Playgrounds and bazaars - four days in Skopje

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wandering the old bazaar

Last week we flew out of the UK to spend two months in Eastern Europe. Our first destination - Skopje, Macedonia.

Now if you are anything like us, it's probably not a city or country you know much about. We previously couldn't even point Skopje out on a map.

Why did we start there? Well when we were in the planning stages for our trip, we were looking for the cheapest flights from London into Eastern Europe. We knew ground transport was relatively cheap once we arrived so we didn't mind where we started, we just had to get into the region and we could start from there. Then we stumbled across ridiculously cheap flights from London to Skopje with Wizz Airlines. After some further research Skopje seemed like an interesting city, it was centrally located and well connected to other countries by bus and train so we booked the tickets!

Skopje turned out to be a fabulous city.

It's not the most beautiful city we've seen but there was something about it that we just loved. Perhaps it was the old market places with the cobbled streets, dozens of mosques, cheap clothing, quaint restaurants and ancient Turkish bathhouses. Maybe it was the 1000 year old fortress overlooking the city centre.

Or the fact that just across the river from all these ancient sites were shopping streets that could have been taken from any European city. It could have been the people that were all friendly and loved children. Or the fact that it was compact and flat, with sidewalks that are actually used as sidewalks making it easy to get around with kids.

It was definitely at least in part thanks to the food.

We literally couldn't find a meal in Skopje that wasn't 'to die for'. The fruits and vegetables were fresh and the best I've ever seen. And it was all cheap. Almost Thailand cheap.

After so long in Asia, Skopje was exotic. There's something exciting about being in a city without a guide book and not knowing what's around the next corner. And there's definitely something to be said for visiting less-touristed cities ... in low season.

We spent four nights in Skopje. We could have easily stayed longer. The hostel we were staying at, Urban Hostel, had a fantastic apartment that was just the right size for us.

While Skopje doesn't offer a plethora of kid friendly museums and playgrounds, we found a lot of things that captured the kids attention, as well as ours.

I've written an article at Vagabond Family outlining the highlights of Skopje for families, as well as the basic costs and tips. Instead of rewriting it all again, here are some of our favourite places and photos from the four days we spent in Skopje. 

Kale Fortress

Kale fortress Skopje

Overlooking the river in the centre of town, Kale Fortress was originally built in the 6th century, but there is evidence that humans have used the site for over 6000 years. It was a good place to let the kids run, explore and learn. Our mostly ran!

Kale fortress Skopje

Wandering the Old Bazaar

Mustafa Pasha Mosque

The "Old Bazaar" is located just past the fortress and are the largest Turkish markets in the Balkans outside of Istanbul. This area has been the city's centre of commerce and trade since the 12th Century.

This was definitely my favourite part of the city. It had that unpolished bohemian feel to it, where you never knew what was around the corner. A spice shop, a shoe store, a butchers, a tiny cafe or an art gallery set inside an old Turkish bathhouse with domed roofs. 

IMG_7104.jpg

We had lunch each day in a busy small local restaurant serving grilled chicken and kebabs with fresh bread for less than 5 Euros including drinks. It was packed every-time, with people queueing out the door for tables.

Old Bazaar Skopje

The kids were excited to find a lolly shop with fresh roasted nuts, bags of candy canes and buckets of hard boiled sweets.

Lolly store Old Bazaar

Funnily enough they bypassed the salted roasted peanuts and headed straight for the candy canes. Me stating "Those peanuts sure look delicious yum" didn't seem to have the desired effect. I guess it's a pretty hard sell!

Hmm candy

A suit of amour outside an antique store also made a great talking point!

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Hayley was rather impressed with modern Macedonian wedding dresses ...

Wedding dresses skopje

City Center and Macedonia Square

The opposite side of the river to the Old Bazaar and fortress is largely modern. Well by modern I mean a mix of new buildings and 19th Century architecture. That's new right compared with 1000 year old fortresses?

Skopje centre

The kids really loved the huge Macedonia Square filled with statues, fountains and wide spaces to run in.

Central Square Skopje

Lion statues at the fountains

The old stone bridge has been in place for centuries. No one knows how long as apparently anytime the city was conquered, the conqueror felt the need to stamp his mark on the city by redesigning the bridge.

Old stone bridge skopje

No that's not someone crazy enough to swim in the river in winter. Skopje is filled with statues, modern and old. Some of the modern sculptures are fantastic - girls in crop tops showing far too much butt crack and these swimming ladies .... brrrr

Sculptures old stone bridge skopje

On our last afternoon exploring the city we came across boys skating on make-shift ramps near the bridge.

