Bitola (Macedonian: Битола) is a grand old town that still bears the marks of its turn-of-the-century importance as a center for diplomacy – while also exemplifying the country’s time-honored cafe culture. Bitola is nicknamed “City of Consuls” and is the second largest city in North Macedonia, with a population of over 70,000 in the city proper and nearly 100,000 in the larger Bitola Municipality. Near the border with Greece, it straddles the Dragor River at the foot of Baba Mountain in Pelister National Park.
The friendly and helpful Tourist Information Office is on Ulice Sterio Georgiev, just a few metres from the clock tower (though it has at times been closed). There is a tourist map billboard on the city square (at the river end of Shirok Sokak), but this appears to be the only tourist information in the city out-of-season (October 2011).
HistoryThere are important metal artifacts from the ancient period, from the necropolis of Crkvishte near the village of Beranci. As Heraclea Lyncestis (Greek: Ηράκλεια Λυγκηστίς - City of Hercules upon the Land of the Lynx), it was an important settlement from the Hellenistic period till the Middle Ages. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon by the middle of the 4th century BC, and named after the Greek demigod Heracles, whom Philip considered his ancestor. As an important strategic point it became a prosperous city. The Romans conquered this part of Macedon in 148 BC and destroyed the political power of the city. The prosperity continued mainly due to the Roman Via Egnatia road which passed near the city. Several monuments from the Roman times remain in Heraclea, including a portico, thermae (baths), an amphitheater and a number of basilicas. The theatre was once capable to house around 3,000 people.
In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. Some of its bishops have been noted in the acts of the Church Councils as bishop Evagrius of Heraclea in the Acts of the Sardica Council from 343 AD. A Small and a Great (Large) basilica, the bishop's residence, a Funeral basilica near the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period. Other bishops from Heraclea are known between 4th and 6th century AD. The city was sacked by Ostrogothic forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and, despite a large gift to him from the city's bishop, it was sacked again in 479 AD.
It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. In the late 6th century the city suffered successive attacks by Slavic tribes. It was finally taken over by the Slavs and lost its importance by the end of the century.
In the 6th and 7th century the region around Monastiri experienced a demographic shift as more and more Slavic tribes settled in the area. They also built a defence fortress around the settlement. Monastiri was conquered and remained part of the First Bulgarian Empire from late 8th to early 11th century. The spreading of Christianity was assisted by St. Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav in the 9th and early 10th century. Many monasteries and churches were built in the city.
In the 10th century, Monastiri was under the rule of tsar Samuil of Bulgaria. He built a castle in the town, later used by his successor Gavril Radomir of Bulgaria. The town is mentioned in several medieval sources. John Skylitzes's 11th-century chronicle mentions that Emperor Basil II burned Gavril's castles in Monastiri, when passing through and ravaging Pelagonia. The second chrysobull (1019) of Basil II mentioned that the Bishop of Monastiri depended on the Archbishopric of Ohrid. During the reign of Samuil, the city was seat of the Bitola Bishopric. In many medieval sources, especially Western, the name Pelagonia was synonymous with the Bitola Bishopric, and in some of them Monastiri was known under the name of Heraclea due to the church tradition, namely the turning of Heraclea Bishopric into Pelagonian Metropolitan's Diocese. In 1015, tsar Gavril Radomir was killed by his cousin Ivan Vladislav, who declared himself tsar and rebuilt the city fortress. To celebrate the occasion, a stone inscription written in the Cyrillic alphabet was set in the fortress where the Slavic name of the city is mentioned: Bitol.
As a military, political and cultural center, Monastiri played a very important role in the life of the medieval society in the region, prior to the Ottoman conquest in mid-14th century. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, Monastiri (Monastir in Ottoman Turkish) experienced a great boom, having well-established trading links all over the Balkan Peninsula, especially with big economic centers like Constantinople, Thessalonica, Ragusa and Tarnovo. Caravans of various goods moved to and from Monastir.
