City of Skopje

Capital of the Republic of North Macedonia

The capital of the country

Skopje is the capital and largest city of North Macedonia. It is the country’s political, cultural, economic, and academic center.

It is an ethnically diverse city, and its urban sociology primarily depends on ethnic and religious belonging.

The name of the city comes from Scupi, which was the name of early settlement located nearby. The meaning of the name is thought to derive from the Greek ἐπίσκοπος, (lit. “watcher, observer”), referring to its position on a high place, from which the whole valley could be observed.

Skopje is located in the north of the country, in the center of the Balkan peninsula, and halfway between Belgrade and Athens.

The city was built in the Skopje valley, along the course of the Vardar river, which flows into the Aegean Sea.

Skopje has been destroyed many times through out its history, but was always rebuilt.

It still has many historical landmarks which reflect the successive occupations and natural disasters of the city. It was also a ground for modernist experiments of brutalism in the latter 20th century, following the devastating 1963 earthquake.

Skopje is thus an environment where old, new, progressist, reactionary, eastern and western perspectives coexist.

Out of the rubble the city rebuilds

Skopje’s development was hindered and altered by a devastating earthquake that hit the city on 26 July, 1963. 

It caused enormous damage in the city and killed 1,070 people, injuring 3,300 others. More than 16,000 people were buried alive in ruins and 70% of the population lost their home. Many educational facilities, factories and historical buildings were destroyed.

After the earthquake, reconstruction was quick. It had a deep psychological impact on the population because neighborhoods were split and people were relocated to new houses and buildings they were not familiar with.

Reconstruction was finished by 1980, and Skopje’s cityscape was drastically changed. The city became a true example of modernist architecture.

Today, Skopje is a vibrant city with a very diverse cultural scene, hence one could see a large collage of different architectural styles. The mix of the ancient, old and modern, new.

Old railway station that was destroyed in the earthquake - today it's the Museum of Skopje
The city's main post office, example of the modernist brutalist architecture
Panoramic view of the city, towards the Vodno mountain, captured from the city's fortress "Kale"

Main tourist destination to see in Skopje

Skopje Fortress

Skopje’s fortress has stood the test of time, and even though it has been destroyed several times by natural disasters and armies, it is one of the most recognizable symbols of Skopje, standing tall on one of the hills of Skopje in the city’s center.

Stone Bridge

If you stop and think for a minute about how many people from every echelon of society and representing so many diverse cultures have walked over this relatively small bridge connecting Macedonia Square with the Old Bazaar since its original construction over 550 years ago you’ll understand why it’s main symbol of the city.

Mother Teresa Memorial House

Built on the site of the former Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in which she was baptised. The small chapel inside was visited by Pope Francis in May, 2019.

Mustafa Pasha Mosque

Towering above the Old Bazaar and featuring a mighty, 42m minaret, the elegant Mustafa Pasha Mosque was built in 1492, and has somewhat incredibly survived every historical disaster Skopje’s managed to throw at it.

St Clement of Ohrid Cathedral

Just west of the center stands Skopje’s modern Orthodox Cathedral building, also known as the Ministry Temple, with Saint Clement of Ohrid as its patron.

City Park

Originally laid out at the end of the 19th century, this large public space to the north and northwest of the city is an extremely popular place during the warmer months of the year. Good for walking, cycling or picnicking in.

Vodno Mountain

Vodno is one of the mountains towering over Skopje’s valley, to the southwest of the city. The highest point of the mountain is at Krstovar peak, on 1066 meters and the submontane is on 337 meters (Middle Vodno is on 557 m). In 2002, on Krstovar peak the Millennium Cross was built, one of the biggest Christian Crosses in the world.

Matka Canyon

The stunning Matka Canyon is a good reminder of how close the mountains always are in Macedonia. Situated just 15 km southwest of the city, the 5,000ha site features a wide range of things to see and do from enjoying a leisurely lunch on the terrace at the Canyon Matka restaurant to going on a boat tour from the neighboring small harbor.