Published on May 24th, 2014 | by Lindsay3
A Budget Traveller’s Guide: Skopje, Macedonia.
Skopje is now within easy reach of the UK thanks to Wizz Air. They do flights from Luton.
If you check Skyscanner, there’s often some cheap Macedonia flights on offer so keep it in mind and when you find a flight and a time that suits, perfect!
There is a good bus from the airport to the city priced at 150MKD one way.
Alternatively, Skopje is within easy reach of Kosovo, Serbia and other Balkan countries and the ideal jumping point to or from any neighbouring countries if you have a little extra time. Be careful with Greece though, as relations can sometimes be a little frosty, although you shouldn’t have too much trouble crossing borders.
If you want to travel within the city, you can easily walk everywhere, but as for transport, buses and taxis are your only real option. We took one bus in Skopje to take us up to the Millennium Cross. We were shown which bus to catch by a local and quickly hopped on before it drove off. You walk onto the bus a little way behind the driver and he just carries on driving and doesn’t stop to ask for money or if you have a ticket! We found this really baffling and we didn’t want to look like complete losers so hovered next to the ticket puncher machine whilst we counted our money. At the next stop, a young couple got on. They went straight up and paid the driver! Luckily they spoke English and said we can just go up to the driver to get our ticket. You then have to punch it to validate it – don’t forget this bit!
Most good hostels and hotels can provide you with a free map of the city which is great to get your bearings. There are also plenty of permanent city maps around the centre of Skopje which have all of the major attractions marked on them.
Before we booked our flight to Skopje, we knew very little about Macedonian food and drink. We suspected there would be some Greek and Turkish influence – and there definitely is! Yay! It’s hard to find a meal without a combination of bread, meat and/or cheese. A personal favourite that skimps on the bread but instead replaces it with flaky pastry is burek. A greasy pastry filled with meat, cheese or spinach. Burek isn’t something I’d normally eat in England but being as cold as we were in December in Skopje it proved a welcome lunch. You can often pick up burek quite cheaply too. We had our first burek at a small place behind the Holocaust Memorial Centre and it cost about 45 Denar – a grand total of…60p!
This café was also the place Ashley discovered his new found love for Turkish coffee -something he’s kept up since returning home!
We also tried the national dish of Tavče-Gravče on our last night. It was delicious! Beans baked in a ceramic dish with a peppered sauce. Poops all over Heinz!
If you are in need of a meat fix though, there’s a place close to the entrance to the Old Town selling roast chicken for 200 Denar (2.60GBP) per bird!
The breakfast in our hostel was really good by hostel breakfast standards – as in there was more than bread! And if you did fancy bread, there was a bucket (yes, a bucket) of chocolatey-hazelnuty-creamy spread. Yum. We discovered how good this stuff is when the tour guide at the museum offered to give us a free tour of the supermarket. The museum was closed for renovations and he was clearly pretty bored, which turned out to be a plus point for us. He introduced us to the half aisle dedicated to the chocolatey-hazelnuty-creamy spread in buckets. It turns out Eurocrem is the chocolatey-hazelnuty-creamy spread of choice. Travelling with hand luggage only, unfortunately we couldn’t take any home to try. Nor could we buy some and eat it before leaving. Seriously, they’re big buckets.
Our museum guide free tour man also introduced us to boza. I’ll try and describe it but I guarantee it will sound disgusting. Yeast, cornflour, water and a little sugar. Written down it doesn’t sell itself, but if you’re in Macedonia, or other countries in the region I believe, head to a bakery and ask for a glass of boza. You won’t regret it!
Skopje may not be high on the list of European cities with famous attractions, but they’re really trying to make a dent and climb their way up. A controversial project ‘Skopje 2014‘ was in the final stages during our trip in December 2013, which meant lots of impressive building and statues – still glimmering white. It also meant lots of building work still in progress.
Aside from the statues, there are some sights that are perhaps a little more traditional. For example, the City of Skopje Museum housed in the old Railway Station struck by an earthquake in 1963, which left the hands on the clock above the entrance frozen in time. Unfortunately this was closed on our visit but the guide happily showed us some foods in a local supermarket and led us to the bus we needed to take to head on up to the Millennium Cross.
The Millennium Cross! Another worthy mention. Visible across the city, the Millennium Cross overlooks Skopje like a proud parent. After taking the bus half way up the hill (we were told it would be a 2-3 hour walk. It was cold. We didn’t walk.), you then wait in line to board a cable car, which leave every 30 minutes and cost 100 Denar. The views on the way up and from the top were spectacular! The cloudy mountains went some way to explaining why we were stranded in Skopje on our final day.
The fortress by the Turkish Old Town also provides great vistas across the city (albeit from a much lower height!).
The Memorial House of Mother Teressa is also a must see, although it is very small. It’s free and provides a glimpse into her past. Plus, her Nobel Prize is there!
Undoubtedly though, the highlight of Skopje is the hilly maze that is the Old Town. Kebab shops cozy up next to elaborate wedding dresses and gold traders next door whilst stray cats huddle together as they wait for scraps, and traders set up make-shift stalls close to the Stone Bridge. In winter it was quite quiet, but you get the impression that summer would be intense here.
Check out our video of the trip below: