Things to do in Ohrid (My favourite Town in All of the Balkans!)

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

This post is about my biggest surprise during my Balkan leg of travels. Ohrid stole my heart and became one of my favourite towns in the Balkans and maybe even in the whole world! In this travel guide you will find a complete list of all the awesome things to do in Ohrid and why Ohrid must be on your Balkan itinerary.

Top 7 Things to do in Ohrid:

  • Famous Saint John at Kaneo
  • Ohrid Old Bazaar and Ottoman Old Town
  • Samuel’s Fortress and Ancient Amphitheatre
  • Ohrid Boardwalk
  • Boat trip to Saint Naum Monastery and the Bay of Bones
  • Ohrid Beaches!
  • Galičica National Park

I was not actually planning to visit Ohrid or North Macedonia. But I had to catch a flight from Belgrade.

I almost never just get on a plane and go. Instead, I always see what’s on the way and try to make extra stops and travel by bus or train. And this is what happened this time. Between Albania and Serbia there was this mysterious, little-known Balkan gem – North Macedonia. And the first stop that was screaming my name was Ohrid. So I took a bus from Tirana and I went.

Little did I know that Ohrid would become my absolute favourite place in the entire Balkans. But is not that always the case?

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

I totally fell in love with the town of Ohrid and the most incredible Ohrid lake. This place is just magical!

So much so, that I had serious plans on coming back in the spring to live and work here! 

(Instead, I moved to Greece hahaha)

The Ohrid Lake is like Balkan Maledives! Never seen a lake with waters so clean and beaches so inviting! Yes, I haven’t been to every lake in the world, but this will do!

The town of Ohrid is so charming and cute that it hurts. Maybe not in the way Gjorocaster is striking and dramatic but in its own intimate way.

Although tourism has been strong in this area for decades, it has mostly hosted local tourists from North Macedonia and other Balkan countries.

Lake Ohrid has been accepted as a Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the town of Ohrid was included.

The lake is protected and extremely clean!

It is one of the oldest lakes in the world and the deepest lake in the Balkans.  Lake Ohrid is shared between North Macedonia and Albania with 64% of its shoreline belonging to North Macedonia.

So is Lake Ohris worth visiting? 

Absolutely! Lake Ohrid is one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe and the town of Ohrid is a true hidden gem of the Balkans!

The city of Ohrid combines the best of all worlds. It has the Balkan charm combining Ottoman, European, Orthodox and Muslim influences, the food is better than in many other Balkan countries, it is cheaper than most of the Balkans and yet not destroyed by the hoards of tourists and greedy beach owners.

For me, Ohrid ticked all the boxes! Stunning nature, mountain hikes, a beautiful lake, mild weather and affordable prices!

I resonated with North Macedonian culture and its people. The people are kind, quirky, free-spirited and funny. Very hospitable! North Macedonia also felt very solo traveller friendly and super safe!

How long should you spend in Ohrid?

I recommend spending at least 3 full days in Ohrid! This will give you enough time to soak in the town’s relaxed vibe, take a boat trip to St. Neum Monastery (a must!) and spend a day lazing on the beach or exploring the old town of Ohrid and many other sights.

However, if you are looking for a place in North Macedonia where you can spend more time either working remotely or enjoying a lakeside vacation – you can easily spend a week or even more in Ohrid!

In fact, this is one place in the Balkans that I really want to return to and now that I live in Greece, I will be back sooner rather than later!

So here is a complete list of all the best things to do in Ohrid.

Be sure to also scroll down to all the Ohrid tips and things to know before visiting!

Explore the town of Ohrid

The city of Ohrid is so multifaceted! From the waterfront and the Old Bazaar, to the windy streets on the way to the fortress and the medeaval streets of the old town!

Start at Ohrid City Square, where you will find a Sveti Stefan statue and the waterfront from where the boats depart. This is a lively area with many shops, restaurants, bars and walking paths.

From here, no matter which direction you choose, you will find a completely different Ohrid.

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia
Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

Be sure to wander towards the Ohrid Old Bazaar

At first, Ohrid Bazaar doesn’t seem like much, especially compared to cities like Sarajevo or Mostar. The Old Bazaar of Ohrid is actually just a long street with a few side streets where there is an abundance of shops, cafés, small restaurants, baklava shops and much more. But this is where the heart of the town is.

It’s a great street to just browse, eat delicious ice cream and enjoy the atmosphere of Ohrid. Strolling along the Old Bazaar and finding new shops and ice cream stands is definitely one of the best things to do in Ohrid!

