I had pretty high hopes for the capital of North Macedonia and especially alternative Skopje sights. After all every Balkan city has a really big potential when it comes to quirkiness and Skopje was no exception. It felt weird from the very beginning, one of a kind, like nothing I’ve seen before. And that actually made the city to be 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 alternative Skopje guide!
Table of contents
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 (click!) 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, a Skopje guide or two, 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 gem of alternative Skopje
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! I bet you won’t read about it in any other (alternative) Skopje guide!
The hangout spot for alternative Skopje: Debar Maalo
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!
Skopje’s cafe culture
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! I used Foursquare for my Skopje guide to cafes.
AKSC – hub of alternative Skopje
Such an unobtrusive place! Located in the random (yet really pretty) block of flats this independent culture center is the future of the alternative Skopje scene. 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!
Street art 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?
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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
During my two visits to Skopje I’ve stayed in GuestHouse Anja and this is probably your best choice for Skopje! The location is unbeatable and the price is really good for that (a single room was only slightly more expensive than the bed in the dorm of the hostel some 15 minutes away from the center…). You can book your accommodation in the guesthouse here! And if you’re looking for other sleeping options for Skopje check Booking website!
Are you planning a trip to North Macedonia? Do you like the Balkans as much as I do? I’ve created a Facebook group where you can look for advise or inspiration and share your travel stories and pictures from the Balkans and beyond. Join now!
If you think of visiting North Macedonia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- North Macedonia: Skopje monuments in pictures
- 17 Best Things to Do in Ohrid, North Macedonia
- and more!
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