An engineer by day, Skopje native Boban Talevski, a professed “foodie who never sleeps,” shares his insider insights on Spotted By Locals in his spare time. He loves that the Macedonian capital has “the buzz of some big metropolis, but in essence is still a very small city.” Here his recommendations for travelers visiting the place he calls home.

Read Boban’s articles on Spotted By Locals.

Skopje is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is the Old Bazaar. It’s our historical heritage from the Ottoman times, and it’s in the heart of the city, just across the Vardar River. The Fortress Kale sits right next to it, so the walk usually continues in that direction.

My city’s best museum is the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle because you can learn about the nation’s history.

The Old Bazaar is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. You will find a lot of different shops, even antiques.

A bridge over the River Vardar (Photograph by Emil56, Flickr)

A bridge over the River Vardar (Photograph by Emil56, Flickr)

You can see my city best from the Vodno Mountain. Or, even better, if you take a flight on one of the small Cessna planes at the local airport.

Locals know to skip the riverside coffee shops and restaurants next to the Main Square, and check out the Debar Maalo neighborhood instead.

In the past, notable people like Mother Teresa, Justinian I, and former footballer Darko Pančev have called my city home.

Late spring is the best time to visit my city because of the warm weather, evergreen surroundings, and beautiful cherry blossoms.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is the City Park. The Vardar borders it, and along the river you can always find families, dog lovers, and sport enthusiasts, from joggers to martial artists to beach volleyball players. The zoo is also here, and on summer nights there are plenty of young people sitting around with guitars and drinks, singing and dancing.

My city really knows how to celebrate our national teams, because the people are hungry for sports and trophies. Every time a national team wins a meaningful game in any sport, a huge crowd gathers at the Main Square to celebrate.

You can tell if someone is from my city if, during the busiest work hours, he or she is drinking coffee in a nearby cafe.

For a fancy night out, I go to Kamnik Wild Game Restaurant.

Day trip delight: Lake Matka (Photograph by V31S70, Flickr)

Day trip delight: Lake Matka (Photograph by V31S70, Flickr)

Just outside my city, you can visit Lake Matka. You can hike, mountain climb, ride a canoe, or simply just chill and relax, drink and eat, and rest your eyes in the surrounding wilderness.

My city is known for being the capital of the country, but in fact it’s really a small town.

The best outdoor market in my city is Zelen Pazar (Green Bazaar) in the city center.

Enriko is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Furna Cair is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read nastani.time.mk.

My city’s biggest sports event is the handball duel between the local teams Metalurg and Vardar. They clash at least couple of times a year, so there are plenty of opportunities to catch the game. Watch it live at Boris Trajkovski Sports Centre or at the Irish Pub in the city center.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I take a walk around the Fortress Kale. From there, I head to the nearby Museum of Modern Art, where there is almost always free entrance to great exhibitions.

To escape the crowds, I…I still haven’t figured this one out yet. If you know of any secrets, please let me know!

If my city were a celebrity it’d be former Formula One driver Niki Lauda because it survived a great natural catastrophe (in the Skopje’s case a terrible earthquake and in Lauda’s a terrible accident) and still managed to get back on top.

The dish that represents my city best is pastry with cheese triangles and olives (it’s a very popular snack, especially after a night out) and Skopsko beer is my city’s signature drink.

Ristik Palace is my favorite building in town because it’s one of the few large buildings that survived the earthquake of 1963 and it dominates the Central Square.

The most random thing about my city is that we have a lot of traditional restaurants. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. They are basically on every corner and surprisingly each and every one of them seems to be doing just fine.

 

Ristik Palace survive the 1963 earthquake, which destroyed most of the city (Photograph by doublebug, Flickr)

Ristik Palace survive the 1963 earthquake, which destroyed most of the city (Photograph by doublebug, Flickr)

Old Town Brewery and Marakana Club are the best places to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Sektor 909.

Riding a motorcycle during wintery conditions and snow could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should see the cherry blossoms on Nikola Kljusev street in the center of the city.

In the summer you should probably try to get out of town, because it gets really hot.

In the fall you should climb Vodno mountain.

In the winter you should go to the City Park and have some fun in the snow. It looks gorgeous dressed up in white.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss ABC Coffee Bar & Tennis Club; there’s plenty of room for the kids to roam, and for you to enjoy.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s to use your feet when you are in or around the city center. The city is not very big, and if you’re in a car, you will probably lose a lot of time stuck in traffic.

The best book about my city is Look on the Angel…In Love with Skopje by Angel Sitnovski. You can find it in “Kultura” bookstores across town.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it’s a bohemian rhapsody. Everybody is out all the time, chilling, drinking, eating, laughing, basically doing all the good stuff in life.