Centar (Macedonian: Центар) is the modern commercial and political hub of Skopje, capital of North Macedonia. It is one of the 10 municipalities that make up the City of Skopje. To the northeast is the Old Bazaar and Čair Municipality, Gazi Baba Municipality is to the east, Aerodrom and Kisela Voda municipalities are to the southeast, and Karpoš Municipality is to the west. Centar includes the Parliament and Government of North Macedonia, the ever-changing Macedonia Square, quality museums, and the country's largest stadium.
Centar primarily sits on the south bank of the Vardar River, though portions of the north bank are also included. For simpler presentation, although some portions of the Old Bazaar fall within Centar, the Old Bazaar in its entirety is covered on one guide. Centar extends to the foot of Mount Vodno to the southwest, roughly to the train tracks in the east, and roughly to the City Park in the west.
Historically, the Vardar River divided the Christian and Muslim populations of Skopje with the former on the south bank and the latter on the north bank. What is now Centar was largely the Christian side of the city. As the Ottoman influence left Skopje, political and commercial power began to shift from the Stara Čaršija to the south bank of the river. Various neoclassical buildings were constructed to house these functions. In 1963, an earthquake devastated the city and cleared out most of the neoclassical buildings of Centar. Decades of socialist-style urban planning left Skopje's most important district looking cold, bland, and unwelcoming; Macedonia Square was a vast concrete space for years.
In 2010, the ruling populist coalition announced a plan to give the capital a new look, primarily affecting Centar. The plan consisted of rebuilding some buildings lost in the earthquake, as well as erecting completely new buildings in Baroque and neoclassical styles. In addition, countless monuments of various sizes were to be placed throughout the city but mostly in Centar. Despite much controversy, most of the plan is complete and Skopje looks like a different city than just a few years ago (less than half of the "See" listings below existed before the project). Whatever your thoughts on the architectural choices seen in project, it has made Centar a more visually-pleasing place with more cultural institutions and places of interest.
Essentially all bus lines in the city pass through and make stops in Centar (map).
Many major boulevards lead to Centar. From the west, Ilinden, Partizanski Odredi, and Mitropolit Teodosij Gologanov can be used. From the south, Mother Teresa and Boris Trajkovski boulevards lead to Centar. From the east, Kuzman Josifovski-Pitu and 3rd Macedonian Brigade boulevards can be used. From the Stara Čaršija, Goce Delčev, Philip II, and Krste Misirikov boulevards cross the Vardar into Centar.
- 1 Stone Bridge (Камен мост). A main symbol of Skopje since the 15th century. It is built of solid stone blocks and has 12 arches. The pedestrian bridge connects across the Vardar the historic Old Town to Macedonia Square and the modern commercial centre of the city.
- 2 Macedonian National Theatre (Македонски народен театар). The Macedonian National Theatre building was first built in 1927, fronting the Vardar River. It was destroyed in the 1963 earthquake but was rebuilt in 2013 in largely the same design. It is a neoclassical building with many statues standing on it. The interior is even more lavish than the exterior would suggest.
- 3 Macedonia Square (Плоштад Македонија). Macedonia Square has had two major changes in appearance in the past several decades. Following the 1963 earthquake, most of its neoclassical buildings were destroyed with the exception of the southern section crowned with the "СКОПСКО" sign. Then in the 2010s, after decades of being a mostly empty open space, it became a major site of the government-funded Skopje 2014 project which has constructed mostly neoclassical-style buildings and monuments across the central part of the city. The facades of socialist-era buildings on the square have been changed into neoclassical styles as well. It is now fronted by older-looking buildings and massive statues. The new buildings and monuments have generated much controversy but, regardless of your opinion, they have once again made Macedonia Square a major point of interest in the city.
- 4 Old City Hall (Стара Градска Куќа). Most of Skopje 2014 consists of original buildings but some, like the Old City Hall, are reconstructions of buildings lost in the 1963 earthquake. The Old City Hall is under construction and will have the same appearance, although it is being built in a different location on the square than the original.
