Things to do in Ohrid, North Macedonia
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Things to do in Ohrid, North Macedonia

Thinking of heading to Ohrid, but not too sure what there is to do? I visited last year for several days and absolutely fell in love with the picturesque lakeside town. In this guide, I share my top pick of the best things to do in Ohrid.

Nestled along the shores of Lake Ohrid, the town of Ohrid in North Macedonia is an underrated gem that I feel is gaining traction among travellers and tourists looking to visit somewhere new. For this reason, I’d really recommend visiting sooner rather than later. I loved the tranquillity of the town – walks along the shores of lake – complemented by a small but vibrant town with plenty to offer. Whether you’re thinking of visiting Ohrid for its rich history, beautiful landscapes, or for a taste of North Macedonian culture, it’s an absolute must if you’re visiting the country. From exploring the impressive ancient ruins to relaxing at a beach bar, Ohrid offers something for everyone. In this guide, I share my pick of the best things to do in Ohrid, based on my recent visit to this gorgeous destination.

Heading to Ohrid, and not sure where to begin with planning your trip? Check out my ultimate travel guide to visiting Ohrid, North Macedonia.

Quick tips for visiting Ohrid

Get this: affordable panoramic boat cruise. Enjoy this beautiful boat tour around Ohrid Old Town and learn more about the town – it’s a great way to get your bearings.

Don’t miss: an Ohrid monastery winery tour. I was pleasantly surprised at just how delicious (and cheap!) Macedonian wine is, so try plenty of local wines, brandies, and a cheese and charcuterie platter on this winery tour.

Bucket list experience: tick off three incredible destinations with a tour of Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Montenegro in three days. I loved every single place and it’ll be a trip you never forget – the destinations are so close too, it’s rude not to visit them all.

Flights: find the cheapest flights to Ohrid with Skyscanner.

Stay: Find the most affordable hotels in Ohrid on

The best things to do in Ohrid, North Macedonia

Things to do in Ohrid, North Macedonia

With a blend of cultural heritage, breathtaking scenery, and a relaxed atmosphere (especially if you’re arriving from the bustling capital city of Skopje), Ohrid is a genuinely magical place to visit. From savouring local flavours and wine to exploring ancient sites, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful lakeside destination. I feel like it’s one of those unicorn towns that offers a cultural, relaxing, or active holiday – all in one. It’s with good reason that it’s one of my absolute favourite destinations int the Balkans.

Discover Ohrid’s UNESCO World Heritage sites

I had no idea just how historical Ohrid is. The town has earned its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its exceptional cultural and natural significance. Dating back to ancient times, Ohrid served as an important cultural and economic centre. Its historical sites, including churches, monasteries, and fortresses reflect the diverse influences over the centuries, from Roman and Byzantine to Ottoman periods. I loved exploring the different landmarks during my visit.

You’ll discover plenty of signs that Ohrid is a well-preserved medieval settlement, thanks to its narrow cobblestone streets, and historical sites including the Church of St. Sophia, St. Clement’s Monastery, and the iconic Church of St. John at Kaneo. You can’t miss the important archaeological sites too, including the Ancient Theatre of Ohrid, and Samuel’s Fortress which is perched on a hill offering stunning panoramic views across Ohrid’s town and lake. Lake Ohrid itself is Europe’s oldest, and one of the deepest and clearest too.

Stroll through the Old Town’s cobblestone streets

Ohrid’s Old Town is a charming maze of cobblestone streets, dotted with vibrant cafes, artisan shops, and historical architecture. One of my favourite things to do while in Ohrid is to get lost in the labyrinthine alleys, discover hidden gems, and soak in the authentic atmosphere of the medieval town. It’s the perfect place for just taking a gentle stroll, stopping off for coffee at one of the lakeside cafes for a rest.

