Macedonia’s second city, Bitola 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.
The many cafes lining the city’s pedestrian main street (the Sirok Sokak) provide endless see-and-be-seen opportunities for Bitola’s fashionable youth. The stately old architecture of Bitola hearkens back to more than a century ago when the town was a center for international diplomats to the Ottoman administration, supplanting Skopje and becoming known far and wide as the “city of the consuls.”
Heraclea - ancient mosaic, near Bitola
Even today, some of the faded elegance of that bygone time can be seen in the neoclassical facades of downtown buildings and the old gentlemen conversing in Bitola’s flowering park, all decked out in their finest Sunday suits and hats.
A city of 125,000 inhabitants, Bitola has all of the characteristics of modern life: cultural events, professional athletics, hotels and nightlife.
At the same time, its proud and patriotic people are committed to passing on the Macedonian cultural heritage. In addition to the famous Bitola Theater, the city has over 500 traditional songs dedicated to it.
Famous for its dazzling mosaics, ancient theater and Roman baths, Heraclea is the most vividly preserved city from the Ancient Macedonian empire surviving in the country.
Heraklea - floor mosaics
Founded in the 4th century B.C.E. and conquered by the Romans two centuries later, it was built on the Via Egnatia and became one of the key stations on this trading route.
From the 4th-6th centuries C.E. Heraclea also had an Episcopal seat. The first excavations were done before the First World War, but only since then have the full glories of the ancient city been revealed. Beautiful Roman baths, the Episcopal church and baptistery, a Jewish temple, portico and a Roman theater now used for summer concerts and theater shows all survive in excellent condition.
(Sources: National Tourism Office - Macedonia, MarvaoGuide.com)