- 5 Alexander the Great Monument (Warrior on a Horse). This grand fountain and statue may be the main symbol of the entire Skopje 2014 project. Placed in the centre of the square, it consists of a 10 m (33 ft) column atop which stands a 14.5 m (48 ft) tall bronze statue of Alexander on his horse. At the base are eight bronze soldiers and at the edges of the fountain pool are eight bronze lions.
- 6 Tsar Samuel Monument. It's where Macedonia Street meets Macedonia Square. The monument depicts Tsar Samuel sitting on a throne holding a scepter. It stands 9 m (28 ft) high.
- 7 Justinian I Monument. Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, born in Tauresium just outside Skopje, is depicted sitting on a throne on top of a pedestal. The monument is at the north side of the square, near the river.
- Other smaller monuments include those of Goce Delčev, Dame Gruev, the Gemidži, Dimitar Popgeorgiev, and others.
- 8 Art Bridge (Мост на Уметноста). A pedestrian bridge across the Vardar, the Art Bridge runs from the cafes east of Macedonia Square to the Financial Police Building. The bridge contains 29 sculptures of noted North Macedonian musicians and artists.
- 9 Bridge of Civilisations in Macedonia (Мост на Цивилизации во Македонија). Another new pedestrian bridge across the Vardar, the Bridge of Civilisations contains 28 sculptures of individuals of the various civilisations that have existed in Macedonia.
- 10 Mother Teresa Square. Between the new buildings for the Agency for Electronic Communications and the Financial Police on the river is Mother Teresa Square. Fronting it are the boldly modern Macedonian Philharmonic and the Macedonian Opera and Ballet building.
- 11 Porta Macedonia (Порта Македонија), ☏ , ✉ PortaMK@mmb.org.mk. A triumphal arch built in 2011 to commemorate 20 years of North Macedonian independence. The 21 m (69 ft) arch contains marble reliefs on its exterior depicting various scenes from North Macedonian history. It has interior rooms as well as an elevator to the observation deck. Access to the deck is included in the ticket price at the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle.
- 12 VMRO Square (Плоштад ВМРО). A square anchored by the new white neoclassical VMRO building. Fans of the Skopje 2014 project will admire this building. It has a taller tower section attached to the south side. The center of the square contains a lion sculpture atop a white column within a white fountain.
- 13 Feudal Tower (Феудална Кула). A 14-m-high residential tower from the 17th century, this is the oldest building on this side of the Vardar in central Skopje. Built for defense with 1.5-m-thick walls, a high door, and small windows on the lower floors. Today it serves as a souvenir shop and you can enter and see it from the inside.
- 14 Parliament Building (Собрание на Република Македонија), 11th October St. 10. Built in 1933 by Viktor Hudak in modernistic style. In the 2010s, large glass domes were incorporated onto the building's roof.
- 15 Park of the Woman Freedom Fighter (Парк Жена Борец). This park sits directly across Parliament and contains many new memorials. One is to the Fall Soldiers of Macedonia, a white monument and fountain consisting of many pillars. Another is to the Anti-Fascists Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia, which consists of the individuals involved in the assembly sitting at a table. Other includes those of Kuzman Josifovski-Pitu, the Defenders of Macedonia, and the Founders of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation.
- 16 Government of the Republic of North Macedonia (Влада на Република Македонија), Boulevard Ilinden 2. Built in a modern style, it received a complete makeover in the early 2010s transforming the complex into a white neoclassical style.
- 17 Debar Maalo (Дебар Маало). Skopje's Bohemian neighbourhood. It was settled by displaced Macedonians from the Debar region in western North Macedonia in the early 1920s. The individuals from this part of North Macedonia are known for their building skills (Mijaks) and this can be seen in the Debar Maalo area. Today, the neighbourhood consists of tree-lined streets and countless restaurants, bars, and cafes. It is also home to some of the highest property values in the city.
