching, and a taxi driver even told me that tickets were not available there (anything to get a fare, I guess). But, in the area with all of the departure spaces, there is a decommissioned yellow bus.  Local metro tickets are sold inside of it.  You will need to buy a card, and have it loaded.  I paid 400 Denar (about $7 US) for my card with 10 trips loaded.  When boarding a bus, just swipe your card on the reader.  Easy!

Taking taxis will be an adventure. Be prepared to negotiate.  I used the bus for everything local, but to get to the airport when I left, the bus only leaves for the airport every 2 or 3 hours, so a taxi was needed.  I haggled the price from 1500 down to 1200 Denar.  But, soon into the trip, the price reverted back to 1500.  Luckily, I held my own and the price held. Don’t expect taxi meters here. Or even a car that would pass inspection in most countries. I was sure my taxi didn’t have any suspension, and barely any steering. But, that didn’t stop my driver from driving 140 KPH to the airport (while texting).  That was a bit of a nervous ride.  At least the seatbelts worked! 

As there are no ride hailing apps in Skopje, you are reliant on either buses or taxis.  And, as a tourist that speaks none of the language, I am ripe for picking for a taxi driver scammer. I stick with buses as much as possible.  

Luckily, central Skopje is only a couple of kilometers across so walking is very possible once you are in the center. 

Personally, I stayed outside the center in an Airbnb, so I just had to get the bus from where i stayed to the center, and the taxi to the airport was the only cab I took during the entire visit.

Top places to visit in Skopje

One of the great things about visiting Skopje is the great prices to visit the best attractions. With an exchange rate of about 56 to the dollar, or 61 to the euro, museum prices range from 1 to 5 euros.


Old Stone Bridge

Built in the 15th century by the Turks, the bridge spans the Vardar river for 214 meters (700 feet). It is the symbol of Skopje and is incorporated into the city coat of arms and the city flag.  Today, it connects the old city, and the newer city.

Skopje Fortress

This is free and open to the public.  It looks like, years ago, they had facilities here, but they are long since overgrown.  So, you will simply walk along the walls and get a view of the city. It is still impressive and worth a visit.

The fortress was first built in the 6th century, largely using materials from the city ruined by the earthquake in 518.

Off and on excavations have occurred over the last 2 decades, but still not much is known about the history of the fortress. Though the discoveries that have been made are impressive. From items back to 3000 BCE, along with Byzantian coins, and the foundation of a 13th century church. When I walk around it, I wonder what other treasures lie hidden here!

Museum of the Macedonian Struggle – 300 Denar

Probably the best museum in Macedonia.  It covers the late 19th and early 20th century struggles for independence from the Ottoman Empire. As of the fall of 2022, they are also working on an exhibit covering WW1.  Tours are available, and recommended.  There are highlights in English, but you will get so much more out of it if you take a tour.

Contemporary Art Museum – 60 Denar

Here, you will find 1 room, with about 20 pieces. The price reflects the small size of the museum. But, as the pieces are rotated and the price is about 1 euro, I would definitely visit again. Located just behind the fortress, it is very easy to get to. 

National Art Gallery – 100 Denar

Built in an 15th century Turkish bathhouse that was heavily damaged in the 1963 earthquake. After rebuilding, the site was designated to the art museum in 2000. 

Even before the earthquake, the site had stopped being used as a bathhouse in the 1910's and served as a warehouse for decades. 

Today, it is a museum with many rooms of varied art to visit. and, at less than 2 euro, well worth it!

Archeological Museum – 150 Denar

Fairly small but nice, and highlights Paleolithic periods, and the Ottoman period.

Located on the river, at the end of the statue lined Bridge of Civilizations, it is an impressive building. However, the museum part takes up just a small part of the large building.

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