Home North Macedonia 9 Things to Do in Ohrid, the Jewel of North Macedonia

9 Things to Do in Ohrid, the Jewel of North Macedonia

by David
Ohrid View

Disclosure: This post (probably) contains affiliate links. If you click on one, I may make a small commission. Of course, this will come at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running.

When it comes to tourist hotspots in North Macedonia, it’s hard to go past the majestic Lake Ohrid. This vast lake lies in the southwestern corner of the country on the border with Albania. As a landlocked country, Lake Ohrid is the closest North Macedonia comes to having a seaside. It’s for this reason that Ohrid has become popular as a summer resort destination, favoured by local North Macedonians and other regional/European holidaymakers. I ended up spending 6 days here and thoroughly enjoyed its relaxing atmosphere and natural beauty.

On the shores of Lake Ohrid, the main settlement is the small city by the same name. Aside from providing tourists with somewhere to stay by the water, Ohrid happens to be a fascinating destination in its own right. The city has some fascinating historic pedigree earning it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1980. Additionally, for those looking to see more of the region, Ohrid makes a great base for day trips to other lakeside spots. So, here are 9 activities and places to go to make the most of your time in the “Jewel of North Macedonia“.


1. Stroll through Ohrid Bazaar

Ohrid Bazaar

Certainly the most busy part of the city of Ohrid is the bazaar that runs up from the waterfront and ends at the small city market. This lovely pedestrian street named after St Clement of Ohrid is lined with plenty of shops and stores, from cafes and ice-cream parlours to boutique clothing stores.

There aren’t too many old buildings of the bazaar still standing, but there a few and the streets are still lined with local Macedonian marble. At the northern end of the bazaar there is a small square, with a water fountain and the historic Chinar Tree, said to be over 1000 years old. Around the square are also several of the city’s mosques.


2. Explore Ohrid Old Town

One of Ohrid’s big draws is the city’s Old Town that covers the hillside west of the city centre. It is here in the Old Town where you will come across wonderful old Ottoman houses and narrow cobbled lanes. Venturing uphill from anywhere in the Bazaar will soon bring you into the streets of the Old Town, where the crowds of tourists fade away.

Here you’ll see lovely old and quaint houses and feel a far more relaxed atmosphere. It really is just nice to walk about and appreciate what the city could have once been like.

Perivlepta Gate, Things to Do in Ohrid

The Old Town is also home to some significant historical landmarks. For starters, there are the remnants of the old city fortifications including several remaining gates. The best preserved of the gates is the Upper Gate found close to the city market. Just nearby the Upper Gate is the city’s last ancient site, the Ancient Theatre.

The theatre is currently undergoing considerable restoration but you can still see parts that show what the theatre used to look like. There are also many historic churches as mentioned below.


3. Climb Samuel’s Fortress

Samoil's Fortress

Without question, Ohrid’s most dominant landmark is the mighty fortress that sits on the hilltops over the old town. Known as Samuel’s Fortress after the Tsar Samuel, the fortress was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire at the end of the 10th century. Archaeological evidence also suggests there was an even older fortress built on the same spot.

Thanks to renovations in 2003, visitors are able to visit the fortress and climb up the steep stairs to walk along its ramparts. The views from the fortress are tough to beat as you can see all of the old town and look out at the lake in both directions. It’s a little light on information, but well worth a visit. Entry costs 30 denar (July 2016).

Ohrid Fortress Walls


4. See the Church at Kaneo

Kaneo Church Ohrid, Visiting Macedonia

Throughout Ohrid you will come across quite many historic Orthodox churches in the Byzantine style. Each has its own interesting aspects from the painted frescos inside the Holy Mary Perivlepta Church to the lengthy history of the Church of St Sophia. This means that if you’d like to visit and explore some medieval churches, you have plenty to choose from. Please note that each church has an entry fee (generally 100 denar), so if money is tight choose wisely.

Perivlepta Church

Arguably the most popular and scenic is the Church of St John the Theologian at Kaneo. This icon of Ohrid sits on the very point of the headland, concealed by the forests below Samuel’s Fortress. Following paths either coming down from the fortress or that run along the coast, you will arrive at this wonderfully picturesque church.

The cliff top church is quite small in comparison to some of Ohrid’s other churches, but its view definitely trumps all others. The best spot to view the church at Kaneo is from the small lookout point directly above the church, allowing you to capture the classic shot of the church over the lake.

Visiting Ohrid in North Macedonia


5. Sunbathe at the Beach and Swim

Ohrid Shore, Things to See in Ohrid

The most obvious of activities for tourists in Ohrid is of course swimming in the lake and basking by the shore. As such, there are a number of spots close to the city centre where visitors can do so. Between the Port of Ohrid and Kaneo Church are a number of small public stone beaches.

