Skopje is the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. The territory of Skopje has been inhabited since at least 4,000 BC and lies in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula. Skopje appeals to visitors with its fortress, cultural and historical monuments, archaeological sites, caves in the canyon of the River Treska and Lake Matka, and a health spa.
Skopje has existed for 2,500 years and has seen a number of settlers, from Roman to Byzantine, from Ottoman to Yugoslav with each group leaving their mark on the city. Much of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1963, and in an effort to rebuild, an international competition to redesign the city was held. The contract was won by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange and Skopje was reborn in a unique, futuristic style. To this day, the clock on the remaining wall of the old railway station remains stuck at 5:17, the moment the earthquake hit.
The cultural offerings of the city range from the Triumphal Gate to the giant statue of Alexander the Great, as well as numerous museums and the old stone bridge. Head to Makedonija street for bustling nightlife, restaurants, bars and coffee shops.
PLACES TO VISIT IN SKOPJE
The Millennium Cross is a 66 metre-high cross situated on top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje. The construction of the cross began in 2002 to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world. In 2008, on 8 September – the independence day of the Republic of Macedonia – an elevator was installed inside the cross. The following year, a restaurant and a souvenir shop were opened by the cross, and in 2011 the Millennium Cross ropeway, stretching 3.5 kilometres was opened. At night the cross is lit up and shines down over the city. Take a trip on the Millennium Cross Cable Car which boasts 28 regular gondolas for eight persons and two VIP gondolas for four people. The ride last about 6-8 minutes.
The Old Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest marketplaces in the Balkans, it has been Skopje’s centre for trade and commerce since the 12th century. The Bazaar came into prominence during the Ottoman era when it developed to become the city’s main centre of commerce. The Ottoman history of the bazaar in evident through the presence of approximately 30 mosques and a number of caravanserais among other historical indicators. The Old Bazaar is still home to several active mosques, türbes, two churches and a clock tower, that, together with the buildings of the Museum of Macedonia and the Museum of Modern Art, form the core of the modern bazaar.
Meaning ‘womb’ in Macedonian, Matka is a canyon located west of central Skopje, only a 30-minute drive from the city. A favourite weekend destination, this man-made lake is in a canyon formed by the river Treska. The natural beauty of the area is stunning and best taken in while on a boat, which can also take you to the Vrelo Cave, one of the more famous caves in the area. Perfect for hikes and picnics, there’s also a restaurant for those who just want to sit back and relax. The area is also home to several monasteries rife with history.
Often referred to as Kale or Kale Fortress, this Skopje fortress is located in the old town at the highest point in the city overlooking the Vardar River. The fortress is depicted on the coat of arms of Skopje, which in turn is incorporated in the city’s flag.
When you visit Skopje, visit at least one of the city’s museums. The city is home to a number of museums, from the National Archaeological Museum to the Museum of Macedonia and many more. For an introduction to all the museums in Skopje, visit Hello Skopje.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Getting there: Qatar Airways – Special introductory offer on return to Skopje (Alexander The Great Airport, SKP) at QAR2,145 approximately 5:25 hours direct
Distance between Qatar to the Czech Republic: 4,474 km
Currency: 1 QAR = 14.23 MKD (Macedonian Denar)
Visas: Embassy of Macedonia in Qatar, 4493 1374, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: exploringmacedonia.com, Wikipedia
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