North Macedonia

Visit Prilep – the Underrated City in North Macedonia

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Travelers in the Balkans rarely visit Prilep, North Macedonia. Even if the city has some really interesting and diverse attractions, it’s always in the shadow of more popular destinations in North Macedonia, mainly Ohrid, Skopje, or Bitola. But there are actually some cool things to do in Prilep that make the place worth stopping in during your trip to North Macedonia.

visit prilep north macedonia

I’ve been to Prilep twice. The first one was only because I had a few hours to kill between the buses, and I went to see a bit of the city. Even if the weather was gloomy and rainy, I realized very quickly that this place had potential, and so next time, I intentionally decided to visit Prilep. It was a good decision, as it turned out the place was even better than I expected, and I enjoyed it a lot.

visit prilep north macedonia

If you think of visiting Prilep, here is a guide with all Prilep attractions and the info you might need to plan your trip.

Where is Prilep, North Macedonia

Prilep, a city of over seventy thousand inhabitants, is located in the central part of the country. Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, is 130 km north of Prilep.

visit prilep north macedonia

A brief history of Prilep

The area of Prilep was inhabited already in ancient times. In the second half of the 14th century, the town was the seat of the kingdom ruled by King Vukašin and later his son Marko. It was then incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, where it stayed until 1913. Still today, you can find many remnants of the past in the city, both from medieval times and from Ottoman rule.

In modern times, Prilep has become an important center for tobacco production as the local tobacco is known for its good quality.

visit prilep north macedonia

How to get to Prilep

Prilep is located on the main transportation corridors in North Macedonia, and getting there is rather easy. There are frequent buses from Skopje (around ten per day), and the travel time is around two and a half hours. With these good connections you can visit Prilep as one of the day trips from Skopje.

You can also take the train from Skopje; the travel time is similar. There are also direct connections to Prilep from Bitola or Ohrid.

The bus and train stations in Prilep are located next to each other, a bit over one kilometer away from the center of the city.

visit prilep north macedonia

Where to stay in Prilep

Since the city isn’t the most popular place among tourists, there are not many accommodation options in Prilep. Still, you will find some decent places to choose from. Here are the recommended ones:

visit prilep north macedonia

What to see in Prilep

At first, it might seem that there are not many things to do in Prilep, but the city has some interesting attractions that make it worth spending time there. The center of the city is pleasant, with a large square where you can find one of the impressive monuments of Prilep, dedicated to King Marko, who ruled the area in the 14th century.

visit prilep north macedonia

This is also where you will find the entrance to the bazaar. It’s much smaller than similar places in Skopje or Bitola, but it has its moments. It’s more local-oriented, and in the small shops, you can find all you might need in everyday life. This part of Prilep was created in the 18th century and has remained more or less intact to this day.

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

Before entering the bazaar area, you will surely notice one structure dominating this part of the city. That’s the slightly crooked clock tower, with a height of almost 40 meters, dating back to the mid-19th century. It was built in the Old Bazaar to replace the similar wooden structure that was destroyed by fire in 1854.

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

Next to it, you can see the ruins of the Čarši Mosque. Originally from the second half of the 15th century, the mosque was badly damaged during the riots in the city, part of the 2001 insurgency in Macedonia. The building was deliberately set on fire, and even if there were plans to renovate it, the locals were against it.

Today, this is a sad testimony of Prilep’s turbulent past. But it’s still worth taking a closer look at the structure as you can easily see its prominent features, mainly the unique two balconies on the minaret. If you are brave enough, you can even wander inside, but you will find mostly rubbish there.

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

Across the street from the square with the King Marko monument, you will find another pleasant square with a few more monuments (including Alexander the Great or Toshe Proeski) and some quirky concrete sculptures. There are also two interesting structures worth paying attention to.

A single ornate wall that stands on the edge of the square is the inconspicuous remnant of Kurşumli Han – the caravanserai (inn) from the Ottoman times. Only this small part of the building remains to this day, but it’s a good reminder of the long history of Prilep.

A funky-looking structure that dominates the square is the Telekom building, a great example of brutalist architecture. It might not be as impressive as brutalism in Skopje, but fans of this style (like me) will surely appreciate it.

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

These are the Prilep attractions you can find in the center of the city, but there are more interesting places in the outskirts. A short walk from the center, in the Park of the Revolution, you can find one of the famous spomeniks from the times of Yugoslavia.

These monuments are typical for this region. They were created in the 1960s-1980s, are known for their unusual shapes, and commemorate places and events of World War 2. The one in Prilep was built in 1961 and is dedicated to 800 fallen Partisans who fought for the liberation of the city.

The memorial complex is located on a hill with a great panorama of Prilep and its surroundings. There are eight monolith chess-alike urns, a small amphitheater, and a burial mound.

The Burial Mound of the Unbeaten (as that’s the official name of the site) is worth visiting not only to see the unusual monument but also to get a better insight into the past of the region.

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

On the other side of Prilep, you can visit the Varosh neighborhood, which is the oldest part of Prilep. Not only will you find some beautiful old churches there, dating back mainly to the 12th-15th centuries, but this is also where the impressive mountains you can always see in the background in Prilep are located.

Back in medieval times, there were 77 churches here, but only a handful remained until this day. If you are lucky, they might be open – it’s definitely worth seeing them inside, too!

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

While you are in Varosh, be sure to hike a bit in the mountains, too. This area is known as Marko’s Towers, where you can find remnants of the structures built in medieval times during the time of King Marko’s rule.

There are also some interesting rock formations around, such as the Stone Elephant. The views from this area are breathtaking, too. You can see Prilep in its full glory as well as its beautiful surroundings. This place was my highlight when visiting Prilep, and it is the reason why I recommend including this city in every North Macedonia itinerary.

When you wander around Marko’s Towers, be careful as you might meet some slow turtles, and you don’t want to crush them. I stumbled across two (in different locations), and I don’t know who was more scared at first, the turtle or me.

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

visit prilep north macedonia

Prilep can also be a good base to explore the area, as you will find some amazing places nearby. The highlight is Treskavec Monastery, located some 6 km away from Varosh, on the top of Zlato Mountain. You can come by car or hike there – it’s not the easiest trek, but the scenery along the way is rewarding, not to mention the monastery itself.

Treskavec Monastery dates back to the 12th century. Inside, you can find some impressive and valuable frescoes from the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 19th centuries. This is one of the (literally) hidden gems of North Macedonia.

visit prilep north macedonia

Another place worth visiting close to Prilep is Krusevo, which is well-connected with the city by minibusses. This is the highest-located town in the country. In 1903, it was the center of the Ilinden Uprising against the Ottoman Empire.

In Krusevo, you can visit probably the most famous spomenik in the country – Makedonium, which was opened in 1974. It’s such a quirky structure with some interesting basreliefs inside. Makedonium itself is a good reason to visit Krusevo, but the town itself is very pleasant, too, with its beautiful architecture and great views of the town and beyond.

krusevo north macedonia

krusevo north macedonia

krusevo north macedonia

Further reading

I’ve been to North Macedonia many times (it’s one of my favorite countries to visit) and have covered many places on this blog. If you plan a trip to North Macedonia, you might find some of these articles useful or interesting:

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visit prilep north macedonia


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