Skopje is like a miniaturized Belgrade with a bit of Las Vegas and Disney World thrown in. Either in an attempt to define their cultural identity, or perhaps done solely to embezzle money, the government has built a comical amount of statues and monuments around the city. The biggest statue being that of Alexander the Great in the city center next to a dancing water fountain.
Like other Balkan countries, Macedonia is very cheap and thus your money can go a long way. I was able to easily find and rent cheap Airbnbs near the center of the city. I recommend using Skopje as a stop over spot on your way to the lake resort city Ohrid in southern Macedonia, or to some other destination in the Balkans. I ended up in Skopje when my Serbian tourist visa was about to expire and I needed to do a border hop. I then used Skopje as a central location to launch shorter trips to Bulgaria, Kosovo and Albania.
A large man made dam restrains a long river that runs through a canyon. It is very beautiful and worth a visit. You can take a motorboat ride or kayak in the canyon if you would prefer not to hike along its edge. The entrance of the canyon can be reached by taking a bus from the center of Skopje. However, please note that this bus only runs every couple of hours, and it was 30 minutes late arriving to pick me up. Given that our driver accidentally reversed into some guy’s car when departing Matka, my return journey back to the city was also delayed to say the least.
Walking from the bus stop and up past the dam, you will reach a restaurant which marks the beginning of the hiking trail. I found it amusing that the trail entrance was situated in the center of this upscale restaurant. Thus sweaty hikers come stumbling out of the canyon next to people in suites and dresses who are seated at tables eating dinner. While the very first part of the trail is well worn and populated, this changes quickly after the 20 minute mark, the point at which most visitors turn back. After this point, the trail begins to become narrow and overgrown. I personally only hiked in for about 60-90 minutes, before turning back. A full day hike can be done, but it will require planning.
If you are looking for a shorter hike closer to the city, there is a trail that goes up to the large cross on the hilltop above Skopje. A gondola can also be used to either cut the hike in half, or visit to hilltop without hiking at all. After completing the bottom third of the hiking trail, the trail intercepts a paved road which leads to the lower entrance of the gondola. I personally hiked up the entire trail and then took the gondola back down to where the trail intercepts the paved road. I finished the trip by hiking back down the lower third of the trail.
The main trade area during Ottoman rule, containing mosques and other period architecture. The main street leading up to the top of the bazaar contains many bars and restaurants. At night much of the bazaar area outside its main drag goes quite, and the only people that can be seen are older men playing dominoes. This area has an earlier curfew for serving alcohol than in other parts of the city.
Menada (Podragje, Skopje 1000, Macedonia)
A bar where on the weekends many people congregate both inside and on the street out front. When its full and people are congregating out on the street, it is an easy place to mingle.
Pivnica Star Grad (Samolilova, Skopje, Macedonia)
A brewery that often has live music most nights of the week. It has a very large outdoor sitting area.