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

But my favourite part of the Old Bazaar of Ohrid was the far end ‘Turskish’ part, where I found incredible and very affordable local restaurants, cevapcilnicas and baklava shops! Make sure you head there and visit the Vkusno restaurant (it’s worth queuing!) or Cevapcilnica Aren for lunch or dinner!

And then stop at the cutest tea house Istanbul Cayci Caytore!

In this part of the town, you will also find a local market worth checking out!

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia
Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

And the Varosh Ottoman Style Old Town

This is yet another completely different part of Ohrid! The Old Town, also known as Varosh, is an Ottoman-style old town that stretches up the hill to the fortress.

To uncover all its facets, lose yourself in the streets and look out for small souvenir shops, cafés and traditional restaurants!

The architecture here sometimes resembles that of Berat in Albania, but only at times. It definitely has its own distinguished feel.

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia
Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

As you will walk up higher you will be stunned by the views and overwhelming charm of those streets!

Old Town houses an Icon Gallery that displays a remarkable collection of icons, some dating back to the 11th century. You can also visit the beautiful Church of St. Sophia and the Ohrid City Walls and the Upper Gate.

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia
Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

Walk up to the Samuel’s Fortress

Samuel’s Fortress, also known as Tsar Samuel’s Fortress, is a historic fortress located on a hill overlooking the old town of Ohrid and Lake Ohrid. It is a landmark that can be seen from any part of the city and offers spectacular views!

The original construction of the fortress dates back to the 4th century BC, but it was significantly expanded and renovated in different periods, particularly in the 10th century during the reign of Samuel. It’s an interesting landmark of Ohrid, but even if you’re not interested in mediaeval sights, it’s worth a visit for the views and the breathtaking walk up there.

I am not totally crazy about this type of attractions, but I utterly enjoyed the afternoon walking up the hill, discovering parts of Ohrid I didn’t even know existed!

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

Stop by the Ancient Amphitheatre

On your way to the fortress be sure to stop by the ancient theatre which is believed to have been built during the 2nd century BC, making it a structure from the Roman period.

It is one of the few ancient theatres in the world that has retained its original structure.

It is still used today for cultural events, including concerts, plays, and other performances. 

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

And the Church of Holy Mary Peryvleptos

This is one of my favourite churches in Ohrid and believe me, there are many of them! I stumbled across it on the way to the fortress and I truly loved its surroundings and the interiors!

Built during the time of Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Paleologus, the church’s construction year is determined by the inscription above the entrance. The magnificent building, popularly known as St Clement’s, is a harmonious blend of impressive architecture and opulent frescoes.

Be sure to walk the ‘on the water’ by the Ohrid Boardwalk!

One of the best things to do in Ohrid is to enjoy the lake’s waterfront. And there are so many ways you can do that!

One thing you can’t miss is a walk along Ohrid’s waterfront Ohrid Boardwalk! It is beautiful no matter the time of the day or evening.

One thing you can’t miss is a walk along Ohrid’s waterfront promenade! It’s beautiful at any time of the day or evening. It leads all the way to the famous Kaneo Church, but there are many stops you can take along the way.

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

Stop for a coffee or an Aperol spritz at the Beach Potpesh

As you stroll along the boardwalk you will come across a few small beaches and restaurants. My favourite one is Potpesh Beach!

I came here quite a few times and I spent one afternoon lazing on the sunbathing deck and drinking Aperol Spritz! I couldn’t recommend this ‘Ohrid attraction’ high enough!

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

Visit the famous Saint John at Kaneo - The biggest Ohrid's Attraction

Why famous? 

If you have ever seen any photos of North Macedonia, there is a big chance you have seen the Church of St. John at Kaneo perched on the cliff with the stunning backdrop of Lake Ohrid. Yes, that’s the one!

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

Saint John the Theologian, also known as Kaneo, is a Macedonian Orthodox church and a fine example of Byzantine architecture. The church’s construction is likely dating back to the 13th century. Archaeologists suggest its existence before the Ottoman Empire’s rise and the restoration of the church’s dome in 1964, revealed beautiful hidden frescoes. 

The route to the church is also incredibly picturesque. You can either approach it from the top after visiting the fortress or from the bottom via the Ohrid boardwalk. Both paths are fantastic, so I recommend trying both!

It is a popular and busy sight, so if you want to take some photos, get there early in the morning before the tours begin arriving!

Stroll the Old City Park towards Secret Beach Labino

On the day you visit the Kaneo Church take a walk further up into the Old City Park!

This is just a wonderful, green area full of picturesque trails leading in all directions. 

From here you can choose to walk up to the fortress (if you haven’t already), return to Ohrid via Old Town, or walk in the other direction towards the hidden beach!

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

Beach Labino is a hidden wild pebble beach offering a much more secluded and peaceful experience. There will be some people, but definitely fewer than in the town and the views are just gorgeous.

It is a wild beach so if you are planning to spend some time there be sure to pack some snacks and water. And also maybe pack some water shoes or just be aware of rocks and stones. 

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

If you are feeling even more adventurous you can continue walking all the way to Partizan Beach too!

Stroll lake Ohrid Promanade

One of the most incredible things to do in Ohrid is just walking along its waterfront and discovering 100 faces of the town.

To the opposite side of kaneo you will find more contemporary promenade where both locals and tourists stroll day and night. But don’t stop there!

If you like your walkies, continue all the way to the Golden Beach resort. The resort is not the biggest attraction here – but on the way you will pass many small beaches, camping grounds, beach bars and restaurants and as always – incredible views!

I know I sound like a broken record, but I truly love Ohrid! 

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

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Take a boat trip to Saint Naum Monastery

Visiting St Naum Monastery should be at the top of your list of things to do in Ohrid. Not only because of the famous Monastery of Saint Naum but because the whole place is incredible!

It is like a town in itself with a stunning beach, a lake with boats resembling Thai mangroves, a small promenade, a hiking trail with surprises and a few restaurants and bars. 

The Monastery of Saint Naum was founded in the 10th century by Saint Naum of Ohrid, a disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius, who were instrumental in the Christianization of the Slavic peoples. The monastery is mostly known for its picturesque location, with stunning views of Lake Ohrid.

The complex includes a church dedicated to Saint Naum, which houses well-preserved Byzantine frescoes. Saint Naum’s tomb is also located within the monastery grounds.

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

You can take a local bus to Naum which will be cheaper than a boat tour, but this is only one time I will advise against it.

If you knew me just a little you would know I always opt for local transport rather than organised tours.

But the boat tour to St Naum Monastery is just such an incredible value for money that you should definitely do it! Not only you will also stop at the Bay of Bones and marvel at the incredible views all the way through the trip, but they will also give you a very decent amount of time in Naum itself. 

You will have enough time to visit the monastery, walk around some great easy hiking paths and stay on a beach for an hour or two!

I have a separate post about visiting Naum so head there if you want to know more!

Best Things to do in Ohrid North Macedonia

Super Tip: There is this strange taxi driver that has been driving between St Naum and Ohrid for years taking people for the price of the bus. It is perfectly safe and fun to go with him. He will be picking up people on the way so you will definitely have some random company.

I got into his taxi after my hike when I ended up at the Bay of Bones. he just stopped and said the price was the same as for the bus. The Bay of Bones Museum ticket seller behind me said it’s fine to go.

I know he was doing those rounds for years as I read about him in some random blog years ago! I hope you will meet him let me know if you do!

Visit the Bay of Bones

The Bay of Bones is also known as the Museum on the Water and is a truly unique archaeological complex.

It is a reconstruction of a prehistoric settlement from the Bronze and Iron Ages, which was inhabited by pile dwellers. The water here was quite shallow back then, so they built their houses on wooden piles above the water, creating a kind of floating village.

It was only recently discovered during underwater archaeological research when the wooden piles were found along with some artefacts and remains of animal bones that were probably used as tools.

Best Things to do in Ohrid

The museum and the complex were built in the late 20th century to recreate the former settlement. Inside the houses, you can learn how prehistoric people lived and what tools they used in prehistoric times.

It can be visited as part of a boat tour or individually. It is located halfway between Ohrid and the monastery of St. Naum.

And Trpejca - The Saint-Tropez of Ohrid!

Trpejca is a small fishing village just half an hour’s drive from Ohrid. Named Saint Tropez of Ohrid, it is not really comparable but it’s super cute and offers stunning views and a wonderful beach!

This is one of those places around Lake Ohrid where you will completely forget you are by the lake. You truly feel like you are by the sea! The water here is crystal clear! 

Best Things to do in Ohrid

Hike in Galičica National Park

The Galičica National Park Mountains rise majestically above Lake Ohrid, covering an area of approximately 227 square kilometres. It was designated as a national park in 1958 and is named after the Galičica Mountain, which is a prominent feature in the region. The park is known for its rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes.

There are several trails and viewpoints within the park and all trails are incredibly well marked. Those were some of the best-marked trailers I have walked.

Many of the trails offer incredible views of Lake Ohrid but some go very much into the forest.

Best Things to do in Ohrid

The most famous is the Magaro peak hike at 2255m but you can also do the easier one starting at the Ramne village.

It is one of the least populated hiking areas I have ever visited and with this, I have a very important hint for you!

I have hiked alone for years and I absolutely enjoy it and most of the time prefer it.

Yet North Macedonia broke me for solo hiking since I have seen a bear there. Do not go hiking in Galičica National Park alone, especially in the ber season! 

Discover Ohrid Beaches!

It maybe doesn’t seem so at first but Ohrid is a wonderful beach destination! Lake Ohrid is beautiful, the waters are clear and the beaches resemble those of the seaside rather than the lakeside.

You will find a few great beaches in the town of Ohrid like Potpesh, Kaneo or Labino beach.

Best Things to do in Ohrid

You can also head to the main waterfront for a swim at the Old Swimming Court which is just a swimming spot off the jetty and a great spot to watch the sunset from!

But if you are prepared to venture slightly outside of the town you will find more incredible beaches! My favourites include the beach in the village of Peshtani, Lagadin, Gradiste campsite beach and of course the Ljubanista beach at St Naum Monastery. 

Rent a Bicycle!

Ohrid is great to discover by bicycle and you can get to many awesome spots by bicycle. One couple from my hostel even cycled to the Bay of Bones. It is definitely doable but part of the route will lead on a busy road, so consider this. 

But bike rentals are extremely affordable in Ohrid and I recommend exploring Lake Ohrid by bike. 

Take a Day Trip from Ohrid

If you are spending a few more days in Ohrid you should definitely consider a day trip. there are great towns and places you could see in a day that are just an hour or two bus drive away.

One of the best places to visit is Bitola – one of the oldest cities in the country boasting a a mix of architectural styles and ruins of the ancient city of Heraclea Lyncestis

You could also hop on a bus and visit Struga, a charming town located near Ohrid. It is a bigger and slightly more modern town but it is definitely worth a visit!

Finally, you can take a trip to the springs of Vevčani which is an off-the-beaten-path trip. Vevčani is a small village located only 20 minutes bus drive away from Ohrid where you can take nature walk along the springs which some call a mini Plitvice.

You can also take some more extensive, organised trips like a trip to Albania or Meteora in Greece. Here are some of the best-rated tours from Ohrid:

Sample North Macedonian Cuisine

Last but not least – North Macedonian Food! I think out of all the Balkan countries I visited I liked the North Macedonian food the most. It is simple yet super flavoursome and very affordable!

Check out some of the best restaurants for local food in Ohrid like Viva Ksantika, Restaurant „Orfej“ or Vkusno for the best kebap in town!

Kaneo Restaurant offers amazing food and views and Noa Lounge Bar is a great place to have a meal or drink by the lake at any time of the day.

If you are looking for an affordable beer or wine with stunning sunset views, pop into the Kadmo Lounge Bar where I came for an evening glass of wine twice!

Finally, if you are looking for a beachside lounge bar with the best views, great cocktails and delicious food be sure to pop into Cuba Libre Beach. 

Best Things to do in Ohrid

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Things to know before visitng Ohrid, North Macedonia

The best time to visit Ohrid is between April and October. It’s when the weather is at its best. Some hotels close for the winter season so during this time you will have the biggest choice. To avoid summer crowds visit in the spring or fall. I visited in September and it was the best month for the beach and hiking!

Ohrid is totally walkable to don’t even bother with renting a car unless you want to make it a base for some great day trips. 

Ohrid is very safe both all kinds of travellers. Whether you are a solo backpacker or a family you will be safe day and night in Ohrid!

Can you swim in Lake Ohrid? Yes! Ohrid Lake is protected and therefore very clean. You can definitely swim in Lake Ohrid without any worries. Most beaches are pebble so consider watershoes. 

In Ohrid and the whole of North Macedonia, tap water is safe to drink. 

I hope you enjoyed this Ohrid travel guide and you will love it as much as I did!

Pleas let me know! 

Until then enjoy  North Macedonia and happy travels!

Pati x

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Pati's Journey Within

Hi, I’m Pati. A traveller, photographer (aspiring), dreamer and hopeless believer in magic. I caught the travel bug in my forties – and not planning to look back any time soon. I travel solo and on a budget and I try to spend as much time and effort as possible to truly immerse myself in the country I am visiting.

Whether you are like me and decided to change your life around a new dream or just wandering (because not all who wander are lost) – I am here to tell you that everything is possible. 

 

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