Historically, when Turks came to Ohrid, they only permitted the town’s Christian population to live within the city walls where the town gets steep. For this reason, you might notice that parts of the town feel a little claustrophobic, with tall houses towering over narrow alleyways. There are so many charming cobbled streets that you can simply wander down and explore. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to pop into one of the traditional houses – like a Robevci or Uranija house – to see how life in Ohrid used to look. You can even stay in some that offer accommodation!

Take a boat trip on Lake Ohrid

Taking a boat trip on Lake Ohrid was a definite highlight of my trip to Ohrid. We were very lucky with the weather – it was a sunny day in May, and my friend even managed a swim in the lake. Heading out on a boat means you can experience the gorgeous crystal clear waters of Lake Ohrid, and spot the mountain backdrop and lush greenery of the area. As you cruise along Lake Ohrid, you’ll pass sleepy villages and the iconic monastery, the Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo. I also recommend stopping by the Monastery of St Naum as a stop off on your relaxing boat trip.

In terms of taking a boat, you can hire a local boat and skipper to take you out, although I found they inflate the prices pretty dramatically. If I were to go back, I’d book the following organised boat trip so you know the prices and exactly what you’re going to get.

Visit the Ancient Theatre of Ohrid

Unearth the past at the Ancient Theatre of Ohrid, a remarkable Greco-Roman amphitheatre that offers breathtaking views of Lake Ohrid. It dates back all the way to 200 BC, and is the only Hellenistic theatre you’ll find in North Macedonia. Attend a performance during the summer months or simply marvel at the historical significance of this archaeological gem. You’ll likely come across this ampitheatre when wandering around the Old Town. A crazy fact is that the ampitheatre was only discovered in recent times back in 1980, by accident. It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy the views across Ohrid and the lake.

Go shopping at the Old Bazaar

Given the excellent conversion rate when travelling from the UK to North Macedonia, my friend and I were really looking forward to doing some shopping while in Ohrid. When you hear ‘bazaar’, you might be fooled into thinking it’s like the huge Old Bazaar in Skopje (the largest in Europe outside of Istanbul). Ohrid’s Old Bazaar is instead much smaller, spread across a single street that begins at the huge Macedonian flag near the waterfront.

Here, you can purchase plenty of souvenirs. There are dozens of craft shops, but the biggest speciality in Ohrid is pearls, as they are harvested from the lake itself. The pearls are different in Ohrid because they’re uniquely made of shells. The pearl making technique was brought to Ohrid from a Russian immigrant over a hundred years ago, and it’s said that only two families in the town know the exact process. I’d say pearls are pretty reasonably priced if you’re in the market for some lovely new jewellery, and there are pearl shops almost everywhere in Ohrid. When you’re tired of shopping, there are plenty of coffee shops and cafes around for you to grab a drink and some food.

Discover Ohrid’s beautiful churches

Ohrid has a fascinating history as a spiritual hub within the region in North Macedonia. There were said to be 365 churches in Ohrid – one for each day of the year, which gave the town the nickname of the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’. Although not quite 365 churches in the town these days, there are still plenty to see and explore. Some are so tiny in fact, you might not even notice them!

Some of the most iconic churches include the Church of St. Sophia, which dates back to the 11th century and is a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Inside, you can see the impressive frescoes, woodwork, and relaxed atmosphere as you take a step back in time. The Church of St. John at Kaneo is another picturesque place, as well as a 14th century temple. This church has a beautiful location on the cliff above Lake Ohrid, overlooking the beautiful blue waters. I recommend climbing above the church for some of the most spectacular views in Ohrid. Other notable churches include the Church of St. Mary Perivleptos, and the Church of Sts. Constantine and Elena.

Relax on Ohrid’s beaches

After a long day of exploring beautiful Ohrid, one of my favourite things to do was to unwind on the town’s beautiful beaches. A few favourites include Kaneo Beach and Labino Beach. If you fancy something a little more vibrant, you could also head to Cuba Libre Beach which has its very own beach bar in the summer months. Whether you’re after a peaceful sunbathing spot or fancy participating in some water activities, Ohrid has a beach for everyone. Despite there being so many things to do in Ohrid, it’s still a great relaxing holiday destination, and the lake is a perfect swimming spot.

