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Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, has endured several incidents of destruction, but like a steadfast warrior, it has survived. Today, situated on the banks of the Vardar River, the city is home to a third of Macedonians. It is a very multi-ethnic place, populated with Albanians, Turks, Romas, Serbs, and Bosniaks, among others.
Formerly known as Skupi, the Roman capital of Dardanian province, it was first destroyed by a massive earthquake in 518AD and subsequently rebuilt. Landmark structures from that age include the Kale Fortress, built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Extended and reinforced over the centuries, the fortress has long served as a military stronghold and it continues to overlook the city with commanding towers and fortifications.Read more
In 1395, Skopje was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire and became the seat of power for several Sultans. The city acquired an Islamic flavour, still evident in the Old Bazaar. Don’t miss its historic inns, where travelling merchants would rest after plying the Balkan caravan routes, its fine domed hamams, clock tower, or its many Mosques – including Sultan Murat, the largest in the Balkans.
In 1689, Skopje endured yet more carnage when the Austrian General Piccolomini burned it to the ground. Not to be deterred, it rose from the ashes in the 19th century as an important centre of trade and crafts. Disaster struck once more in 1963, when 75% of the city’s buildings were levelled in a massive earthquake. It was rebuilt in modern style using plans drawn up by the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, who redesigned Hiroshima after it was destroyed in the Second World War.
Today, Skopje is a lively post-Soviet city, rich in culture and off-beat intrigue - it takes special pride in its many festivals dedicated to art, music, opera, ballet, and theatre. In Macedonia square, the spiritual heart of the city, you’ll find a statue of Alexander the Great triumphantly riding a horse – a symbol of both the Macedonian nation and Skopje’s fierce resilience.