During Turkish rule it developed as a trading centre and the Turkish travel writer Evlija Celebija who visited Bitola in the middle of the 17th century wrote that were 900 shops, 40 cafes, a bedesten, 70 mosques, a number of medreses (theological school) and a law school. Near the beginning of the 19th century, a large number of Vlahs from the Janina region in Greece settled in the city. During the 19th century, the city was at its peak, being the second largest city in the European part of the Ottoman empire and an important trading centre, with over 2000 stores with goods from Vienna, Paris, Leipzig, and London. Twelve consulates were opened in the city, and the consuls brought Western influences with them. Towards the end of the 19th century, Mustafa Kemal "Ataturk", the father of the modern Turkish nation, studied in Bitola at the military academy. Abdul Pasha Kerim, governor of the city for six years (1896-1902), accomplished much during his short term. He finished the drainage system and built the docks on the Dragor river, the city park, the theatre, and the ball hall. Milton Manaki, who in 1905 brought the first camera to the Balkans and made the first movies there, also lived and worked in Bitola. After the Balkan wars in 1913, when Serbia occupied present-day North Macedonia, Bitola lost its importance to Skopje, which was named the capital of the province.
Even though Bitola and Florina in Greece are very close to each other, there is no direct connection between them. The 30 km journey costs about €50 by taxi (2011). Greek taxi drivers are not permitted to pick up a return fare in North Macedonia. A cheaper (but riskier) option would be to get a Greek taxi to the border, then walk 800 m between the border posts, and get a Macedonian taxi from the border.
Some taxi drivers are not willing to go from Bitola to Greece (more details under Florina).
Bus Stationaddress: Nikola TeslaThere are a dozen buses between Bitola and Skopje (3 hours) that stop in Prilep and Veles, and a couple of buses connecting Bitola and Ohrid (1.5 hours) that stop in Resen.
By taxiAverage cost €1-2.50.
By busCheapest way to get somewhere in Bitola is by bus which costs flat rate of €0.30.
The most useful bus line is #1. Although there are two categories of buses #1, the differences are non important as they both stop at the railway station, near hospital and near the medical high school.
Other bus lines go to suburbs and nearby villages (Brusnicka, Bukovski, Dovledzik, Streliste, Dulie, Orizari, Dihovo, Nizhe Pole, Bistrica).
Clock TowerThe clock tower is the pride of the people of Bitola and a main symbol of the city. It was built in 1664 but got its present appearance in the 19th century. Standing 33 m (108 ft) tall, it is south of the Dragor River, between the old bazaar and Magnolia Square, on Širok Sokak. The square tower is capped with a small dome, on which a cross stands.
Širok SokakŠirok Sokak, meaning "Wide Alley", is a pedestrian street lined with colourful romantic and neo-classical buildings. It runs from the Dragor River in the north by the clock tower to the city park in the south, eventually continuing to Heraclea Lyncestis. It is roughly divided into three parts and even though the first part has the best-preserved buildings, it is worth walking all the way to the end. The street is very lively and lined with cafes which are excellent for relaxing and people-watching, especially since the ladies from Bitola are supposedly the most beautiful in North Macedonia and they love to parade up and down the street dressed in their Sunday best. Širok Sokak ends with the old barracks, where the military academy where Atatürk studied was situated, and today serves as the city museum. Opposite it stands the ball hall. Across the street as a continuance of Širok Sokak the City Park stands, where the old Sokolana (physical education building) for the students of the former military academy is. For more nice houses walk in the streets left of Širok Sokak.
Yeni MosqueLocated in the centre of Bitola and one of the city skyline's most prominent features, the Yeni Mosque was built in 1558. It has a square base with a dome-capped roof and one minaret. "Yeni" in Turkish means "New", suggesting that the mosque was built atop an older mosque or church. Today, the mosque is used as an exhibition space.
Magnolia SquareLocated on the northern portion of Širok Sokak, Magnolia Square is the most prominent square of Bitola. Its centerpiece is a statue of Philip II of Macedon, the city's ancient founder, as well as a fountain with the Vergina Sun surrounded by shields and spears. Surrounding the square are historic buildings, with the Clock Tower park directly to the north.