- 18 Church of the Holy Mother of God (Црква „Рождество на Пресвета Богородица“). The first church here was built in 1835 and was the cathedral church of the city. Its iconostasis was finished in 1842. On April 7, 1944, the church was burned down by fascists. It was rebuilt in the same design in 2008.
- 19 Church of Sts Constantine & Elena (Црква „Св. Константин и Елена“). The original church was demolished in 1970 to make room for the City Shopping Center. A new church is under construction in a different area. It is not being built in its original, more simple appearance. Rather, it is being built in the Byzantine style with gold-capped domes.
- 20 St Clement of Ohrid Cathedral (Xpам „Св. Климент Охридски“). After Virgin Mary Cathedral was burned by Fascists at the end of World War II and with St. Demetrius Church being unable to accommodate enough people, building of a new cathedral dedicated to St Clement of Ohrid started in 1972. The architect was Slavko Brezoski, and it is a bold and contemporary interpretation of Orthodox architecture. The Jesus Pantocrator fresco painted in the main dome covers area of 70 m² and his eye is 1.5 m long. The cathedral also has a clock tower.
Within the past decade, Skopje has stepped up its game with museums. On the north bank of the Vardar, just south of the Stara Čaršija area, are multiple new museums that received a great deal of funding. This includes the Museum of Archaeology, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, and the Holocaust Museum.
- 21 Museum of Archaeology (Музеј на Археологија), ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. The Museum of Archaeology, in the new Greek revival building fronting the Vardar, houses a collection of over 6,000 pieces. Each of the three floors hold two sections. Much of the upper floors exhibits things like pottery and necklaces. The ground floor exhibits, on the southeast half, a coin collection starting from ancient times and, on the northwest half, a collection of statues and busts recovered from various sites in North Macedonia. One of the most significant pieces is the statue of Venus found at nearby Scupi in superb condition. 300 denars (general); 150 denars (students).
- 22 Museum of the Macedonian Struggle (Музеј на македонската борба), ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. Take a tour and have the guide walk you through this museum that chronicles the history of the struggle of those in North Macedonia in achieving an independent state, starting in Ottoman times through the creation of the Republic of Macedonia in the early 1990s. It contains countless wax figures of the individuals involved on all sides of the struggle. The entrance hall is nicely decorated with stained glass ceilings. The museum opened in 2011 to commemorate 20 years of North Macedonian independence. 300 denars.
- 23 Holocaust Memorial Centre for the Jews of Macedonia (Меморијален центар на холокаустот на Евреите од Македонија), ☏ . Tu-F 09:00-19:00; Sa Su 09:00-15:00; closed Mondays. The Holocaust Museum sits behind the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle in what was Skopje's Jewish Quarter until the residents were deported in the Holocaust. The museum commemorates the 7,148 Macedonian Jews killed with a variety of exhibits such as a wagon used to transport some of them to Treblinka.
- 24 Mother Teresa Memorial House (Спомен Куќа на Мајка Тереза), Macedonia Str. No. 9, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 09:00-20:00; Sa Su 09:00-14:00. Mother Teresa was born and lived in Skopje until she was 18. Her original house is no longer standing, but there is a tranquil modern chapel—architecturally remarkable in that it's a jumble of cubes, stone walls, and shiny mirrored glass, as if it's a real life interpretation of Escher's works, and, like everything built in Skopje in modern times, utterly kitschy—and interpretive museum centre on the site. Free.
- 25 Old Railway Station – Skopje City Museum (Стара железничка станица), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 7:00-15:00. The Old Railway Station stands half-ruined as a monument to the earthquake of 1963. The clock on the exterior remains fixed on the time it stopped working during the earthquake. It was built in 1938 by Velimir Gavrilovik in a modern style with Byzantine decoration. Today it houses an exhibition gallery and a small city museum on two floors. Its most important piece is the 7,000-year-old Adam of Govrlevo, a Neolithic sculpture depicting a sitting male body.
