Prilep is a city in Western North Macedonia nicknamed "The city under Marko’s towers", alluding to its fortress. The city of 76,768 is the Macedonian tobacco and beer capital - tobacco leaves can be seen drying across the city and Prilep's brewery produces most of the country's most popular beers. The city was the capital of the medieval kingdom of Kings Vukašin and Marko which explains the large number of churches and monasteries in and around the city.
What is most striking about Prilep is the strange bare scenery with huge rocks scattered around. The city is nestled below a bare hill. On the top of the hill, ruins of a medieval fortress stand. All around the city are tobacco fields, and if one visits the city in late summer or fall, one will see tobacco drying everywhere he turns. What is unique about Prilep is the strange sense of humor its inhabitants have and the way they have preserved their traditional way of life. Near Prilep is the Mariovo region, one of the most untouched regions of Macedonia, with small half deserted villages scattered in untouched nature.
The ancient Macedonian city of Styberra existed near present-day Prilep, within the village of Čepigovo. It was later incorporated into the Roman Empire. Razed by the Goths in 268, it still remained inhabited.
Even though the Prilep has been in existence since ancient times, its peak was in the Middle Ages. In 1018, it was here that Tsar Samuel died of a heart attack when he saw his army of 14,000 blinded by the Byzantine Emperor Vasilij.
Prilep was the capital of the medieval kingdom of King Vukasin (r 1350-1375) and his son King Marko (r 1375-1395). They both tried to stop the progress of the Turkish expansion and are remembered as mythical heroes in the folk tales and songs. After the death of King Marko in 1395, Prilep was conquered by the Turks. The next five centuries were under Ottoman rule. Among the first rebellions to take place against Ottoman occupation was orchestrated in the Mariovo area in 1564. In 1907 following the Ilinden Uprising, the Battle of the Knife occurred near the village of Rakle, close to Prilep. 67 rebels were killed by Ottoman forces in what was considered the bloodiest rebellion after the Ilinden Uprising; photographs of the aftermath spread across the world.
The Battle of Prilep occurred in November 1912, as part of the First Balkan War. The Serbian army overwhelmed the Ottomans over the course of three days and forced them to retreat. This set the Serbs on course to head southward to Bitola.
On 11 October 1941 in Prilep, the rebellion of the Macedonian people against the fascist Bulgarian occupation began. The Prilep partisans attacked the Bulgarian police station, prison, and telephone and telegraph networks.
During the communist period under Yugoslavia, Prilep was named one of eight "Hero Cities" in the country.
- The whitest marble in the world is found in Prilep. The marble is called "Sivec". The pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is made of Sivec, and the marble has also been used in building the White House and other buildings in Washington, D.C.
- Prilep and the village of Varosh are attached to each other. In the Middle Ages Varosh was actually the city and Prilep was a suburb attached to the city.
- 1 Prilep bus station. New inter-city bus station with buses to Bitola and Skopje (around dozen of buses), Ohrid (couple of buses daily)
- 2 Train station, Boulevard Goce Delchev. As of 2017, five trains in each direction run between Bitola and Skopje; all stop in Prilep
Riding from Bitola, one can take on old road that parallel the new highway. It is in good condition, and has little traffic; parts of it are still paved with stones, rather than asphalt.
From Skopje and Veles, the usual road would follow the valley of the Vardar River to near Gradsko (where an older road, suitable for bicycles, roughly parallels the expressway); from there, one would continue west to Prilep along Hwy P106; the highest pass on this route has elevation 992 m.
A much more challenging, but historic and quite scenic route from Veles follows the valley of the Babuna River, and then that of its tributary, the Izvorčica, crossing the mountains over Prisad Pass (elevation 1090 m). From near Izvor, and to the vicinity of the Prilep Reservoir (a few km northeast of Prilep) the road is unpaved. While at lower elevations it's a more or less normal dirt (gravel) road, around Prisad Pass it's been paved with large boulders, perhaps in the Ottoman era or during WWI. Considering the road condition and steepness, you likely will be walking for several miles over the pass. Although old kilometer stones, with nearly illegible numbers, still stand along this road, few cars (maybe one or two a day) travel over the pass, and that's a good thing, considering the amount of dust a vehicle would rise on a road like this.
The monastery of St Dimitri is found near the dirt road north of the pass, and that of St George, south of the pass. Large marble quarries can be seen south of the pass as well. An old pillbox is located at the pass itself.