Church of St Demetriusaddress: 11 Oktomvri StreetThe cathedral church of Bitola and the most beautiful example of the so-called “revival period” churches in North Macedonia. The Ottomans rarely allowed the building of new churches during their occupation, but as the empire was weakening in the 18th century, they started granting such permission to keep the population happy. There were many rules to be followed, like the exterior had to be without decorations and the floor of the church had to be at least one meter below the ground so the church wouldn’t dominate the skyline of the city. It was built in 1830 as a three-naved basilica with galleries and five chapels. While they had to keep the exterior modest, the interior is lavishly decorated with woodwork. The huge icon screen was made in 1845. A prominent bell tower was added in 1936. The church is just west of Magnolia Square.
Church of the Holy Mother of GodA basilica church built in 1872. This church is a triple-flight church with an octagonal cupola with an onion dome on the west side. Under the west entry door, there is a magnificent iconostasis made by a master woodcarver from the western North Macedonia. Bitola's second-largest church, it also houses a nice collection of frescoes. It is located a short walk east of Širok Sokak.
Prespa-Pelagonia DioceseThis building houses the administrative headquarters of the Prespa-Pelagonia Diocese of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. It is a grand neoclassical building constructed in 1902. The four-story building houses a library and a couple exhibition rooms. It is adjacent to the Church of the Holy Mother of God.
Cathedral of the Sacred HeartThis Catholic church is the co-cathedral of the Diocese of Skopje. It was established in the 19th century but the current church was built in 1909 in the neo-Gothic style. It stands in one of the more historic sections of the pedestrian street Širok Sokak.
Officer's HallConsidered an architectural gem of Bitola, the Officer's Hall was built in 1911 by Abdul Karim Pasha to host receptions and parties. It is located in the middle section of Širok Sokak, just north of the city park, and is owned by Bitola Municipality. It is in need of renovation.
National Museum of Bitolaaddress: ul. Kliment Ohridski 66Located in central Bitola in a former military school, opposite the Officer's Hall, which Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk attended in 1896. Atatürk's family originates from the village of Kodžadžik in western North Macedonia. The museum today house a memorial room for Atatürk. In addition to its main building at the old military school, the museum also possess the Jewish Cemetery, the Memorial House of Stiv Naumov, the Memorial House of Goce Delčev, Heraclea Lyncestis, and the Memorial Museum in the village of Smilevo.
ConsulatesBitola didn't earn its "City of Consuls" nickname for nothing. It is home to 13 consulates, of which two are general and 11 are honorary. Most of the consulates are housed in neoclassical buildings around central Bitola. The Russian Consulate is one of the most prominent, on Magnolia Square. The French, Montenegrin, Romanian, Serbian, and Turkish consulates are on or just off Širok Sokak. Other countries with consulates in Bitola include Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, and Ukraine. Countries that used to have consulates in Bitola include Croatia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom.
Along the Dragor RiverMany nice buildings can be seen on a walk along the quay of Dragor River, including Josip Broz Tito High School, Bitola City Hall, the Bulgarian consulate, and the building of the Dean of St Clement of Ohrid University.
KrkardašThis spot, at an elevated location above the northern part of the city, is said to have been the place of a battle between 40 local Macedonian fighters and a greater number of Ottoman Turkish soldiers. All 40 perished in the fight and, today, there is a church dedicated to those men. The Church of St Archangel Michael is also nearby. The site is mostly of interest for the view above Bitola.
Bitola ZooOpened in 1950, Bitola is home to North Macedonia's second zoo. It houses about 200 animals from about 40 species. Efforts have been made to bring the facilities up to European standards. Covering 2 hectares (5 acres), it is a relatively small zoo.
DžepaneAlso described as Bitola's fortress, Džepane is the site of fortifications built in 1876 under Ottoman rule. The barracks were used in both world wars and suffered some damage but four buildings and their surrounding wall remain standing in good condition today, though the site is essentially open to trespass.
