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I spent 24 hours in Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia, during my vacation in the country. If you have plans to visit the Balkans, chances are you’ll also find yourself in this city at some point on your trip.
I had no idea what to expect when we arrived, and Skopje was even stranger than I could have imagined. Seriously, what’s going on here guys?
The mix of run-down soviet apartment blocks, ultra-ornate government buildings, and memorials and statues strewn haphazardly throughout Skopje is disorienting to say the least. It felt almost Disney-esque, like I was walking through the Epcot version of Skopje instead of the real thing. Honestly, the word strange sums it up perfectly.
That being said, I still really enjoyed my time here. I travel so much that sometimes the joy and wonder of it wear off for me for a bit, but in Skopje that’s not possible. Around every corner was something new and interesting to discover and I felt out of my element again just like I did the first time I left the US.
If you’re passing through Macedonia, definitely schedule the time to spend 24 hours in Skopje. It’s certainly worth exploring, and here’s everything you should do while you’re there!
Check Out the Skopje Free Walking Tour
Countries are supposed to be hundreds of years old, right? With Macedonia, that’s not the case. In fact, we’re almost exactly the same age and our birthdays are less than a month apart in 1991. I think this recent history also contributed to the unique vibe I got from Skopje.
Their story is interesting, but not one I remember learning a lot about in history class. In the Cold War era Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia, and even more recently in 2018 the country agreed to a name change to appease Greece. If it all works out, they will officially be known as the Republic of North Macedonia (Northern Greece is also called Macedonia and they wanted the country to distinguish themselves from Greek history and territory) and they will also drop the lengthy “Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia” from their name.
Basically, there’s a lot going on here but the free Skopje walking tour every day at 10am will help catch you up to speed.
Wander Through the Old Bazaar
Ok, the Old Bazaar is cooler than I expected. Skopje and all of Macedonia found themselves under Ottoman rule for 500 years, so there is a heavy Turkish influence in their architecture and culture. One of the ways that shows itself is in the Old Bazaar. The cobblestone streets take you back in time immediately and it’s fun to sample Turkish delights, stop for a coffee, and browse the colorful dresses and gold jewelry on display.
Cool Down With Lunch and a Smoothie at Squeeze Me
If you’re only in the Balkans for a short time, you might not like my restaurant recommendations for 24 hours in Skopje. After months in the area, I’m less on the hunt for traditional cuisine and more on the hunt for good cuisine, no matter what it may be.
In Skopje, Squeeze Me is one of the best restaurants. They have grilled sandwiches, salads, and tons of fresh juice and smoothie options to cool down if you’re visiting in the summer like I did. Just like most other places in the Balkans, prices are cheap. A smoked salmon panini, berry smoothie, and americano coffee ran me 400 mkd / 7.50 usd.
Drink Coffee on the Riverside
A walk along the riverside is one of the best things to do during your 24 hours in Skopje. The architecture is fascinating and it honestly just feels like buildings, statues, and monuments were dropped out of the sky with no thought at all about how they’d fit together.
Oh, and did I mention the two giant, old fashioned ships docked in the river as well? Idk man. Skopje is a strange place and if you take a walk on the water and grab a coffee on the riverside, you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Visit the Memorial House of Mother Theresa
Did you know Mother Theresa is from Skopje? This little house is a small museum that tells the story of her life and work. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit due to their weekend schedule, but if you have 24 hours in Skopje it’s certainly worth a quick stop!
Grab Tex-Mex for Dinner at Amigos
I’m a simple woman. When I see a tex-mex restaurant, I visit the tex-mex restaurant. I’ve been in the Balkans for months now and was feeling severely deprived of my favorite cuisine, so this was a welcome discovery.
At Amigos we had the chips with nacho cheese, pico de gallo, salsa, and cream cheese (kind of like sour cream I guess?) dips and split a plate of chimichangas as well. Both were better than I expected, and I liked the modern and colorful vibe of the restaurant as well. The patio also has a nice view of this absolutely beautiful new gold and geometric church being built across the street. My only advice is that even through the cocktails were pretty, both the margarita and the mojito were a bit disappointing. If I went back, I’d probably stick to a Corona.
Watch the Sunset at Hotel Arka
When traveling in cities, finding a bar or restaurant with a view is one of my top priorities. To be honest, even though I took a screenshot of the TripAdvisor page and had the address written down, we still ended up missing it! Don’t make my mistake.
Hotel Arka looks has an awesome view of the city from their 7th floor bar and restaurant – plus, it has a pool in the middle of it so I just know great Insta pics can be had by all up here. Grab a drink at sunset, and then comment below to tell me how dumb I am for missing out!
Visit the First Brewery in Skopje
I love trying new beers, and exploring craft beer in Skopje was no different. The industry is still in its infancy, but a stop at the first (and only) brewery in Skopje is a great way to start or end a night in the city. The Old Town Brewery has a beer garden in the Old Bazaar and serves pub food as well. If the night is still young, you can also visit two more bars on my list of the best places to drink craft beer in Skopje.
Have more time to fill? If you’re visiting for more than 24 hours in Skopje or have better weather than the unbearable heat we were stuck with, you can also take the cable car to the Millennium Cross for a panoramic view or go kayaking in Matka Canyon, both of which I would love to do if I ever return to the city.
I’m a bit of a lazy traveler and like to enjoy my time rather than run around and see everything. Of course, there’s more to do and see in 24 hours in Skopje, but I felt like with this list I got a great feel of the city without stretching myself too thin while we explored.
I hope this guide gives you a little taste of what’s in store in Skopje, and you enjoy your time in the capital of Macedonia!