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Ohrid
city in North Macedonia
Europe > Balkans > North Macedonia > Western North Macedonia > Ohrid
Ohrid [formerly dead link] (Macedonian: Охрид) is a town in southwestern North Macedonia on the shore of Lake Ohrid. A town of vast history and heritage, it was made a UNESCO heritage site in 1980. Nestled between high mountains up to 2,800 m and Lake Ohrid, it is not only a place of historic significance but also of outstanding natural beauty. Ohrid is the jewel in North Macedonia's crown.
Understand
Ohrid and Lake Ohrid
Archaeological finds indicate that Ohrid is one of the oldest human settlements in all of Europe. The lake itself is over three million years old. Ohrid town is first mentioned in Greek documents from 353 BCE, when it was known as Lychnidos - or, “the city of light.” Only much later, in 879 CE, was it renamed Ohrid. The name probably derives from the phrase “vo hridi” – meaning roughly, “in the cliff.” It comes from the time when the town was limited in a small area on the lake side of the hill, which in fact is a huge cliff rising above the lakeshore. The town as we know it today was built mostly between the 7th and 19th centuries. During the Byzantine period, Ohrid became a significant cultural and economic centre, serving as an episcopal centre of the Orthodox Church and as the site of the first Slavic university run by Saints Clement and Naum at the end of the 9th century. At the beginning of the 11th century, Ohrid briefly became the capital of the kingdom ruled by Tsar Samuel, whose fortress still presides over the city today.
Get in
By plane
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Ohrid "St. Paul the Apostle" International Airport (OHD IATA), P.FAH 134 6000, Ohrid 6000 (about 7 km from city centre), ☏ +389 46 252 820, +389 46 25 28 30, ✉​customer.mk@tav.aero​. The airport is open year-round but most airlines only fly during the summer, so check with your travel agent or airline for most current information. It is a very small airport and it sees at most a few flights per day. There are two food options at the airport: one cafe in the parking lot and one sandwich shop at the gates. Both are overpriced. Flights are operated between Ohrid and several European cities including Amsterdam Schiphol, Basel/Mulhouse, Belgrade, Brussels, Eindhoven, London (Luton), Sofia, and Zurich Airport, as well as Ben Gurion Airport in Israel.
 
Ohrid's Airport serves 9 year-round flights to many major destinations throughout the continent. Both Chair Airlines and Edelweiss Air serve flights to Zürich. Wizz Air, a major budget airline in the region, is the main provider at the airport, with flights to EuroAirport Basel​/​Freiburg​/​Mulhouse​, Dortmund, London–Luton, Malmö, Memmingen, Milan–Malpensa, and Vienna. As for seasonal flights, even more airlines serve this area: these include Arkia flights to Tel Aviv; Corendon Dutch Airlines to Amsterdam and Maastricht/Aachen; Onur Air to Istanbul; and TUI fly Netherlands to Amsterdam and Eindhoven. Seasonal charter flights are available by Enter Air to Warsaw–Chopin and LOT Polish Airlines to Katowice. TUI fly Belgium is planning to begin seasonal flights to Brussels on 6 June 2020.
By boat
There is a daily boat to Pogradec in Albania, leaving Ohrid at 10:00.
By bus
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Bus station (Автобуска станица) (about 2 km outside of the centre of town, about a 30-minute walk. Taking a taxi to the centre is easy enough as there are lots of them waiting outside the station anytime, but make sure to agree on a price before you get in the taxi, as the drivers may try to rip the tourists off. For a ride to the centre, 100 den seems fair; for the western flank of the city around Goce Delchev St, where much accommodation is clustered, make it 120 denars), ☏ +389 46 260 339. At the station, there are several (at least three) ticket offices of various bus companies, selling tickets to long-distance buses (to Skopje etc) and to suburban buses (to places like Sveti Naum and various villages) 
The easiest way to get to Ohrid is from Skopje, where buses run every few hours. A bus from Skopje takes about 3½ hours and costs 520 denars one way or about 750 denars return. Timetable: Ohrid - Skopje: p5:00**, 05:30, 07:15**, 07:30, 10:45, 12:45, 15:00, 17:45, 19:00*, 20:30** . And for coming back: Skopje – (Kičevo) – Ohrid: 05:30, 06:00, 06:55*, 07:00*, 08:00, 08:30*, 09:00*, 10:00, 11:00, 14:00, 14:45, 15:30, 16:00, 16:30, 17:30, 18:30, 19:30* (*Jun-Aug only). In the summer, travellers to Skopje might want to buy a ticket a day or two in advance.
