10 Best Things to Do Ohrid in Macedonia

As the largest city on Lake Ohrid, the enchanting city of Ohrid in Macedonia stands as a gem in the Balkans, beautifully nestled against hillsides and boasting an illustrious medieval city center dotted with numerous orthodox churches. With a wealth of attractions, quaint streets, and the distinction of having the deepest lake in Europe, Ohrid is a must-visit destination whether you’re road-tripping through North Macedonia or exploring nearby Albania.

This blog offers valuable tips and highlights the top sights in Ohrid to help you make the most of your visit.

Saint John Kaneo Ohrid

Where is Ohrid in Macedonia?

Situated on the border of the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania, Ohrid hugs the eastern shore of Lake Ohrid, which serves as a natural boundary between the two nations.

A drive from the Macedonian capital, Skopje, to Ohrid takes just over 2.5 hours. Ohrid is also an appealing stop on a road trip through Albania, where the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid lacks the vibrant city life and rich historical sites found on the Macedonian side.

Ohrid is conveniently served by its own airport, offering direct flights to major cities like Zurich, Vienna, Dortmund, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Belgrade.

Ohrid Old Town

Where to Stay in Ohrid

The best place to stay in Ohrid is in the old center, although the lakeside also offers splendid accommodations. Given the manageable distances around the lake, opting for a picturesque spot outside the city center can be rewarding—imagine waking up to serene lake views and spending your days on fine beaches. From these peaceful retreats, you can easily venture into Ohrid’s old town for a day.


Top hotel recommendations in Ohrid:

#1 Villa Misiya is excellently located along the lakeside promenade. This hotel is within easy walking distance of Ohrid’s main attractions. Guests enjoy stylish, modern rooms and consistently positive experiences.

#2 Villa Kotlar is located just north of the historic center. This modern, airy hotel boasts beautifully appointed rooms and a stunning private swimming pool.

#3 Villa Jordan is situated near the boulevard and a mere ten-minute walk from the old town. This hotel offers modern accommodations with the added luxury of a private swimming pool.

#4 Hotel Alexandria Ohrid is perfectly placed in the old center. The hotel features simple yet elegant rooms with delightful lake views.

The most beautiful lakeside hotels:

#5 Hotel Tino Sveti Stefan is arguably the most exquisite hotel on Lake Ohrid. It features a spa, both indoor and outdoor pools, a sauna, hammam, and a fitness center. Guests rave about the views, excellent breakfast, and superior service.

#6 Hotel Belvedere is a traditional luxury hotel nestled in a pine forest in the village of Sveti Stefan, south of Ohrid. It offers stunning lake views from the hotel and its rooms.

#7 Vila Bisera is located in the village of Lagadin. This hotel boasts two seasonal outdoor pools and luxurious rooms, each with a balcony overlooking the lake.

Robev Family House Ohrid

Top Things to Do in Ohrid

#1 The Old Town of Ohrid

Ohrid, a city steeped in ancient history, offers a picturesque city center that is as captivating as its narrative. The old town is marked by charming white houses adorned with black accents, setting a distinct and historical aesthetic. Cobbled streets weave through the neighborhood, where locals often navigate their antique cars, adding to the old-world charm that pervades the area.

As you explore the significant sites of Ohrid, you’ll find yourself meandering through these old streets. Beyond the main attractions, take time to appreciate the ambiance of the historic city center. It’s advisable to bypass the main shopping street and the old bazaar. Despite ‘Old Bazar Street’ suggesting a historical setting, it primarily features a modern shopping experience with only a few ancient facades peeking behind numerous signs and advertisements.

A notable historic building in this area is the Robov Family House, an iconic white structure with black beams and window frames, now converted into a museum. This house allows you to glimpse into the lifestyle of one of the city’s wealthiest families. Constructed in the nineteenth century, it was divided by two brothers, Konstantin and Atanas, who lived on the left and right sides, respectively.

Old Bazar Street Ohrid

#2 Saint John at Kaneo during Sunset

Ohrid is renowned for its numerous churches, each boasting its own beauty and architectural style. Among them, Saint John at Kaneo deserves special attention due to its exquisite location. Perched on a rocky outcrop along the lake, the church offers stunning views of Lake Ohrid, particularly mesmerizing at sunset. From a distance, the silhouette of Saint John at Kaneo against the rocky backdrop is a breathtaking sight.

Visitors often gather at a viewpoint just above the church at dusk. Here, the setting sun casts a golden glow over the lake and the church, creating a stunning visual spectacle as the day ends with the sun sinking behind the Albanian mountains.

Saint John Kaneo Ohrid

#3 Samuel’s Fortress

Dominating the city’s skyline from its highest point, Samuel’s Fortress is a monumental structure and one of the most impressive medieval fortifications in the Balkans. The fortress walls, complete with eighteen towers and four gates, encircle the old castle, offering visitors a scenic walk along its perimeter.

Named after King Samuel of the First Bulgarian Empire, with Ohrid as its capital, the fortress dates back to the eleventh century. Despite centuries of history, the fortress remains in excellent condition, thanks to a thorough renovation in 2013. As you walk the grounds, the panoramic views of Ohrid from this elevated spot are simply unforgettable.

#4 Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid, serving as a natural boundary between North Macedonia and Albania, is reputed to be one of the oldest lakes in Europe, estimated to be between three to five million years old. It holds the title of the deepest lake on the continent. For visitors, the lake offers stunning vistas of vast waters set against a backdrop of mountain peaks, which are occasionally snow-capped in the fall, enhancing the scenic beauty.