- Skopje Walks. 10am daily. A free walking tour of the major sites in Centar and the Old Town. The tour lasts about 3 hours. Free (tips accepted).
- 1 City Park (Градски Парк). North Macedonia's largest urban park, south of the stadium. It contains streams and ponds, and a variety of plant and animal life.
- 2 Youth Theatre, Mitropolit Teodosij Gologanov 4, ☏ .
- Casinos. There over a dozen, primarily electronic, casinos throughout the area.
- 3 Philip II Arena (City Stadium Skopje). The largest stadium in the country with a capacity of over 33,000. Mostly used for football, it is home to FK Vardar and FK Rabotnički (both in the Macedonian First League) and the North Macedonia national football team. It first opened in 1947 but has been expanded a few times over its life, most significantly in 2011. The stadium is now world-class and occasionally hosts concerts.
- 1 Gradski Trgovski Centar. The city's oldest shopping centre. It is partially open-air and sits just east of Macedonia Square on the Vardar. Its three floors contain stores, restaurants, and bars.
- 2 Super Vero Mall, Koco Racin boulevard 1, ☏ . The main point of this mall is the Vero supermarket but there are multiple other stores within, as well as restaurants.
- 3 Trgovski Centar Bunjakovec.
- Souvenirs can be found for sale around many of the major sites.
There are restaurants all over central Skopje. As with most cities in Macedonia, the specialty of most of these restaurants is the traditional "skara" (barbeque). Skopje does, of course, offer other types of cuisine one would expect to find in a modern capital city.
- 1 Pelister, ☏ . On Macedonia Square, Pelister is in one of the buildings to have received a neoclassical facade giving it a Parisian cafe look. It offers traditional cuisine and pizza. While it is pricier than other restaurants in the city, it is still cheap by European standards.
- 2 La Terrazza, ☏ . One of Skopje's best Italian restaurants.
- 3 Chinese Restaurant Peking Garden, Максим Горки 3, ☏ . While you don't have much of a choice when it comes to Asian cuisine in Skopje, Peking Garden's food is at least as good as what you'd typically find in Europe.
Debar Maalo, Skopje's Bohemian neighbourhood, is a great place for a traditional Macedonian meal, though the neighbourhood also offers more options these days. Most of the restaurants are found on or near Rade Končar Street.
- 4 Skopski Merak, Ul., Debarca 51, ☏ . Known for its traditional cuisine, wines, and rakija (brandy).
- 5 Idadija. Authentic kafana (Macedonian restaurant), among the oldest in the city.
- 6 Gurmet, ☏ . Traditional cuisine.
- 7 Frutti Di Mare, Rade Konchar 5, ☏ . One of the best seafood spots in the city.
- 8 DM - Debar Maalo, ☏ . Authentic Macedonian food.
This part of Skopje has an abundance of places to get a drink, whether at a nightclub or a more laid-back setting.
- 1 Club Havana. Nightclub.
- 2 Club Sektor 909, ☏ . Popular nightclub, considered among the best in the country.
- 3 XO Club, ☏ . Popular nightclub.
- 4 Irish Pub St. Patrick, KEJ 13 Noemvri, Gradski Trgovski Centar Skopje.
- 1 Best Western Skopje, Gjuro Strugar Street 11 (on Macedonia Street, just a block south of Macedonia Square), ☏ .
- 2 Holiday Inn Skopje, Philip II of Macedon 5, ☏ . Right next to the Gradski Trgovski Centar on the south bank of the Vardar.
- 3 Hotel ibis Skopje City Center, Orce Nikolov Br 55, ☏ . On Orce Nikolov Boulevard north of Macedonia Square.
- 4 Skopje Marriott Hotel, Plostad Makedonija 7, Skopje 1000, ☏ . The only Marriott in Southeast Europe opened in Skopje in 2016. It stands imposingly on Macedonia Square in a new white, neoclassical-style building. This hotel is much more expensive than others in the area but still not too pricey by European standards.