Not only Lake Ohrid is an insanely beautiful place but since this area has huge historical importance you can expect to find there many Ohrid attractions and centuries-old monuments. The town and its surroundings are the perfect area for the Macedonia holidays – you can enjoy the sightseeing and then relax at the lakeside (or even swim in Lake Ohrid) or go hiking in the nearby mountains.
Even if Ohrid is one of the largest cities in Macedonia it doesn’t feel that way. When wandering around you might feel like you are transferred back in time as the place is so idyllic.
The city and the lake were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and are one of the few places that are both on the Cultural and Natural list. One of just 28 sites accepted as both Cultural and Natural World Heritage sites by UNESCO, the ancient city of Ohrid is the jewel in North Macedonia’s crown.
Get planning your next trip and discover the best things to do in this Balkan treasure. Set on the shores of Lake Orchid, one of Europe’s oldest and largest lakes, Ohrid is home to awe-inspiring Orthodox architectural masterpieces and religious artworks. The city has been referred to as a “Jerusalem of the Balkans”.
Once home to 365 churches, one for each day of the year, the city offers an abundance of religious history. There is so much more on offer as well, with theatre performances, pristine beaches, retail therapy and the very freshest of fish.
The more time you spend exploring Ohrid, the more you’ll be desperate to come back.
Explore Ohrid’s Old Town
The starting point for any trip to Ohrid should be the Old Town. Home to its most significant historical landmarks, the Old Town is a well-preserved architectural ensemble, dating from between the 7th and 19th centuries. As you walk down the winding streets, make a beeline for the 11th- century Church of St. Sophia with its magnificent courtyard and beautiful Byzantine frescoes. Take the time to look around inside, but bear in mind that photography is not allowed. Continuing uphill, among elegant villas and traditional houses, you can stop for a coffee or lunch in one of the many cafes and restaurants. Immerse yourself in the craft shops and pick up jewellery designed and made by local artisans.
Architecture at Kaneo
Located on a cliff overlooking Lake Ohrid and the surrounding mountains is the Church of St. John the Theologian at Kaneo. The church is the emblem of Ohrid, due to its picturesque location on a cliff over Kaneo Beach overlooking Lake Ohrid and its distinctive Byzantine architecture, making it one of the most photographed places in the whole of Macedonia. Dating back to the 13th century, the church is dedicated to John of Patmos. After admiring the beauty of the church, head down the steep steps to the lake’s edge to reach Kaneo Beach and enjoy a dip in the lake.
Admire the view from Tsar Samuil’s Fortress
Sitting on the hilltop overlooking the Old Town, Samuil’s Fortress is named after Tsar Samuil, who ruled a medieval Slavic state – Samoil Kingdom on the territory of present-day Macedonia, Bulgaria (without Thrace), Romanian Dobrudja, Serbia (without Banat and Backa), Montenegro (without the coast), Albania, Kosovo and Northwestern Greece from year 969 to 1018. Today, 18 towers and four gates still remain from the original
structure and serve as a popular vantage point for spectacular sweeping views of the city and Lake Ohrid.
Go back in time at Plaošnik
Between Samuil’s Fortress and the Church of St. John at Kaneo, you will find the outstanding Plaošnik archaeological complex. Plaošnik hosts the multi-domed medieval Church of Saint Panteleimon, restored on the foundations of a monastery in the year 893, when St. Clement arrived in Ohrid. This monastery would later be used by St. Clement and Saint Naum as a liturgical building and a place for teaching the Cyrillic alphabets, known as the Ohrid Literary School, which welcomed over 3,500 students and formed the first Slavic university. The Basilica of St. Clement was known as the Ohrid Literacy School, and is believed to be the first and oldest discontinued university in Europe.
Catch a performance at
the Ancient Theatre
Ohrid is home to an open-air Hellenistic-type theatre built around 200BCE. Situated on a hill in the Old Town, the ancient site serves as one of the main entrances to the fortified city and provides a magnificent view of the lake and the city. Once hosting Greek plays and Roman gladiatorial games, nowadays it hosts performances during the Ohrid Summer Festival, one of the biggest cultural events in the country. Performers, musicians and theatre groups entertain audiences throughout the summer, fusing ancient architecture
with contemporary culture.
Church of St. Sophia, a journey through centuries
From the foundation’s mortar to the heavy roof, St. Sophia Church illuminates centuries of an area ruled by Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, reflecting the diversity of religious life that people have cultivated in the area for over 1,000 years. Built on the foundations of a 5th century Roman church, rulers have continually destroyed and rebuilt the structure, reusing materials from previous buildings. Byzantine influence covers the walls of the church, displayed in a muted array of fresco paintings. Remnants of the Byzantine empire can also be found in the pavement, which was modified using rubble from the preexisting structure. The building’s reuse of old materials reflect centuries of different empires influencing life on the shores of Lake Ohrid.
Relax on Lake Ohrid’s beaches
One of Ohrid’s main selling points is its proximity to a range of tranquil beaches. While many are accessible on foot, there’s no better way to explore the options than by boat. Take a boat ride from the port of Ohrid and ask the captain to make a few stops along the way. First stop: Golden Beach, a popular spot home to many bars and restaurants. Next up is family-oriented Lagadin, followed by the buzzing Orevche Beach. Particularly popular among younger people, Orevche hosts DJs, parties and movie screenings once the sun goes down. In the meantime, chill out here with music and cocktails.
Head for the hills
A short bus ride from the city centre is the Galičica National Park with its mountain range stretching between Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa, and peaks rising to over 2,000m – meaning a guaranteed incredible view of both lakes and the surrounding towns. Exploring this area by foot is the best way to experience it, but there is another option for anyone seeking a more high-adrenaline experience: once you are done with hiking, sign up for a paragliding tandem tour and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Ohrid. Pro trip: there are 1644 species of butterflies in the Galičica National Park, so keep your eyes peeled for them.
Shop Ohrid Pearls
One of Ohrid’s main selling points is its proximity to a range of tranquil
beaches. While many are accessible on foot, there’s no better way to
explore the options than by boat. Take a boat ride from the port of Ohrid
and ask the captain to make a few stops along the way. First stop: Golden
Beach, a popular spot home to many bars and restaurants. Next up is
family-oriented Lagadin, followed by the buzzing Orevche Beach.
Particularly popular among younger people, Orevche hosts DJs, parties
and movie screenings once the sun goes down. In the meantime, chill out
here with music and cocktails.