The centre is small and it's easiest to get around on foot.
The bus station is in the centre too.
To get to Varosh village, you can get a taxi for around MKD50 - ask to be dropped at the monastery and then walk down to visit the churches, or walk for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Prilep is one of Macedonia's foremost cities. While it perhaps saw its greatest importance in the medieval era, there are monuments from the ancient, Byzantine, Ottoman, neoclassical, communist, and modern eras as well that showcase Prilep's fascinating past. Coupled with the unique landscape in and around the city, Prilep is not to be missed when visiting Macedonia.
- 1 Čento Square (Плоштад Ченто). Prilep's central square is named for statesman Metodija Andonov-Čento, the first President of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. The open space is bounded to the east by the Old Bazaar, to the north by Goce Delčev Boulevard, and by various buildings to the south, including the 11th of October Museum, and west. An equestrian statue of famed King Marko sits in the square facing the clock tower.
- 2 Old Bazaar (Стара чаршија). Prilep has a pleasant, compact, and well-maintained bazaar with orthogonal streets. It is likely the country's third-largest, following those in Skopje and Bitola. A small square within the bazaar features a fountain with a monument of Itar Pejo (Sly Peter), a folklore character who is considered to be a native of Prilep. Itar Pejo is presented as a typical Macedonian who always manages to outwit a typical Ottoman named Nasreddin.
- 3 Clock Tower (Саат кула). Towering above the Old Bazaar, this is the most beautiful clock tower in Macedonia. Built in 1826, it stands 55 m (181 ft) tall. It first received its clock in 1858.
- 4 Čarši Mosque ruins (Чарши џамија). Built in 1475 atop an older religious building, this mosque was the oldest in Europe to having a double balcony on its minaret. Following protests in 2001 against the massacre of ten Macedonian soldiers by Albanian rebels, the mosque was set afire and now sits in ruins. Most of the minaret remains, as well as many of the walls. The ruins are unprotected and open to public trespass.
- 5 Memorial Museum of October 11, 1941 (Меморијален музеј „11 Октомври“), Ilindeska Street. The concept of this museum dates back to 1948 when documents, photographs, and art were showcased in a former inn. In 1952, it moved to an early 20th century building that was used by the Bulgarian fascists as a police station. The museum is divided into three halls, the first of which showcases pieces related to events prior to 1940 in the Prilep area. The second exhibits pieces from 1941 and the beginning of the National Liberation War, while the third hall showcases the events of 11 October 1941.
- 6 Alexander the Great statue. A prominent statue of Alexander the Great stands across the boulevard from Čento Square, beside a park area. The ancient Macedonian king is holding a spear in one hand and a shield in the other.
- 7 Kurşumli Han ruins (Куршумли ан). Just the western wall of this Ottoman-era han, meaning caravanserai or inn, remains. It is surrounded by walking paths and benches, immediately next to the statue of Alexander the Great. The detail from some of the remaining windows can be seen.
- 8 Church of the Annunciation (Црква „Св. Благовештение“), Republikanska (Републиканска) Street. Known locally as the "Old Church", this church is an excellent example of revival period architecture. Built in 1838, it is three nave basilica with galleries and lavish woodcarving (furniture and 17 m long iconostasis). In the courtyard are the remains of Pere Tošev, a revolutionary who was an important member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. Tošev was murdered by the Turks in 1912 on his way home to Prilep and cut into pieces. The would not allow that his remains be buried in his native city, so they were buried in a village near Kavadarci until they were finally brought to Prilep within this church courtyard in 1996. It is located south of the city center, a block south of the river.
- 9 Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius (Црква „Св. Кирил и Методиј“), Archbishop Dositheus Street. A relatively large church built in 1936, though a small chapel within the church dates from the 19th century. Also, many of the icons in the church predate the church itself. It is located just north of the center.
- 10 Mound of the Unbeaten (Могила на непобедените). A World War II memorial built in 1961 to honor the Prilep area's fallen in the Struggle for the Liberation of Macedonia. It consists of memorial urns made of marble, almost resembling life-sized chess pieces. The site also contains a crypt housing the remains of 462 soldiers whose names are inscribed on the marble slabs. It is part of the larger Park of the Revolution which features busts of prominent local heroes. The site is in area of greenery with scenic views of the surrounding mountains. A memorial service occurs here every 11th of October.
