Things to do in Sarajevo

Things to do in Sarajevo

 Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has developed on the crossroad of the old Roman and medieval trade and travelling routes. There have been settlements in the area since prehistoric times and the Illyrians, Romans and Slavs making settlements in the Region . The city as we know it today was founded by the Ottomans following their conquest of the Kingdom of Bosnia in the 1450s and it remained part of the Ottoman empire for more than 400 years, until the occupation of Austo-Hungary in 1878.  The legacy of the empires and peoples that have forged its history is reflected in its name: Sarajevo is the Slavic version of Turkish Saray, meaning palace, house.

Sadly, Sarajevo is now probably best known for the turbulent events that rocked it in the 20th Century. It was here that the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914: an event that would plunge the world into its first world war. More recently, Sarajevo was the site of the longest siege of a capital city in modern history – when it was besieged by the Army of Republika Srpska for 3 years and ten months during the Bosnian war of the 1990s.

Contemporary Sarajevo has emerged from the dark days of the war as a vibrant, dynamic, multicultural city. Popularly known as ‘the place where East meets West’, it has  a multi-religous centre where Orthodox and Catholic  stand alongside  synagogues and mosques/

Here are the top things to do if you are planning a visit to Sarajevo and want to learn about the city’s history, culture, nature, food specialities and some hidden gems.

THINGS TO DO IN SARAJEVO

 

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1. ENJOY IN BOSNIAN OLD OTTOMAN ARCHITECTURE 

BAŠČARŠIJA

The old Ottoman market (bazaar) from 16th century called Baščaršija is the heart of historic centre of Sarajevo.  ‘Baš’, in Turkish means  ‘main, primary, capital’ , while ‘Čaršija’ means ‘baazar, market’. In Baščaršija a visitor can find narrow Ottoman cobblestone alleyes with small crafts shops and stalls, cafes, pottery shops, mosques, an old madresa and han (inn). In the ‘Kazandžiluk street’ (Coppersmith street) the city visitors can buy traditional souvenirs like jewellery and copper products decorated in tradional techinques passed down through generations.

SEBILJ

THINGS TO DO IN SARAJEVO This is the most famous fountain in Sarajevo and a symbol of Sarajevo. The original Ottoman Sebil was destroyed in a fire, but the new one was built in Pseudo Ottoman style during Austro-Hungarain period. It is located in the centre of Baščaršija, what makes Sebil the core of Sarajevo’s heart.

GAZI HUSREV BEY’s MOSQUE

Beautifully decorated entrance of Begova Džamija

Gazi Hurev Begova Džamija or simply (Begova Džamija in Bosnian) is undeniably one of the Ottoman masterpieces in Sarajevo. The mosque was built by the Ottomans in 16th century by the order of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Located in Baščaršija neighborhood, it is the largest mosque in the Balkans.

GAZI HUSREV BEY’S MEDRESA or KURŠUMLIJA

things to do in Sarajevo Just across the street to Gazev Husrev Bey’s mosque in Baščaršija neighbourhood stands the historic Muslim primary and secondary school from the Ottoman era.

GAZI FERHAD BEY’s MOSQUE or FERHADIJA

things to do in Sarajevo Ferhad Bey’s mosque, or Ferhad-beg Vuković djamija in Bosnian, was built in 16th century in classical Ottoman style. It is a wonderful example of Ottoman Empire’s  ‘Golden Age’. It is located in the center of the old town of Sarajevo, near hotel Europa. After being damaged with grenades during the Bosnian War in 1990s it has been painstakingly restored to its former glory.

HOUSE OF SPITE or INAT KUĆA

things to do in Sarajevo Inat kuća is an Ottoman house opposite the City Hall across river Miljacka. When Austria-Hungary got control over Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, a new city hall next to river Miljacka was planned as a part of Sarajevo’s architectural makeover. In order to achieve this vision, however, some houses needed to be destroyed to make way for the new city hall. This proved not to be as easy as the new rulers had thought. An old stubborn Bosnian man by the name of Benderija refused to demolish his house and instead demanded that the city authorities to move his house brick by brick to another site of river Miljacka. In commemoration of Benderija’s stand against authority, the house (now converted into a restaurant) is today known as the‘House of Spite’ or ‘Inat Kuća’ in Bosnian: and is an icon of Bosnian stubbornness.

 

2. VISIT THE OLD JEWISH CEMETERY

things to do in Sarajevo It may sound weird to recommend a visit to a cemetery among things to do in Sarajevo, but the old Jewish cemetery is a hidden historic gem in Sarajevo. It is the second largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, after the one in Prague. It was open in 1630 by Bosnian Sephardi Jews. Later, when the Askenezi Jews came to Sarejevo in 19th century, they were buried there as well. The graveyard is an atypical Jewish cemetery, since they look like the medieval Bosnian stećak tombstones and are therefore dissimilar to Jewish tombstones in the rest of the world.

