Skopje, Macedonias capital is not on your bucket list for 2019? Well, this article might change your mind, especially when you’re into electronic music and its underground values. No hypes, just vibes. Furthermore Skopje is stocked with countless bars, restaurants and cafés and here you’ll get the local tips. A guide through the best spots in one of the most promising cities of the scene.
Transparency: in friendly cooperation with Telekom Electronic Beats
Thanks to Telekom Electronic Beats, for being a platform which is always bringing attention to local and smaller techno scenes in Germany, Austria and East Europe with regular events.
This time they invited techno legend Stephan Bodzin and whizzkids Fideles to Skopje. Latter released on Afterlife and Innervisions recently and did a podcast interview with us onsite:
Next to international superstars, local heros Blendimore and DJ Flooder heated up the crowd. A crowd that really enjoyed the music, was into it and respected each other – just as we imagine an integrity techno community.
The kindness did not only result out of that happening, but seems to be the commonplace in Skopje. By walking through the streets of the Balkan city, everyone is happy to help out when you’re looking for the way or can’t read the road sign because of the Cyrillic script. Diving a bit deeper into the recent history of this relatively young country helps understanding the culture and its scene much better. You might be a bit confused when traveling there for the first time. Communistic houses meet new luxury and tons of monumental buildings and statues in the city center. Often one can draw a conclusion about a culture by looking at the historical buildings of its city, but not in this case. After an earthquake in 1963 soviet apartment blocks and concrete formed the cityscape. Locals said that before the earthquake it had the look of Vienna with red double-decker busses driving through the city. The country was ruled by communism for a long time. In 1991 Macedonia became independent of Yugoslavia.
The next historical happening that shaped the city’s look was the ‘Skopje 2014’ project. Out of this the new ‘historical’ monuments and statues in the city center resulted. However, communism still can be seen and felt when walking through the streets and talking to locals. Even the novel historical statues do not fool it. Nevertheless or exactly for that reason, the local scene is well connected and holds together very strongly.
Next to all this kitsch, the ‘Old Bazaar’, which is one of the oldest and largest marketplaces in the Balkans, offers at least a perceived history. Next to fine materials and leather, kebap, baklava and other tasty Balkan specialities will make your heart beat faster. The good thing about it: Everything is very cheap and is mostly served in a great quality. Not only in the bazaar, but the whole city. A cappuccino for example only costs around one Euro.
The young, up and rising neighbourhood with trendy cafés and bars is Debar Maalo. Many of the local hot spots listed in this guide are located there.
The local scene is small and it seems like everyone knows each other. Locals are very self-confident about their scene. The reason is, it has a strong history. Zoki Bejbe, a local artist who’s part of the scene since right from the beginning, told us why. In addition to the history and background of the development of the culture, he showed us great local spots.
Zoki revealed that back in the 90ies people from all over Yugoslavia travelled to Skopje when they wanted to listen to electronic music. It was perceived as the capital of electronic music in Yugoslavia. In 1989 DJs started to play house music in the clubs and beginning of the 90ies ‘Kanal 103’, the first alternative radio station started to mix new alternative music with classics and electronic music like Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire, Front242 and many more. Zoki also mentioned that in 1993 the first official techno party took place in Skopje. Furthermore in 1995 the T-Festival a ‘state-of-bliss-event’ with 4,000 guests as Zoki called it, invited artists like The Prodigy to Skopje (watch a video here). This festival acted like a revolution in Skopje. From now on the culture kind of conquered the places in the city. Parties and events got organised, clubs were opened and DJs like Derrick May played there. According to Zokis narrations, the first techno club ‘Dali’ was opened in 1996. Also during that time PMG (Progressive Music Group) was the first group of artists who could earn a living out of electronic music in Skopje. Record stores popped up and electronic music got popular in the city. ‘In Macedonia you are actually a nobody if you are not having a huge collection of records at home.’ said Zoki. Only about four years ago the city experienced some kind of downtime for electronic music. In 2014 Sektor 909 was the only club which played electronic music in Skopje. But it was also the time when underground parties grew big again.
Today the city is back on track with clubs, parties and a proper scene. The city rises local talent, too. Stojche is a very important DJ for the scene in Skopje. He’s living in Berlin and invited artists from Macedonia to Tresor. Another important techno export from Macedonia is Herzel. One of the most remarkable festivals for electronic music, visual arts and new media is the Desonanz Festival. Young collectives that are breathing new life into Skopje’s scene, are Oubli, Audiobahn, Btkrsh and Skopski Groove. According to Zoki they are the future of club culture and nightlife in Skopje.
Located in the city center, it’s the leading techno, house and disco club in Macedonia. On the line-up recently: Ryan Elliott and Steffi, as well as local talents.
If you like to listen to local Macedonian house and techno, this is your place to be. DJ Flooder and Zoki Bejbe are playing there regularly.
The industrial look coines the Macedonian club. International artists like Shlømo, Miss Kittin, Roi Perez, Mind Against are booked there, as well as above mentioned Stojche. Since its opening a few years ago, it is a strong force in the scene of Skopje.
According to Zoki Bejbe, Papaya played a big role for female talent within the techno scene of Skopje. The first parties with a female-only line-up were held at Papaya. Today all kinds of electronic music is played there.
Bars, Cafés & Restaurants
Skopje has a great selection of locations that combine the concept of a chilled café and a bar, playing or even streaming electronic music all day long. What they all have in common is aromatic coffee. Macedonias seem to cultivate a strong coffee culture and are open to concepts that support local subcultures and art.
This location can be found in Debar Maalo, too. Great music, good coffee and nice people seems to be the concept. The wooden interior reminds a bit of Berlin cafés, but got its very own Macedonian charm.
If you are looking for aromatic coffee and tasty cocktails, you should visit the relatively new Craft Café. Great baristas and barkeepers are waiting for you!
The garden and terrace which can be described as ‘urban jungle’ invites its guests to a chilled afternoon with coffee and to techno grooves in the evening.
A rustic restaurant that serves local food. Not trendy nor hipster or vegan, but traditional. Local’s choice: Sarma – a wrap of vine leaves filled with bulgur or rice and minced meat.
This history-charged location lies in a hidden and unremarkable backyard of Skopjes center. Darek opened his café, bar and cinema in October 2018. When communism ruled this city, this was the place where a jury pre-viewed movies before the public got to see them.
Smooth sounds while having a coffee in the afternoon or a drink in the evening? There you go. You’ll find the Radio Bar in the hip neighbourhood Debar Maalo. Old radios, cassettes and other vintage stuff characterises the interior of this bar. Artist from all over the Balkans are coming to this bar regularly and play a smooth set. If you can’t make it to Skopje, just click here and tune in the live stream. The owner also runs BKW and Kino Karposh, so you might want to check out those places, too. All three concepts are supporting local art and subculture.
‘Caffe bar Papu started out of love for art and the local artist who create it. We exist to provide a space where creativity and comunity meet and also to support emerging and established artist who can show their talent. At our place, you can also enjoy an excellent local wine with our fancy served appetizers’ – doesn’t that sound fantastic?
A new breakfast and brunch spot in Skopje with super nice and friendly staff. The bistro opened in December 2018 and attracts young people from Skopje. Tip: Order a soup and the chocolate tart with cappuccino afterwards.
Vinyl and coffee sounds great, right? And it is! This café and bar is trendy, stylish and the spot where you’ll find people of the local scene.