There are also several buses a day from Bitola, and a few direct buses from several other major Macedonian cities.
Frequent local buses (40 denars) and shared taxis (100 denars) to Struga.
From Albania, there is a bus line from Vlore (passing Durres and Tirana). Departure time from Ohrid to Albania: 04:30 and 05:40. From Tirana's international bus station, the bus to Ohrid leaves at 13:00; the fare, as of 2017, is €20. It is also possible to travel from Tirana or Elbasan to Struga on one of several daily Tirana-Skopje buses, and to take a local bus from Struga to Ohrid.
It's a little bit trickier to get to Ohrid from Greece. From Thessaloniki, the easiest way is to take a train to Skopje and then hop on a bus to Ohrid.
If you want to reach Ohrid and North Macedonia from Montenegro there is an overnight bus (operates only on Sundays) from Herceg Novi to Skopje via Albania, passing through Kotor, Budva, Bar and Ulcinj. Ticket price vary from place in Montenegro and most expensive is from Herceg Novi and cost around €25.
There is no railway in Ohrid. The closest passenger stations are in Kichevo (which, as of 2017, only has 1 train a day from Skopje) and Bitola (with 5 trains to Skopje). On the Albanian side, the railway to the nearby Pogradec was closed in 2012; the closest operating station is in Librazhd.
Get around
Map of Ohrid
On foot
The city centre and the old town is compact and best seen on foot. An interesting walk that takes in the main attractions starts in the main square. The city's museums are in this area. From here, visit St. Sophia Church, the Antique Theater. Finally, walk up the hill to King Samuil's Fortress. Plaoshnik, and St. John - Kaneo can be visited on the return journey.
By taxi
Transport in Ohrid is inexpensive and covers all areas of the city. Taxi drivers may try charge tourists higher rates, so insist on a set price.
By boat
Daily boat trips to St Naum Monastery and a few interim beaches. It leaves Ohrid's main harbour at 10:00 and at 15:30 from St. Naum Monastery, with additional trips on certain days. 600 denars return.
The lakeside walk between Kaneo and the town centre in early spring
By car hire
At Ohrid's airport, there are 8 car rental services available that you can quickly book at the airport or on the website. These include
See
Looking toward the town from the fortress
Aside from the lake, Ohrid is most famous for its ancient churches, basilicas, and monasteries where Saints Kliment and Naum with the help of Bulgarian king Boris I (students of Cyril and Methodus) wrote their teachings and formulated the Cyrillic alphabet used in North Macedonia, as well as neighboring countries Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro and as far as Russia, and many of the countries of the former Soviet Union. Most of these churches charge an entry which for tourists is normally double that what locals pay, but is still worth it. It is a good idea to cover up when entering a church, but most locals will understand the inconveniences involved during a hot Macedonian Summer. There is also a wonderful ancient walled fortress at the top of the city.
Fortifications
The old town is circled with walls, which are crowned with Tsar Samuel fortress. The first fortifications were built in the 5th century BC, but the oldest remains preserved are from 3rd century BC. The fortifications were reinforced various times throughout history and what stands today is largely from the 10th century. There used to be four gates to the city: the Lower Gate - you'll reach it soon after you walk from the main square inside the old part of the town on “Car Samoil” street. It used to be the gate through which regular visitors entered the city in the ancient and medieval times, just one tower of it still stands; the Upper Gate - in ancient times it used to be connected with the ancient theatre by portico. It is well preserved due to the reinforcements made in the 16th century; the Front Gate - near St Mary's Celnica Church. It is the main entrance gate but just stands in traces today; and the Water Gate - the entrance in the city from the lake, the place where it used to stand is not known.