Heraclea Lyncestisphone: +389 47 235 329Founded in the middle of the 4th century by Phillip II, father of Alexander the Great, Heraclea Lyncestis ("the city of Hercules on the land of the lynx"; Lyncestis being an ancient moniker for Upper Macedonia, mountains of which are still home to a number of lynx) is one of North Macedonia's most important archaeological sites. While it was founded by ancient Macedonians, most of the ruins that can be seen today date back to the Roman and early Christian periods. Only a relatively small portion of the city has been unearthed including a theatre, two water fountains, a courthouse, baths, a portico, the bishop's palace and two basilicas. One of the more significant features at the site are the mosaics of the big basilica, made in the 5th century. The floor mosaic in the narthex is the most complete presentation of the world as it was understood back then. In the centre of a rectangular field, there is a fountain out of which a grapevine comes (as a symbol of Christ's teachings) and peacocks and deer are gathered around (as symbol of eternal life), meaning if you accept the teaching of Christ, you’ll have eternal life. On the left and on the right there are 5 trees rich with fruits with birds flying around (representing the garden of Eden and the afterlife), and a huge red dog called Kerber (Cerberus) is guarding the entrance. Below the trees, animals like deer are presented attacked and eaten by wild animals (presenting the suffering of the Christian soul in Earthen life). The field is surrounded by water with medallions in which 28 water animals are presented. The mosaic has been made with little stones in 27 different colours (the only “richer” mosaic is found in Pompeii - a wall mosaic made of stones in 32 colours). There is a small museum (no extra fee) on the grounds with a few artifacts (more or less limited to a couple of ancient stone masks) and a nice scale model of the city at its peak. A leisurely stroll around the ruins will take 45–50 minutes.
Old BazaarBitola's old bazaar is the city's historic commercial centre. It is situated north of the Dragor River, opposite the clock tower and Magnolia Square. In its narrow streets, it is home to examples of traditional Turkish architecture including important religious and cultural buildings. Bitola achieved its peak importance during Ottoman rule and had a large bazaar. While the size of the bazaar has declined over the years, it remains an active centre of commerce and life in Bitola.
BezistenA bezisten is a covered bazaar where more precious goods were typically sold. Bitola's bezisten was built the 16th century but has seen changes over the course of its history. It has four large metal doors and its roof has numerous cupolas. It remains a building of commerce today. It is on the north bank of the Dragor River, opposite the clock tower.
Ishak Çelebi MosqueLocated just west of the bezisten, Ishak Çelebi Mosque was built in 1508, commissioned by local judge Isak Çelebi Ibni Asa. With its 50 m (164 ft) minaret, it is prominent in the city skyline. It is also Bitola's largest mosque.
Deboj HamamLocated in the northern end of the old bazaar, this hamam (Turkish bath) was built in the 15th or 16th century. It was a double hamam, meaning there were separate male and female sections, each beneath one of the two domes. No longer functioning as a public bathhouse, it has been a commercial building since 1990. Go in a shop and check out some of the details of the former hamam.
Gazi Haydar Kadi MosqueThis mosque was built in the 1560s, designed by noted Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. After falling into disrepair years ago, it was renovated with the help of the Turkish government in 2016. Due to the decrease in size of the old bazaar, it is now at the northern edge of the district. It has a single dome with three additional domes above the portico. It also has a single minaret. Following restoration, the mosque is once again an active religious building and is now fully illuminated at night.
Church of St NedelaThis church was built in 1863 and features a large icon of Sts Cyril and Methodius on the interior. Its large cemetery is home to several notable burials including those of revolutionaries Pavel Šatev, Dimko Sarafov, and Aleksandar Turundžiev.
French Military CemeteryOver 13,000 fallen French soldiers of the Macedonian Front of World War I are buried at this cemetery. It was established in 1923 and has a large monument at the entrance.
German Military Cemetery3,406 German soldiers who were killed fighting in the Macedonian Front during World War I are buried at the German Military Cemetery in Bitola. The cemetery opened in 1936 and contains numerous interesting monuments and memorials. It also occupies an elevated position above the city, making for nice views of Bitola.
Jewish CemeteryThe cemetery of Bitola's historic Jewish community was established in 1929. It is at the northeast entrance to the city and is easily recognizable with its large, white gate. The memorials and tombs at the cemetery are in varying condition.
