Famous for its cultural and religious diversity, Sarajevo is the place where the East and the West meet. Different than all others, the city is best described as a mixture of Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav influences. In the past it suffered a lot. It has undergone centuries of Ottoman rule and even a 4 year long siege during the Yugoslav war in the 90’s. Today, the Bosnian capital is a vibrant place, full of charm and tradition, and a great place to spend at least a day in.
What’s the best time to visit Sarajevo?
Sarajevo is beautiful to visit all year round. In warmer months, the city just overflows with energy and great atmosphere. The cafe terraces cover the whole city, people hang out outside, in the bars and next to the Miljacka river, parks turn lush. