Veles (Macedonian: Велес) is a city in the Povardarie region of North Macedonia on both sides of the Vardar, the country's most important river. The city is home to over 43,000 residents, making it the sixth-largest in the country. The larger Municipality of Veles, which includes 27 villages, has a total population of over 55,000. The Macedonian capital, Skopje, is northwest of the city.
Veles is a city with a rich and varied cultural tradition. The city was home to Macedonia's first theatre, its first library, first music school, and first museum. Veles is also a relatively important transportation hub of the country, situated along both its main highway and main railway line.
Veles is situated on hills that sit above both sides of the Vardar River. This interesting terrain has given Veles a rather unique cityscape.
Under Ottoman rule, Veles was named Köprülü after a noble family that produced six grand viziers of the empire and several other high-ranking officers. During World War II, the Veles village of Rudnik was the site of a massacre committed by the occupying Bulgarian forces result in seven deaths. A monument was erected at the site in 2017. After the war, a massacre of 53 individuals in Veles accused of being opposed to the communist government was committed by Yugoslav forces. This was the largest massacre committed during communist rule of Macedonia. A mass grave containing the remains of the individuals was discovered in 1996.
Following World War II, the city was named Titov Veles in honour of Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito. In 1996, several years after Macedonian independence, "Titov" was dropped from the name.
The city briefly received international attention after it was revealed that a group of teenagers in Veles were producing fake news related to the 2016 US presidential election as a way of generating income.
Veles is a relatively large transport hub, with excellent road and rail connections. It is close to the country's main international airport.
- 1 Veles Bus Station (Автобуска Станица Велес). Veles's bus station is in the city center, on the east side of the river. The city is well-connected to neighbouring cities.
Veles is on the international highway, E-75, which connects Central Europe to the Aegean Sea. The city lies 55 km (33 mi) southeast from Skopje.
- 2 Veles Railway Station (Железничка Станица Велес). Veles is served by a railway station on North Macedonia's main north-south rail line, running from Niš in Serbia to Thessaloniki. The station is in the north of the city, on the west side of the river.
Skopje Airport, the country's main airport, is about 36 km (21.6 mi) north of Veles.
The city center of Veles can be walked but several of the important sites lie further out and are best reached by car or taxi.
- 1 Clock Tower (Саат кула). The defining feature of the city skyline and one of the country's finest remaining historic clock towers. It was built in the first half of the 18th century as a watchtower for Ottomans. Towards the end of the 18th century, the tower was converted into a city clock. It is on the left bank of the Vardar, on 8th of September Street.
- 2 National Museum of Veles (Народен музеј). In the center of Veles in a neoclassical building is the National Museum which serves as a focal point of the city's culture and history. Opened in 1946, the museum exhibits pieces related to archaeology, ethnology, art, and history. The museum also maintains sites around the city including memorial houses of famous natives including Jordan Hadži-Konstantinov Džinot, Kočo Racin, and Vasil Glavinov.
- 3 Kočo Racin Memorial House (Спомен куќа на Кочо Рацин). Kočo Racin was an author and partisan who is considered a founder of modern Macedonian literature. He was born to a poor family in Veles in 1908 and he died at just 34 years of age in what is believed by some to have been a murder and by others an accident. Established in 1962, this memorial house showcases the life and work of Racin. The building itself was constructed in the traditional style and it is maintained by the National Museum of Veles. Several monuments depicting Racin can be seen across Veles.
- Veles is home to one of the largest collections of traditional architecture in the country. Such buildings can be seen all over town. The Varnali complex in particular is often used in tourist promotional videos. The memorial house of Vasil Glavinov is another example which is also open to the public.
- 4 Fazil Ahmed Pasha Mosque (Фазил Ахмет Паша џамија; Black Mosque). Veles's only standing mosque was built in 1659 by Fazil Ahmed Pasha after the death of his daughter. He had the mosque erected near her grave and ordered it to be built of black stone.
- 5 Kosturnica Memorial (Спомен-костурница). The large memorial is built in the shape of a flower, symbolizing a German World War II helmet, broken in four pieces - a symbol of the defeat of fascism. Built in 1979, it is situated at an elevation above the northeastern side of town. The remains of many fallen soldiers from the Veles area are found here. Large mosaics can be found painted on the walls of the memorial. There is also a museum about the history of Veles during this period.
