Welcome to Skopje, capital city of Macedonia and one of the smallest capital cities in Europe.
We didn’t know much about Skopje before we visited, but when we started researching our trip we came across a lot of articles calling the city wacky, crazy and even bizarre. It turns out that in recent years the government has undertaken an urban renewal project called Project 2014, to help build the city’s profile by giving it a new facelift. As well as new bridges and other structures being built, the project has also seen an abundance of statues and fountains added around the city. And it really is wacky, crazy and slightly bizarre.
And so we dedicate this post to the statues of Skopje.
Because when they said statues, they meant statues. Lots and lots of statues. Almost all built in the last 3 years as part of Project 2014. Here is just a small selection of just some of the statues from around town.
There are old men statues.
War (or serious-looking men) statues.
Even maternal statues.
The statues aren’t just for enjoying during the day either. At night, they take on a whole new life with added water and/or light shows.
The most impressive statue/fountain of all, by day and night, is the giant 22m statue of Alexander the Great upon his horse, with soldiers and lions below.
At 9pm every night, the statue has a fountain show with lights and music that would rival the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas!
It’s not just the statues and fountains that are impressive at night. Crossing the Vardar river behind Macedonia Square, the buildings and bridges are also lit up beautifully at night.
Whatever your views are on the project, theres no denying it’s certainly helped put Skopje on the map. Not least by getting people talking. We really enjoyed our time in Skopje, but in the centre of town, it does feel a bit like being in a theme park. I’m not sure how I’d feel about it if I lived here. You also have to question whether the millions of dollars this cost (said to be anywhere between 80-500 million euros) could have been better spent elsewhere.
With a seeming love of all things large – the big things in town don’t stop with the fountains and statues. At the top of Vodno mountain, overlooking Skopje and viewable from most vantage points in the city, sits the Millennium cross. Funded by the Orthodox church, the cross was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world. The cross is one of the largest in the world at 66m high.
Getting to the top of the mountain to see the cross is half the fun! We took a red double-decker bus from town up the winding road, to about halfway up the mountain. From here, we jumped on the cable car which took us up to the cross and the top of the mountain.
On reaching the top, you can strain your neck looking up at the cross and then straighten it out again looking at the views back across Skopje. There is also a beautiful old orthodox church and some great hikes around Vodno Mountain if you have time – we’ve been told. It was way too hot for us to do anything energetic.
There is a lot more to Skopje than just it’s statues. There is a great café and bar scene around Macedonia Square and the old bazaar quarter is interesting to wander around. Don’t miss visiting this fun and quirky city!
I learnt more about Skopje culture when I went to a local football game. Next post coming soon.
When to visit Skopje: We visited Skopje in early August 2014 and it was HOT. Temperatures in the high 30s (Celsius) most days made it difficult to be out in the hotter hours of the day.
How to get to Skopje: We took the bus from Ohrid to Skopje which took around 3-4 hours.
Food & Drink recommendations in Skopje: Skopje has a café culture, especially around Macedonia Square, so there are a lot of nice cafes to choose from.
Where to stay in Skopje: Without question get yourself an AirBNB apartment, they are great value! Skopje’s apartment buildings might look rundown on the outside, but on the inside the apartments are stunning. The Airbnb apartment we rented in Skopje was by far the best place we’ve stayed EVER. We liked it so much we extended our stay from 3 days to 7 and just enjoyed being in such a great place. There was a shopping mall and supermarket opposite. Fully equipped kitchen, balcony with views over the mountains and a 55-inch TV!
Airbnb discount for first time users: If you use the code ‘kellen1′ when you book through airbnb for the first time, you’ll receive $25 off your booking (and we also receive the same).
Other tips: I listened to a great podcast from the Amateur Traveler series about Macedonia before arriving in the country. If you’re interested, click here to check it out.