Things to Do in Macedonia
Dating back to the sixth century, Skopje's Kale Fortress (Skopsko Kale) sits on the highest point in the city overlooking the Vardar River. Just steps from the Old Town, the fortress is thought to have been built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I using yellow limestone and travertine that came from the Roman city of Skupi, which was destroyed by an earthquake. The Kale Fortress itself was also partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1963, and excavation efforts have been underway for about 10 years, having thus far unearthed woodwind instruments and clay ornaments dating back thousands of years, as well as the foundations of a 13th-century church and the largest collection of Byzantine coins ever found in Macedonia.
Today the fortress is often visited on walking tours of the city, and visitors can walk along the restored fortress walls, which stretch for 130 yards (121 meters), or climb a couple of the turrets, which provide outstanding views all around Skopje. Theatrical performances are sometimes held in the summer.
The Memorial House of Mother Teresa (Spomen Kuka na Majka Tereza) stands in the center of Skopje, the city the missionary was born in and called home until she was 18. Built to the east of Macedonia Square on the land where the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church once stood, and where Mother Teresa was baptized, the house opened to the public in 2009.
Travelers can visit to explore the museum and its displays of life-like sculptures depicting Mother Teresa and her family, including the one of the humanitarian as a 10 year old sitting on a stone and holding a pigeon. Exhibits also include memorabilia such as letters, awards, relics and photographs, while an upper-level glass-walled chapel holds mass twice a week. Visitors can head to the gift shop on the main floor to browse books and Macedonian souvenirs. The memorial house also occasionally hosts cultural exhibits.
Standing at the top of Vodno Mountain in Skopje, the Millennium Cross (Mileniumski Krst) is one of the largest crosses in the world. At 216 feet (66 meters) high, the landmark is as tall as a 20-story building and even taller than the Statue of Liberty. The cross serves as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and was built on the highest spot on the mountain known as Krstovar, or 'Place of the Cross.'
Visitors can make the strenuous hike up the mountain or choose to ascend to the top via an elevator located inside the cross for incredible views around Skopje. In 2009, a restaurant and souvenir shop also popped up beside the cross, and two years later, the two-mile (3.5-km) Millennium Cross Ropeway opened with a cable car to bring visitors from Skopje to the base of the cross in under 10 minutes. Keep an eye out for the cross come nightfall when it is lit up and can be seen from miles around.
Skopje's three-story Holocaust Memorial Center (Memorijalen Centar Na Holokaustot) stands in remembrance of more than 7,000 Jews from Macedonia that were killed in the Holocaust and the overall history of Jews in the Balkans. Set in what was once the Jewish Quarter of Skopje, the museum was opened in March 2011, coinciding with the 68th anniversary of the deportation of Macedonian Jews to the Treblinka concentration camp.
Travelers will enter the Star of David-shaped building to see a somber variety of displays featuring maps, videos, photos and English language wall texts, all designed to commemorate the Jewish culture of Macedonia that was nearly lost. The moving exhibits trace the history of the country's Jewish community, starting from their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula and move to the Balkans through World War II, when a devastating 98% of Macedonian Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
Skopje's Museum of the Macedonian Struggle (Muzej na Makedonskata Borba) features 13 exhibits detailing Macedonia history from the beginning of its resistance against Ottoman rule through its declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Visitors can take a look at each exhibit to see artifacts from different periods in history, from weapons and documents to furniture and artwork. Travelers will also see more than 100 wax figures of historical Macedonian figures throughout the museum, as well as portraits of the most important revolutionaries and intellectuals in Macedonian history and paintings of important historical scenes.
Guided tours are available to take visitors through the exhibits and past Macedonia's original Declaration of Independence. The museum even opened on Sept. 8, 2011, the country's Independence Day.
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