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Skopje - Capital of the Republic of Macedonia

Skopje, a great city of the Balkan with a very long and fascinating history, just about 20 km south from the border to Serbia.The name Skopje is known since ancient times as Skupi, a name first given by the Greeks. The ancient former Skupi is located about 5 kilometres to the northwest of today´s Skopje.

Welcome to Skopje

Welcome to Skopje, capital of the Republic of Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), a great city of the Balkan, with a very long and fascinating history just about twenty kilometres south from the border to Serbia. The name Skopje is known since ancient times as Skupi a name first given by the Greeks. The ancient former Skupi is located about 5 kilometres to the northwest of today’s Skopje. Today Skopje is beautifully located in the middle of an ancient trade route connecting Western Europe with not only the Balkans but the Near East as well. The outstanding surroundings and the fertile soil have for many centuries attracted travellers and settlers. As a consequence, there are many different kinds of historical sites around this relatively small and picturesque city with its friendly and welcoming citizens.

The city has not yet been overexploit by tourists so is still a treasure to discover for those taking their time.

After the Second World War Skopje began to grow and developed rapidly but at 5.17 am. July 26 1963 a catastrophic earthquake hit the sleeping town and more than 1 000 people lost their lives and nearly 80 % of the town was destroyed. The city was however rebuilt by aid from all over the world and is today a very interesting city containing lovely surroundings and places that just have to be seen.

City facts

Mayor: Mr Trifun Kostovski (2005-)

Province: Skopje National District

Population: 668 518 inhabitants (2006 census)

Urban Population: 510 000

Total municipal area: 1 818 km2

Where: 42°0'N 21°26'E
 
Climate: temperate continental. Short, chilly winters, with ocassionally temperature drops below zero Celsius, and long, hot and sunny summers with temperatures reaching 25-30 degrees C. Rains occur mostly in spring and in autumn - winter. 

Time: GMT+1 Daylight Saving Time GMT+2

Currency: Denar (MKD;  100 MKD = ca 1,6 €, or 2,2 USD
 
Phone Area Code: +389-91-
  
Airport: Skopje Airport - Petrovec (SKP) about 19 km from the city centre

Main Railway Station: Skopje Railway Station

Districts: Skopje are divided into ten administrative divisions as follows Center, Gazi Baba, Aerodrom, Chair, Kisela Voda, Butel, Shuto Orizari, Karposh, Gorche Petrov and Saraj

Climate: the summer and autumns are warm and dry, the winter are fairly cold with heavy snowfall.


Tourism
Tourism in Skopje is very fascinating because of its many sites and the many friendly people living here. The city who is rebuild after the disaster of the earthquake in 1963 has perhaps not reach up to its former beauty and reputation but is still worthwhile to visit. In the summer time and springtime when the weather here is at its best strolling around or sitting on an outdoors café watching people and the busy street life is just adorable. Skopje is still to be discovered in many areas, which makes it somehow unique. The historical spots and buildings in and around the city make it very interesting in many ways. Here you can spend lots of time still discovering new sights.
Tourist information Centre at the Old Bazaar
Opening hours 08.00 – 19.00, Saturday 09.00 – 17.00
Phone: + 389 2 3116 854

Hotels
Skopje has more than 40 good hotels and several other accommodations waiting for you. The service is always on top, wherever you stay. More moderate quarters are of course at hand as well as minor cosy ones. The surroundings in Skopje make a visit here very fascinating and exiting, and there’s almost at all times a sight or a historical place to visit nearby the accommodations.

You can book your hotel room here on Skopje.com with confidentiality.

Attractions
Skopje is a very old settlement and has been ruled by many leaders through time. This has set its mark on the architecture and the city as a whole. There are many lovely unique sights and places in and around Skopje that has to be discovered and visited. The mix and influence of different cultures and believes has enriched this city which is excellent for holidaymakers of course. Discover this unique Balkan pearl that has a lot of heart and charm. One of the newest attractions is the Millennium Cross, finished in 2002, on the peak of the mountain Vodno. This 66-meters high cross is the biggest cross of the world and was constructed by the Macedonian Orthodox Church to mark 2000 years of Christianity in Macedonia.

