Traveling to North Macedonia and looking for the best things to do in Ohrid?
Discover the best places to visit in Ohrid by using our comprehensive travel guide, which features top attractions and local restaurants.
We suggest planning a 3 to 4 day itinerary in Ohrid, Macedonia’s scenic resort town, which sits perched over a beautiful fresh water lake.
Whether you’re a history buff looking to visit ancient churches and castles or a foodie keen to taste authentic North Macedonian dishes, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Ohrid on a weekend getaway!
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Fun Things To Do In Ohrid
Magical Ohrid is North Macedonia’s most seductive destination.
It sits on the edge of tranquil Lake Ohrid, with an atmospheric old quarter that cascades down steep streets, dotted with beautiful churches and topped by an awe-inspiring medieval castle.
Traditional restaurants and lakeside cafes liven up the cobblestone streets, which in the summer high season can feel like an al fresco street party.
Ohrid is a small enough town that you can hop from historic monuments into a beach chair then dip your toes in the water. A lovely little boardwalk makes the most of the town’s natural charms.
Popular Things To Do In Ohrid
I love traveling to Eastern Europe, eating my way through affordable city’s like Budapest, Prague, Saint Petersburg, Bratislava, Tallinn, Riga, Dubrovnik, and Sarajevo. If you’re budgeting for an Ohrid holiday you can expect prices to be significantly more affordable than a vacation in Stockholm, Berlin, or Rome.
I arrived into Ohrid from Tirana, the capital of Albania. I took a 3 hour mini bus ride from the city centre to Pogradec, an Albanian city that sits on the North Macedonian border. Taxis at the bus station drive tourists through customs and over the border, arriving into the heart of Ohrid in less than an hour.
On day one of an Ohrid itinerary I suggest getting the lay of the land by organizing a private tour so you can learn about the towns history and visit a few top attractions with a knowledgeable guide.
We recommend booking a tour with local English speaking guide Viktor Strahilov, founder of Vik Experience. Viktor is an expert on travel in North Macedonia, offering regular tours in his hometown of Ohrid as well as multi-day itineraries that visit the most popular destinations throughout the country.
During the high season in July and August Vik Experience hosts small group tours of 8-20 people. You can book a private tour outside of the summer season.
Things To Do In Ohrid On A Weekend
Ohrid is famous for once having 365 churches, one for each day of the year, and has been referred to as a the “Jerusalem of the Balkans”.
Lake Ohrid is considered one of the best places to visit in North Macedonia because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the few in the world that is both a natural world heritage site (the lake itself) and a cultural world heritage site (the Old Town).
Most places of interest are located in the centre of Ohrid and are easy to explore on foot without the need for a taxi. If you’re keen to visit Bay of Bones and the Monastery of Saint Naum you’ll need to hire a guide or book a day to enjoy a cruise to the other side of the lake.
Villa Mal Sveti Kliment
Villa Mal Sveti Kliment is a family-owned Bed & Breakfast and boutique winery. It’s conveniently located near the entrance of the old city of Ohrid called the Lower Gate.
The villa sits perched over a quiet alley just 50 steps from the lake where you’ll find Ohrid’s best cafés, restaurants and bustling town square.
From the villa, guests have a rare opportunity to enjoy the marvellous views of the Ohrid Lake, the quay and harbour. The well appointed B&B has 16 rooms, many of which have private balconies. The luxurious penthouse suite can accommodate up to 4 people and boasts a jacuzzi.
Villa Mal Sveti Kliment has been built true to the centuries old stone architectural style that Ohrid is famous for. Keeping to traditions, each room is outfitted with locally made wood carved furniture and folk art.
Each morning guests gather at the hotels restaurant where a standard continental buffet is served for breakfast. Enjoy a selection of pastries, fried eggs, sausages, bacon, pancakes, yogurt cups, fresh fruit, salad, cheese and charcuterie.
In the evening the space transforms into a wine bar where guests can enjoy a tasting of the owners most recent vintages. The boutique winery produces just a few thousands bottles a year from grapes grown around the Lake Ohrid region.
Ohrid Boardwalk & Beaches
Skimming the surface of the water along the town’s breezy shore, snaking towards Kaneo fishing village and the town’s most famous church, Ohrid’s over-water boardwalk takes you to a pretty outcrop of rocky beaches and a hub of restaurants and bars.
On a hot day in the summer Potpesh Beach is packed with bathing tan fans, drinkers and diners. The cool waters are translucent and inviting, the cliff-backed setting is sublime, and strolling this stretch of coast up to the Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo is an Ohrid must for those looking to enjoy a scenic workout.
Since Ohrid is mostly a summer travel destination tourists come here to swim in the refreshing lake. While Potpesh Beach is the most centrally located, there are plenty of other stretches of sand to enjoy a beach break not to far away.
- Cuba Libre Beach: is close to the centre of the city. It features a terrace over the lake if you need some time out of the sun. There’s also a covered bar and restaurant.