- 11 Stone Elephant (Карпа „Слон“). This strangely-shaped rock formation is said to look like an elephant. This is most obvious when looking at it from the trail side with the city below in the background. This trail is the one that leads all the way up to Marko's Towers so, while the view may be amazing at this spot, it gets so much better as you keep going. Before the Stone Elephant is just about the end of where a car could reasonably go.
- 12 Marko's Towers (Markovi Kuli, Маркови Кули). Truly a Macedonian gem. While the towers themselves are quite interesting, it's the location and rock formations that make this hike well worth it. The trail begins above a residential area, at the "Stone Elephant" rock formation. The trail then steadily gets steeper and steeper. There is not a single tree to be found on the entire hike; bring water and avoid hiking during peak summer heat. With the lack of trees, it is easy to stay on the trail and not get lost. Enjoy the vistas from the trail that only get better as you climb further. The remains that can be seen are from the 10th to the 14th centuries, built under King Marko who was the last ruler in the region prior to Ottoman takeover. They exist at varying heights on the hill and are in varying conditions. Upon exploring the area, you'll likely find that you are alone in your exploration - no staff, no signs, no rules. Just yourself wandering ruins used to defend a medieval kingdom. This is a rare situation and may not always be the case, so be sure to visit Prilep soon. Macedonia is pushing in 2020 to get the site added to the World Heritage Site list. The fortress can also be reached by a more scenic but rough path from Varoš Monastery. You have the option of continuing on the original dirt road (before the fork) for another 5km/3.2miles towards Treskavec Monastery.
- 13 Museum of Tobacco (Музеј на тутун), ☏ +389 48 434011. M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM. As Macedonia's tobacco capital, Prilep is naturally home to the Museum of Tobacco. Established in 1973, it has one of the largest collections regarding tobacco farming, production, smoking, and other related topics. It is located on the far northwest side of the city, past Varoš.
- 14 Treskavec Monastery (Манастир Трескавец) (The road to the monastery has been paved and is suitable for cars/taxis. Alternatively, one can hike about 6km/3.6mi from Varoš village. This hike is strenuous but brings one through spectacular scenery with expansive views of the plains below.). Built in the 12th century and set atop an outcropping of rock on Zlato Mountain, this monastery dedicated to the Holy Mother of God is renowned as a place with an incredibly beautiful Macedonian sunset. Prior to the construction of a paved road in the 2010s, Treskavec was known for being largely inaccessible but nonetheless still being home to one monk. A fire in 2013 did a lot of damage to the monastery grounds, destroying almost everything but the church. The surviving frescoes inside are from different periods in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 19th century. It is no longer possible to spend the night here as the monks' and visitors' quarters were destroyed in the fire. If you hike in summer start early, if you want to take the hike in winter, early spring or late fall, ask around to make sure the path is passable. The position of the monastery offers views below of Prilep and above of the higher distant surrounding mountains.
Prilep's oldest neighborhood was considered a separate village not so long ago, but it was ultimately absorbed within the growing city's limits. Once home to 77 churches, several medieval monuments remain today. Varoš is northwest of the city center, under Marko's Towers.
- 15 Varoš Monastery (Варошки Манастир). On the mountain below Marko's Tower, this monastery is dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. With its Byzantine-style church built in the 12th centuries and dormitories on either side, it looks as if the monastery has grown out of the rocks. There are compositions of frescoes left inside as well as relics of Saints Cosmas and Damian. Ask the nuns to point you to entrance of the crypt below the church (entered from the outside). On the columns of the porch of the church look for the second-oldest inscription in Cyrillic letters dated from 996. Walk around the monastery to admire the scenic landscape and scattered ancient and early Byzantine ruins.
- 16 Church of Saints Peter and Paul (Црква „Св. Петар и Павле“). This small church from the 14th century on the east side of the neighborhood consists of two main sections, both forming about half of the present church. The rear half dates from the original construction, built of stone. The front half is a more recent reconstruction. Portions of the interior frescoes are preserved from the original paintings.
- 17 Church of the Introduction of the Virgin Mary (Црква „Воведение на Пресвета Богородица“). This small medieval church was built in 1416 or 1438.