Serb Military CemeteryThis cemetery contains the final resting places of 1,321 Serbian soldiers killed during the Balkan Wars and World War I. Crosses mark the graves of most soldiers, while others have more elaborate memorials. It is 2 km (1.2 mi) south of central Bitola, on the road towards the village of Bukovo.
Church of the Holy TransfigurationThis large church sits in a deserted village that used to be inhabited by Vlachs. Known for their building skills, the Vlachs of Gopeš constructed an impressive church with seven arches on the main facade.
Velušina MonasterySituated on a hillside overlooking the Pelagonia plain, this monastery was established in 1839. The monastery church, a small three-nave church, is dedicated to St George. The grounds also contain a stone bell tower.
Church of the Assumption of the Virgin MaryBuilt on the ruins of a pagan temple, this site is home to traces of multiple basilicas. The main church was built after 1259 but abandoned during the Ottoman era until 1792 when it was first renovated. The church has had its current appearance, inside and out, since about 1879.
Church of St Georgeaddress: village of VašarejcaSituated in the villages northeast of Bitola, within Mogila Municipality, is this church built from 1862 to 1883. Its high quality frescoes completely cover the interior.
Church of St Peteraddress: village of SkočivarThe highest peak of the Nidže Mountains, Kajmakčalan reaches a height of 2,521 m (8,271 ft). The frontier between Macedonia and Greece runs across the summit. A battle was fought here as part of the Macedonian Front during World War I between Serbia and Bulgaria; it resulted in a tactical Serbian victory but at a great loss to both sides. A church was built atop the summit in commemoration of the dead Serbian soldiers. An ossuary contains their skulls and other remains.
- Mariovo. Novaci Municipality covers a large portion of this historic region, now largely deserted.
Bitola Metro Zoophone: +389 47 222 956address: Tumbe Kafe (Тумбе Кафе b.b.) street
City Parkaddress: Gradsko Šetalište
Culture Houseaddress: Pece Matichevski б.б. former Leninova
Olympic Swimming Pooladdress: City Promenade
The Champions Parkaddress: Gradsko Šetalište
Sport Hall for Children
Stiv Naumov Parkaddress: Pecő (Пецо Божиновски)
- The International Cinematographers Film Festival "Manaki Brothers" - the festival is a member of the ECFF/European Coordination of the film festivals and has precious collaboration with it. The main part of the festival's programme belongs to “Camera 300” - Official Competition of Long Feature Films from the most recent European and world production, whose Directors of Photography contend for the Golden, Silver and Bronze Camera 300, awarded by the festival's International Jury. Held on a third week of September every year since 1979.
- Interfest - an international festival of classical music, held 2–12 October every year since 1992. The 10-day festival gathers prominent musicians and renowned soloists from all European cultural centres.
- BitFest - a music festival with over 100 events takes place from the 2nd half of June to the end of August.
- Bitola Shakespeare Festival presents Shakespeare plays and adaptations played by theater troupes from different countries. Usually takes place on 19-25 July.
phone: +389 47 258 288address: Ignjat Atanasovski(Игњат Атанасовски b.b.)
New Bazaaraddress: General Vasko Karangjelevski (Генерал Васко Каранѓелевски b.b.)Elektromak (+389 47 521976)
Green Marketaddress: Road Sterjovski Gjorgji - Dzhodzha (Стерјовски Ѓорѓи - Џоџа)
GrneIs recommended, near the clock tower, local specialties, grill.
Kus Kusaddress: Sts. Cyril and MethodiusSalads, French cuisine, local specialties.
Pita GiroBest gyro in Bitola.
Pizza BureHas the most tasty pizzas in Bitola.
RavennaExcellent Italian fare, on Shirok Sokak St, below the Catholic Cathedral.
Art CaffeElegant food, e.g. popular Macedonian baked pasta (called "Mekici") . Also sweets, for instance, cheesecake, or Nutella cake.
Manaki Lounge BarOne of the oldest restaurants in town. Offers delicious food, decorated in a modern style.
