Macedonia still has the label of an undiscovered country and Ohrid is a real gem hidden in the southwest. Luckily, not many people put a finger on the map saying: “We are going to the Ohrid Lake!”, which ranks Ohrid among some of the top budget destinations in Eastern Europe. In addition, there are tons of tourist attractions in the area.
Here are some tips that will guarantee you a well-spent long weekend with a lot to do and see in Ohrid, Macedonia.
Walk along the lake
The alley along the lake is popular amongst the local people as well as the tourists who visit Ohrid. It’s a perfect spot for chilling or having a picnic and I loved to walk there during the golden hour. Take a sit on the bank and enjoy the calm crystal water of the lake or the view of the Old Town on your right-hand side. The beautiful white houses seem like they are hanging over the water and the Samuil’s fortress shines with splendour on the top of the hill.
Visit Bilyana’s Springs and learn the love story behind
Here in the Balkans, we have those mythical legends and weird traditions. According to this one, there was a beautiful girl called Bilyana. She was so beautiful that tsar Samuil himself fell in love with her when they met at the springs. When his wife found out, she sent assassins to find and get rid of the poor girl. Samuil was crushed by grief and gave the springs Bilyana’s name.
While there, don’t forget to jump 10 times on some of the rocks. You’ll drop 10 years off your face.
Wander in the centre of Ohrid
Take the main shopping street or as the locals call it “Charshiata”, and jump into the busy town life. Go windowshopping to the small shops offering local goods and souvenirs and don’t miss those which sell Ohrid pearls (see below).
There are some good restaurants as well as some bakeries if you need to fill your stomach. Moreover, the main square is covered with lushing greenery and cute cafe terraces with a stunning view of the lake.
Get lost in the Old town of Ohrid
Take one of the streets going up the hill and go explore the old town of Ohrid. The architecture is typical for the region and some people find it even a bit peculiar. Some of the houses have been renovated and turned into hotels. Others are desolated or completely abandoned. Get lost in the labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets and find some awesome views of the area.
Go and see the best view of the town
The towers of Samuil’s fortress rise above Ohrid’s old town and offer some stunning views. The fortress has been renovated but it looks legit and gives an idea of how this place looked back in the days.
If you follow the narrow and steep stairs up to the watchtower you’ll be rewarded with the best panorama of Ohrid and the surrounding mountains.
Discover the Beauty of the Orthodox Churches
According to the legend, 365 churches were built in Ohrid. One for each day of the year. And indeed, no matter which side you look, a dome or a bell tower is jutting out above the rooftops.
While you are strolling Ohrid’s old town, you’ll probably bump into the largest and most important one – the Church of St. Sophia, built back in the 9th century.
The newly built monastery of St. Clement of Ohrid has a long history and is a must-see when visiting Ohrid. Originally there was a small church where St. Clement prepared priests to serve. Later in the ages, the church was transformed into a mosque and eventually became an Orthodox church again. Nowadays, the monastery complex stores St. Clement’s relics.
The Church of St. John at Kaneo is the most picturesque place in Ohrid and should be on top of your list. It was built on a steep rock just above the Ohrid Lake. Go there at sunset and enjoy the jaw-dropping view. Furthermore, the sun’s rays change the colour of the walls and the church shines as it’s made out of gold.
The Monastery of St. Naum is just 20 km from Ohrid and it’s one of the most sacred places for the orthodox believers. The legend says that if you kneel next to St. Naum’s grave you can hear his beating heart. The area around the monastery is pleasant and peaceful. Moreover, beautiful peacocks are strolling around and lots of benches to relax.
While there, you can visit the springs that form the headwaters of the Ohrid Lake. Take a small boat and sail on their remarkably pure water. I strongly advise you not to miss this trip as it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in Macedonia. If you decide to go there, keep in mind that there is cheap public transport from Ohrid to the monastery and you don’t need to take a taxi. You can take a boat as well but it’s not a budget decision.
Head to the water – the best thing to do in Ohrid
Having a lake at a hand’s distance you might think about a boat tour. Surely, that’s one of the main things to do in Ohrid. There are big boats taking people to the lake but there are numerous local people that offer a boat tour as well and usually, it’s cheaper. Jump on a boat, feel the breeze in your hair and enjoy the trip.
Buy some pearls
Ohrid is famous for the production of unique pearls. They are handmade and the process has been kept secret for decades. The only thing that it’s known is that in the recipe they use scales of a very special fish that only exists in the Ohrid Lake.
A pair of pearl earrings is an excellent souvenir or a thoughtful present. Which girl doesn’t like pearls after all? However, be aware of scammers on the streets selling fake jewellery. If you decide to buy something, keep in mind that the price of a pair of earrings with proven origin might be around 20 euros.
See an ancient method for papermaking
A little-known fact is that there’s a workshop for handmade paper in Ohrid. Go there to see how people make paper using centuries-old Chinese technology. Make your hands dirty and try it yourself.
Take a look at the beautiful prints arranged on the wall which were made with a medieval press – one of only two existing in the world.
Try fresh fish on the beach
Among the things you should do in Ohrid is try some local fish. If you are a fish lover like me, here is my recommendation. There are several fish restaurants hidden on a small beach just under the Church of St. John at Kaneo. Follow the stairs down and pick the one you like. They are all good and offer fresh local fish like plashica, brown trout and my personal favourite – belovica.
After all that being said, I believe you will all agree that Ohrid has a lot to offer. With its stunning views, unusual architecture, delectable food and abundance of things to do, you should add it to your bucket list.
Eve, the heart and soul of Littlebigtraveler, has been a dreamer and explorer since age three. Her early fascination with Strasbourg blossomed into a life of adventure. Through her blog, she shares budget-friendly travel tips, captivating stories, and guides to hidden gems, inspiring others to explore the world's vast beauty without breaking the bank.