- Lagadin Beach: most locals rank Lagadin as the best beach in Ohrid. You can hop on a quick bus ride directly south of the city.
- Gradiste Beach: also known as “jungle beach,” this is the best beach in Ohrid if you’re looking for a fun and loud time. The beach is unique as it is home to a camping site, where lots of young travelers stay in the summer. Most of the biggest DJ parties in Ohrid take place here on weekends.
- Ljubanista Beach: since most beaches in Ohrid are made up of pebbles, Ljubanista is unique in that it features soft sandy shores. The beach is 30 minutes from Ohrid and ideal for families with kids.
- St. Naum Beach: located near Ljubanista Beach, St. Naum is at the furthest point of Lake Ohrid, near the famous monastery.
Ohrid’s Old Bazaar extends up from the waterfront to the town’s main square. A 1,000-year old tree famously still stands in the middle of the square.
The pedestrian car-free street is paved with cobblestones in the narrow parts or with marble slates in the wider sections. Historically the street was covered with lush grape vines providing ample shade.
If you begin at the Main Square you’ll pass through the food market (formerly an animal market). The few original stores of the bazaar are made of stone. After the food market is the Turkish bazaar, where you’ll find kebabs, baklava, Turkish delights, and other foods brought here from the Ottomans.
If you’re a shopaholic looking for fun things to do in Ohrid make sure to visit the Old Bazaar to purchase unique crafts. On a stroll you’ll find shoemakers, barbers, leather shops, pearl makers and other local craftsman. Especially interesting are the clay products, old Macedonian musical instruments and famous Macedonian embroidery.
Saint John the Theologian Kaneo or simply Saint John at Kaneo is a Macedonian Orthodox church situated on the cliff over Kaneo Beach overlooking Lake Ohrid.
The church is dedicated to John of Patmos, the writer of Revelation, who is considered by some to be John the Apostle.
This Byzantine church was built during the 13th-century on a rectangular stone base. The walls are made of brick and stone with ceramic decorations. It contains only some fragments of fresco, in particular: the Communion of the Apostles and the portraits of St. Clement.
For tourists who have an appreciation for religious history a visit to St Jovan Kaneo is a must when preparing a things to do in Ohrid itinerary. It’s also the most photographed place in Ohrid so a must-see for Instagram fans.
Looking to experience one of the top things to do in Ohird, Macedonia? Samoil’s Fortress in Ohrid’s old town is by far the most visited attraction in town.
According to recent excavations by Macedonian archaeologists, Samoil’s Fortress was built on the place of an earlier fortification, dating to the 4th-century BC, which was likely built by King Philip II. During the late 900s, King Samuil of Bulgaria restored the fortress by rebuilding it into a medieval style stronghold which still stands as is today.
The fortress today has 18 towers and 4 gates. The central part of the fortress has walls 10 to 16 meters in height with strong defensive towers, followed by ramparts in the direction of the lake. In the second courtyard there are ancient graves, remains of a round tower and a cistern.
The fortress is known for having excellent panoramic views over the lake and Ohrid.
Ancient Macedonian Theatre of Ohrid
The Ancient Theatre of Ohrid dates back to the Hellenistic period. It was built in 200 BC and is the only Hellenistic-style theatre in Macedonia as the other three in Scupi, Stobi and Heraklea Lynkestis are attributed to the Roman Empire.
The open theatre has an ideal location: the two hills that surround it keep it protected from winds that could interfere with acoustics during performances.
During Roman times the theatre was used for gladiator fights, though since it was also a site of executions of Christians it rapidly became highly disliked by locals. As a result the theatre was abandoned and buried after the demise of the Roman Empire.
This allowed for most of the structure to be well preserved, only to be uncovered by accident in the 1980s. Large stone blocks with carvings of the Greek god Dyonisius and the muses were showing up, which led archaeologists to believe that a Greek theatre must be located nearby.
Since the late 1980s, the Ancient Macedonian Theatre of Ohrid is once again a site of public performances, such as plays, concerts, operas, and ballets performances. If you’re a theatre fan looking for fun things to do in Ohrid be sure to check out a performance here during the Ohrid Summer Festival.
Church of Saint Sophia
The Church of Saint Sophia is located in Ohrid’s old town. The church is one of the most important monuments of North Macedonia, housing architecture and art from the Middle Ages.
The current church was built on the foundations of a metropolitan cathedral demolished in the first decade of the 6th-century by the barbarian invasions that brought the early Slavs into the region.
The next church was built during the First Bulgarian Empire, after the official conversion to Christianity. Some sources date the building of the church during the rule of Knyaz Boris I. It was rebuilt in the last decade of the 10th-century as a patriarchal cathedral in the form of a dome basilica, after the replacement of the capital of Bulgaria in Ohrid, during the reign of Tsar Samuil.
