The Old Bazaar (Macedonian: Стара чаршија, Stara čaršija; Albanian: Çarshia e Vjetër; from the Turkish: Çarşı meaning marketplace) is a bazaar located in Skopje, situated on the eastern bank of the Vardar River, stretching from the Stone Bridge to the Bit-Pazar and from the Skopje Fortress to the Serava river. The Old Bazaar falls primarily within the borders of Čair Municipality but part of it is located in Centar Municipality. As one of the oldest and largest marketplaces in the Balkans, it has been Skopje’s center for trade and commerce since at least the 12th century.
The earliest known sources that describe the existence of merchant quarters on the bazaar’s territory date back to the 12th century. During the Ottoman rule of Skopje, the Old Bazaar developed rapidly to become city’s main centre of commerce. The Ottoman history of the bazaar is evidenced by roughly thirty mosques, numerous caravanserais and hans, among other buildings and monuments. The bazaar was heavily damaged by earthquakes that occurred in 1555 and 1963, as well as during the First and the Second World Wars and faced various rebuildings following these events.
Besides its importance as a marketplace the Old Bazaar is known for its cultural and historical values. Although Ottoman architecture is predominant, the remains of Byzantine architecture are evident as well, while recent reconstructions have led to the application of elements specific to modern architecture. The Old Bazaar is still home to several active mosques, türbes, two churches and a clocktower that, together with the buildings of the Museum of Macedonia and the Museum of Modern Art, form the core of the modern bazaar.
In recent years there has been a rising interest in making Bazaar a touristic attraction. On 13 October 2008, the Macedonian Parliament adopted a law recognizing the Old Bazaar as a cultural heritage of particular importance for the country to be permanently protected. In early 2010, the Macedonian government began a project for the revitalization of the Old Bazaar, which includes the restoration of several objects and aiming for further economic and cultural development of the site. These actions are seen with a good eye by the local community and not only.