Climb Samuel’s Fortress for panoramic views

For some of the most beautiful views across Ohrid, I recommend hiking up to Samuel’s Fortress which is perched on a hill overlooking the town. The climb isn’t too strenuous, and you’re greeted with panoramic vistas from the top. In fact, it’s probably the best viewpoint you can find in Ohrid. The first fortress built in this spot dates back to the 4th century BC, although the current fortress as we know it harks back to the 10th century, when Ohrid was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire. Inside the fortress, you can explore and see some artefacts from history. My favourite thing is the view – spot the red rooftops of Ohrid’s Old Town, and the impressive blues of the lake and its mountainous backdrop.

Enjoy the local Macedonian cuisine

I really enjoyed trying the local cuisine while in Ohrid, eating at a range of cafes and restaurants. Check out my guide to the best restaurants in Ohrid. Here are a few local dishes that reflect the culinary heritage of the reason. I’d definitely say you need to try as many of these as you can while visiting Ohrid:

  • Tavče gravče: this national dish of Macedonia consists of cooked beans seasoned with red pepper, onions, and various herbs. It is typically served as a side dish but is hearty enough to be enjoyed on its own. I absolutely loved this – it’s like an exotic take on baked beans! The vegetarian food is really great in North Macedonia.
  • Ohrid-style grilled trout: fresh trout caught from Lake Ohrid is a must! Grilled and often served with a squeeze of lemon, this dish is simple and delicious. At one restaurant I visited, I noticed ‘trout in prison’ on the menu – a tasty fillet of trout cooked in paper with a blend of herbs and butter.
  • Ajvar: this is a popular Balkan dish I remember seeing a lot in Croatia too. A popular condiment in Macedonian cuisine, ajvar is a roasted red pepper and eggplant relish. It adds a rich and savoury flavour to lots of dishes and is often enjoyed with bread or as a side to grilled meats.
  • Sogan-dolma: these stuffed onions are a traditional Macedonian dish where onions are filled with a mixture of rice, minced meat, and spices. The dish is baked or simmered until the onions are tender and infused with the savoury flavors of the filling. So delicious!
  • Maznik: this savoury pastry is made with thin layers of dough filled with a mixture of cheese, eggs, and sometimes spinach or leeks. It’s baked until golden brown, resulting in a delicious and satisfying treat. It’s a little like burek if you’re familiar with Balkan cuisine, although maznik is prepared in a unique spiral shape.
  • Selsko meso: Translating to “village meat,” selsko meso is a hearty meat stew often made with pork or veal. The meat is typically cooked with mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes, creating a tasty main course.

Of course, you can’t visit North Macedonia without trying a rakija! Although not a food, rakija is a popular Macedonian fruit brandy, and a customary way to finish a meal. It often comes in different fruit flavours, and is a strong symbol of hospitality. You might also want to try a glass of local Ohrid pearl wine.

We had some delicious meals while in Ohrid. There are plenty of great restaurants along the waterfront, which we really enjoyed. Don’t miss Restaurant Kajche – I had a delicious local trout, grilled and prepared with roasted potatoes and fresh vegetables. We also headed to Kaneo Restaurant for a more upmarket meal. It was delicious – we had some lovely local mezze to start, and a lobster spaghetti to share for mains, all washed down with some delicious cocktails.

Attend Ohrid Summer Festival

If you’ve not yet figured out exactly when you’re heading to Ohrid, I’d recommend visiting in either July or August. This means you can catch the Ohrid Summer Festival, which I heard all about during my stay (just before summer). It’s essentially an annual cultural extravaganza that features music, dance, exhibitions, and theatrical performances in different historic venues across the town, including the amphitheatre and local churches for a unique experience. It’s a hugely important event for Macedonia, celebrating the country’s culture.

Wander Along Ohrid’s seaside promenade

One of my favourite things to do in Ohrid, and something I did each day, was simply to take a leisurely stroll along Ohrid’s scenic seaside promenade. Lined with cafes, shops, and beautiful architecture, it’s the best way to see what the town has to offer. Grab a takeaway coffee and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere as you take in the picturesque scenery of Lake Ohrid. You might choose to take the promenade from the Old Town towards the town’s more contemporary, residential region, or you could take the boardwalk towards the Church of St. John at Kaneo. We loved taking this walk in the evening before heading out for dinner as you literally walk on the water along the cliff.

Visit St. Naum Monastery

St. Naum Monastery was founded at the beginning of the 10th century, and is a super important religious site in North Macedonia. You’ll find beautiful frescoes inside that date back to the nineteenth century, and in the monastery complex there are beautiful grounds with shrines and ponds. See if you can spot the peacocks that wander the grounds here. It’s a great day trip from Ohrid, and is perched on a cliff overlooking the lake.

St. Naum Monastery is a popular tourist attraction in Ohrid. For this reason, I’d recommend visiting early in the morning or afternoon when it’s less crowded. You can reach it by bus, but personally I’d always take a boat for more scenic views. Taking this affordable panoramic boat cruise is a great way to get there, and it’ll take around 1.5 hours. There are some restaurants around the monastery too, in case you get peckish and fancy a lakefront meal.

You can even book a unique stay in the hotel on the grounds of the monastery if you fancy a spiritual stay with a difference and gorgeous views.

Visit Bay of Bones

The Bay of the Bones Museum is around halfway between the shores of Lake Ohrid and the iconic St. Naum Monastery, and is one of the best things to do in Ohrid. The museum itself is a reconstruction of a prehistoric pile dwelling site, dating back to Neolithic times. It’s built on the water, just like it used to be in prehistoric times. What’s fascinating is that this ancient tribe wasn’t actually discovered until relatively recently in 1997.

Today, you can visit the museum that has recreated the former settlement, and you’ll find 24 houses. Inside, you can see how the prehistoric people used to live, as well as the kinds of tools and possessions they had. The community had a village that was connected to the lakebed, with a retractable drawbridge that served as a defence against predators like animals and tribes. I recommend heading here on your way towards St. Naum Monastery, or on your way to Albania.

Go hiking

When exploring Ohrid, one of the best things about the town is that you can always see the beautiful mountain backdrop. That’s Galičica National Park, a stunning mountain range located between Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa. This is a great spot for some hiking, where you can walk and experience breathtaking panoramas from the higher mountains, which reach over 2,000m above sea level. You’ll also find over 1,600 species of flora and fauna. Galičica National Park is close to the city, making it a perfect escape if you fancy getting into nature.

You could also take a route around some of the villages around Lake Ohrid on a 7km hike. Taking around 2.5 hours, you can enjoy gorgeous views over the national park and lake as you go, and you’ll pass through Konjsoko, Elsani, and Peštani.

Go wine tasting

I had never associated North Macedonia with wine tasting, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how delicious and affordable the local wine is. For this reason, I think one of the best things to do in Ohrid is to go wine tasting. Although Ohrid isn’t widely known for its wine production as such, the neighbouring region of Tikveš in North Macedonia is renowned for its vineyards and wineries. This makes for the perfect day trip from Ohrid. You can take a bus trip to the village of Openica, where you can sample some local wines with views of the surrounding forest at the Monastery Winery.

I also recommend heading to the town of Kavadarci, a real hub for wine enthusiasts. Some notable wineries in the area include Tikveš Winery, Stobi Winery, and Bovin Winery. These establishments often provide guided tours of the vineyards, wine cellars, and tasting sessions where you can sample a variety of local wines, including indigenous grape varieties like Vranec. Exploring Tikveš for wine tasting allows you to immerse yourself in North Macedonian viticulture and savour the unique flavoyrs of the region’s wines.