The interior of the church has been preserved with frescoes from the 11th, 12th and 13th century, which represent some of the most significant achievements in Byzantine painting of the time. The main part of the church was built in the 11th-century, while external additions were built by Archbishop Gregory II in the 14th century.
Church of Saints Clement at Plaošnik
Plaošnik is an archaeological site and holy place in Ohrid, 250m below Samuil’s Fortress.
The main find on the site is the church built by Saint Clement in 893. The church was built on the foundation of an earlier Christian basilica, which was dedicated to the legendary 4th-century martyr, Saint Panteleimon. The Ohrid Literary School was founded on this site by Saint Clement in the 9th century.
New discoveries on the site include the baptistery of the five aisled basilica. There are mosaic tiled mosaic floors dated from the 4th to 6th centuries, which show fanciful animals, curvilinear geometrics, and swastikas as symbols of a nourishing sun. In 2007 almost 3,000 Venetian coins were discovered, linking Venice and Ohrid to ancient trade routes.
Holy Mary Perivleptos
Holy Mary Perivleptos is a Byzantine church known for its elaborate wall murals depicting religious scenes.
The church without a doubt has the best preserved frescoes of any church in Ohrid so is a must-visit for art lovers and history buffs.
Built in 1295, the Holy Mary Perivleptos is one of the oldest churches in the historic town of Ohrid. The domed cross-in-square church was commissioned by the Byzantine governor Progonos Sgouros, a son-in-law of emperor Andronikos II Palaeologos.
The frescoes in the church—which have substantially contributed to current knowledge of Palaeologan painting—include images from the Passion and the Gospels, the life of the Virgin Mary, and the life of John the Baptist.
North Macedonian Wine Tasting
If you find yourself with a sunburn and need to avoid the beach for a few hours why not drive to a local vineyard for a wine tasting?
While central North Macedonia is the countries most famous wine region, there are several boutique family-run wineries near Ohrid.
I visited S & S Winery, which is located a short 15 minute drive from the old town. The boutique winery sits perched on a hill overlooking the lake and is one of the few estates in Ohrid where you can actually wander through the vines.
There’s a spacious outdoor terrace perfect for sipping a glass of Temjanika or Prokupec in the sun. After visiting the cozy production space skip up the stairs to find a tasting room and wrap around windows that offer pretty views of the vineyard below.
Bay of Bones
Looking for fun things to do in Ohrid on a day trip?
The Bay of Bones is a popular floating museum located on the south eastern shores of Lake Ohrid. The archaeological complex is located at the excavation site of Ploca Micov Kamen, near Gradishte and Pestani.
The archaeological discoveries point to a massive settlement, supported by 10,000 wooden piles, each anchored to the lake bed. Estimations put the settlement at the very end of the Bronze Age, and the beginning of the Iron Age, effectively making it over 3000 years old!
Visitors can stroll through an authentic reconstruction of the pile dwelling settlement, which today counts 24 replicas.
Monastery of Saint Naum
The Monastery of Saint Naum is an Eastern Orthodox monastery situated along the southern tip of Lake Ohrid, 29 kilometres south of the city. It’s a popular stop on a guided day tour after visiting nearby Bay of Bones.
The monastery, located near the Albanian border, is named after the medieval Bulgarian writer and enlightener Saint Naum who founded it.
Naum was a contemporary of St Kliment, and their monastery an educational centre. The iconostasis inside the church dates to 1711 and the frescoes to the 19th century. Sandy beaches surround the monastery on two sides and are some of the best places to swim around Lake Ohrid.
Surrounding the core of the complex is a tranquil garden looped by fountains, with fragrant roses and pretty peacocks. Add this to your “top things to do in Ohrid,” itinerary as it’s one of the most visited attractions in all of North Macedonia!
Whenever I travel I love to sample traditional dishes to better understand the local cuisine.
One of the best things to do in Ohrid is to try the local food and enjoy it with a smile alongside hungry locals. There are numerous restaurants in the Old Bazaar neighbourhood and at the waterfront serving authentic Macedonian dishes.
On my weekend getaway to Ohrid I enjoyed delicious feasts at Biljana’s Springs Restaurant and Restaurant Vkusno.
Some of our favourite North Macedonian recipes to order on Ohrid restaurant menus include:
- Gjomleze: is a traditional Ohrid pie typically cut into a diamond shape.
- Ajvar: roasted red pepper spread. Often combined with Macedonian white cheese.
- Tavce Gravce: baked beans with spicy peppers, onions and tomato
- Burek: flaky filo dough filled with vegetables or meat. A popular breakfast dish.
- Polneti Piperki: cheese-stuffed roasted peppers.
- Selsko Meso: pork and mushroom stew.
- Sarmi: stuffed cabbage rolls.
- Chevapi or Kebapi: grilled minced meat sausages.
- Pastrmajlija: Macedonia’s version of pizza features small oval crusts topped with plenty of meat and egg.
- Shopska: is a cold salad featuring tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, roasted red peppers, parsley and grated white cheese.
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