Skopje is a great introduction to Macedonia. The city is steeped in history, and it’s not far to some of the world’s best scenery, including the mountain ranges that Macedonia is known for.
Start in Macedonia Square, the main gathering place and close to a busy shopping district. Here, you’ll find a cluster of dominating statues, including Warrior on a Horse, widely understood to be Alexander the Great. It’s a not-so-subtle wink at the country’s dispute with Greece over which country can use the name “Macedonia.”
About 10 minutes away, you’ll find the Stone Bridge, a Skopje icon that crosses the Vardar River and dates to the mid-15th century. At night, water fountains kick up.
Browse the Byzantine-era buildings of the Old Bazaar. Stop in a cafe for some Turkish coffee and croissant-shaped jam-topped kifla.
Take a cable car up Vodno Hill to stand underneath the Millennium Cross, a modernist 66-meter-tall steel cross. You can also enjoy a great view of the city.
For a daytrip, take a short bus ride to Lake Matka, a beautiful emerald-green artificial lake in a canyon where you can lose track of time.
The lake area offers many outdoor activities. Take a small boat or kayak to explore some of the many caves on the lake’s edge. Climb down the most popular one, Vrelo Cave, to see its fascinating bulb-shaped stalactites.
Finally, visit the many monasteries in the canyon. St. Andrew’s Monastery is right at water level and easily reached by boat. Or climb up to St. Nicholas Monastery, high above the lake. (T)