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3. MAKE A QUICK VISIT TO SARAJEVO CITY HALL

things to do in Sarajevo

In 19th century, after more than 400 years of the Ottoman rule, Sarajevo became a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The whole city had an architectural makeover and became a playground for the imperial architects. At that time Sarajevo City Hall, or Vjećnica in Bosnian, was built in pseudo-Moorish style. In 1949 the building became the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1990s, during the  Siege of Sarajevo, it was destroyed, but in 2000s it was restored and in 2014 reopened.

4. TRY OUT BOSNIAN PIES

things to do in Sarajevo Pies, or Pite in Bosnian, are Bosnian fast food. They are made by stuffing dough with delicious savory or sweet fillings and then rolling the dough into a swirl (like a snake curling around and around). Popularly eaten with yogurt, the most popular pies are burek (beef meat pie), zeljaninica (cheese and spinach pie), krumpiruša (potato pie), sirnica (cheese pie) and tikvenica (zucchini pie). The pies could be tasted at shops called Buregđinica for 1-3 EUR.

 

 

5. TASTE BOSNIAN CAKES

Things to do in Sarajevo
Bosnian coffee set with a kadaif and hurmašica cake

Traditional Bosnian cakes are of Ottoman (Turkish) origin. They are extremely sweet, so when trying them get ready to get sugar attack! The most-known are baklava (a pastry made of philo layers with chopped walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios between the layers), halva (a tahini based sweet, usually made with pistachios), tufahija (a walnut-stuffed apple stewed in sugared water)tulumba (a fried dough soaked in sugar syrup), kadaif (a cake with chopped nuts between layers of wires) and hurmašica (a date-shaped cake with sugar syrup).

 

6. DRINK BOSNIAN COFFEE

Things to do in Sarajevo Bosnian coffee is an integral part of the Bosnian identity and culture. It is dark, strong, tasty and according to Bosnian tradition it should be drunk very slowly (what in Bosnia means, for hours). Traditional Bosnian coffee set includes a džezva (a small metal pot), fildžan (a small coffee cup), rahatlokum (a Turkish delight) and a glass of cold water.

 

7. REFRESH YOURSELF WITH BOSNIAN DRINK

things to do in Sarajevo Boza is a popular non-alcoholic Bosnian drink of Turkish origin made from fermented maize (corn). It is very refreshing and distinctive in taste.

 

8. ADMIRE BOSNIAN NATURE

SPRING OF RIVER BOSNIA or VRELO BOSNE

things to do in Sarajevo After exploring the centre of city, head to the spring of Bosna river, or ‘Vrelo Bosne’ in Bosnian, on the outskirts of Sarajevo at the foothills of the Mount Igman in Ilidža municipality. Bosna is the river after which the country was named. This green oasis with its fresh and calming air, beautiful paths, small wooden bridges, clear stream waters with ducks and swans is a perfect place to enjoy in relaxing walks and bicycle rides.

THE OLD ROMAN BRIDGE ON ILIDŽA

Things to do in Sarajevo On the western entrance to Sarajevo, near Vrelo Bosne (spring of Bosna river), there is a 16th century bridge surrounded lush verdant greenery. The bridge is on the site of an ancient bridge that stood there in the Roman era. Today, it is a romantic weekend meeting place for the people of Sarajevo.

SPRING OF RIVER MILJACKA

things to do in Sarajevo If you want to relax in the gorgeous Bosnian countryside, you should go to the river Miljacka spring, located under the slopes of the Jahorina mountain on the outskirts of Sarajevo in Pale municipality. In the spring you would be surprised just how clear and tasty the waters of the Miljacka is here: especially when you’ve seen how muddy the river is in central Sarajevo!

9. EXPLORE SARAJEVO’s STREET ART

MONSIEUR CHAT GRAFFITI things to do in Sarajevo

Sarajevo has a wonderful street art scene. The most popular graffiti character is a yellow cat called M. Chat. There are several spots in Sarajevo where you can see Mister Cat. The globe-trotting cat first appeared in 1997 in Orleans (France) and started popping up all around France until 2000, when he finally travelled abroad and started appearing: in Sarajevo (2005), New York (2006) Hong Kong, Hanoi, Seoul and Tokyo (2008) and  in Dakar, Sao Paulo and Vancouver (2009) …  The creator of the grinning cat with the curvy tail remained a mystery until 2007, when police caught Thoma Vuille drawing M. Chat on a wall in Orleans. Today Mister Cat continues to bring smiles to people faces all over the Globe.