- 18 Church of Saint Nicholas (Црква „Св. Никола“). One of the loveliest churches of the area is this small yet tall church, built in 1298. The façades are elaborately and carefully decorated, but the frescoes inside are particularly remarkable. They are very vividly colored and well-preserved. Look for the outstanding Mocking of Christ and Judas's kiss frescoes. In the altar look for the frescoes of an earlier church painted in the 12th century. The church is open on weekends in the morning but ask around for a key if it is locked when visiting.
- 19 Church of Saint Demetrius (Црква „Св. Димитриј“), Blagoja Sukuroski, 12. Dating from the 13th century, this church is the neighborhood's largest. The present-day church is a conglomeration of buildings built in different eras, evidenced by the varied stone work on the exterior. The church is capped by a dome. Inside, carved royal doors from the 14th century are preserved.
- 20 Church of Saint Athanasius (Црква „Св. Атанасиј“). Near the center of Varoš is this partially ruined church with no roof. Its date of construction isn't known but it certainly existed by 1622 when it was mentioned in records at Mount Athos. Only fragments of the original frescoes remain.
Prilep Municipality is among the largest in the country by area and is home to 58 villages, ranging from suburbs of Prilep to severely depopulated historic villages in the Mariovo region. The topography coupled with the historic architecture make the rural areas of Prilep Municipality worth exploring. Places like Veprčani have been used as settings in films.
- 21 Old Bonče (Старо Бонче), village of Bonče. This archaeological site contains ruins dating from the ancient Macedonian and Roman eras, with coin findings from the rule of Alexander the Great and other Macedonian kings. The main feature of the site is a tomb dating from the 4th century BC. The arched tomb with monumental dimensions is thought to be the final resting place of an individual with royal status. It was originally found in 1912 by the French army and appears to have been looted in Late Antiquity. A shield bearing the Macedonian sun was among the findings here. Nearby within Bonče are archaeological findings from what may be the ancient Macedonian city of Pelagon.
- 22 Zrze Monastery (Зрзевски манастир) (village of Zrze). This monastery, dedicated to the Holy Transfiguration, is 34 km (20.5 mi) northwest of Prilep on the mountainside of Dautica. There are two main churches in the complex. The older one was built in the middle of the 14th century and the one beside it was built in the 17th century. Excellent frescoes are painted on the main façade of the church under the charming porch. The monastery stands on a plateau with a breathtaking view over the Pelagonia plain and the surrounding mountains. The monks are very friendly and might prepare tea and coffee for you. They will also tell you the history of the monastery and show you around. Look for the water spring behind the monastery for a tasty sip of natural water. The monastery is open to everyone only for day visits.
- 23 Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (Црква „Рождество на Пресвета Богородица“) (village of Kostinci). This small, single-nave church was built in 1625, making it among the oldest in Pelagonia. The interior is entirely frescoed and also contains wooden icons.
- 24 Church of Saint Nicholas (Црква „Св. Никола“), village of Golem Radobil. This 1870-built church sits on a square foundation with a pyramidal roof. It features three large arches on its front facade with a bell tower sitting straight in front, above the entrance to the courtyard. The interior is frescoed. The church contains three graves from Roman times.
- 25 Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian (Црква „Св. Кузман и Дамјан“), village of Pletvar. Built in 1862, the frescoes within this stone-built church were completed in 1865. Its courtyard contains a bell tower and the village cemetery. The church sits on an elevated position above the village.
- 26 Church of Saint George (Црква „Св. Ѓорѓи“), village of Trojaci. This church was built in 1838 on a rectangular base with a semicircular apse at the rear. It is notable for its beautifully detailed fresco work, done in 1850. The courtyard of the white church is enclosed by a stone wall within which a bell tower and the village cemetery also sit.
- 27 Marble Lake (Мермерно езеро), village of Belovodica. This wonder is near active mining sites so extreme care is required when visiting. Also, the road is very poor and doesn't go all the way to the lake so some hiking is required. Water fills a large pool surrounded by marble walls, making it one of the most unique swimming spots one could ever find. However, due to the mining activity, one may or may not be able to swim upon visiting, or even get close. Try to ask a local the current situation before heading here.
- Mariovo. Prilep Municipality contains a majority of this historic region.
- 1. Observe the Pseudochazara cingovskii species of butterfly found only in the village of Pletvar outside Prilep. It is a cool pale grey brown, the upperside bands being particularly noticeable. Its habitat is scattered with white limestone rocks and when at rest on the white limestone, it is very difficult to notice it due to its very pale underside. The species is considered critically endangered.
