Although Lake Ohrid is off-the-path compared to countries like Italy or even Croatia, it’s still a popular place for Albanians and Macedonians to kick back. Prices are cheap and people are so nice.
There’s something rustic, retro and quite charming about Lake Ohrid, that I haven’t seen other places. Much of the interior has a ’70s feel; warm earthy brown and orange tones, wood paneling, and Afghan blankets. It’s incredibly cosy and charming.
In this post, I’ll introduce you to the best things to do in Ohrid, Macedonia and include a bit of the historic background. From the most beautiful churches to the Old Bazaar and the historic Samuil’s fortress, here’s a list of the 12 best things to do in Ohrid.
Read next: Things to do in Skopje
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Things to do in Ohrid, Macedonia
There’s a lot of things to do in Ohrid. But most of all, it’s a place to relax and unwind for a long weekend or a week even. The views are definitely the main reason to visit Ohrid. It’s just so peaceful and quiet. And it’s easy to reach from Skopje.
Ohrid is a fairly small city and you can reach each sight by foot. You’ll need transportation to reach Lagadin or Sveti Naum.
Read next: How to visit Macedonia for the first time
When to visit Lake Ohrid
Ohrid is a seasonal city, which means that hotels shut down during winter, and it can feel sort of abandoned. We visited Macedonia in early November, just before our hotel closed down for the season. Although I haven’t been to Lake Ohrid during other seasons, nothing beats autumn when it comes to beautiful, vibrant views.
High-season: Mid-July – mid-August, during the summer festival
Most beautiful season: October – early November
1. St. John Kaneo Church
The hallmark of Lake Ohrid (and North Macedonia as a whole) is St. John Kaneo Church, built some time before 1447. It’s the most beautiful place in town.
The church stands right above a small fishing settlement, on a cliff rising up from Lake Ohrid and it’s dedicated to John of Patmos, believed to be John the Apostle.
3 ways to get to St. John Kaneo Church:
- Walk from the Plaošnik, downhill through a forest (only take this “road” if you’re coming from the fortress)
- Walk the over-water boardwalk from the main dock (most scenic)
- Taxi boat ($5.3) from the port to the base of Kaneo church (most convenient)
2. St. Sophia church
The top Lake Ohrid attractions also include St. Sophia church. It dates back to 852 – 889, and it’s one of the most important churches in Macedonia. It’s even pictured on one of the country’s banknotes.
It’s worth going inside to see the architecture and art from the Middle Ages. When St. Sophia was converted to a mosque during the Ottoman Empire, the frescos were covered and preserved.
Plaošnik is an archaeological and holy place in Ohrid. It’s home to the multi-domed medieval Church of Sveti Kliment i Pantelejmon. Plaošnik is situated on a hill, 250 meters below Samuil’s Fortress and just above St. John Kaneo Church.
4. Samuil’s Fortress
A little further up the hill from Plaošnik and St. John Kaneo Church is the mighty Samuil’s Fortress.
Samuil’s Fortress was the HQ of the Macedonian Empire during the rule of Samuil in the 10th century. Today, this historical monument is a tourist attraction and was renovated in 2003. There’s not much information to be found at the castle, but you’ll get some really beautiful panoramic views from the top.
5. Ohrid Amphitheatre
Ohrid’s historic amphitheatre was built around 200 BC. The Romans later removed some of the rows for gladiator fights and Christian executions.
You’ll find it tucked in between residential houses, and in the summer it’s a venue for Ohrid’s summer festival.
6. Ohrid bazaar
In the heart of Ohrid is an atmospheric old quarter that cascades down steep streets. The most lively part is the old bazaar, especially on market days, where lots of food and handmade products are for sale.
In the centre of the square stands a 1,000 year-old tree and a fountain. Above the square is the clock tower of Ohrid.
7. Ohrid boardwalk and city beach
Even if you visit outside the hot summer months, you should take a walk on the over-water boardwalk. It starts at the main pier and takes you to a stunning outcrop of pebble beaches and a handful of small restaurants and bars.
During July and August, the water is clear and warm, perfect for swimming.
8. The Robevi family house museum
Open 10:00 – 14:00, 18:00 – 21:00. Closed Monday.
This three-floored museum is housed inside a 1864 building. It features ancient statues, stone monuments and a carved torso of the Goddess Isis, dating from 200 BC. On the top floor, there’s an exhibition of local woodcarving and other folk arts from Macedonia.
9. Take a stroll along Lake Ohrid
The most beautiful nature around Lake Ohrid is found in Lagadin. It’s a small tourist village 9 kilometres south of Ohrid. It’s really quiet there, and there’s also a beach, restaurants and several hotels.
While summer is the best time to visit for swimming and higher temps, autumn is particularly beautiful.
10. Day trip to Sveti Naum
Sveti Naum is the most popular day trip from Lake Ohrid and most definitely worth a visit.
Sveti Naum is very beautiful, and the iconostasis inside the church dates to 1711 and the frescoes to the 19th century. The whole area is quite large and perfect for a picnic and swimming once you’re done exploring the church. There’s also wild peacocks at the grounds and a lake where you can take a boat ride. Perfect for families.
How to get from Ohrid to Sveti Naum:
- By car: Drive 30 mins south towards the Albanian border. Park at the entrance to the monastery for a small fee.
- By bus: Runs six to seven times daily (around $2.6 one way).
- By boat: 1½ hours each way. Runs every day at 10am and returns at 4pm ($11 return).
- By taxi: $18 one way.
11. Bay of Bones
On the way from Ohrid to Sveti Naum is the Bay of Bones. It gets its name from the many animal remains that have been found here.
Between 1200 and 600 BC, Ohrid was home to a settlement of pile dwellers who lived literally on top of the water, on a platform supported by up to 10,000 wooden piles anchored to the lake bed. The Bay of Bones is a reconstruction of Lake Ohrid in prehistoric times.
12. Indulge in Macedonian food
The food in Macedonia is colourful and diverse, and most of the recipes are based on organic produce. Vegetables and pastry serve as the backbone of Macedonian food, and it’s influenced by Turkish flavours, quite similar to other Balkan cuisines.
The most popular dishes in Macedonia include:
- Tavce Gravce – baked beans with spicy peppers, onions and fresh tomato
- Shopska salad – salad with cheese
- Stuffed peppers
- Burek – flaky filo dough with vegetables or meat
Where to stay in Ohrid
We based ourselves in Lagadin, which I think is the prettiest place around Lake Ohrid. It’s got everything you need – restaurant, ATM, small kiosk and hotels. But it’s 7 km from Ohrid city centre, so you’ll need a car, scooter, bike or taxi to go go anywhere. Regardless of where you end up staying, just remember to book in advance if you visit during the high season.
Vila Bisera – We stayed at this lovely hotel with two swimming pools, spacious rooms and such a nice staff. The rooms have air-con (a must in summer) and such beautiful views over Lake Ohrid, because it’s located on a hill. I’d definitely stay here again!
Click here to find the latest prices: booking.com
Ask me anything about things to do in Ohrid!
Before you go – don’t miss out on these posts:
- How to visit Macedonia for the first time
- 12 fantastic things to do in Skopje
- How to visit the beautiful Matka Canyon from Skopje