 

45 comments

  1. I was actually in Sarajevo around this time last year! Such good suggestions. I really loved the city and learned so much about its rough and recent history. I am super obsessed with the Bosnian pies, I could totally go for one right now! This is definitely a country I would love to visit again.

  2. The places you’ve listed look beautiful – especially the spring of river Bosnia. Bosnia is somewhere that was never on my wishlist until quite recently, but the more I read about it the more desperate I am to visit! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Bosnia is not somewhere I have ever thought about visiting before. But just looking at the images in your post about the buildings, food (those pies look amazing) and coffee has made me rethink!

    1. Hey, Bob! I agree with you about friendliness of people of Sarajevo. In fact, I believe I should add to my post: “Spend some time with locals and you will meet some of the friendliest people ever”.

  4. It has never in my mind to visit this place but to be honest you change my idea such a beutiful city is in my bucket list now thank you for show it to us

  5. Hi Milijana,

    How cool 🙂 Lovely place. I would be all over the spinach and meat pies, thank you. We house sat for an expat Thai couple last month; they traveled to this area and adored the place. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

  6. Beautiful! If only visa isn’t a problem for us, we could have been visited the country last year. Would love to try some local delicacies and explore the historical places. Hopefully one day, we get the chance to finally tick it off from my list. 🙂

  7. What a beautiful place to relax. It is far from the busy city which is also a good point. I like the exquisite design.

  8. This is so beautiful! I would so love to visit and the food looks amazing, I would so be into the meat pies. I am so all over the food.

  9. It’s beautiful in your pictures and quite contrary to what l imagined. I remember its past history only so thank you for showing me that it’s a vibrant place now. I love the city hall.

  10. OMG! That’s a very hard history of being the place where WWI started!!! Modern Sarajevo looks interesting! The architecture looks absolutely stunning! Good to know there are veg options in the pie and I’d love that coffee too!

  11. People just forget that Bosnia and Herzegovina too were part of the ottoman empire! There is so much history there and Sarajevo just is a perfect example of a place that has preserved its history with a heart! Loved this account.

  12. Haven’t been here anytime. But it seems to be a wonderful place. I would love to visit here sometimes. Your post is going to act as my guide

  13. You have shown a lovely side of Sarajevo. The traditional markets would definitely be an enjoyable experience. And then the mosque and the City hall – they look amazing too. I sure would want to experience it all.

  14. I never realised Sarajevo is so amazingly beautiful. I love the architecture of the city hall – it’s stunning!!! Also, those pies look ‘oh so delicious’! Which was your favorite? The tikvenica sounds amazing.

  15. We have a friend who has always been wanting to go to Sarajevo and now thank to your post we know why. With your photos you inspired us and we’d love to try your same experience especially the tour around the old part of the city!!
    Hang Around The World recently posted…BerlinoMy Profile

    1. Hey, Dany! I have spent a weekend in Sarajevo and I had a great local host who was showing and driving me around. I believe 4-5 days in Sarajevo would be perfect to see the whole town and to make most of it.

  16. looks amazing reminds me of Mostar when we visited there earlier this year. I loved the Bosnian coffee. I actually bought a set of the coffee cups and coffee pot in the old town at mostar

  17. It looks like such a lovely place. It actually never crossed my mind to visit this place. But your post makes it look really nice. Thanks for sharing your tips.

  18. The architecture looks amazing. I love history and Bosnia has plenty of it, even if many of it isn’t pleasant. Sarajevo has certainly made a welcome comeback.

  19. Sarajevo seems to leap to life in your post. The pictures are stunning and lovingly capture the rich culture and heritage along with the present vibrancy of the place. A cup of Bosnian coffee after wandering around Sarajevo is definitely a great culmination.

  20. Hello!!!

    Very nice post and also very colorful! I loved the street art and I have to say that I have to go there to try the Bosnian pies and also to have a bosnian coffee! I like a lot the city hall´s picture !!

  21. Wow now it is definitely on my bucket list! The coffee and sweets are exactly like in Turkey. Thanks for sharing!

  22. I’ve never been to Sarajevo, and honestly didn’t think there would be much to do there. The architecture around the city looks lovely! And I would definitely want to indulge in some coffee a few times!

  23. I really didn’t know much about Sarajevo before your post, so thank you for a lovely introduction. The buildings are gorgeous and the food sounds delicious. Hopefully I’ll get to visit one day.

  24. I was in Sarajevo years ago but it looks like you managed to do a lot more than I did! I remember burek for sure though. The local coffee looks just like Turkish coffee! I always get the grounds in my mouth when I try to drink it!

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