- [dead link] Pivo Fest. The city's famed Beer Festival. It occurs over a weekend in mid-July every year and features popular artists from the former Yugoslavia. The event was first held in 2002 and draws massive crowds.
- International festival of folk instruments and songs "Pece Atanasovski" held in the village of Dolneni 15 km away from Prilep on 22 and 23 May
- Center for Contemporary Arts an Art Colony from 1957 year, held from 10 July until 10 August every summer in the center of Prilep. web.wwwcslu-prilep.org. tel +38970208331
- [formerly dead link] Theatre festival Vojdan Cernodrinski. First week of June
Prilep is the origin of the traditional Macedonian food Širden. It is prepared with an elastic muscle organ of a sheep or lamb, which is washed and then stuffed with three kinds of chopped meat, onions, and paprika and seasoned with black pepper, pimento, and salt. A little water is added and the opening is sewn with a needle and a thread. It is baked with lard in an earthen casserole.
There are many burek and pastry places and restaurants in the centre but for best grill and local food head for:
- Makedonska Kuka restaurant, ☏ +389 48 433419. 5min walking from the old bazaar.
- 1 Restaurant CHE, Pletvar, ☏ +389 48 450 050.
- 2 Restaurant MIR, Prilepsko ezero, ☏ +389 75 524 032, email@example.com. Macedonian traditional food, Barbecue, Fish dishes (trout, carp, catfish) , fried food, meat in bakery, specialties, widely famous prilepski shirden, pizzas, Garden, Private parking
There is a selection of cafes, bars and clubs in Prilep, most of them in and around the old bazaar and in the shopping mall that stands on the main square. Here are some of the popular destinations:
- Cafe Cavalli (in the heart of downtown). One of the best downtown cafe bar and nightclub, with free Wi-Fi. Located , on the main boulevard Goce Delcev, close to the Alexander the Great statue. Call +389-71-208-210 for reservations.
- Di Caprio (main square). Di Caprio is a tastefully decorated cafe where attentive staff are keen to serve beers coffees etc. well worth a visit.
In the center of the town there are at least twenty cafe bars offering a variety of fun and you can have a nice time enjoying some very modern or rustique views of architecture.
- 1 Pension Breza (Хотелот (пансионот) Бреза), (Улица Моша Пијаде) 24а (off. Alexander the Great road), ☏ +389 71 214071, firstname.lastname@example.org. This family-owned pension is walking distance away from the center of the city, with a friendly and comfortable atmosphere. +Mobile.:+389 71 214 071 €14 p.p..
- 2 Hotel Dion (Хотел ДИОН), Joska Jordanoski Str. b.b. (ул. Јоска Јорданоски бб), City Pool (700m East from the centre of the city and is a part of the City Pool.), ☏ +389 0 48 426260, fax: +389 48 420851, email@example.com. 14 rooms: double, rooms with 3 beds and rooms with 4 beds, all with bathrooms, TV, telephone and internet.- Phone. +389 0 48 430965 Sgl/dbl/tpl €17/31/40 or MKD1080/2000/2450 (2014, tax. incl.).
- Kristal Palas, Lenin br. 184 (N 1.2 km), ☏ +389 48 418000. This four star hotel is the finest in all of Prilep. It is only 10 minutes walking from centre. From €50.
- Astra Rent-a-Car [dead link] Tel: +389-71-214-071. Affordable and fully insured car rental in the center of the city, with signing contract available in English. You can travel everywhere in the country and also outside of Macedonia. Specially organized trips to Treskavec Monastery with off-road jeep and a tour guide are available. Company is part of Pension Breza hotel.
- Bitola- Visit the “city of consuls”. Cozy Old Town and a very ruined, ancient city remains. Certainly worth stopping off here for a few hours if travelling from Prilep to Ohrid.
- Kicevo - There is the St. Bogorodica Precista a monastery with the 'flying icon'
- Ohrid- A couple bus per day (via Bitola). With ancient churches and flower-filled balconies in the hillside old city, and beach life down below on the lake coast, this is no doubt the "Macedonian Riviera"
- Skopje - around dozen of buses and couple of trains depart to the Capital
- Veles - 65 km NE. - Visit the nearby Saint Jovan Vetersko monastery