Take a day trip to Albania

While you’re right next to Albania in Ohrid, you might fancy heading over the border for the day to explore the other side of the lake. Why not visit another country, right? I tied my Ohrid visit in with a trip to Albania’s capital, Tirana. As the country is so close, it makes for the perfect day trip from Ohrid. Here are some of the best Albanian attractions near to Ohrid:

  • Head to the lakeside city of Pogradec, a charming spot with local markets, cafes, and traditional Albanian architecture. Don’t miss the Church of St. Nicholas, famous for its beautiful frescoes. You might also spot a few bunkers here, marking its distinction from neighbouring towns in North Macedonia.
  • Drilon National Park is situated just outside of Pogradec, and is a peaceful spot with lush greenery and freshwater springs. It’s the perfect place to relax, picnic, and be at one with nature.
  • Sample Albanian cuisine at local restaurants. You can’t miss byrek (savoury pastry) and tavë kosi (baked lamb with yoghurt).
  • Stop by the village of Lin for lunch and a stroll. It’s also on the way from the very scenic ride up the west of the lake and back to Ohrid.

Things to do in Ohrid: FAQs

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions I receive regarding things to do in Ohrid.

How do I spend a day in Ohrid?

Having spent a good amount of time exploring Ohrid, here’s how I’d spend a day in the town:

  • Head for coffee along the waterfront. Wander through the quaint cobblestone streets, passing medieval churches and exploring the UNESCO-listed Old Town.
  • Visit Ohrid Fortress for panoramic views of Lake Ohrid and the surrounding mountains. It’s totally breathtaking and the best way to see everything Ohrid has to offer.
  • Stroll along the lakeside promenade, exploring the local markets and pearl shops, and stop off at a local cafe from some traditional Macedonian food.
  • Hop on a boat trip and visit the Saint Naum Monastery in the afternoon, admiring its frescoes and enjoying the tranquil surroundings of sailing through the take.
  • Relax on one of the beaches or take a dip in Lake Ohrid.
  • Enjoy a relaxing evening by the lake, and take the boardwalk to Restaurant Kaneo for a delicious seafood meal.

Is Ohrid worth a visit?

If you haven’t yet visited, you need to add Ohrid to your list of places to visit. In fact, I’ve written a whole travel guide on Ohrid, including the best places to stay, the best beaches, and how to get around. This picturesque town in North Macedonia is renowned for its historical and cultural significance, earning its spot as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Old Town is a charming labyrinth of cobblestone streets, medieval churches, and historic buildings. Lake Ohrid, one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes, adds to the town’s appeal with its crystal-clear waters and scenic views. There’s also a surprisingly good nightlife!

Can you swim in Lake Ohrid?

Yes, and you must! Taking a boat trip across Lake Ohrid was one of the highlights of my visit. Lake Ohrid is known for its clear and clean waters, and swimming in the lake is a popular activity. The lake offers a refreshing and picturesque setting for swimming, and there are several designated swimming areas along the shores where you can enjoy the experience. The water quality of Lake Ohrid is generally considered to be excellent, making it safe for swimming. Whether you prefer a leisurely swim near the beaches or a more adventurous exploration of the lake’s depths, Lake Ohrid provides a serene and beautiful environment for water activities. I visited in May and it was so refreshing to take a dip after spending a few hours in the sun on a boat trip across the lake.

As you can see, Ohrid really has a lot to offer and there’s something for everyone. It’s a relaxing destination, offering cultural heritage and natural beauty. I really can’t recommend visiting enough, and it really is beautiful. I recommend booking a trip to Ohrid so you can see for yourself.

I hope you found my guide covering the best things to do in Ohrid helpful! If you have any questions, do let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. I hope you’re feeling inspired to visit for yourself.

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