Ohrid has often been dubbed ‘the Jerusalem of the Balkans’. Like the Holy City itself, it’s known its fair share of religious turmoil, yet today the UNESCO-listed Old Town is a vision of calm. Delicate minarets peek out behind rooftops while tumbledown churches hide in every nook. Head through cobbled streets towards St Sophia, once the seat of the archbishop of the Orthodox Church. Its impressive exterior overshadows the petite square it’s set within. Inside, the walls and ceiling are adorned with portraits of bishops, archbishops and patriarchs, from Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria.
Ohrid is a city to explore on foot, weaving between the old houses, through the ancient city walls towards the town’s crowning glory: the beautifully frescoed, recently restored Church of the Holy Mother of God Peribleptos, dating from 1290.
The city’s religious past is everywhere you look, even out on the waters of Lake Ohrid, where year-round boat trips ferry tourists to the impressive monastery of St Naum.
The lake is one of Europe’s oldest, and deepest; in the summer months it’s popular with divers. It’s tranquil, trout-filled waters provide a fitting backdrop for a city, which is equally unruffled.
Learn the lingo
Bring it home
Out of town
If you only do one thing
Wine & dine
Bakeries line the main road leading away from City Square of Ohrid. Swing by for fresh-from-the-oven boreks and crepe cakes, paired with natural yoghurt.
Grab a seat at a Turkish coffee shop in the Old Bazaar where you can watch the tea delivery boys on their bicycles somehow balancing their cups and glasses on metal trays.
There are plenty of places to sample the cheap local beer and fine Macedonian wine — from Parisian-style Objectif and the red velvet-clad Jazz Inn, to the cool Liquid bar and the hip, rooftop Shilla.
Wizz Air flies twice a week to Ohrid (St Paul the Apostle Airport) from Luton. Hire cars are available in the city centre from Escape from €31 (£26) for 24 hours.
Published in the April 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)