If you’re visiting in summer, it should come as no surprise that the city beaches will be quite busy. At the beaches closer to Kaneo, there are also some floating pontoons for sunbathing and swimming that are a little quieter. Generally, the further you get from the city centre the quieter things will be.

Many hotels, such as Villa Milka where I stayed, also have pools if the lake is too far. For another level of relaxation, there are a number of resorts found on the shores of the lake. As you head south down the shore from Ohrid, there are plenty of more self-contained resorts to choose from. While many are on the outskirts of Ohrid, there are more further south in small villages like Peštani and Lagadin.


6. Dine by the Waterfront

Ohrid North Macedonia

With so much waterfront at its disposal, it only makes sense that there are plenty of places to eat at by the water. That’s not to say there aren’t decent restaurants away from the shoreline like Restaurant Belvedere, but it’s nice to sit by the shore at least once.

A really comfortable dining option that I tried for dinner was the Restaurant Kaj Kanevche right near the Church at Kaneo. Although the wind had really picked up and was whipping the waves in, it was nice sitting over the water and being able to look out across the lake. The restaurant had a homely atmosphere and personable staff. While a little out of the way, it was worth the walk. I also tried the Kaneo Beach Bar and Restaurant for lunch one day with a really nice ice coffee and sandwich.


7. Visit Struga

Black Drin River off Lake Ohrid

For those looking to get away from the tourists, the nearby city of Struga offers a look at the more ordinary side of Macedonian life. Sitting on the northern end of Lake Ohrid and just 15km away, Struga seems to have been far less affected by increased tourism to the region. This is likely because the city lacks the landmarks and architecture of neighbouring Ohrid. Unlike Ohrid however, it does have two long stretches of beachfront right near the centre of the city. Also quite interesting are the reeds and the falls that lie just off the shore.

Reeds outside Struga, Lake Ohrid

The city is centred around the Black Drin River which flows out of Lake Ohrid, with pleasant boulevards lining either bank. Here you can find plenty of cafes and bars where many locals spend time catching up. Following the river, you soon reach the centre of the city where there are several monuments. Crossing the river away from the monument, you will soon reach the city’s bazaar and market which will give you a little insight into the way of things here.

Struga Bazaar, Lake Ohrid

To get to Struga from Ohrid, you can take a bus from the city centre for 40 denar but it’s also possible to take a share taxi for roughly 100 denar. Waiting at a bus stop is likely where you’ll find a share taxi looking for more people going to Struga. While it is more expensive, it’s a far quicker alternative and ultimately still a cheap ride.


8. Enjoy St Naum and Ljubaništa

St Naum Monastery Lake Ohrid

By far the most popular day trip for visitors to Ohrid is the boat ride down to the Monastery of St Naum (600 denar return). Wedged right against the border with Albania, this little spot is surprisingly laden with things to do. This may be surprising when you consider that there isn’t even so much as a village here.

The main building is indeed the monastery, which also doubles as a quite upmarket hotel. The monastery itself is quite scenic as it overlooks the lake, with a beautiful old church and manicured gardens. It won’t take long to visit the monastery, which leaves you free to do a variety of other things before heading back on the boat in the afternoon.

St Naum Beach Lake Ohrid

St Naum happens to have one of the most popular beaches on Lake Ohrid, with many people coming there simply for the beach. Like up at Ohrid, this is a public beach so there aren’t reserved areas or anything like that. Just off the beach are a series of restaurants ready to service tourists’ needs. Expect generally higher prices than you would find in Ohrid due to St Naum’s isolation.

There is also the beach at Ljubaništa, said to be the best on the lake, several kilometres up the shore. To get there, it’ll take you 30 to 40 minutes to walk or you can hire a taxi. The beach is at the campground, a popular spot with Macedonians.

Ljubaništa Beach Lake Ohrid

For more sightseeing while at St Naum, consider visiting the local springs – the source of Lake Ohrid. You have the options of walking through the bush up and seeing them or taking the far more leisurely boat ride. Either way, you’re bound to see some beautiful nature and gain some appreciation for how something so small can create such a grand lake.

Water Spring Lake Ohrid


9. Watch the Sunset from the Port

Ohrid Sunset

In my opinion, the best place to watch the sunset from is by the pier on Ohrid’s waterfront. It is from here that you can see the sky change colour over Ohrid’s old town and Samuel’s Fortress. Every night I was there, the sky simply glowed with some remarkable colours. What more can you ask for?


Have you visited Lake Ohrid before? If not, which of these would you most like to do at Lake Ohrid? Please share in the comments below.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

You may also like


California Globetrotter November 22, 2016 - 10:02 am

I’ve seen the picture of the Church of St John and thought it was so beautiful! So glad to learn more about this town and what’s there! Definitely looks like its worth visiting!! 🙂 Hrmm might need to squeeze this in to our Balkan itinerary…if you keep this up, I’ll never leave the Balkans!

