When planning a trip to North Macedonia, including Ohrid in your itinerary is a must. There are many wonderful things to do in Ohrid from boat trips on the lake, hiking and exploring the old town, to enjoying delicious food and wine next to small beaches.
I first visited Ohrid in 2019 and fell in love with the place. I returned in 2022 and spent a month living there.
This treasure of the Balkans offers stunning nature, delicious food and rich culture (after all has been accepted as both a Cultural and Natural World Heritage site by UNESCO) – and will be a pleasant surprise to anyone who visits it.
Top Things to do in Ohrid, North Macedonia
1. Explore the Lakeside Paths and Kaneo Settlement
There is a pleasant footpath that runs around part of the lake close to the town. After negotiating the old town, the path then crosses part of the lake on a raised wooden walkway, before joining a myriad of cliffside paths overlooking the lake close to the ancient settlement of Kaneo.
Many of these paths lead to secluded beaches and the farther you stray from the town, the more chance you have of finding a quiet spot! The paths also link up with popular tourist attractions such as Samuil Fortress and St. John the Theologian Church (see below).
Closer to the town you will find a selection of beachside bars, cafes and restaurants overlooking the water.
2. Visit the Church of St. John the Theologian at Kaneo
Nestled on a cliff that overlooks the gorgeous Lake Ohrid, you will find the Church of St. John the Theologian – the most iconic sight in Ohrid!
If you have ever seen photos of North Macedonia, they have likely been taken here because it is definitely one of the most picturesque places in the whole country. If you would like to take the perfect selfie, it is best to do it above the church (after descending from the fortress).
Although it is not entirely sure when the church was built, it seems that it happened before the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Nowadays, historians believe that it was constructed in the 13th century. Unfortunately, it is not possible to enter the beautiful church, but the surrounding view is well worth the visit.
3. Visit Samuil Fortress for Stunning Views
The medieval Samuil Fortress sits above the town and offers commanding views across the town and lake. The stone fortifications date back to the reign of Bulgarian Tsar Samuil who restored sections that dated back to the 4th Century BC.
What you see today dates to the 10th Century A.D with major restoration work completed in 2003. You can enter the fortress and climb the walls for a small fee of 30 MKD (€0.50).
Walking up to the fortress from the old town and then down to the lake via Sveti Naum Monastery is a great way to really get a feel for the town.
4. Shop your worries away at the Old Bazaar
There might not be a more vibrant place in Ohrid than the Old Bazaar. Compared to other markets in the country, it is pretty small, but it is still an exciting place to explore.
Starting at the waterfront quite close to the Macedonian flag, the Old Bazaar takes up only one street, but that is enough to satisfy your inner shopaholic.
If you want to have the ultimate experience, plan your visit on the market days – that is when locals swarm there to get their hands on some goods.
The Old Bazaar is not only great for people-watching. It is also an excellent place to buy souvenirs for your loved ones. There you will find a couple of craft shops that offer unique, handmade gifts. Whenever you get tired of exploring, just wind down at one of the cafes.
5. Walk along Potpesh Beach
North Macedonia is famed for its stunning beaches. As you wander around Ohrid, you will discover great beaches on almost every corner you turn. So whether you prefer sunbathing on cliffs or in the sand – you will find something suited to your needs.
But if there is one place you shouldn’t miss, it is definitely Potpesh Beach.
The waterfront includes all kinds of restaurants that will satisfy your cravings after a long day in the water. Just a short walk away, you will notice a boardwalk that goes along the cliffs. If you finish the road, you will stumble upon a small, hidden beach that is perfect for having a swim or even enjoying a sunset.
Compared to other areas, it is not as crowded, so you don’t have to worry about stepping on somebody’s toes. Having a fun day at the beach is surely one of the best things to do in Ohrid.
6. Wander around the Old Town
When visiting Ohrid for the first time, make sure to start your trip in the beautiful Old Town. There you will find some of the most significant historical landmarks and impressive architecture that dates back even as far as the 7th century.
Ohrid is full of narrow lanes and tall houses. That is what makes it so unique and special.
As you go through the streets, stop by the Church of St. Sophia, which has an incredible courtyard and magnificent examples of Byzantine frescoes. Admire the beauty of the place, but remember that taking photos is forbidden.
If you have the time, it is also a good idea to visit some traditional houses, such as Robevci. That way, you can get an insight into what life used to be in the past.
Continue your path uphill, where you will find a variety of cafes and restaurants. After having a delicious lunch, you may indulge in some local jewelry shopping.
A little tip: if you haven’t yet booked your accommodation, it is possible to stay at some of the old houses. You are guaranteed to have an experience unlike any other.
7. See a show at the Hellenistic Amphitheatre
The North Macedonian city is full of historical places to see and explore. One of the best things to do in Ohrid is to catch a performance in its open-air Hellenistic-type theatre. Built around 200BCE, it is a great place to have a feel of the traditions of Greeks and Romans.
Nowadays, the theatre is one of the main entrances to the city. Plus – it has an excellent view of Ohrid.
During the Ohrid Summer Festival, it is possible to see shows by many theatre groups and musicians. In fact, the festival is one of the most important cultural events in North Macedonia, which is an excellent example of fusing contemporary art with ancient architecture.
8. Have fun at Trpejca (and try their food)
The peaceful area used to be a fishing village. Nowadays, the locals often call it their version of Saint Tropez. It is not hard to imagine why – the gorgeous beaches and incredible food is a serious competitor for the French Riviera.
If you are looking for a foodie’s paradise, this is definitely the place to be. First, stop by Tavera Mrestilishte to taste some of the local specialties, for example, caught trout or fish stew.
Then, whenever you have satisfied your cravings, stop by its beach that offers sparkling, transparent waters and breathtaking views.
9. Get your hands on Ohrid’s pearls
When looking for the best souvenirs to take home, the Ohrid pearls are perhaps the most beautiful things you can get. In fact, the production process has a long history and is an important part of the country’s culture.
How these gorgeous pearls are made is not entirely clear because it is kept a secret. But what makes them different is the fact they are created using shells.
Known for their high quality, the Ohrid pearls can be found even in Queen Elizabeth’s II jewelry collection. If you want to buy some for yourself or your loved ones, you will find plenty of shops selling them in the Old Town.
10. Go Hiking in Galičica National Park
Those who would like to spend some time in nature will surely enjoy the visit to Galičica National Park. Just a short drive away, you will find an impressive mountain range with peaks over 2,000 meters. The best way to discover the area is by foot.
However, those who would like to get a rush of adrenaline have the opportunity to sign up for a paragliding tandem tour.
Keep your eyes open – the park is the home of more than 1644 species of butterflies. So whether you choose to have a more extreme or laidback day, you are guaranteed to have an adventure unlike any other.
There is no doubt that spending the day at Galičica is one of the best things to do in Ohrid and from here you can see three countries at once; North Macedonia, Greece and Albania!
Things to do Near Ohrid
11. Visit the Bay of Bones
The Bay of Bones is the recreation of a bronze age village on stilts over Lake Ohrid. There is an underwater archaeology site and a small museum. The Bay of Bones is set on the lake with a backdrop of lush forest and mountains, making it one of the top things to do near Ohrid.
You can reach the museum and village by boat or bus from Ohrid. Private boat tours depart from the docks at 10:30 daily and the cost is €25.00 for a day trip which includes transport to the Bay of Bones, a small church near Trpejca and Sveti Naum Monastery and spring. I did this tour in October 2022 and would highly recommend it.
Read my full guide to the Bay of Bones Ohrid.
12. Discover Saint Naum Monastery
St Naum Monastery is located at the southern tip of Lake Ohrid right on the border with Albania. This beautiful old stone monastery dates back around 900 years and is perched above the lake (like a larger version of St. John the Theologian).
There is plenty to do at Saint Naum from exploring the spring that feeds Lake Ohrid to hiking, exploring lots of other little churches and eating Macedonian cuisine at one of the restaurants.
What is the Best Time to Visit Ohrid
Ohrid is a fantastic destination yea-round, however spring to autumn is the best time to visit if you want to experience bluye skies and warm, sunny weather.
Summer is a great time to visit as swimming in the lake is one of the best things to do in Ohrid.
People usually swim from May to September, but even in October it can be warm enough to swim (my last visit was for the whole of October and it was 25 Celcius for much of that time).
Autumn is a wonderful time to visit Ohrid as there are far fewer tourists than the summer months, and the trees in the mounting around the lake erupt into autumn colours.
Where to Stay in Ohrid
Budget: on my first visit I stayed at the excellent Sunny Lake Hostel which is located in the old town a few minute’s walk from the fortress, lake and all the major shops and attractions.
Apartment: on my second visit I rented an Airbnb for one month. This excellent apartment comes with a balcony and lake views. It’s located right in the heart of the old town a few minute’s walk from the lake, shops, bars and restaurants. Highly recommended!
Luxury: Unique Resort and Spa is located right on the lake and benefits from an onsite restaurant, outdoor pool and spa. All rooms come with air conditioning, TV, en-suite bathroom and free toiletries.
Getting to Ohrid
From Ohrid St. Paul the Apostle Airport
The town is served by Ohrid St. Paul the Apostle Airport which has a very limited and largely seasonal flight schedule (although Wizz Air is about to open a London Luton – Ohrid route from 18th December 2021).
There is no set schedule for buses between the airport and town centre, but there is usually a bus that connects with the Wizz Air arrivals. With this in mind taking a taxi the short (9km) distance is usually the best option. Fares are around 500 MKD (€8).
Ohrid lies 180km south of North Macedonia’s capital Skopje. There are two main ways to get there from Skopje; bus and taxi.
Buses run hourly from 07:30 to 19:30 daily. The ticket costs €9 one way and €14 return. Buses depart from the airport and city centre and take around three hours.
A taxi will take around 2.5 hours and cost between €60 and €80.
From Tirana (Albania)
There are daily buses between Tirana and nearby Struga (where you can take a connecting bus or taxi the remaining 16km to Ohrid).
The gorgeous city in North Macedonia has something to offer for everybody. So lay down at the beach, wander around the charming old town or taste the local food – a trip to Ohrid will be filled with fantastic experiences.
About the author:
Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has travelled to over 60 countries, lived in China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.
Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of Europe and Asia by train, bus and boat.
Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