LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Toše Proeski Arena

National stadium renamed after the Balkan Elvis

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Set by the Vardar river a short and pleasant walk from central Skopje, the Toše Proeski Arena, previously named after Philip II, has benefitted from a €60-plus renovation that took some five years to complete. 

Now honouring a local pop idol who died young instead of the father of Alexander the Great, Macedonia’s revamped national stadium is one of the most impressive in the Balkans. In 2017, it hosted the UEFA Super Cup between Real Madrid and Manchester United.

The former Gradski (‘City’) Stadion was opened around the same time that its main tenant, FK Vardar, were formed, in 1947. Yugoslavia played a couple of internationals here, including the 4-0 thrashing of Van Himst’s Belgium, a 1970 World Cup qualifier.

By the time the Gradski became the home ground of newly independent Macedonia in 1994, it had acquired a new South Stand. Significant modernisation was to take place from 2008, when the arena became the shop window for the centenary celebrations of football in Macedonia. 

A new North Stand, that revamped South Stand, plus new West and East Stands at either end, all were installed for the 2009 event, for which European champions Spain were invited to play Macedonia. Liverpool also appeared here, taking on the arena’s other groundshare club, Rabotnički. Lazio were the visitors a year later.

Current capacity is 33,500. Vardar fans having taken the West Stand, this is the effectively the home end, away supporters allocated the eastern end of the North or South Stands. With ticket prices for international games low, usually under €5, Macedonia games tend to attract good crowds.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

The stadium is close enough to the city centre to be a pleasant 15min walk from focal Ploshtad Makedonija along the river, partly through greenery.

The nearest bus stop, for the 8 (from the Turkish quarter) and the 15A (from Ploshtad Makedonija), is at the Hotel City Park, a 10min walk from the stadium.

A taxi from the centre shouldn’t cost more than 150dn/£2.15.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Before international matches, many locals drink at the embankment cafés outside the Gradski shopping centre, before heading over to the stadium. Some settle down for a full plate of grilled meat with Skopsko beer at a traditional spot such as KaminČamo next to the Hotel City Park. Alongside, Van Gogh is a bar by day and popular nightspot after dark.

Behind, on Orce Nikolov, traditional eateries Nadzak and Kaj Pero are also busy pre-match.

Tomce Sofka/Kristijan jankov

Close to the stadium, Bulevar Ilinden is dotted with cafés, while opposite the ticket office, the Tomce Sofka (Jordan Hadzikonstantinov Tsinot 14) terrace restaurant is attached to the equally homely hotel of the same name.

By the river, on the other side of the stadium, Brick Bar at Kej 13.Noemvri is a loungey, cocktail spot with an expansive terrace, open every day from 9am for coffees and beers.

Food and drink are served at the stadium but queues tend to be long and slow-moving.

CITY