Exploring Lake Ohrid is essential when visiting the city. Various boat tours are available, allowing you to experience the beauty of Ohrid from the water. Alternatively, boat excursions can take you to other attractions around the lake, like the popular Monastery of Sveti Naum.

If boat trips aren’t your preference and you’re visiting in the summer, consider a swim in the lake. While Ohrid itself may not boast the best beaches, excellent spots for a dip can be found around the lake. Many beautiful accommodations by Lake Ohrid also offer easy access to these idyllic beaches, yet are close enough to explore the city.

Tip: For a spectacular view of Ohrid, stroll along the lakeside promenade. From here, you can see the cityscape unfold against the hills, with landmarks like St. John in Kaneo and Samuel’s Fortress positioned at the most visually striking points.

Lake Ohrid

#5 Ohrid’s Many Churches

Ohrid, often referred to as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans”, is celebrated for its array of stunning churches. Each church in the city tells a story, and while you’re in Ohrid, it’s almost obligatory to visit at least one or two of them. Admission to these sacred spaces usually involves a small fee of a few euros, but the experiences they offer are worth it.

Saint John at Kaneo: Already mentioned as a highlight, this church is perched in an idyllic location that has become synonymous with the image of Ohrid itself.

St Sophia: Located in the heart of the old center, this church is one of the oldest and most significant in Ohrid, renowned for its fascinating history and beautiful frescoes.

Holy Mary Perybleptus: Next to the episcopal palace, this church houses an impressive icon gallery, making it a must-visit for art lovers.

Sts. Clement and Panteleimon: Situated amidst the serene ruins on Plaosnik Hill, this site offers not only spiritual solace but also panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Ohrid St Mary

#6 The Roman Theatre

Nestled in the old center of Ohrid, the ancient Roman theatre is ingeniously integrated into the hillside landscape. Originally built in 200 BC, the theatre’s exact original size remains unknown, but several lower seating tiers survive today. What adds to the allure of this theatre is that it is still functional; where ancient performances once captivated audiences, a modern stage now hosts various events, breathing new life into this historical venue.

Ancient theater Ohrid

#7 The Ohrid Boardwalk

The Ohrid Boardwalk, a scenic wooden pathway built along the lake’s edge and the rocky cliffs, offers a breathtaking escape from the city’s old town. It’s an essential experience for visitors, providing a sense of walking on water with stunning views all around. If traveling with children, such as our experience with our toddler, extra care is needed as the boardwalk lacks railings.

Strategically, the boardwalk leads near the iconic Saint John at Kaneo, making it ideal for combining a visit to both attractions. We found the boardwalk particularly enchanting during the soft evening light. Given that Saint John at Kaneo offers one of the best sunset views, timing your walk to coincide with dusk is highly recommended.

Ohrid Boardwalk

#8 Galičica National Park

Galičica National Park is undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes around Lake Ohrid. The park’s namesake, Mount Galičica, rises majestically east of Lake Ohrid, and intriguingly, on its opposite side lies another stunning lake, Lake Prespa, which touches the borders of North Macedonia, Albania, and Greece.

Visitors can explore Galičica National Park in two primary ways. From Ohrid, one can embark on a vigorous hike to the mountain’s peak. It’s a challenging trek but rewarding with its beautiful natural scenery and sweeping vistas.

Alternatively, we chose to drive through the mountain roads from Lake Ohrid to Lake Prespa in our camper bus. Despite the cloudy weather predicting rain, driving among the clouds offered a mesmerizing experience as we watched them roll over the mountain ridges. Along the way, there are several spots to park and hike to viewpoints like the Two Lakes Viewpoint or to the summit of Mount Galičica, each offering its own unique perspective of this majestic landscape.

Galicica National Park

#9 The Bay of Bones Museum

The Bay of Bones frequently comes up as a must-see attraction near Ohrid. This open-air museum is uniquely situated on Lake Ohrid, about a 20-minute drive from the city center. If you’re heading towards the Monastery of Sveti Naum, you’ll pass it en route, or you could choose to visit as part of a lake boat tour.

In our experience, while the museum is interesting, it might not meet everyone’s expectations. The Bay of Bones is essentially a reconstructed prehistoric stilt village set over the water. Here, visitors can explore and learn about the life of prehistoric peoples, who likely lived in similar stilt houses. Despite its intriguing name, which stems from the archaeological discovery of actual bones at this site, the museum itself is somewhat less dramatic than its name suggests. However, with a low admission fee, it could be worth a brief stop if you’re passing by. A walk through this ancient-style village can be a quick yet enlightening half-hour journey into the past.

Ohrid Bay of Bones

#10 The Monastery of Sveti Naum

Beyond the city of Ohrid itself, the Monastery of Sveti Naum stands as the most iconic landmark along Lake Ohrid. Situated near the border with Albania, the monastery is quite a distance from Ohrid, and interestingly, it was once part of Albania. In 1925, the Albanian king transferred it to Yugoslavia, with North Macedonia being a part of it at that time.

The monastery is named after Saint Naum, who founded it in the tenth century and is also buried here. At the heart of the monastery complex is a stunningly beautiful church, which is undoubtedly the main attraction of Sveti Naum. This sacred site attracts visitors not only for its religious significance but also for its architectural beauty and peaceful surroundings.

Ohrid Sveti Naum