The Church of St Sofia, front facade
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Tsar Samuel's Fortress (Самуилова тврдина). The fortress sits like a crown above the old town. It was built in the 10th century when Ohrid was capital of the First Bulgarian Empire by Tsar Samuel, though it was likely built upon foundations of an older fortification dating to the 4th century BC. With its positioning at the top of the Ohrid hill, it provides expansive views of the town, the lake, and the mountains. 30 denars.
 
Major churches
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Church of Saint Sofia (Црква „Св. Софија“), ☏ +389 46 267 403. Dating to the 9th century, Saint Sofia is a cathedral church of the Ohrid Archbishopric. The present church was built during the period from 1035 to 1056. The front façade with the towers and the open galleries was built in 1317 under Archbishop Gregory. The side porch was added when the church was turned into a mosque by the Turks. The interior contains a significant collection of preserved 11th century frescoes. The main altar has scenes from the Old Testament and an emotional procession of angels bowing to the Virgin Mary. The side altars have frescoes of the 40 martyrs and portraits of Patriarchs from Constantinople, Jerusalem and Antioch, archbishops from Ohrid and Roman Popes. The small square in front of it was the main forum in ancient times and is still used for various cultural performances today. 100 denars.
 
The Church of Saint Mary Perivleptos
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Church of Saint Mary Perivleptos (Црква „Пресвета Богородица Перивлептос“). This church was built and painted in 1295. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary; "Perivleptos" (from the Greek Περίβλεπτος) is an attribute given to her meaning "the Omniscient and Clairvoyant." The benefactor in its construction was the son-in-law of Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II. The church was painted by Michael and Eutychius, two young painters. Their work shows that styles later adopted in the Renaissance were already current in Byzantine art long before Gioto. The frescoes they painted have all the elements of Renaissance art except perspective. Important frescoes include, on the eastern wall, the detailed portraits of Saint Clement and Constantine Kavasila (former Archbishop of Ohrid) and the Lamentation of Christ painted with much emotions. On the western wall, in the Prayer on the Olive Mountain as the apostles are sleeping, take a look at their dress and how well the artists worked with color and showed the roundness of the bodies. On the northern wall, in the Death of the Virgin Mary, in order to present the holiness of the moment, there is a group of angels coming from the gates of the sky to take her soul, above her stands Jesus holding her soul. The figures are not presented the traditional Byzantine way, skinny, and emotionless. The painters were also the first Byzantine artists to sign their work (on 20 hidden locations, look on the front columns at the sword and the cloth of two holy warriors). 100 denars. 
There are three small 14th/15th century churches situated next to Saint Mary Perivleptos:
The Church of Saint John at Kaneo, overlooking the lake
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Church of Saint John at Kaneo (Црква „Св. Јован Канео“), ☏ +389 46 230 455. This 14th century church is best known for its scenic location, standing on a cliff above Lake Ohrid, likely making it the most photographed of the town's churches. Notable about its architecture is the Armenian influence with the zig-zag line of the roof of the dome. There are only few original frescoes left inside the small church. A popular beach is situated just below the church. 100 denars.
 
The Church of Saint Pantaleon
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Church of Saints Clement and Pantaleon (Црква „Св. Климент и Пантелејмон“). Situated on the wider archaeological site of Plaošnik, the site has been an important religious centre since early Christian times, if not before. It is the site of the first university in Europe, opened in the 10th century and is the place where the Cyrillic alphabet was created. The church you see is largely a reconstruction of the church Saint Clement built when he came here and opened the university. The original portions are the church are easily distinguished from the reconstructed portions. Inside, some original tunnels are visible via plexi-glass. When Saint Clement established the church, just the small round chapel that today serves as the altar existed. Because of the large influx of worshipers that followed him, he enlarged the church by building the central part of the church and turning the existing church into an altar chapel. He dedicated the church to Saint Pantaleon (also spelled Panteleimon), the protector of health. The closed porch and the bell tower were added later in the 13th century. Before St. Clement died, he dug his own grave inside the church. During early Ottoman rule, the Turks tore the church down after a rebellion. It still attracted a large number of worshipers and pilgrims, so they built a mosque above it which stands only in ruins today.
