The nightlife in Skopje can easily accommodate almost every taste. It is a kaleidoscope run wild, including a combination of fancy bars, nightclubs, restaurants and kafanas. An image emporium of events and people, music and atmosphere, where you get to combine different places in one unforgettable experience.
In this article, though aiming to describe the Skopje nightlife as vividly as possible, I see a two-fold challenge. First, this city offers an incredibly wide spectrum of places where you can go out and have fun, so it is hard to guess who is interested in what. And second- after living here my whole life, I see now that not everything can be covered in detail- whether that is due to numbers alone, or, simply, a limited perception and specific taste. Having said this, I will try to cover as much as I can, thus presenting the nightlife in Skopje in a way that will hopefully encompass everything this city has to offer.
The nightlife in Skopje – Diversity
What mostly describes Skopje in terms of nightlife fun is probably diversity. Whatever else might be said, this is a place shaped by the taste of many. Nothing predominates, in the same way that nothing is able to define this city. More bars than you can try to count, a fair number of restaurants with relaxing and laid back atmosphere, and night clubs where the party goes on as long as you are able to catch up.
What probably sets Skopje apart from other capitols is the relative proximity from one place to the next, one part of the city to the other. So it goes, that most locals would start their night out at one place, be that a bar or kafana, only to heat up the atmosphere and move the party elsewhere. Some places are only a handful of minutes apart, so it is not rare to see people dressed up, in groups, keeping the city streets alive at even two o’clock after midnight.
Another thing you should know about Skopje’s nightlife is that every place goes, more or less in tandem, with multitude of others. Dotting the map, you will notice couple of areas where people gather, and where fun and great atmosphere reside. As an aside, places are grouped, as you might imagine, in context of similarity. Majority of summer nightclubs are located in the city park, whilst bars reside in general proximity to one another in areas such as Debar Maalo, Leninova Street, The old bazar, Karpos, the city center…
People usually have a strange disregard when mentioning restaurants in the context of nightlife, so I will try to be brief.
Serving Macedonian cuisine, as well as foreign dishes, most Macedonian restaurants offer a laid back atmosphere perfect for a nice, quiet and unforgettable gastronomic experience.
All restaurants differ in many respects, so writing about them using a general tone won’t offer much clues anyway. Visit those on Metropolit Theodosij Gologanov Street though- the only place where couple of noteworthy ones are located close together. The others are either scattered throughout the city or don’t follow a specific pattern at all.
If you are into foreign cuisine, visit the Sushi restaurant and the Spanish restaurant which are both located in close proximity on Leninova Street. The Mexican restaurant is also worth visiting as well as the Indian which is located in Debar Maalo, near the city park. The Italian restaurants Gino and Gusto are also great places to visit.
Macedonian bohemian atmosphere has found its most prominent advocate in kafanas – places where grilled barbecue and traditional meals are mixed with Macedonian wines, traditional alcoholic beverages, and often times live music from the Balkans.
Kafanas are, due to variations in taste, less or more sophisticated. And here you must be cautious. Though many are tied with Balkan kitsch, most shift irresistibly away from such association. Kafanas here, unlike in some of the other Balkan countries, tilt more towards urban living than anything else. Many young people who prefer urban living and follow trends rather closely are to be found here, heating the party, in order to continue in some of the nightclubs.
In addition, as a rule of thumb, most celebrations among Macedonians are associated with such atmosphere, so it is never rare to spot a rather large group of people celebrating something. Sadly or interestingly enough, the word kafana comes very close to be used as a synonym of a party or celebration. But I digress.
If wondering where to go, the area called Debar Maalo offers a wide spectrum of choice, and I would generally prefer this area before anything else.
Ganza, Kaj Pero, Marshalot, Skupi, Makedonska Kuka are some of the places you ought to visit.
Bars and Cafes
Bars in Skopje never receded from the foreground and never will. They are the pinnacle of Macedonian nightlife, and Skopje has more than you can count. This is where the party usually starts, and either continues to the nightclubs, or in some, carries on throughout the night.
Each bar tells a different story in terms of people, music, atmosphere… And locations also play a role here. For example, the old bazar offers a unique taste preference, so most bars there follow a laid back loose atmosphere, traditional setting with an urban spin, and hip people always carrying the party up.
The old bazar is a must visit, and I place my bet that some of the places there will captivate you through and through. The mixture of setting and people and music often makes for the best atmosphere in town.
Visit Menada, Village, New Orleans, Pivnica, Rakija bar, Galerija 8, Wine house Temov…
Within the Old bazar you can also locate Kapan Ann, a place where couple of cafes, bars and restaurants are situated between huge fortified walls. The setting is Otoman, dating back from the 15th century, and the terraces within the walls are captivating indeed.
Another area where you can visit great bars and cafes is ‘Debar Maalo’. Laid back atmosphere, with places somewhat fancier than those at the Old Bazar, this is what comes to mind when you say the word urban in relation to Skopje’s nightlife.
Van Gogh, Kaldrma, Kala, Bastion, Casa di Borbone, Lajka, Café Krug… Different in almost everything, though sharing the similarity of the urban crowd, music, laid back atmosphere. Also visit Izlet, Kino Karpos, Kafe Li… Bars where you can sometimes even spot bands performing live music, or listen to some of the more prominent DJ names in Skopje who frequent these places.
The city center also offers some cool places, so you can visit The Irish pub, The Cuban bar, couple of cafes on Macedonia street, Trend, Arabesque Lounge bar, Piazza Liberta…
Nightclubs in Skopje
Featuring some of the best setting you would normally expect in large urban cities, bands or DJ’s releasing some cool vibes, and crowd that is always ready for partying. Nightclubs are where the party usually continues after heating it up in some of the bars or kafanas. The summer clubs are located in the city park, and since they rebrand and change names and interior once every two years, listing them one by one won’t do much good.
The city center is where many of the nightclubs are located. Depending on the crowd and personal preferences you might find some better than others, so I cannot give much advice here.
If more glamorous (overly shiny, really) places are your preference, then you want to visit those in the city center, and some of the ones located in the city park.
For more relaxed, underground, laid back, casual and hip atmosphere I would recommend Havana in the city park, Sector, Jukebox, Saloon, Mamas, Ballet…
I’m not that much into nightclubs anyway so take this information with a slight grain of reserve.
Other things to do on a night out in Skopje
For those who are into casinos, there is a decent range of choice as well. Not much, and nothing flashy, but you can have some fun if that gives you kicks.
The city park is another great alternative to a bar or anything else, since it offers a relaxed and laid back atmosphere, a lot of people chilling and drinking, some live music from time to time and proximity to all the night clubs you can find in the city park area. On a summer night this is a great place to be.
Another interesting proposal is taking a car ride to Vodno Mountain, arriving at a place known as Vidikovec (lookout), and looking over the city at night while having a beer or two. This is the perfect place to relax and slow down. It gives a sense of isolation from the city noise- calm, relaxed, secluded, and only a couple of miles away from the center…
The nightlife in Skopje does indeed offer a lot of diversity, satisfying each taste regardless of how refined or peculiar it might be. If you are here for the nightlife, summer is the best time to visit and sense the rhythm of the city, and when you do, chances are you will want to stay for one more night, and then another, and another.