In antiquity the city was known under the ancient Greek: Λυχνίς (Lychnis) and Latin: Lychnidus, probably meaning "city of light", from Greek λυχνίς (lychnis, gen. lychnidos), "a precious stone that emits light", from λύχνος (lychnos), "lamp, portable light". By 879 AD, the town was no longer called Lychnidos but was referred to by the assimilated native people as Ohrid, possibly from the Slavic words vo hrid, meaning "on the hill", as the ancient town of Lychnidos was at the top of the hill. In Macedonian and the other South Slavic languages, the name of the city is Ohrid (Охрид). In Albanian, the city is known as Ohër or Ohri and in modern Greek Ochrida (Οχρίδα, Ωχρίδα) and Achrida (Αχρίδα).
The earliest inhabitants of the widest Lake Ohrid region were the Enchele, an Illyrian tribe and the Dassaretae, an ancient Greek tribe based further East in the region of Lynkestis. According to recent excavations this was a town way back at the time of king Phillip II of Macedon. They conclude that Samuil's Fortress was built on the place of an earlier fortification, dated to 4th century B.C. During the Roman conquests, towards the end of 3rd and the beginning of 2nd century BC, the Dassaretae and the region Dassaretia were mentioned, as well as the ancient Greek city of Lychnidos (Greek: Λυχνιδός). The existence of the ancient Greek city of Lychnidos is linked to the Greek myth of the Phoenician prince Cadmus who, banished from Thebes, in Boeotia, fled to the Enchele and founded the town of Lychnidos on the shores of the modern Lake Ohrid. The Lake of Ohrid, the ancient Greek Lacus Lychnitis (Greek: Λυχνίτις), whose blue and exceedingly transparent waters in antiquity gave to the lake its Greek name; it was still called so occasionally in the Middle Ages. It was located along the Via Egnatia, which connected the Adriatic port Dyrrachion (present-day Durrës) with Byzantium. Archaeological excavations (e.g., the Polyconch Basilica from 5th century) prove early adoption of Christianity in the area. Bishops from Lychnidos participated in multiple ecumenical councils.
The South Slavs began to arrive in the area during the 6th century AD. By the early 7th century it was colonized by a Slavic tribe known as the Berziti. The Bulgars conquered the city in 867. The name Ohrid first appeared in 879. The Ohrid Literary School established in 886 by Clement of Ohrid became one of the two major cultural centres of the First Bulgarian Empire. Between 990 and 1015, Ohrid was the capital and stronghold of the Bulgarian Empire. From 990 to 1018 Ohrid was also the seat of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. After the Byzantine reconquest of the city in 1018 by Basil II, the Bulgarian Patriarchate was downgraded to an Archbishopric of Ohrid, and placed under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
The higher clergy after 1018 was almost invariably Greek, including during the period of Ottoman domination, until the abolition of the archbishopric in 1767. At the beginning of the 16th century the archbishopric reached its peak subordinating the Sofia, Vidin, Vlach and Moldavian eparchies, part of the former medieval Serbian Patriarchate of Peć, (including Patriarchal Monastery of Peć itself), and even the Orthodox districts of Italy (Apulia, Calabria and Sicily), Venice and Dalmatia.
As an episcopal city, Ohrid was a cultural center of great importance for the Balkans. Almost all surviving churches were built by the Byzantines and by the Bulgarians, the rest of them date back to the short time of Serbian rule during the late Middle Ages.
Bohemond leading a Norman army took the city in 1083. Byzantines regained it in 1085. In the 13th and 14th century the city changed hands between the Despotate of Epirus, the Bulgarian, the Byzantine and the Serbian Empire and local Albanian rulers. In the middle of the 13th century Ohrid was one of the cities ruled by Pal Gropa, a member of the Albanian noble Gropa family. In 1334 the city was captured by Stefan Uroš IV Dušan and incorporated in the Serbian Empire. After Dusan's death the city came under the control of Andrea Gropa, while after his death Prince Marko incorporated it in the Kingdom of Prilep. In the early 1370s Marko lost Ohrid to Pal II Gropa, another member of the Gropa family and unsuccessfully tried to recapture it in 1375 with Ottoman assistance. In 1395 the Ottomans under Bayezid I captured the city which became the seat of the newly established Sanjak of Ohrid. In September 14-5, 1464 12,000 troops of the League of Lezhë and 1,000 of the Republic of Venice defeated a 14,000-man Ottoman force near the city. When Mehmed II returned from Albania after his actions against Skanderbeg in 1466 he dethroned Dorotheos, the Archbishop of Ohrid, and expatriated him together with his clerks and boyars and considerable number of citizens of Ohrid to Istanbul, probably because of their anti-Ottoman activities during Skanderbeg's rebellion when many citizens of Ohrid, including Dorotheos and his clergy, supported Skanderbeg and his fight.