 
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Early Christian church. Sitting on Plaošnik next to St Pantaleon is a church in ruins, built in the 5th century. It is important as an architectural solution since it has a four-leaf shape. Central solutions like this were built in Syria and Mesopotamia and they became customary much later in Europe, in the 10th century. It shows that Ohrid had great ties with the early Christian centres and that there was an exchange of artists and minds. It has a three-leaf shape on the outside and four-leafs on the inside and it had a big dome in the centre (notice the 4 huge basis of columns). There is also a small baptistry to the right with a four leafed shape with some excellent mosaics. 
Other churches
The Church of Saint Nicholas Bolnički
Old Bazaar
Square in the Old Bazaar
Ohrid was a major religious and cultural centre but not really an important trade centre, which left it with a relatively small bazaar. It is a simple bazaar consisting of mainly one street, Saint Clement of Ohrid Street, which gets packed with tourists in summer evenings. It is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. The bazaar starts with the market at the northern end, followed by a square with a 1,000-year-old tree and a fountain. Walking down the bazaar, on the left are a couple of stone stores, which is the best-preserved section of stores in the bazaar. The bazaar ends with the main square named after Saint Clement of Ohrid which faces the port and lake. There are a few statues in this square.
Traditional residential architecture
The Robev family house
When the Turks came they settled on the flat land along the lake and that became the Muslim part of town and the part on the hills inside the walls was always the Christian part, with the bazaar as a meeting place. As the city grew and the Christians were not allowed to build outside the walls, Ohrid developed very specific architecture with tight narrow streets and tunnels (houses built over the streets). The houses had tiny yards usually enclosed in the ground floor, and the houses grew over the streets on the upper floors since the locations were small. The steep terrain enabled everybody to have a good view of the lake and because of the strong sun the houses were painted white, so they would reflect the sun. Because of the winds from the lake, the houses in Ohrid don't have the open spaces that traditional houses in other towns in North Macedonia have.
Interesting houses can be seen all over the old town but the best examples are along “Car Samoil” and “Ilindenska” streets. Robevci & Uranija houses are the two best examples of traditional architecture. They are houses of very rich families (normally the houses were not this big). Especially rich in terms of architecture is Uranija house, with entrances on different levels and inside galleries. They have been turned into museums today. If you don’t have time, visit just Uranija this one is free, even though the top level of Robevci has great views, nice wood carvings, and some furniture (100 denars entrance). The house next to St. Gerakomija church is one of the few traditional houses that has been nicely and carefully preserved. It has been turned into a hotel now; Kanevce House On the right from the main façade of St. Sophia church, is the small house that belonged to Kanevce family. It has beautiful proportions and it is a good example of how they built on small locations.
A couple of these historic homes were the birthplaces of notable Macedonians and are preserved as museums:
Other historic neighborhoods in the old town include:
Other sites
The Ancient Theatre
Down the shore
The Bay of Bones Museum features a reconstructed Neolithic pile-dwelling settlement and fortress
The east coast is the most beautiful part of Lake Ohrid. From the town of Ohrid in the north, down to Saint Naum Monastery is considered the Macedonian Riviera. The country is landlocked, but you're certain to forget that when visiting this breathtaking area. It forms the western side of Galičica National Park. Below are notable places of interest along the coast, listed going south from Ohrid.
