Top things to do in Skopje
Since my Nuremberg for Free post turned out to be very popular with my dear readers, I decided to create more content for those that prefer budget-friendly travels. I have already shared my Skopje Destination Review with you, so I thought it would be appropriate to share some spots in the city you can visit for free and have as much of a cheap adventure as possible in Macedonia’s Capital.
Millennium Cross and Mount Vodno
Shining bright over the city, the Millennium Cross on top of Mount Vodno is a popular tourist attraction.
How to get to Millennium Cross?
Three options: hiking (free), by bus (inexpensive), or by car (only during weekdays).
Getting to the Cross takes a several-hour hike from the city’s center (depending on your pace and physical condition), but it’s worth the trouble and completely free.
Before getting to the second option, the third way of getting to the cross is by a car (rental or taxi). Currently, there is a restriction on motor vehicles on Mount Vodno as an action for cleaner air and healthier environment.
The City of Skopje banned traffic for motor vehicles from the parking lot of the Monastery St. Panteleimon onward to the middle of the Mountain Vodno (known as “Sredno Vodno”) on weekends and national holidays.
This leads me to the second choice, using public transportation to reach the Millennium Cross. The City of Skopje has introduced two trial bus lines (25A and 25B) on top of the standard bus lines (25 and 28) to allow people to get to the top of the mountain.
The bus ticket cost is around 0.50 euros. The bus route ends at the middle point of the mountain, and then you can hike or even take a cable car to the top (around 1.60 euros).
The cable car that takes visitors to the Millennium Cross from the middle-point on Mount Vodno, known as “Sredno Vodno,” is closed on Mondays.
The view from the top is marvelous and great for taking stunning photos. Plus, there’s a coffee shop where you can buy snacks, hot and cold beverages etc. Whatever option you choose, I believe it won’t hurt your budget too much.
The Stone Bridge connects the Old Bazaar with the main City Square; more importantly, it is a true historical and architectural treasure that gorgeously shines at night. You can cross it, photograph it or just stand there and watch the (probably dirty) Vardar river running underneath. Naturally, all of these options shall cost you nothing.
The Old Bazaar (“Stara Carshija Skopje”)
A true historical monument and one of Skopje’s most important spots, the Old Bazaar is filled with authentic craft shops and local restaurants popular for their delicious food. What to eat in Skopje? Try the popular “kjebapi” (cylinder pieces of grilled minced meat). “Kjebapi” is highly recommended when it comes to Macedonian BBQ (skara). You can always just wander around the narrow streets of the Old Bazaar and enjoy the atmosphere completely for free.
Skopje Art Bridge
Just a few steps from the Stone Bridge you can check out the brand-new Art Bridge, dedicated to all renowned Macedonian artists of different fields. It offers a nice walk as well as a great spot for taking photos and/or selfies. It features various statutes of prominent people related to the arts in Skopje and Macedonia in general.
Alexander the Great Statue and Triumphal Gate
Part of the infamous or famous (whatever you prefer) Project Skopje 2014, “Warrior on a Horse” statue and the Triumphal Gate are things you can’t miss. The statute, which depicts Alexander the Great, is right in the middle of the main square, while the Triumphal Gate is just a few steps away.
You can take photos and relax on the nearby benches.
There is an entrance fee of 100 or 150 denars (about 2 euros) to go on top of the gate to take some photos.
Mother Teresa Memorial House
Not many people know that Mother Teresa was born in Skopje under the name of Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu; unsurprisingly, this is a big deal for the City and therefore you can find on the main square a bronze plate on the place where her house was as well as visit the Mother Teresa Memorial House that was built in her honor.
Even though the Memorial House is also a museum and very popular among tourists, there’s no admission fee for visitors. If you’re in the spending mood, you can always buy something from the souvenir shop.
Museum of the City of Skopje
This is another great spot visitors can enter for free and I highly recommended. It may chill your bones because there’s an entire section dedicated to the catastrophic 1963 earthquake, but also warm your heart since it features lots of information about all the countries that helped Skopje during the horrible period of ruined buildings and over 1,000 extinguished lives.
Plus, the building itself is a monument, since it’s where the old railway station used to be before the earthquake. Also, you’ll notice on top of the building a clock showing 5:17, which is the exact time when the earthquake struck, and the clock stopped working.
Besides the earthquake section, there are two other areas you can visit as well.
Please be aware, all national museums are closed on Mondays. Some even on Tuesdays.
Anyone in Skopje must take a walk through the charming streets of the Debar Maalo neighborhood and check out the Bohemian Streets. Thesenarrow cobblestone streets filled with restaurants and bars that work till late at night. They are popular among locals, but also among tourists that want to enjoy authentic Macedonian food and atmosphere in a “kafana” (traditional restaurants found in Balkan countries).
Walking around is interesting and charming regardless whether it’s summer and the streets are filled with people and flowers or it’s winter and everything’s decorated with lights. Be warned, however, you will be tempted to enter one of the restaurants and I assure you-you won’t regret it!
City Park Skopje
Nearby the city center and right next to the Vardar River, the City Park is a place where you can escape the busy and loud Skopje streets for a while. You can take a walk by the river or enjoy a picnic by one of the many small lakes in the park.
Often you will be able to find food and coffee trucks, so you can enjoy a cheap snack or refreshment as well. Most locals escape here during the summer for picnics, biking, tennis playing, or simply to walk their pets in the park.
One way or another you will definitely see the Kale Fortress and the building of the Government on your way around the city; the fortress is seen from many parts of the city, especially at night since it’s nicely lit and shines brightly in the sky.
Even though until recently it was closed to visitors due to construction work, it has been finally opened again to those curious what’s behind the stone walls. I cannot say whether visitors need to pay an entrance fee, but it’s free of charge to go up, explore and enjoy marvelous views of the City and the Old Bazaar.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is right above the Fortress (both stairs lead up to it).
There are lots of religious building in Skopje that you can visit for free and whose historical, religious and architectural value is inexplicable. For example, in the city center, you can find the main Orthodox Church St. Clement of Ohrid or the Catholic Cathedral of Skopje. In addition to Christian religious sights, there are many precious mosques as well like the Mustafa Pasha Mosque and the Sultan Murat’s Mosque.
Other options to visit are the Daut Pashin Hamam, the Kapan Han, the Feudal Tower, and the Shifte Hamam. All of them are in the Old Bazaar area, except for the Feudal Tower that is right behind the Mother Teresa Memorial House. I’m not sure whether these have entrance fees, but you can enjoy their architecture from the outside nonetheless.
Bonus – Canyon Matka
Canyon Matka is something that must be mentioned when writing about Skopje. Wandering around the gorgeous canyon is free of charge. On the other hand, to enter cave Vrelo -even though it’s free – you need a kayak or a boat, which can be rented for a small price.
Getting to Canyon Matka may cost you some cash since it’s a bit far away from the city. Nevertheless, the bus ride costs around 0.50 euros per person, while a taxi ride is less than 10 euros. So, I’d say it’s worth it since everyone agrees that Canyon Matka is spectacular!