  • Skopje Fortress "Kale"
    Looking down at Skopje and built by the Turks with stones from Skupi, the Kale fortress provides a magnificent impression from its heights. This the highest point in Skopje with its stone walls, some of them 121 meters long contains remnants from early settlements some 6 000 years ago. High places offer good protection and so did Kale too. The fortress has consequently been a crucial point to the defenders and attackers over time in history, the fortress has therefore been destroyed and rebuild many times. Today this astonishing fortress is a rare treasure for the inhabitants of Skopje and the many tourists visiting this ancient settlement. Here at the perhaps best sightseeing spot over Skopje you will also find outdoor theatrical performances in summer.
  • The Old Town - Stara Charsija
    On the eastern bank of the River Vardar just opposite the modern city
    Centre is the old town, the unique Stara Charsija dating back to the 12th century. Here in the winding cobble stoned streets and narrow archways you find traditional craftsmanship-shops among souvenir shops and other small picturesque boutiques. Here are also very old mosques and Turkish baths. Today it’s still the commercial hub of Skopje and one of the most fascinating and enlightening old towns ever to be found in Europe today. The mix of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture makes it unique in its kind. Here are several Islamic fabulous buildings from the 15th century including a mosque with an outstanding marble interior that makes it to be one of Skopje’s most important monuments to the Turkish Islamic tradition. But of course due to Skopje’s tradition, there are also Christian churches dating back to the 18th century.
    If this magnificent old town hasn’t take your breath away there’s still more to explore, at the end of Stara Charsija you will find the The Old Bazaar, a covered market containing everything from the very bric-a-brac to food and drinks. Here is the place you also can find exchange offices, pastry shops and lots of tea rooms to sit in and drink tea.
     
  • Daut Pasha Amam (Turkish bath)
    What used to be a building for leisure of body and mind is still a building for leisure of body and mind but nowadays it is set in another way. The former Turkish baths build by Daut Pasha in the second half of the 15th century is today residence to The Macedonian National Gallery. This historic monument of Islamic profane architecture was originally separated into sections for men and women and has an area of about 900m2. Today these outstanding 900m2 of space is operating as an art gallery. The gallery contains Macedonian icons from the 14th century as well as icons from the 19th century; you will also find Macedonian drawings, pictures and other fine artworks in this astonishing museum and quite unique historical building. This is a must to see when in Skopje.
  • The Stone Bridge
    The most prominent landmark of Skopje is the 214 m long Stone Bridge across the Vardar River. Built in the 6th century by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, and constructed in the 15th century, the bridge connects the old and the new parts of the city, the Old Town with the Bazaar and Macedonia Square in the new. Although the guard tower on the highest point of the bridge has been damaged on several occasions it has now been restored.
  • Museum of Skopje
    At 5:17 a.m. in1963 a severe earthquake hits Skopje. The clock above the main entrance at the railway station stopped and is still at a halt. This once one of the most beautiful railway stations in the Balkans was partly destroyed. Today the remains of the railway station are home to the Museum of Skopje. The museum displays an exhibition that covers Skopje’s history from pre-historic times until today. It’s a very interesting and fascinating museum.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art 
    As all major cities Skopje has of course a museum of contemporary art. This gorgeous museum was build after the great earthquake in 1963 and contain art of world famous artists, among then Hartung, Picasso, Kemenia, Baya and of course artists from Macedonia and the former republics from Yugoslavia. The museum is considered as one of the most prominent not only in Skopje and Balkan but in the Southeast of Europe; don’t miss it when you’re here.
  • Museum of Mother Theresa
    A person and great humanitarian that has meant a lot to so many people and to the world is Agnes Gondza Bojadziu (Albanian: Gonxha Bojaxhi) born in Skopje (Macedonia was then under Ottoman Empire) in August 27, 1910 in a family of Albanian descent. For the world she is better known as Mother Theresa. Skopje has of course honoured her with a monument and a museum.
    This remarkable museum is housed in the Feudal Tower originating from the 17th century, the same building where she used to play as a child. Here you find objects from Mother Theresa’s life when she lived in Skopje and relics from her later life. A monument of mother Theresa is to be found at Macedonia Street 6, near the spot where she was baptised  in the Jesus Church, which was destroyed in the terrible earthquake in 1963. The 300 kilo heavy monument stands on a granite post and is made by the Macedonian artist Tome Serafimov.
    Another remembrance of mother Theresa is the Memorial plaque where Mother Theresa’s home stood. The plaque was dedicated in March 1998.
  • Mustafa Pasha Mosque
    stands on elevated terrain above the old bazaar and is one of the most beautiful Islamic buildings in Macedonia. It was built in the end of 15th century by vesir Mustafa Pasha and very few changes had been made to it since then. It is ornately decorated and has  beautiful surrounding garden.
Shopping
Skopje has several shopping centres (GTC is the biggest one, and Ramstore Mall is very American in its style), and lots of shops containing all kind of commodities you’re longing for. If you’re going for international brands, you will find them here among the local brands from nearby. There are local craftsmanship and nice Macedonian filigree too. If you are out shopping food it will best be done in the bazaars and in the small local stores; if you are heading for vegetables you will find it best in the open-air markets places. Shopping in Skopje is fun and amusing since there are so many things to be watched here and some of them are very different from that of other cities.

