Christmas has always been everyone’s favorite season. While it is the time of festivities and gift-giving, it also marks the end of the year.
We want to spend it the best way we can—one that we cannot easily forget. Thus, we invite you write to your Christmas bucket list now and fulfil each and every item in Macedonia.
Located southeast of Europe, the Republic of Macedonia is bordered by Bulgaria to the east, Albania to the west, Greece to the south, and Serbia to the north. The country was witness to invasions like the Persians, Byzantine Empire and Ottomans, making it a smorgasbord of culture and art. Travelers discover numerous landmarks and heritage sites— nature destinations—that make it an ideal Christmas getaway.
IN THE HEART OF THE CITY
A cultural, economic, and financial center, Skopje is Macedonia’s capital and by far its largest city. Unleash the adventurer in you and explore the Vodno Mountain, which offers a panoramic view of Macedonia. Walk the trail, go for a picnic, swim in the lake, rent a kayak, or enter the Vrelo Cave in Matka Canyon. Vrelo Cave is particularly famous for being one of the deepest underwater caves in the world. Discover the metropolis in your own time and pace and try not to miss these landmarks.
Start your Christmas vacation by booking a room in Skopje’s many hotels. Among the top favorites are the Holiday Inn Skopje, Hotel Continental, and Skopje Marriott Hotel. While these hotels provide many amenities that will entice you to stay and lounge, the city has a multitude of places that will entice you to wander.
First stop is the Macedonia Square advantageously situated in the crossroads of the main streets–Dimitar Vlahov Street, Maksim Gorki Street, and Street Macedonia. Visitors and locals alike gather in the biggest plaza in the country during December for its annual Christmas Festivals. Many monuments can also be seen along the square. These represent the significant figures from Macedonia’s past, from revolutionary leaders to noblemen to writers. Displayed at the heart of the square is a fountain with a statue of Alexander the Great riding his horse Bucephalus.
Take the chance to walk along the Maksim Gorki Street. It’s best seen during Spring when its Japanese Cherry Trees are in full bloom and the locals hold a week-long cultural festival. Alongside the Macedonia Street is the Memorial House of Mother Teresa. Built on the grounds of the deconstructed Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the museum houses many of Mother Teresa’s belongings from her early life up to her death in 1997. Discover photo after photo of Mother Teresa, her family and her humanitarian deeds. Visitors can also find a moment of reflection in the museum’s chapel and later head to the souvenir shop where they can purchase Mother Teresa sculptures, coins, medallions, books, and other memorabilia.
Situated on the left bank of the Vardar River is the Macedonian National Theater. Watch exceptional plays such as the Lost Germans, Silver Wedding, The Rise and Fall of the Cabaret, and Electra. The virtual theater and museum also conducts ballet performances and concerts as well as different workshops throughout the year.
Also located in Skopje, the National Archaeological Museum near the picturesque Stone Bridge is always a must see. Historical buffs will surely have fun roaming the around museum and viewing over 6,000 artefacts from different time periods. Pieces include a restored chariot, glass cabinets, valuable paintings and mosaics as well as a replica of Alexander the Great’s sarcophagus.
For more cultural gems, stand in front of the Triumphal Arch of Porta Macedonia situated in the Pella Square. Always packed with people from around world, the arch was built in 2011 marking the country’s 20th independence. Art enthusiasts will fawn over the exteriors that contain bas reliefs depicting Macedonia’s history. Inside the 21-meter high building, visitors can ride an elevator to the a rooftop where weddings are sometimes held.
Part of Macedonia’s heritage is its many churches that depict old and modern architecture styles. First among the many is the Rotunda of Galerius built in 306 AD. Also known by the name Church of Agios Georgios, the icon is cylindrical in shape with a flat dome as the roof. Its façade may be simple and unadorned but the inside is filled with exceptional mosaics depicting saints. While the place was once used as a Catholic church during the reign of Constantine I, the Ottomans converted it into a mosque and built a minaret beside the original structure. At present, the Rotunda serves as a monument and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Continue your church escapade in Ohrid, a city southwest of Skopje. Nestled along the Lake Ohrid, the metropolis is part of UNESCO’s Heritage Site since 1980. It’s considered as one of the oldest human settlements in Europe, as well as a go-to destination for scenic seascapes and a nice swim.
A trip to Ohrid is not complete without visiting a few, if not all, chapels and basilicas. After all, the place is known as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans” due to its once having 365 churches (one for each day of the year. Among them are the cliff-side Church of St. John at Kaneo popular for having a panoramic view of the Lake Ohrid; the Church of St. Sophia built in 1035 and houses an wide array of frescoes displaying the lives of the Jesus and the saints; and the Church of St. Panteleimon where many ancient Venetian coins were found. Keep in mind that some of these churches have an entrance fees.
Ohrid City doesn’t fall short on historical landmarks as well. Old Bazaar is 1000-year old market that will make shopaholics crazy over local produce and crafts. The ruined fortress of King Samoil offers a great view of the city and the surrounding lake. The hand-made paper workshop shows visitors how a paper is traditionally made out of wood pulp.
Enjoy a cup of coffee overlooking the lake in the Café Galerija, the oldest coffee shop in the city. Dine and have a sumptuous meal in the Galeo Fish Restaurant as well as in the Belvedere. Revel in the comforts of Risto’s Guesthouse and their famous homemade delicacies or in the Villa Nova with amenities ranging from fully furnished kitchen, balconies to cosy bedrooms.
CHRISTMAS BUCKET LIST
Once I heard this phrase: “The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.” Traveling has opened many doors for everyone to explore and discover. This Christmas, traverse into another world in Macedonia and take a piece of it as you once again lay your head in the pillow. Enjoy the experience as you cross items off your Christmas list. And lastly, leave a piece yourself in Macedonia.