Macedonia is famous for its wines, and you should never leave the country without trying or buying. There are a lot of varietal wines such as Merlot, Pinot Noar, Riesling, but you should try the local ones red wine Vranec and white ones Traminec and Temjanika.
Produced in North Macedonia, the Vranec wine T'ga za Jug is semi-dry and ruby-red in color. It has been described as being similar in taste to the Italian or Californian Barbera. You can have it in Special selection or Limited edition.
Porta JazzCoffee and a night pub. Like the name says it offers a nice jazz atmosphere. The pub is designed in retro and modern textures.
KamariteThis is a coffee and night pub. Kamarite and Porta Jazz are official coffee places for Brothers Manaki film festival and Bitola Fashion Week.
Bitola has good night life and offers good parties, except for minors; people under 18 are not permitted to enter the clubs.
IntermezzoIt offers great parties for the weekends and nicely atmosphere for the daytime. The music selection is always different: pop, ex-yu (music from Yugoslav pop and rock groups), DJ selections, romantic music.
Positive Night ClubThis is one of the most visited clubs exclusively on summer time. Music hits, R'n'B and Hip Hop music are part of the music sections.
RascekorIt is also one of the most visited clubs. Music: Macedonian pop, Serbian pop, turbofolk, music hits.
phone: +389 47 230715address: Ivo Lola – Ribar400 den or €7 p/p night, for a room with lots of space. Only open during the Holiday season -mid June till mid September.
BOEM Guest House, Hostelphone: +389 75 427 268address: Nikola Tesla bb
Hotel de Niroaddress: Sts. Cyril and Methodi (Св. Кирил и Методиј) 5- is in the heart of Bitola. It has 6 double, 7 triple and 2 luxury equipped suites. The hotel is 10 km from Pelister National Park. Every room is built in the old spirit and has all conveniences.
phone: +389 47 552034address: Str. Slavko Lumbarko 15In historical, quiet and central area. 15 minutes to the bus and train station. The old part of the city is 2 minutes walk from the hostel. Young, friendly and English speaking staff, free city maps. Breakfast included in the price. Free bus and train station pick ups.
phone: +389 47 224 919, +389 75 522 555Large peach colored building on 80 Stiv Naumov street, across the street from DVD Club "Dju". Very nice rooms with TV and free wifi. €13/night.
phone: +389 47 224777address: Shirok Sokak б.б.This four-star hotel is the largest in Bitola. It is near Shirok Sokak Street, and is the tallest building in Bitola.
phone: +389 70 250 272address: Marx i Engels 7Very central - 20 m from Shirok Sokak Street.
Via Apartmentsphone: +389 75 246261address: Elpida Karamandi 4
phone: +389 47 609442address: near Magnolia Square27th March 10. Exclusive location in the centre of the city
phone: +389 47 251 632address: 11-ti Oktomvri 4next to Sv Dimitri. Nice double room with ensuite and breakfast €35
phone: +389 47 256 500506 б.б.
phone: +389 47 610 188address: Stiv Naumov 35, Bitola 7000, North MacedoniaWell-maintained small hotel, with an attached dining area, as well as nearby apartments in the event of unavailability.
- St. Clement of Ohrid University is one of four state universities in Macedonia. It is mainly in Bitola, but has other institutes in Ohrid and Prilep. It was founded on 25 April 1979, but the name St. Clement of Ohrid was not given until late 1994. It has more than 15,000 students.
- phone: +389 47 202963address: Str. 1 Maj Nr. 53
Francephone: +389 47 223 192address: Str. Marshal Tito Nr. 42
Greecephone: +389 47 237350address: Tomaki Dimitrovski 39
Romaniaphone: +389 47 233 937address: Str. 29 Noemvri Nr. 4/2
Sloveniaphone: +389 70 207959address: Str. 29 Noemvri Nr. 4/II
Turkeyphone: +389 47 254944address: Str. Anesti Panovski Nr. 10/1-8
United Kingdomphone: +389 47 228765address: Str. Marsal Tito Nr. 42
Macedonia Post - BitolaБезистен б.б. ,+389 47 212 526