Skate lessons skopje

Sveti Kliment Ohridski Skopje

Of course, probably the highlight for everyone was the free indoor playground at Vero Shopping centre. The kids spent almost 6 hours there one day making friends and playing. There were tables right outside with WIFI, coffee shops and McDonald's so even the adults were even happier!

Vero playground

Next Post: Photo Friday: chocolate appreciation Belgrade style Previous Post: Photo Friday: Sunrise in the English countryside

About the Author

tracykids

Tracy Burns

Tracy always talked about traveling a lot more than she ever traveled. Married to an avid traveler that thankfully changed. After almost two years exploring South East Asia and Australia, enjoying the most amazing food, temples, beaches, and more importantly every sweet food treat she can find, Tracy is keen to explore further afield. Tracy juggles homeschooling, playtime, blogging and learning more about photography while they travel. Some days she juggles them better than others!

Comments (10):

  1. what amazing photos - i'd not seen any from this city before!! what a great place to visit. food photos, pls!!

  2. Thanks Jessie. Sadly I didn't get any photos of the food. We should be passing back there in a few weeks, hopefully this time I'll think to take photos rather than just quickly stuffing my face.

  3. Hi Tracy,

    Love the sound of Skopje - the castle ruins looks amazing! Love how the kids got to run and explore.

    The sweet store sure looks yummy - who would want nuts with all of the yummy lollies :)

    Love the idea of exploring the area, buying fresh produce, and the antique store with the armour! The dresses are gorgeous - love how you even got to play in an indoor playground - gosh would love a free one of those in Australia!!

    Cheers
    Lisa

  4. So glad you guys are going to places like this! These are the places I want to go and the places I can't find any info or reviews on. Keep up the good travlin!

  5. I'm glad you liked your stay in Skopje, but since you were already there, you could visit few other places in our little country :) Ohrid and Bitola are two other and smaller towns that have something to offer, we have Matka Canyon, Kokino and two skiing centers :P

    Cheers and have fun traveling around! :D

  6. LOVELY. I am from Macedonia and always happy to hear that somebody came and ENJOYED their stay here ;) You should come again ;) there is much more to be seen believe me ;)
    xoxox

  7. Nice, glad you liked it. If you come back again go to Ohrid and Bitola, they are even more impressive.

  8. You are asking about food photos from Macedonia. Kindly I invite you to visit these two links (videos) about food and wine in Macedonia:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPFFN43Z8lo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgmBKgMxShU&list=UUm4-jr3a5XxstCaB84_nS8A&index=6

    You will like it.

    Regards,

    Sasho from Macedonia


  9. Hi friend's, i'am official tourist guide and prehistoric archaeologist. I saw your post and find your blog. If you come again sometime in my country, i have couple of suggestions for you guys. In Macedonia every corner is interesting. You can visit:

    IN SKOPJE
    1. http://www.tumbamadzari.org.mk/en/index.php (interesting prehistoric suite with beautiful restored houses from neolithic period - you can look that site and position in Skopje).
    2.http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/saint-pantelejmon-monastery-skopje
    3.http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/matka-canyon-skopje ( with very imoprtant church http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/saint-andrea-matka-monastery)
    4. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/kursumli-an-skopje
    5. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/museum-of-macedonia-skopje (macedonian national museum)

    IN BITOLA
    1. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/ajdar-kadi-mosque-bitola
    2.http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/heraclea-lyncestis
    3. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/shirok-sokak-bitola

    IN OHRID
    1. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/ancient-theatre-ohrid
    2.http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/bay-of-bones-museum-ohrid
    3.http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/lapidarium-museum-ohrid
    4. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/saint-jovan-kaneo-monastery-ohrid
    5. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/saint-naum-monastery-ohrid
    6. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/robevci-house-museum-ohrid
    http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/saint-pantelejmon-plaosnik-monastery-ohrid
    7. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/samoil-fortress-ohrid

    IN KUMANOVO
    1.http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/kokino-megalithic-observatory

    IN KRATOVO
    1.http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/stone-columns-kuklica

    I will finish here, as in every city in Macedonia has beautiful things to visit but I think these are enough. But in any case should not be missed Ohrid Lake. http://travel2macedonia.com.mk/tourist-attraction/ohrid-lake.

    I wish you guys much more happy moments in you traveling around the world. And I'm so glad 'cause you wrote the post for my small but wonderful country Macedonia.

    Sincerely

    R. Misho

  10. I am glad to find your post! I am going to Skopje next month and i will take my baby 14 months. I will follow you tips for places to visit, specially the playarea at Vero Mall! :)
    I will invite you to see my post on my blog as soon as i am back! :)

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