The Christian population declined during the first centuries of Ottoman rule. In 1664 there were only 142 Christian houses. The situation changed in the 18th century when Ohrid emerged as an important trade center on a major trade route. At the end of this century it had around five thousand inhabitants. Towards the end of the 18th century and in the early part of the 19th century, Ohrid region, like other parts of European Turkey, was a hotbed of unrest. In the 19th century the region of Ohrid became part of the Pashalik of Scutari, ruled by the Bushati family. By the end of 19th century Ohrid had 2409 houses with 11900 inhabitants out of which 45% were Muslims while the rest was mainly Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian. In statistics gathered by Vasil Kanchov in 1900, the city of Ohrid was inhabited by 8000 Bulgarians, 5000 Turks, 500 Muslim Albanians, 300 Christian Albanians, 460 Vlachs and 600 Romani. Before 1912, Ohrid was a township center bounded to Monastir sanjak in Manastir Vilayet (present-day Bitola). The city remained under the Ottomans until 29 November 1912, when the Serbian army took control of the city, which was made as the capital of Ohrid district (okrug). In September 1913 local Albanian and pro-Bulgarian Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization leaders rebelled against the Kingdom of Serbia. It was occupied by Kingdom of Bulgaria between 1915 and 1918 during World War I.
During Kingdom of Yugoslavia Ohrid continued to be as an independent district (Охридског округа) (1918-1922), then it became a part of Bitola Oblast (1920-1929), and then from 1929 to 1941, Ohrid was part of the Vardar Banovina. It was occupied again by Bulgaria between 1941 and 1944 during World War II. Since the days of SFR Yugoslavia Ohrid has been the municipal seat of Municipality of Ohrid (Општина Охрид).
Ohrid is also home to Vila Biljana, which serves as an official residence of the Prime Minister of Macedonia.
Ohrid is located in the south-western part of Macedonia, on the banks of Lake Ohrid, at an elevation of 695 meters above sea level.
Ohrid has a humid subtropical climate (Koppen: Cfb/Cfa), as the mean temperature of the warmest month is just above 22 °C (71.6 °F). The coldest month is January with the average temperature 2.5 °C (36.5 °F) or in a range between 6.2 °C (43.2 °F) and −1.5 °C (29.3 °F). The warmest month is August with average range of 27.7 °C (82 °F)-14.2 °C (57.6 °F). The rainiest month is November, which sees on average 90.5 mm (3.6 in) of rain. The summer months of June, July and August receive the least amount of rain, around 30 mm (1.2 in). The absolute minimum temperature is −17.8 °C (0.0 °F) and the maximum 38.5 °C (101.3 °F).
As of the 2002 census, the city of Ohrid has 42,033 inhabitants and the ethnic composition was the following:
The mother tongues of the city's residents include the following:
The religious composition of the city was the following:
The oldest inhabitants of Ohrid are a few families that reside in the Varoš neighbourhood. Other Macedonians have settled in Ohrid and originate from the villages of the Kosel, Struga, Drimkol, Debarca, Malesija and Kičevo regions and other areas from southern Macedonia. In 1949, additional families from Aegean Macedonia settled in Ohrid.
The presence of the Turkish community dates from their settlement in Ohrid during 1451-81. All Turks from the village of Peštani after selling properties and land moved to Ohrid by 1920 and today those few families are known as Peştanlı.
Albanians in Ohrid originate from Albanian villages located on the western and southern areas of Lake Ohrid. There is a sizeable amount of Turkified Albanians in Ohrid who originate from the cities of Elbasan, Durrës and Ulcinj. Orthodox Albanians are also present and settled in Ohrid during the second half of the 19th century and originate from Pogradec, Lin, Çërravë and Peshkëpi.
The local Romani population in Ohrid originates from Podgradec and speaks the southern Tosk Albanian dialect. In the latter decades of the 20th century, some Albanian speaking Muslim Romani from the villages of Krani and Nakolec have migrated to Ohrid. In Yugoslav censuses, Albanophone Ohrid Romani mainly declared as Albanians. As tensions between Albanians and the state increased over numbers regarding community size and sociopolitical rights, Romani identity became politicized and contested from the 1990s onward. Ohrid Albanophone Romani refused identification as Albanians seeing it as a result of Albanisation (or to be called Gypsies) and with encouragement from Macedonian circles now refers to itself as Egyptians whose ancestors migrated from Egypt many centuries ago. The Albanian language is not considered by Ohrid Albanophone Romani as a mother tongue and only a home language. Turkish speaking Romani reside in Ohrid that during the Yugoslav period self declared themselves mainly as Turks, while within independent Macedonia they identify as Egyptians.
The earliest presence of the Aromanian population in Ohrid dates to 1778 arriving from Voskopojë, others from Kavajë (late 18th century), from the Myzeqe region, Elbasan, Llëngë and Mokër region (mid. 19th century) and also from Gorna Belica and Malovišta (late 19th century). A large part of Ohrid's Aromanian population has emigrated to Trieste, Odessa and Bucharest.
There is a legend supported by observations by the 17th century Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi that there were 365 chapels within the town boundaries, one for every day of the year. Today this number is significantly smaller.
Besides being a holy center of the region, it is also the source of knowledge and pan-Slavic literacy. The restored Monastery at Plaošnik was actually one of the oldest Universities in the western world, dating before the 10th century.
There is a nearby international airport, Ohrid Airport (now known as "St. Paul the Apostle Airport") that is open all year round.
GFK Ohrid Lihnidos are a football team playing at the SRC Biljanini Izvori stadium in the city. As of the 2016–17 season they play in the third tier of the Macedonian Football League system.
RK Ohrid are a handball team playing at SRC Biljanini Izvori arena, with a capacity of 2,500. As of the 2016-17 season they play in the Macedonian Handball Super League, which is the top tier.
The Ohrid Swimming Marathon is an international open water swimming competition, always taking place in the waters of Lake Ohrid. The swimmers are supposed to swim 30 km (19 mi) from the monastery of Saint Naum to the Ohrid harbor.