The old part of the town can be found in Carsija, the Old Bazaar. It's easily the most pleasant part of the city to wander around. Here you will find lots of tiny, pastel shaded, square little one floor shops that string themselves along the narrow cobbled streets that wind up and down the shallow slope underneath the Kale fortress. It has a very Turkish feel about it, with grand mosques dotted among the shops, and shopkeepers with pillbox tupi hats selling everything from handmade leather shoes to kebabs. There's a lot of "gypsy gold" on offer too, whatever that is.
It claims to be the biggest bazaar in the Balkans, which, if true, would make it one of the biggest in continental Europe.
The Old Bazaar neighbourhood of Skopje, known as Carsija, has been occupied for almost three thousand years, and has been an important center for trade for the past thousand years or so! Most of the people currently living in this neighourhood are ethnic Albanians, so there is a multicultural influence and the city's strongest Muslim presence. Inside the bazaar there are a number of different sights that are of interest to tourists, while locals visit primarily to shop for their daily needs, dine at the myriad restaurants and chat with their neighbours on the narrow, pedestrianized cobblestone streets. It's easy to spend an afternoon- or an entire day- exploring this part of town
Despite my limited time in the city (this visit) I spent my evening and most of the following morning wandering Skopje's Old Bazaar and its adjoining marketplace. I loved the bustle, the aromas, the industriousness and just the general diversity of this city within a city.
As a tourist attraction the bazaar offers a glimpse of life from when the city was occupied by the Ottoman Turks and several buildings are now art galleries and museums. However its not just a stage-set of a tourist attraction.
During the day this is still very much a working bazaar where as well as the buying and selling you'll find artisans and craftsfolk actually making and repairing everyday things. I noticed a tailor in a tiny workshop, barely large enough for him and his sewing machine, running up what looked like a suit jacket whilst a few doors along a couple of mechanics were wrestling with a pretty hefty electric motor.
The row of jewellery shops were positively upmarket, as were some of the clothes shops, whilst an ironmongers featured hand-made pots and pans, gardening tools and even a full-scale rakiya still. The myriad little cafes all seemed to have their regulars diligently smoking, chatting and leisurely enjoying their morning coffee, the barbers were deftly wielding their cut-throat razors and hot towels, groups of guys congregated (cigarettes in hand of course) on street corners and busily tooing and froing were the motorised and unmotorised porters with their ungainly-looking, but practical, three-wheeled barrows.
At night, after the shops and stalls close down, the bazaar changes personalities. After the industriousness of the commercial day the bars, restaurants and cafes become the hives of activity. Music and conversation take centre stage against a backdrop of clattering cutlery on crockery and the frothing of beer fonts (along with the glugging into glasses from wine bottles, the chugging of the espresso machines and the skooshes as soft drinks are popped).
Apart from the servers, bar staff and proprietors all and sundry are out to relax. On a balmy early-summer evening, with the post-dusk light fortified by the strung street lamps and the glow from the salles, hunger and thirst are slaked at an unhurried pace. There's no hassle, no loud voices - just a general, civilized bonhomie as greetings are exchanged with handshakes and triple cheek kisses and the narrow cobbled streets become a moveable feast.
From my all-too-brief visit I found both day and night here in the bazaar equally inviting, equally characterful and sufficient of a taster to make me want to return and immerse myself fully in this fascinatingly vibrant city within the city.
The old section of the city is one of the best preserved examples of urban Ottoman architecture in the Balkans. The Turkish bazaar, shops, baths and mosques of various sizes make Skopje one of the most beautiful gifts the Ottoman’s left in the Balkans. It is no exaggeration to say that all of the jewellers in the city are gathered in the section known as Charshi (Marketplace). Everyone’s gaze is drawn to the shops by the sparkle of gold in the display windows. In this era-defying market of Skopje, you will see cloth, copperware and textiles from Anatolia that make you think you are in an Anatolian bazaar. The mosques that soar above the single-storey shops as you progress through the narrow market streets and the sounds of the call to prayer are literally the remnants of a multi-cultural past.
The old Muslim part of Skopje, called Carsija, is a very pleasant area to walk around.
It has a very eastern atmosphere.
Here you will find many shops selling gold jewelery and souvenirs. Also the Bit Bazaar is located here, where you can buy fruits and vegetables, as well as a bunch of other stuff.
Most of the interesting sights of the city are located in this part.
Crossing the old stone bridge, you reach a shopping centre and a busy highway, which is not quite the expected entrance to the historic part of Skopje, but beyond this the old Carsija (char-shi-ya) district begins...what remains of Skopje's old town is not huge, but despite this you can lose your way to some extent, especially if you are looking for something in particular or trying to follow the map. By following the first street you enter to the end, you will cross the entire district and, within ten minutes or so, end up in the big market called Bit Pazar. But don't limit your explorations to just this main street...take a left, or a right turn, and follow your nose...that way you can find one of the museums, the old covered market, one of the restored "ans" (from "khana", a sort of tradesman's hostel/storeroom, found throughout Ottoman lands), a mosque or a church, backstreet cevap sellers, ice cream parlours and cafes.
Carsija is a truly unique district and its best to approach it from the new city, walking over the Kameni Most (Stone Bridge). As you make your way northward it feels like you are gradually stepping back in time to Ottoman Rule. True, there are many examples of modernity here, but, perhaps because of the relative isolation of the Republic of Macedonia, there are extremely few example of Western shops. Carsija has a Sprider store, and thats about it for foreign retailers. The rest of the shops are characteristic small boutiques, many of them goldsmiths, who help to preserve the atmosphere of this place. Shop windows are usually bilingual (Macedonian/Albanian) although some of the exchanges also feature Turkish. These change to predominantly Albanian as you head towards Pit Bazaar and Cair.
Old Skopje Bazaar: On the left side of the river Vardar , in the ancient part of Skopje is the old Skopje bazaar. Up to the present time the bazaar has experienced several changes in respect of the appearance and the organization, but it has still kept the spirit of the past. In the small innumerable handicraft shops, the Skopje`s handicraftsmen can still be seen, tailors, cobbler, quilt makers, shoe makers, tinsmiths etc. The old market place is still alive and full with a vivid atmosphere which radiates from the small shops, coffee and tea rooms which are always full with tourists which are delighted from the appearance and the life of this part of the city.
Buy you girl or wife a robe for belly dancing, find a nice carved knife for yourself, or buy nice painting for your home.... and haggling at every shop is inevitable ;) you can cut the prices for about 50% or more (trust me, I've tried)
In the ancient part of Skopje is the old Skopje bazaar. It still is the largest one in the Balkans.
In the small handicraft shops, the Skopje’s handicraftsmen can still be seen, tailors, quilt makers, shoe makers, tinsmiths etc.
The old bazaar was a shopping area and contact zone of the Christian and the Muslim population as they lived in separate quarters of the town. All the shops used to be same size no matter if they belonged to a Christian or a Muslim.
The old market place and streets are still alive and full with atmosphere which radiates from the small shops, coffee and tea rooms which are always full with tourists which are delighted from the appearance and the life of this part of the city.
This is a great place to explore.. the sounds, sights and the smells hit you. Too much but its a great place to wander around.. I bought some really hot herbs and spices here for my dear mother.. Great place for meeting the locals..
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