Monastery of Saint Naum
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Monastery of Saint Naum (Свети Наум (манастир)), village of Ljubaništa (At the SE end of the MK side of the lake, accessible by boat, bus, car, ferry, and taxi)). One of the most beautiful monasteries in Macedonia and an important pilgrimage place, this monastery is a must-see when visiting Ohrid. Most visitors make this a half-day or full-day trip. With a breathtaking setting on a plateau over Ohrid Lake and Galičica mountain towering from behind, it was founded in the 905 by Saint Naum, but most of the present-day church was built in the 16th century. Of the original church, just the side chapel with the grave of Saint Naum still stands. In the side chamber, visitors typically get down on their knees and try to listen for the heartbeat of Saint Naum on his resting place. The frescoes were painted in 1806 (the side chapel frescoes depict the life and miracles of St. Naum); in the first chamber of the church look for the fresco of Saints Cyril and Methodius and their students including Saint Clement and Saint Naum. The icon screen was made in 1711 and it is the oldest completely preserved wooden high icon screen in the country. Around the monastery grounds look for the peacocks, including rare albino ones. Parts of the dormitories of the monastery have been turned into a guest lodging. Near the monastery is a chapel dedicated to Saint Petka with holy water and beside it are the springs of the Black Drim River. Next to the monastery, the river enters the lake. On both sides of the monastery there are pleasant sandy beaches, packed in summertime. At the entrance from the parking lot to the sprawling monastery grounds is a promenade with souvenir shops and restaurants.
(updated Jun 2019)
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Black Drim Springs (Изворите на Црн Дрим). Immediately next to the monastery is the source of the Black Drim River. This river begins here, flows through the entire lake, and flows back out in Struga, ultimately flowing into Albania past Debar. The springs contain small two islands, one of which is home to a popular restaurant. Tour boats available for hire take visitors around the springs. (updated Jul 2019)
Galičica National Park provides breathtaking views of Lake Ohrid
Into the mountains
Much of Ohrid Municipality lies more inland from the lake. Villages dot the mountains surrounding Ohrid, home to traditional architecture and fantastic views.
Do
The Bay of Bones, an outdoor archaeological museum on Lake Ohrid that features a reconstruction of a Neolithic lake settlement (pictured).
Beaches
Apart from sightseeing, there are a few different natural beaches, usually the further from the city centre the more scenic they become, and each offers a unique beach experience. Gradiste beach is known for many young people and music for instance, while others have families or tranquil atmosphere. Beaches are most crowded in July and August, and quiet the rest of the year, which is a whole different experience.
Scuba diving
It is possible to do scuba dive in lake Ohrid. You have to get to Gradiste, some 15 km south of Ohrid town. At the site is also Bay of Bones, an open air museum of how life used to be here. There is only one scuba diving shop (SSI affiliated), Amfora Diving, with the usual choice of courses and diving trips. One dive including rental of all equipment costs €45.
Events
Buy
Traditional Macedonian musical instruments, filigree jewelery, woodcarvings, items made from copper, or a CD with authentic Macedonian music, can be brought home to refresh your memories of your visit.
If interested in real Macedonian folk music, ask for music performed by Aleksandar Sarievski, Nikola Badev, Vaska Ilieva, Petranka Kostadinova, Anka Gieva, Jonče Hristovski, Kočo Petrovski... Avoid CDs with modern-day "turbo folk" music (i.e. semi-naked girls with bad voices, singing on techno melodies).
The Talevi and Filevi are the two Ohrid families who make genuine Ohrid pearl necklaces, earrings and broaches; they carried over this handcraft down from one generation to another. Ohrid pearl is created from seashells and coated with 5-7 thin layers of emulsion made from the scales of the Ohrid fish called Plashitsa, and is protected with a Designation of Origin.
Books
Books from Ohrid to read on the beach or take home.
Some of the modern buys in this birthplace of Cyrillic literacy, include books from Happy Something Press, Ohrid's book publisher in English, founded by Macedonian born author and Oxford University student Evangelina Cifliganec [2] known for her contemporary novel "Happy Something". Its 2nd edition was published by the publisher's Ohrid branch, HappySomething.com, as the author was said to be inspired by Ohrid. You might find it easier online as the price of the English version there is higher and not always in stock.
