When traveling the Balkans Lake Ohrid, and the city by the same name, are an absolute must see. Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe and during summer time a hotspot from travellers all over the world seeking refreshment from the warm summer sun. The lake, with its crystal clear blue water, however is not the only reason that it draws so many visitors as the city of Ohrid has plenty of beautiful sights to offer. We spent a week in Ohrid and loved every single minute of it, from relaxing by the water, exploring the Old Town of Ohrid, to enjoying the most delicious food, Ohrid has something for everyone. From boardwalks along cliffs, beautiful churches overlooking the lake and a fortress standing tall overlooking Ohrid, here are 11 unforgettable things to do in Ohrid.
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Where is Ohrid
Lake Ohrid is located in the South of the country and shares the lake with the neighbouring country of Albania. A stunning clear blue water that is surrounded by the most lush green hills and the most beautiful towns and cities. One of the most popular cities that is situated on the shores of the lake is the small city of Ohrid. Filled with not only resorts, but also the most beautiful streets winding up the hill overviewing the stunning Lake Ohrid. To get a better idea of where Ohrid is exactly located check out the map below.
Things to do in Ohrid
1. Church of St.John at Kaneo
The Church of St.John at Kaneo must be the most iconic sight of Ohrid. Located on a cliff overlooking the beautiful Lake Ohrid and the surrounding mountains this is undeniably a must see when visiting Ohrid. The church, also known as St.John the Theologian is reached by walking uphill along the shores of Lake Ohrid, and while you actually cannot enter the church itself, the view is worth just a visit on its own. The church was built before the rise of the Ottoman Empire and although an exact date is not known it is estimated that the church was built in the 13th century. Before you head down the hill to the town of Ohrid be sure to follow the steps to the viewpoint right above the church, which will give you the best view over the church and will allow you to photograph that postcard-like Ohrid shot.
2. Tsar Samuel’s Fortress
All the way on top of the hill of Old Town Ohrid you will find Tsar Samuel’s Fortress, one of Ohrid’s most popular sights. The 10th century fortress, that was renovated earlier this century, offers the most stunning views over Ohrid. Steep stairs provide access on top of the fortress walls and watch towers and depending on what viewpoint you will be standing you will be able to overlook the Old Town of Ohrid, the lake and so much more. The interior of the fortress is rather empty, but the views are hard to beat, making it worth the 60 Denar (October ’19) entry fee in our opinion. Make sure you visit the fortress early in the day, not only to escape the large tour crowds, but also to avoid the heat of the mid day sun.
3. Church of St. Sophia
The Church of St.Sophia is located right in the heart of Old Town Ohrid surrounded by restaurants overlooking the church. Dating back all the way to the First Bulgarian Empire this church is filled with beautiful frescoes from the 11th, 12th and 13th century. In matter of fact, during the Ottoman Empire this church was actually converted into a mosque and is now considered one of the most important monuments of North Macedonia. Walk through the beautiful garden, admire the frescoes or simply enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the nearby restaurants to awe at the Church of St. Sophia. Perhaps an interesting fact, a part of the Church of St. Sophia is actually depicted on the 1000 Denar banknote!
4. Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon
Below Tsar Samuel’s Fortress you will find the Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon. The beautiful church dates back all the way to the 9th century, was restored in 2002, and just like St.Sophia this church was actually converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. While the church itself is beautiful I have to admit that this was one of our least favourite sights in Ohrid as when we visited it was surrounded by a large construction site. Around the church you will also find various excavation and of course a beautiful view over Lake Ohrid.
5. The Ancient Theatre of Ohrid
In the Old Town, surrounded by hotels and charming streets you will find the Ancient Theatre of Ohrid. A theatre that dates back to 200 BC and was not only home to performances but also gladiator fights. However, the theatre wasn’t used just for entertainment purposes, apparently executions by both Romans and Christians took place here as well, causing for a strong dislike of the theatre and the theatre to be abandoned. The theatre was actually discovered by accident in the 1980s and can now be admired in its glory still to this day. There is no entry fee for the Ancient Theatre nor are there gates closing the theatre off meaning you can freely visit it at any given day of the week.
6. Boardwalk at Potpesh Beach
Ohrid is filled with the most beautiful beaches, some more beautiful then the other. From simple concrete beaches to pebbled stone beaches along cliffs, but they all have one thing in common: the clear blue water of Lake Ohrid. However, there is one beach that you absolutely can’t miss when visiting Ohrid: Potpesh Beach. Located only a short walk away from the waterfront filled with restaurants you will find a boardwalk along the cliffs, a beautiful place to go for a walk and admire Ohrid’s beauty. Follow the boardwalk to the small Potpesh Beach and enjoy a refreshing swim during the warm summer days or simply go here to admire the sunset, Potpesh Beach truly is a must see when visiting Ohrid.
7. The Old Bazaar
The Old Bazaar starts at the main street of Ohrid and ends all the way at the waterfront. Lined with shops, small restaurants and many ice creams shops this is one of the busiest places in Ohrid. Take a stroll through the bazaar, go shopping, grab some ice cream or admire some of the cities mosques situated around the bazaar this is a place that will be hard to miss when visiting Ohrid. The Old Bazaar is the perfect place to go souvenir shopping, from Ohrid’s pearls to postcards and magnets, at Ohrid’s Old Bazaar you will find it all!
