Skopje Fortress One of the iconic landmarks of the capital is Skopje Fortress. Hard to miss as it's situated on the highest point of the city overlooking the Vardar River. You can enter the fortress, walk the walls, and enter the towers. The site of the fortress only started to be excavated in 2006, with many artefacts found dating back to 3000 BC. Worth noting that parts of the fortress have been reconstructed, even as recently as 2002, following earthquake damage from 1963. You can also get great picturesque views of the National Stadium and across the river from the tower viewpoint.
Memorial House Mother Teresa Many people don't realise that the Roman Catholic nun and missionary Mother Teresa was actually born in Skopje. There's a Memorial House in the centre of the city on the popular Macedonian Street in full dedication to her. The place was built in 2009 and holds many of her relics, as well as sculptures of her in various stages of life. The landmark is immensely popular with many religious tourists from all over the world.
Lake Ohrid The most popular day trip from Skopje is a visit to Lake Ohrid, which is 120km south of the capital. The lake actually straddles the mountainous border between Macedonia and Albania. There's villages surrounding the entire lake, which means there are plenty of viewpoints offering stunning panoramic views. Be sure to visit The Church of St. John at Kaneo, which is also a fantastic viewpoint. It rained for my entire visit, but I would still fully recommend this day trip.
On top of Vodno Mountain is the 66 metre tall Millennium Cross which overlooks Skopje. It's one of the tallest crosses in the world and was build to commemorate 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia. You take a cable car up to the cross then there's an elevator inside the cross itself, which offers great views. Whilst you're up Vodno Mountain, be sure to check out the Church of St Panteleimon. You can also get great views of the cross at night as it glows with thousands of lights. Worth noting that the cable car doesn't operate on a Monday.
A simple 30 minute drive from Skopje and you can reach Matka Canyon, which is a popular outdoor spot for both locals and tourists. There's plenty to do here with some short hiking trails, as well as some popular cliff jumping spots. I chose to rent a kayak at a cost of $5 USD an hour. There's also a UNESCO site in the form of Vrelo Cave Complex. A couple of useful tips I would give are to visit in the morning before it becomes crowded, and take a taxi, as parking is virtually non-existent.
Pristina Day Trip For something completely different, you can reach Pristina, the capital of Kosovo via a simple 1 hour drive north. There is a land border to pass through, but it's a simple stamp process for virtually all passports. Pristina isn't the biggest of cities, so majority of the attractions are very easy to walk between. I'd recommend checking out the Newborn Sculpture, Christ the Saviour Serbian Orthodox Church, the uniquely designed National Library of Kosovo, and of course the Bill Clinton Statue.
Skopje City Tour
I was going to recommend Macedonia Gate, which is a triumphal arch located on Pella Square, but the city offers much more. The gate is a dedication to 20 years of Macedonian Independence. Other sites I would recommend visiting are both Stone Bridge and Art Bridge, Macedonia Square, and the uniquely designed Saint Clement of Ohrid Church. The city has a real glow about it at night, so be sure to take a walk after sunset too.
I stayed in Hotel Hamburg, which is a 4 star hotel in the centre located close to the Old Bazaar. The rooms are basic (3 star standard in my opinion), but the location is great to use as a central point to explore the city. The main central square is no more than a 10 minute walk away. There's also triple and quad rooms available, so ideal if you're staying in a small group.
I'd recommend Kolektiv Restaurant in Skopje for a centrally located spot that's low cost with a decent food selection. There's local Macedonian dishes, as well as international cuisine on offer, so something for everyone. There's also a good selection of local craft beer, which is very popular in the summer months due to the large outdoor seating area.