Ohrid is known for its clear blue lake and for having 365 churches – one for each day of the year. But I’ve gotten to know it as a place where you can take a truly relaxing vacation. Macedonia’s lake-side city is a popular summer haven for people looking to spend some time in the sun. But even on a chilly week in March, it’s a great place to kick back, relax, and enjoy some amazing meals with a view.
Two days is the perfect amount of time to spend exploring the land and water activities Lake Ohrid has to offer. Though if you were maybe looking for a sweet place to just hang out without doing too much, this would also be a perfect place to lounge for a week.
Start your walking tour of the city at the Upper Gate, which marks the beginning of Ohrid’s Old Town. If you were driven or took a cab into the city, you likely drove through this gate. From here, you can climb up to Samuel’s Fortress. You’ll notice that the inside of the fortress is in fairly bad shape. There are some remains of a round tower and other structures, but the fortress is practically barren. However, you can walk along the walls, which are still standing and provide sweeping views of Ohrid and the lake beneath you. The cost is 60 denar, which is a little over $1, so it’s a small price to pay for the overlook.
Just below Samuel’s Fortress, you’ll find the holy site of Plaošnik and St. Clement’s Church. The church was built in 893 and was reconstructed in 2002. The area around the church is an archaeological site where the remains of the original monastery sit. At the time of our visit, there was construction around it and it was inaccessible.
But trying to see it won’t take you too far out of the way to the next major stop, the Church of St. John at Kaneo. A path through the woods takes you to the edge of the city, where this tiny church sits over the edge of Lake Ohrid. The view from this church and just above it is breathtaking and serene, especially during off season. The only other people visiting Ohrid when we were there were the same 6 people that arrived on the bus from Skopje with us. There’s also a cave church right beneath St. John that you can only see from the lake. It’s currently inaccessible, even by boat.
From the Church of St. John at Kaneo, you can make your way down to the Church of St. Sophia. The inside of the church holds artifacts and architecture from the Middle Ages. Though I think it’s best enjoyed from the outside on a sunny day. St. Sophia is almost at ground level, and there are less viewpoints here, but more places to eat and drink than in the largely residential upper streets of the city. In fact, the large square around St. Sophia is surrounded by restaurants. Via Sacra is a good choice for traditional Macedonian with an Italian twist.
If you head back up toward the Upper Gate from St. Sophia, you’ll also pass by the Ancient Theatre, which was used for gladiator fights in Roman times.
It would be a shame to come to Ohrid and not enjoy its main attraction: Lake Ohrid. On the second day of your visit, go down to the port, where you can have a delicious breakfast at any of the major lake-view restaurants in the area. I recommend Aleksandrija Restaurant for delicious food and excellent service. Then take a boat cruise on Lake Ohrid. Tours range from 30 minutes to all day long.
Lake Ohrid might as well be an ocean, so to see all the stops along the banks, you’ll want to dedicate a long time to this. One of the most popular stops on Lake Ohrid cruises is the Bay of Bones, which is a reconstructed settlement from the time of the Roman Empire. It’s connected to a Roman Fortress. Even farther along the edge of the lake is the medieval Monastery of St. Naum, which is almost on the border of Albania. All day lake tours include multiple stops like these and in the summer, even a dip in the lake, so bring a bathing suit.
After you return to Ohrid port, you can spend some time in the Old Bazaar, where you can find shops, restaurants, and a good place to have a coffee and cigarette, which seems to be the favorite Macedonian pastime in these parts. Bakery Della Rosa is a good place to enjoy a slice of cake if you’re looking for a sweet snack.
If you’re visiting in the summer, you can also take the time to visit the beaches surrounding the port like Voena Plazha, Labino Beach, and Golden Beach. You can take a pedestrian walkway along the lake from Old Town to Potpesh Beach and Kaneo Beach, beneath the Church of St. John. Many beach bars in the area are known for their nightlife, like Cuba Libre, where you can enjoy cocktails and dancing. Because a good summer destination wouldn’t be complete without a good place to party.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Ohrid guides on GPSmyCity here.