Throughout its long history, Bitola city was known as an important trade center of this part of the Balkans.
Traders from Bitola were well known to the East and West.
The Old Bazaar in Bitola, as one of the most vital parts of the city, played important role in its prosperity through the ages. It was not only an integral part of the everyday life of the local residents, but also through it survived a much wider region, and the larger structure of people: merchants, craftsmen, farmers, hann (inn) owners, tradesman etc.
When we speak about the Old Bazaar in Bitola, we mean not only on the Bazaar in its current borders, but many different specialized bazaars, spread all over old Bitola.
The bazaars in Bitola flourished especially during the nineteenth century when they were spread from “Drven Pazar” (Дрвен пазар – wood market) to “At Pazar” (Ат Пазар – Horse Market), with more than 2,000 stores, many shops, mills, inns, Covered Bazaar – Bezisten.
There were over 30 functionally divided bazaars, determined according to the goods being sold: Pekmez bazaar (Пекмез пазар), Cereal bazaar (Житни пазар), Horse bazaar (Ат пазар), Wood bazaar (Дрвен пазар), “Lenski”, Covered bazaar etc. With the migration of Vlachs in Bitola, the Vlach bazaar was formed, and some of the bazaars were named after the name of the street where the products have been sold “Рибарниците” (Fish market street), “Бунар” (Well) and others.
In the Bitola Old Bazaar, in the seventeenth century, there were over 900 stores, and at the half of the nineteenth century this number grew up to thousands of trade, craft, and merchant stores.
The Bazaar of Bitola (Monastir) was simply a place where you can find anything. The silversmiths, tavern, butchers, shoe makers, gun powder makers, hann (inn) owners, soap makers and others, were known to be good masters, whose products had a high reputation. At special price were the “artistic” craft jewelers, painters, shop owners, masons, carvers, photographers and others.
The Bazaar in Bitola repeatedly suffered from large fires. Thus, in 1835 a fire destroyed nearly 2,000 stores; 1862 again were burned 1,800 stores; while in the 1897 Cereal-market and over 200 other buildings were destroyed. this was the main reason why since the middle of XIX and beginning of XX century the stores were build from solid materials: brick, stone, iron, etc., with a massive metal shutters, many of which can be still seen today.
The beginning of the First World War (WW1) had also devastating consequences to the city of Bitola and the Old Bazaar, since during the period of two years 1917 – 18 the city was constantly bombarded, and many of its parts have been torn down. This was the hardest blow of Bitola Bazaar which never regained its previous glory and economic power.
Today, the bazaar continues to live, but at other times, beliefs and social relations. Changed and tired of the burden of years, events and people, “dressed” in new, modern clothes, the Old Bazaar still keeps the memories of former golden times.
Bitola today remains proud of the Old Bazaar, as one of the most beautiful monuments of its rich cultural heritage.