Posted by: kimberlysullivan | October 7, 2014

Skopje’s old town – Čaršija

Skopje, MacedoniaSkopje, the capital of Macedonia, is an interesting  city to explore.

One of the first things you’re bound to notice in this Balkan city is the building spree going on in the New Town.

I could be forgiven for having thought I’d been transported to Ancient Rome, pummeled by towering monuments, statues and fountains at every turn, often built seemingly on top of one another.

Skopje, MacedoniaCrossing the Vardar River to the other side – across the beautiful 15th century Kameni Most (Stone Bridge), I breathed  a sigh of relief to find myself on the maze of streets that make up Skopje’s old town –  Čaršija (old Turkish bazaar).

This maze of winding, cobblestoned streets, cafes, shops selling clothes and Ottoman-style slippers, jewelry and crafts is the largest remaining former Ottoman bazaar in the Balkans.

This is home to Skopje’s Albanian minority. You’re more likely to hear residents chatting in Albanian than in Macedonian in this neighborhood.

Skopje, MacedoniaThere are impressive Ottoman mosques, hammams, and covered bazaars in the neighborhood, and the impressive 15th century Mustafa Pasha Mosque looms over the quarter from its perch on the top of the hill.

Wandering up the hills of Čaršija, on the way to the Kale Fortress (see my earlier post), I enjoyed visiting the small Church of the Holy Saviour. This 14th century church is the oldest preserved church in Skopje.

Like all churches at the time of the Ottomans, the church could not be taller than the city’s mosques.

Skopje, MacedoniaTherefore, the church is built two meters underground. The church was severely damaged during the great fire of 1689. Macedonian woodcarving traditions are on display, framing the church’s icons.

I was also pleased to stop off at the wonderful sweets shops to try the mouthwatering baklava.

And, what better way to end an afternoon of wandering than to stop off at one of the cafes with a plate of ćevapčići and a bottle of the local beer, while watching the world pass by on the streets of Čaršija?

Enjoy exploring Skopje’s old town.

Skopje, MacedoniaSkopje, Macedonia


  1. Interesting! I always associated Macedonia with Greece (thanks Alexander the Great!) instead of Albania.

    • Ooh, yikes. This is a bit of a sorespot in the complicated Balkans. Greece and Macedonia both claim Alexander as their native son. Greece also doesn’t accept the country’s name ‘Macedonia’, so officially it is known as ‘Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’. Quite a mouthful, huh? : ) Don’t think the Albanian minority also claims Alexander is theirs, but they can claim an impressive Skopje native – Mother Theresa.

  2. Oh, to meandering free in an old city, even if via your posts🙂

    • Haha! I’m the same, Claire. To feed my ‘habit’, between trips I’m an addictive reader of travel blogs/travel magazines. : ) Enjoy the virtual meander. It’s an interesting city…

  3. so excited to read this post🙂 dreaming of going there next year- perhaps around this time. We’ll be on a very strict budget and are hopeful that we may have found an affordable travel destination for an extended visit. Would you agree? Thank you for blogging

    • Hi Rhonda. Yes, Macedonia is still a budget destination. Think you’ll enjoy it. I only raced by Lake Ohrid, but I’m dying to get back for a longer visit. Hoping to hear about your trip!

  4. You’re such a traveler, Kimberly. I barely keep up with you! This old city sounds lovely.

    • Haha… I always say if I win the lottery, I’d be travelling full time. : ) Until then (an eternal optimist), I manage as much as I can, and read/dream lots about places for future trips. : ) The Balkans in general are a fascinating place to visit. I always enjoy exploring this interesting region.

  5. […] For other tips on Skopje, see early posts about visiting the Kale fortress and the Čaršija district. […]

  6. […] already written about many things to see there, including the Kale fortress, the historic and picturesque neighborhood of Čaršija and the impressive Ottoman […]

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