I had pretty high hopes for Skopje and its alternative sights. After all every Balkan city has a really big potential when it comes to quirkiness and the capital of Macedonia was no exception. It felt weird from the very beginning, one of a kind, like nothing I’ve seen before. And that actually made Skopje pretty amazing! There’s no real old town, no tourist center but random places that altogether make a great combination. After spending over 2 days there it seemed like I explored a lot, both on and off the path, but at the same time I knew I could have stayed there longer and still discover new cool spots. So here’s my mini guide to alternative Skopje!
The density of weird sculptures in the center of Skopje is overwhelming! No matter where you stand you will see at least 2 monuments around (in some places you will notice over 20!). Some are monumental, reminding of the great past and big Macedonians. Others are simply ridiculous, like shopaholic girls or a dog with a crown. Altogether they are an inseparable part of Skopje’s scenery and one of the most distinctive things about the city. You will either love them or hate them, but for sure you won’t be indifferent about the monuments!
You can read more about them as well as see some pictures in this photo post I did a while ago.
Not far from the main square, along the Vardar River, a few street booksellers can be found. Their stalls resemble those from along the Seine in Paris and the product range is pretty similar too. You can browse through old books, maps, magazines or comic books and if you’re lucky you will find some gems (that are not written in Macedonian language) there. The touch and smell of old books, the shadow of trees and breeze from the river make a perfect combination and a lovely getaway in the heart of the city.
old train station
The centrally located building was badly destroyed during the 1963 earthquake and now is a home to the Museum of the City of Skopje (that I haven’t even visited). What already catches everyone’s attention is that the building is still partly in a ruin, looks like it never was repaired after the tragic events. You can peek inside the station surroundings through the wall but if you are up for some urban exploration you can easily get to the grounds, the entrance is on the right side. What you will see is a huge mess in the middle of the city, random objects strewn around, ruins, street art and a shelter for homeless people. No one really bothered me when I wandered around, being really impressed that the place like this can still exist, in such a great location!
Probably the most bohemian neighborhood of Skopje, not far from the center but with a completely different vibe. The streets are quiet, the area seems really cozy and it’s just the place in the heart of the busy capital that makes you want to spend time there, just to enjoy the slow vibe. But the biggest advantage of Debar Maalo is the number of cafes and restaurants there. All the best spots in the city can be found here! I’ve been to five cafes in the area and each one was better than the previous!
Speaking of cafes, Skopje has an exceptional cafe culture, one of the best I’ve ever seen! It was as big surprise as in Yerevan! Every street has at least few really good ones, places where you can spend hours chatting with a friend over a cup of (delicious and cheap!) coffee! No wonder most of the cafes were crazy busy, no matter at which time of the day. Some of my faves included Il Caffee di Roma, Bocata, Bastion, Krug and Kino Karposh. But no matter where you go I’m sure you will find a decent place!
Such an unobtrusive place! Located in the random (yet really pretty) block of flats this independent culture center is the future of the alternative scene in Skopje. Founded in 2013 by group of young artists, activists and people who just wanted a change, now is the main spot for creative souls to work freely. The place is bursting with various activities such as film screenings, poetry readings, art exhibitions or debates. I’d definitely spend the majority of my time there if I lived in Skopje!
To my utter disappointment Skopje wasn’t the city of street art. But it had its moments, I just needed to dig in deeper to find them. Some of the street art areas were the old railway station, around AKSC or on the random block of flats on the corner of Bulevar Partizanski Odredi and Blvd Saint Clement of Ohrid.
I always try to find farmers markets everywhere I go as they’re the best option for cheap and delicious local food. And Skopje was no different! I’ve visited green bazaar at Partizanska street and it was just perfect. The place wasn’t very big but it had all I hoped for: fresh fruits and vegetables, home made cheese, delicious olives and spices. The smell was incredible, people were really friendly and it was just a perfect place for grocery shopping (or to get some goodies to bring back home). There were also burek stands and well, when I’m in Balkans I can eat burek all day long and I’m not bored. Did I mention the best food you can find is in this part of the world?
I’ve used Spotted by Locals Skopje to find most of these places recommended by locals in Skopje. They publish (100% offline) apps & blogs with up-to-date tips by city loving locals in 57 cities. Here’s a map with all the places I wrote about
Do you also look for alternative spots in places you visit? Which one in Skopje would you like to see the most? Is Macedonia on your bucket list?
If you think of visiting Macedonia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
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