Sveti Spas Church

Church in Skopje

Image by Walter Bibikow Getty Images

Partially submerged 2m underground (the Ottomans banned churches from being taller than mosques), this church dates from the 14th century and is the most historically important in Skopje. Its sunken design means it doesn't look like a church, so you might not notice it at first: it's opposite the Old Town Brewery – look for the pretty bell tower that watches over it, built into its outer courtyard wall. Inside the church an elaborate carved iconostasis shines out of the dark.

What you see today is a restoration dating to the early 19th century. The iconostasis (a wooden screen separating the nave of the church from the altar area at the back) is one of North Macedonia's most impressive at 12m long and 7m high. It was built by early-19th-century master craftsmen Makarije Frčkovski and brothers Petar and Marko Filipovski, and its tiered carvings play out important biblical scenes. Staff will be only too happy to give a brief tour of the church and can speak a number of languages (though be warned, English is not their strong point).

In the church grounds lies the tomb of Goce Delčev – North Macedonia's foremost national hero – and a small exhibition commemorating his life. Delčev is celebrated for his role as leader of the VMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation) and was killed by Turks in 1903.