Food and drink
One of the most remarkable things when you’re in Macedonia is the variety of food and beverages. The Macedonian landscape and climate promotes a rich mixture of all kind of food and culinary delights. Here is the very heartland of agriculture of the Balkans. Macedonia is in particular well known for its delicious cheeses: the soft white Sirenje, a cheese very similar to the perhaps more famous Greek feta, and the Kashkaval  - a yellow cheese similar to Locatello Romano, an Italian cheese, but like elsewhere the local variety depends on the soil, the love, and the concern the village takes when producing these cheese.

The geographical location of Macedonia and the long periods of foreign sovereign have influenced the Macedonian kitchen; it combines Balkan and Mediterranean tastes with that of Turkish into a very tasty and special mix. The results are among others: special dishes like the famous Taratur (sour yogurt with bits of cucumber) and Pindzur (cream salad with peppers and eggplant). Burek in Macedonian is eaten as fast-food with yoghurt and is sold in bakeries. It is round of pastry stuffed with meat, cheese or spinach.  Please, don’t forget to taste Baklava - a highly admired rich, sweet pastry found in most of the cuisines of the Middle East.

And when enjoying good dishes in Macedonia, one mustn’t forget that Macedonian wine is something really good. The climate and the soil produces very good wine of high quality such as Vranec, typical Cabernet Sauvignon, and a rich Merlot comparable to any Italian, French or Spanish wines.

Evening and night
A night out here is a real Balkan night, bringing to you all you possibly can wish. There are discothčques and bars of high class and friendly prices. Almost all kind of music can be found here. The nightlife is pulsating and here’s a spot for everyone and every ages, it’s really all up to you. Although we are in Balkan, popular DJ’s from Western Europe play in the discothčques and they love it here because the audience appreciate so much the good music and is so energetic.
The best way to pay is by cash because the credit card system is still improving, even though it works.

Festivals
Skopje has some really nice and interesting festivals around the year and a lot of them are very cultural and some come with a perhaps easier approach. Nevertheless it’s here in these remarkable surroundings among the gentle and friendly people of Macedonia you find the real authentic atmosphere.
  • Skopje Summer Festival                         
    Skopje summer festival takes place on thirty different places and scenes. From July 21 to July 31 there are performances on open stages placed all around Skopje. Exhibitions, drama, ballet, music concerts and much, much more from both domestic as well as foreign artists are to be seen. This fabulous expanding festival is taken place at the Quay of the River Vardar, at the old Fortress Kale and in art galleries, and of course in the beautiful parks surrounding Skopje. 
  • Skopje Jazz Festival
    Considered as one of the best of its kind the Skopje, Jazz Festival in October attracts lots of eminent jazz musicians from all over the world.
    This festival has been a tradition for many yeas now, and is widely know among jazz musicians all around. Visiting Skopje in the colourful and peacefully autumn, you just have to visit the jazz festival; this will unquestionably bring peace to body and mind.
  • May Opera Evenings in Skopje
    Start with Aida and finish with Turandot. At the fantastic May Opera Evenings in Skopje this opportunity is on hand for all opera lovers. Here the native born singers bring masterpieces from the opera world right into your heart. This celebrated opera festival features Macedonian as well as international musicians performing classical music. Soloists from England and Serbia-Montenegro will perform in Verdi’s Nabuko, and the Macedonian ballet will present the wonderful Giselle. If you still want more, don’t despair: the famous opera Rigoletto is also set up here. But this is just words; the real thrill comes in the real world when you’re in Skopje and listen to these most adorable masterpieces played here just for you. In October Skopje is presumably dressed in beautiful white, which makes it even cosier to sit in an opera house and enjoying.
Sport
Macedonia has a long tradition in sports and has won several medals in the Olympics. The capital Skopje itself has three great football teams playing in the top league of Macedonia. The oldest one, Vadar Skopje founded in 1912, was also the first champion in the free Macedonia football league and is always on top. The club plays at Gradski stadion (capacity for 25 000) located in the Skopje City Park, 1 km from the centre in Skopje. Other proud teams are Makedonia Skopje, est. 1932 and Cementarnica Skopje, est. 1955. The first football match ever played in Macedonia was supposedly played 1909 in Ishlahaane (Idadija), Skopje. Don’t miss the opportunity to watch real good football when you’re in Skopje.
Other things to do
When you have seen all the top sites and monuments in Skopje, another way to find out about and enjoy the city is to stroll around in the pleasant green parks along the river or visit some of the unique museums of which some is located in marvellous historical buildings in this incredible Balkan capital.
 
Many of the main hotels have a gym to keep you in shape but you can also take a jog in some of the parks around the city. Well inside some of the parks, you will sense a feeling of you being in the countryside with small lakes and spreading threes. For those looking for a forest, the forested hills of Mountain Vodno is within walking distance from the city centre. From here the view of Skopje is even more magnificent. Why not enjoy a picnic here.

Business
Macedonia has a fairly developed industry (iron and steel works) and agriculture sector with rich opportunities of trading cotton, tobacco, grains, and livestock produced in the surrounding region. The possibilities for doing business here are quite good as things here are to be developed and because of the closeness to the rest of the Balkan as well as the Near East. Railway and highway routes bring you right to Belgrade or Athens in a few hours - Skopje airport is the largest one in Macedonia, with destinations to most of the European cities.

Industries in the city include electrical machinery, chemicals, textiles, carpets, and foodstuffs. Besides the Belgrade-Athens highway and railway routes, the city also has the largest airport in the Republic of Macedonia.

Rotary
The first rotary club was founded as early as May 30 in 1931, and its charter ceremony was held at May 30, three years later. This club was in action until 1941 when it was forbidden during the German occupation. In 1995 the club was restored in the independent Republic of Macedonia.
Rotary club Skopje
Meetings Tuesday 20.00
Hotel Aleksandar Palace
Bulevar 8 september bb
tel.00 389 2 3092392 

History
Skopje has a very long and sometimes cruel history. Because of its geographical location, earthquakes have more or less wiped out the city a couple of times. Not only natural disasters have been the faith of Skopje: on October 25, 1689 the Austrian General Picolomini burned down the city. This was a heavy stroke and the city didn’t recover for many years.

The city name is mentioned for the first time by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC under its ancient name Skupi. Later on the Dardans - an Illyrian tribe - captured the city. Sometime later the city become a religious centre and had its own bishop as Christianity was spreading in the Balkans with the Romans.

The name Skopje was given by a Slavic tribe Beregheziti who invaded the area about 600 BC and ruled it for almost 300 years. The first Macedonian state emerged in the 7th century subsequent to that the Bulgarians, Byzantines and the Serbs acted as masters of Skopje. In the year 1392 however the Turks conquered the area and it remained Turkish until the outbreak of the Balkan war (1912-1913). The Ottoman (Turkish) province was then divided between Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia. The Versailles peace treaty after World War I made what was to become today’s Macedonia a part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, later on known as Yugoslavia. On September 8, 1991 Skopje and Macedonia gained its freedom from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


Getting here
Skopje is in the midst of Balkan and is very easy to reach from all over Europe by air or train. Since its close location to other airports in Sofia, Belgrade and Thessaloniki, it’s also accessible within a few hours drive from these international airports.

By air
Skopje Airport - Petrovec (SKP) is located about 20 kilometres from the city centre. It’s a modern airport with all kind of needed facilities and has flights coming in and out from many European counties. There is still yet no transfer shuttle to and from the airport so travellers are obliged to take a taxi to Skopje city which should cost just about 10 €. (2006)

By train
You enter Skopje by train via Belgrade, Serbia or Thessaloniki, Greece.

By car
From east and west respectively roads are entering Macedonia from Bulgaria and Albania, but the highway E75 from Serbia to Greece is another opportunity to drive into Skopje. This will be the most common route for tourist to travel when there are visiting Macedonia by car. There are numerous car rental companies in Macedonia; be prepared to present your driving license and your passport when hiring. In Macedonia not all of the roads are of high quality so if you are driving on smaller roads a four-wheel drive vehicle would be preferable. In Macedonia headlights are to be on even daytime and it’s prohibited to talking in cell phone when driving. Seatbelts are mandatory.

By bus
Busses from all over Europe are going into Macedonia on a daily basis. These lines connect Skopje with other European cities and are relatively cheap and rather frequent.

Getting around
By bus
Skopje has two bus networks serving the city and the nearby villages. You have a state hold as well as a private bus company running the bus network, the red ones is the state owned. Busses work on a regular basis from 5.00 to 24.00 and the bus service is well maintained. During late night hours the schedule are somewhat on an irregular service.

Taxi
The best and safest way to take a taxi in Skopje is to phone one or having your hotel doing so, or you might as well try to pick one up in a visible taxi rank. It’s strongly recommended to avoid taxis picking you up; it should work the other way around.

Legitimate taxis can often be recognized by their name and often by their four-digit phone number starting with 9 printed on the car door (for example 9163, 9147).

If you are going to another town, a shared taxi will get you there in a faster and cheaper way than does the ordinary taxis. If you are interested in this kind of option, you will find taxi drivers standing around the entrance of the Skopje bus station shouting out the name of the town to which they are headed. A shared taxi containing four passengers and going for a 30 km trip can save you up to 20 €.

By car
There are numerous car rental companies in Skopje, but be prepared to present not only your driving license but your passport as well when hiring. Around Skopje and in Macedonia not all of the roads are of high quality so if you are driving on smaller roads a four-wheel drive vehicle would be preferable. In Macedonia headlights are to be on even daytime and it’s prohibited to talking in cell phone when driving. Seatbelts are compulsory.

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