A Passage through the Fog is a book that has been written in Ohrid by the Ohrid born writer and photographer Misho Yuzmeski. Dr. Michael Seraphinoff, in his Translator`s note on the book has written: "Misho Yuzmeski's novel invites the reader to join his young narrator on a journey of discovery through the heart of modern Europe. While this journey offers certain narrow insights into modern day city life in England and a few of the continent's major cities, it is the internal journey of the young traveler that is at the heart of this novel. Readers are liable to find parallels to some youthful search for meaning of their own in Michele's journey. He reminds us of a critical time in many of our lives, when childhood is finally behind us, but the road ahead is quite uncertain." A copy of the book can be found in all Ohrid's bookstores and there is no difference in price between different stores. Bulgarian translation of the same book is available, as well.
Short History of the Macedonian People by Risto Stefov was published in Ohrid in 2011. This book is a chronological outline of historical events involving Macedonia and the Macedonian people from ancient times to the present.
Numerous book stalls can be found (at least in good weather during the tourist season) in the square near Ohrid harbour. They sell a variety of maps useful for tourists as well.
Groceries
The downtown farmers' market has all kinds of fresh produce, as well as local specialties such as walnuts. There are cheese and sausage shops in the market as well, as well as numerous vendors of clothing and assorted industrial goods.
Bicycle supplies and service
There is at least one bike repair shop, which also sells common spare parts and supplies, next to the farmer's market. Some vendors in the market carry bicycle accessories (spare tubes, pumps, etc.) as well. This is pretty much the only place in the region to purchase stuff like this, since smaller towns around Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa do not seem to have any bicycle related shops or services - and even gas stations there may not have air pumps.
Eat
Restaurants and hotels throughout North Macedonia are proudly displaying Ohrid trout (Ohridska pastrmka) on their menus because it is very delicious but it is illegal to catch the fish along the Macedonian shoreline of Lake Ohrid. Please do not support or encourage the consumption of the trout. Ohrid trout, an ancient living fish, is in severe danger. There is also another trout species called Belvica. Some popular restaurants in Ohrid known to most people in town simply by the name are:
Try these foods:
Drink
The traditional Macedonian alcoholic beverages are rakija and mastika. Boza is a refreshing drink on a hot summer day; it was spread throughout North Macedonia with the arrival of the Turks and it has significant nutritional value. Other popular drinks are Macedonian wines called Kavadarka and Smederevka and Skopsko beer. Try boza with ice-cream. Its called "Ambasador".
Cafe Galerija, Kliment Ohridski (city centre, just before the entrance to the old city). 08:00-00:00. If you like to have your morning coffee at the city centre, enjoying the view of the lake, you better find the small authentic coffee shop named "Galerija". It is one of the oldest coffee shops in the city. Enjoy in the lake view and the city at the same time. 80 cents. 
Sleep
Main forms of accommodation are private houses, apartments and villas, you can also try to find a couchsurfer. For an average price of around €10-15 per night, you will find excellent private facilities, located mostly in the Old Town. Fastest and safest way of booking accommodation in Ohrid hotels and apartments is to visit website. On the page are published different information which help tourists during their stay in Ohrid.While arriving there, to get a host you can ask at the nearest Tourist Information Bureau (at the bus station, for example). However, the best solution is to make your reservation in advance via Internet or phone, having in mind the growing popularity of Ohrid as tourist destination:
Apartments
Stay safe
Ohrid Pearl is a type of imitation pearl (an artificial, man-made pearl) and as such has no real value as a gemstone. Most of the "pearls" sold around Lake Ohrid, on the street and in most shops, are simply unfinished imitation pearls (beads made of nacre, but without the pearly coating). Although selling shops have clear notes stating these are hand made ones.
Go next
This city travel guide to Ohrid is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.

Last edited on 24 September 2021, at 15:42
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