8. Relax at the Beach
While the sightseeing in Ohrid can be easily done in a day there is a reason that so many people visit Ohrid during the summer: to relax at the beach. The refreshing blue water is the perfect place to escape the summer heat, however, just be aware that many of the beaches near the city centre are either pebble stoned or made of concrete. Nonetheless, this doesn’t seem to stop anyone from taking a dive here. As we visited Ohrid in October it was a bit too cold to go for a swim, but the beaches sure looked stunning and I can imagine that many of these beaches will be filled with tourists during the summer months!
9. Hike to Labino Beach
While many people turn around at St.John at Kaneo I would highly recommend just hiking a bit further along the cliffs of Ohrid. A pathway running along the cliffs will take you to a pathway leading down to Labino Beach, a more secluded beach filled with pebble stones and of course, stunning views. As Labino Beach is located a slight hike away from Ohrid’s Old Town you can expect less crowds here. But be sure to pack some drinking water and snacks as there are no restaurants here either, making it the perfect spot to go for a picnic with a beautiful view.
10. Get lost in the Old Town
While Ohrid is filled with the most beautiful sights, don’t forget to just walk around, to get lost and to simply enjoy the beautiful Old Town. Narrow alleys, houses decorated with the most bright flowers, cobble stone streets and streets with viewpoints overlooking Lake Ohrid, the Old Town of Ohrid is truly filled with the most beautiful views. The streets will take you up and down the hill to small beaches along cafes and shops, a perfect way to spent the afternoon and simply to get to see everything that Ohrid has to offer.
11. Go on a Day Trip to St.Naum
Have some time left in your itinerary? Perhaps hop on a boat and go on a day trip to St.Naum! While we had this planned on our itinerary the weather turned on us the following days and hopping on a boat did not seem like the best idea. However, you might be more lucky with the weather and what better way to explore the lake then from a boat? The Monastery of Saint Naum is located on the other side of the lake, close to the border of Albania and is one of the most popular day trips from Ohrid! A day trip with a ferry from the central harbour of Ohrid will set you back around €10 per person for a return.
Where to stay in Ohrid
With Ohrid being one of the most popular travel destinations in the Balkans you won’t have any trouble finding accommodation here. If you only have a couple of days in Ohrid then we highly recommend to stay closer to the Old Town of Ohrid, where you will find many of the sights. This way you won’t have to arrange taxis or any other form of transport to go sightseeing. However, if you prefer to stay a bit further away from the touristic sights, or are traveling North Macedonia on a budget, then I would highly recommend staying at Marina Apartments. The apartments were clean, the beds were comfortable and we were warmly welcomed by the friendly staff. The apartment is located close to the lake, and a short 15 min walk to Old Town, however, there are plenty of small shops in the area to buy some small snacks and drinks.
Ohrid Travel Tips
Best time to visit Ohrid
You will find the best weather in Ohrid in the months between May and September, however, with European school holidays in July and August you might want to stick to the shoulder season if you prefer to escape the crowds. In the months of May, June and September you will have the best chance of good weather, with warm sunny days for you to enjoy the lake, while avoiding the larger majority of the crowds. However, we found ourselves in Ohrid in the month of October and still enjoyed a pleasant 20 degree weather mixed in with a few days of rain.
Ohrid Travel Costs & Budget
Ohrid is one of the most affordable travel destinations in the Balkans, making it one of the best destinations for travellers on a budget. On average we spent €20 per person a day, which included our accommodation, eating out one meal a day and doing some sightseeing around the old town. To give you a bit of a better idea of what to expect here are some example prices:
Accommodation – For apartments and rooms outside of the old town expect to pay around €20 – €30 a night, depending on the season. However, these prices quickly increase when you are looking to stay near Ohrid’s sights and shopping district where prices will quickly increase to around €40 a night during shoulder season, during high season these prices often double in price. Check out Booking.com for the best deals and a better idea of what to expect during your planned travel dates.
Food and Drinks – Eating out in Ohrid is very affordable, and there are many restaurants to pick from. Meals in the old town often cost between €3 to €7, however, if you are planning on dining at the waterfront expect to pay a bit more. We dined in the old town a couple of times and in general €15 allowed us to buy two mains, a salad to share and two alcoholic drinks at many of the restaurants. Ice cream can be bought for around €1 and a beer will set you back €1.50 to €2.50 in case you are looking for something refreshing during the warm weather in Ohrid.
Sightseeing – Entry fees to the sights won’t break your budget, depending on what you are planning on doing. Expect to pay around €10 for a ferry to St.Naum or €5 for an hour on a boat. Enjoying the beach is completely free, and the entry fee to the fortress, for example, is only €1.
Overall Ohrid was one of the most affordable destinations we visited during our 4 month trip through Eastern Europe and the Balkans. And with the great food, the lovely weather, the friendly people and the incredible views we know for sure that we will be back here, hopefully rather sooner then later!