Churches and monasteries
Veles is home to four medieval-era churches, which all sit near each other at the south of the city. The 19th-century Saint Pantaleon sits perched above the city.
- 6 Church of Saint Pantaleon (Црква „Св. Пантелејмон“). This large, three-aisle basilica-type church was built in 1840 by famed builder Andrej Damjanov and his brothers who originated from a Veles area village. It is the cathedral church of the Diocese of Povardarie. It sits on a high terrace above the town, making it dominant in the skyline and a good place for views of Veles. The interior of the church is richly decorated with arches, columns, and frescoes. Near the church is the grave of VMRO revolutionary Mile Pop Jordanov.
- 7 Monastery of Saint Demetrius (Манастир Св. Димитрија). Situated at the south end of town near the Church of Saint John the Baptist, this monastery church was built in the 14th century by King Stefan Dušan. It is believed, however, that a church stood on this spot since the 6th century, especially given its proximity to the ancient town of Bylazora. The Byzantine-style church has a bell tower built into its western side.
- 8 Church of Saint John the Baptist (Црква „Св. Јован Крстител“). The oldest church in Veles, Saint John the Baptist was likely constructed in the 13th century. It sits at the south entrance to the city on a rock on the right bank of the Vardar, about 100 m north of the Monastery of Saint Demetrius. The small church is built of stone and features a portico on one side. On the interior, its original frescoes are not preserved and only one section of the original iconostasis is preserved.
- 9 Church of Saint Nicholas (Црква „Св. Никола“). Just one hundred meters south of Saint Demetrius is the small medieval church. It probably dates from the 10th century but got its present appearance in the 14th century. It became more or less abandoned during Ottoman times and was renovated in 1939. Just traces of interior details remain from the pre-Ottoman era.
- 10 Church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Црква „Успение на Пресвета Богородица“; Vlach Church). Built in a neighborhood on the east side of Veles that was once considered the Vlach (Aromanian) district, this church has been one of the city's most prominent since its construction from 1882 to 1905. It has interesting details on the exterior and interior. The church was considered the main church of Veles until the completion of Saints Cyril and Methodius, though it remains a popular church for weddings.
- 11 Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius (Црква „Св. Кирил и Методиј“). Veles's new large cathedral was built from 2006 to 2017. It sits in a park with a large fountain and has a detached bell tower.
Most of the places of interest in the Veles area are in the city itself.
- 12 Church of the Ascension of Christ (Црква „Вознесение Христово“), village of Oraovec. Built in 1839, this church is the work of artists from Debar. The white church features a bell tower above its front entrance.
- 13 Church of Saint Athansius (Црква „Свети Атанас“), village of Novačani. This 1845-built church sits in one of the Veles area's dying villages. It has not been renovated since its original construction.
- 1 Jordan Hadži-Konstantinov Džinot Theatre (Театар „Јордан Хаџи-Константинов Џинот“). The main theatre of Veles is named after one of its most prominent natives, Jordan Hadži-Konstantinov Džinot who was an author and teacher during much of the 19th century.
- 2 Lake Mladost (Lake Veles; Езеро Младост; Велешко Езеро). This artificial lake north of the city is one of its major recreational areas. Hotel Romantik is on its northwestern shore.
It looks like there are no hotels in Veles. The closest option will be Motel Montenegro Rivijera which is about 3 km away from the city center.
- 1 Motel Montenegro Rivijera, Skopski Pat (3 km away from the city), ☏ . Check-in: 11:00, check-out: 14:00. Quite a decent option on a E-75 Belgrade-Athens highway. Rooms equipped with AC, TV, good size fridge, private bathroom. Friendly and helpful staff. Double 2200 denars.
- 2 Hotel Romantique, Ezero Mladost (8 km away from the city, in the nort-east area of Lake Mladost). Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Rooms come with AC, private bathroom and a balcony. Hotel has a restaurant and an outdoor pool. Wi-Fi. double 3700 denars.
- 3 Hotel Boat Panini, Mladost Lake, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 3 Solunska Glava peak (Солунска Глава) (30km from Veles). One of the highest mountain peaks in North Macedonia, 2 540 m height. Accommodation is available at the mountain house Ceples.
- Stobi - the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia Salutaris dating from 197 BC. The surviving mosaics and other archaeological finds are of exceptional value.