Skopje: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Published: November 26, 2022

If Philip II and Alexander recall glorious times for Macedonia, then there were darker times. There are centuries of Byzantine and then Ottoman domination, decades of communist illusions, the earthquake of 1963, before the country emerges from the shredder of history, rediscovering its identity and trying to reconnect with its past.

01. Macedonia Square

This is the central point of Skopje. The perimeter gradually expanded after the Ottomans left, a mosque was destroyed and the earthquake of 1963 allowed for further expansion. With the Skopje 14 project, baroque decoration was given to the facades and the giant statue of the Warrior on Horseback was placed in the centre, reminding of Alexander the Great.

02. Fortress

In this tumultuous region of the Balkans, a fortress is needed for a city to stand the test of time. Once the rampart of a walled city, the fortress later became purely military. Today its restored walls still dominate the city, but the interior is sadly neglected, although the potential is obvious. At least the visit is free.

03. Mother Teresa Memorial House

Mother Teresa, best known for her humanitarian work in India, was born in Skopje during the Ottoman Empire. Her family belonged to the Roman Catholic minority. Mother Teresa is now revered in this part of the Balkans, and her hometown pays tribute to her with this building commemorating her life and charitable work.

04. St. Saviour’s Church

This modest Orthodox church is located in the old town, near the fortress. It was built at the end of the 17th century, but the iconostasis was carved a little later. This wooden wall finely carved with biblical scenes separates the worshipers from the officiants. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed inside.

05. St. Clement’s Ohrid Cathedral

The Orthodox cathedral was only consecrated in 1990 and is located near the centre of the city. As is often the case with the Orthodox, the worshipers follow the services standing up. Meanwhile, they come to visit the icons of the saints arranged for them. As a token of good harmony, there is a fountain in the courtyard donated by the Muslim community.

06. Mustafa Pasha Mosque

This is a mosque dating from the late 15th century. It is located above the Old Bazaar near the fortress. It was once the centre of a larger religious complex. Today, the main part of the mosque is the prayer hall, which is decorated in the traditional way. The dome suffered from the 1963 earthquake and had to be consolidated.

07. Old Bazaar

Located on the north bank near the fortress, the Old Bazaar is the part of the old city that best survived the 1963 earthquake. Although diminished, it retains some of its former significance. It has become a tourist attraction, with a growing number of restaurants and cheap shops, to the detriment of the craftsmen.

08. Stone bridge

The Vardar River cuts the city of Skopje in two. As elsewhere in the region, it is a dividing line between religions. To the north are the Muslims and the Old Bazaar, to the south are the Macedonians and the modern city. Built in the 15th century by the Ottomans, the bridge is exclusively for pedestrians, starting from Macedonia Square, and is very busy.

09. Skopje 2014

In order to revitalise the city centre, a series of constructions took place on the sites left vacant after the destruction of the 1963 earthquake. The architectural choice of a return to the classical style and the profusion of statues and lampposts form a rather kitsch whole. Its cost is decried by the population, suspecting corruption.

10. Macedonian Gate

The triumphal arch dates from 2011, another example of new buildings in the city centre with heavy stylistic references. There was supposed to be a café terrace at the top, but this does not seem to be operational. In the absence of any real activity, the Macedonian Gate is a photo opportunity, opening onto the main square and its Warrior on Horseback.

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    • It is a bit early for the whirlwind of freedom generated by the end of colonial or local dictatorships to have stabilised. I fear that harmony will be difficult to find locally, but it could be achieved by joining a larger entity like the European Union.


    • They’ve certainly done something with the architecture, I’m not sure it will hold up for centuries to come but at the moment it’s quite entertaining for visitors, though less appreciated by the locals, if not for the flow of visitors it generates.


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