Macedonia, throughout the years, has been advertised for its culture – cultural heritage that pays homage to diversity, unity and blend of civilizations. And while culture junkies can enjoy throughout the whole territory of Macedonia there are few bastions of history that bear a lot of cultural heritage. The thing is, while many consider Ohrid to be the prominent Macedonian pearl when it comes to what it has to offer to culture enthusiasts, Skopje can offer just as much.
Number of churches, galleries, museums, buildings that predate grandfathers of ours… Skopje is, just as much as any other capitol, a cultural hub; especially if you take in considerations that a number of civilizations and number of cultures have proliferated here throughout the centuries. Top that by esteemed cultural events, some of which being world renowned music festivals and you can consider booking a longer stay.
What to visit in Skopje if you are interested in culture?
The list goes longer than this article can fit into it. And no surprise there- having in mind that you can visit places that bear witness to ancient culture, some to the period of ottoman invasion and ruling, and others newly build in order to enhance Macedonian heritage, Skopje is a real treasure throve.
Being predominately orthodox, the population here is devoted to religion. The number of churches only attests to this fact. Some of them being built decades back, and others many centuries ago, they are, in a way, a historical and spiritual gallery.
Outside the city, you can also pay visit to those church monasteries near the Matka canyon.
The Kale fortress
Located right above the city center, dating centuries back, it was built primarily as a prison. Remaining almost intact and in its entirety, it is a must see for anyone who is interested in history, especially the ottoman period.
These, though not a must, still reveal some interesting part of history. Some of them built recently in attempt to strengthen Macedonian heritage, allow you to learn Macedonian history with equal pace citizens of Skopje subscribe to.
Most of them, maybe nine out of every ten, were built these last couple of years. Bringing back faces from ancient history and some from the more recent history of the country, their construction was a controversy bringing issue. Now, few years after their placement, they decorate the city and serve to impress foreigners and remind locals of their past.
This is something Skopje is very proud of. Culture at every step, as some would like to say; the Macedonian music scene is a partial reminder of the past. The ethno elements and traditional music are part of the cultural blend that churns in the city. Young generations welcome the mark of the past, and are in fact encouraging it.
So you can see ethno jazz being played throughout the city, while local bands perform gigs in some of the most prestigious clubs. Traditional elements find their way in pop music as well.
Festivals are also huge events in Skopje, especially the May opera evenings, and moreover the Skopje jazz festival. With renowned jazz names from all over the world, this festival brings Skopje cultural weight for decades back.
Some less popular events like Days of Macedonian music are also to be mentioned.
You can also follow the performances of popular Macedonian ethno ensembles, especially Tanec, who devote themselves to bringing back to live traditional Macedonian music, dance and clothing.
Macedonian music can also be enjoyed in many of the popular kafanas around Skopje- dining places, like restaurants, that serve delicious Macedonian food and wine, and Skopje has then many.
The old bazar
The old part of the town, still intact by modern urbanism, is where the old bazar is being located. Dating from ottoman times, it still portrays the spirit of ottoman culture to some extent. Mosques, amams, galleries, between many shops that still promote handicrafts and craftsmanship… The old bazar is definitely a must see if you are staying in Skopje.
Skopje, being the cultural hub it is, has a lot to show. Mixing the old and new, traditional and modern, it is an urban city that still holds close to its heritage and roots. You will have you camera snapping pictures at every corner, and lots of stories to tell when you are back home. A weekend though, is not going to suffice. In order to see what Skopje has to offer in terms of culture, you will need to stay longer, much longer.