David November 22, 2016 - 11:03 am

Haha, maybe you need to break it into (at least) two trips! It really is a nice spot to visit, although I’m sure it is quite different in winter. Hope the trip planning is going well.

California Globetrotter November 22, 2016 - 12:37 pm

At the moment just figuring out where we want to go and my list keeps getting longer haha! We have our estimated dates and will probably start really planning after the holidays! 🙂

California Globetrotter November 22, 2016 - 10:04 am

PS. Your pin from/on Pinterest doesn’t work, so I had to come over directly to your page in order to read it.

David November 22, 2016 - 10:57 am

Thank you Lorelei, I figured out what I did wrong there and have now fixed it 🙂

Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld November 23, 2016 - 8:47 pm

So gorgeous – the colours won we over straight away, especially that blue sky and the bluest of water too! 😀

vanbrune November 24, 2016 - 11:36 am

Wow the view from Kaneo is absolutely gorgeous! I’d love to visit Macedonia one day, seems like a country full of interesting history!

Gemma & JR (@OffTrackTravel) November 25, 2016 - 7:57 pm

Ohrid looks like it has a little bit of everything; beautiful views, history, incredible architecture (those churches are stunning) plus swimming. I absolutely love the colour of the water!

Paula McInerney November 25, 2016 - 11:48 pm

Our friends keep telling us to visit Macedonia, and now I can why. Ohrid looks sensational.

Rhonda Albom (@RhondaAlbom) November 26, 2016 - 10:39 am

Ohrid looks remarkable. I can see why it has become a summer resort. I personally like the old town section.

Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute November 26, 2016 - 1:37 pm

Lake Ohrid is such a beautiful destination! It has been on our list but we just haven’t been able to make it work. Great article, reat photos! #wkendtravelinspiration

RoarLoud November 28, 2016 - 12:51 am

What a beautiful place to explore! The fortress looks especially great to me.

beatravelling December 3, 2016 - 5:11 pm

I have never been to Macedonia, so thanks for this!! #wkendtravelinspiration

Jill December 4, 2016 - 2:28 pm

I’ve never been but it looks like a beautiful and interesting destination. I’m thinking that I would be hanging out by the water in one of the cafe’s. Thanks for sharing!

David December 6, 2016 - 11:56 am

Thanks for reading Jill, the waterfront is definitely a nice spot.

RobRob @TravelLatte(.net) March 31, 2017 - 2:10 am

What a cool town! That church at Kaneo is pretty iconic, and we’d heard about it from some friends. We had no idea the rest of Ohrid was so picturesque! Looks great – we’re going to have to figure out how to work this trip into our plans!

Slavica Elkova January 29, 2018 - 3:36 pm

The town of Bitola, second largest in Macedonia, is one of the oldest in Europe and it should be visited.
It is also the town for whom are sang the most songs on the Balkans. The first piano was brought there, the first movie camera on the Balkans was brought in Bitola. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the antic ruins of Heraclea Lincestis, as well by the 15th, 18th and 19th century architecture.

Marie Louise Cutajar June 19, 2018 - 4:15 pm

this does look very inviting !! i’ve just started searching for a reply as a holiday destination for mid november. i can’t decide between prague and skopje, macedonia. could anyone enlighten me please !?!?

David June 19, 2018 - 7:59 pm

Hi Marie, those are both interesting options. I honestly think Prague is even better at that time of year than summer with fewer tourists and Christmas markets starting up. I’m not sure how cold Skopje gets that time of year but you ought to be able to enjoy the city all the same. Ohrid may be getting chilly too, but again, still beautiful.

Bill February 24, 2021 - 4:26 pm

Yes, I’ve visited Ohrid! When my friend and I walked up curving road to the old walls, unaccompanied watermelons, one by one, started rolling past us, around the corner and on down the hill. When we got to the gate in your picture, we found out why…a truck full of watermelons had got itself wedged in the gate. Many people stood around trying to figure out how to dislodge it. I’m afraid the gate probably still had the scrapes and scars when you visited.

David Golber April 21, 2022 - 10:12 pm

Just across the courtyard from the church Sveta Bogorodica Perivlepta, near the upper gate, is the museum of icons. Nothng like it this side of Moscow. I don’t know about you, but they move me.

A moment’s walk from the square with the fountain and the chinar tree is the “green market”. Moutains of vegetables. Brightly colored peppers by the ton. And those soda bottles with a yellow liquid inside… that’s the local distilled stuff … “rakiya”. The seller will give you a taste. Buy some … it’s good.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: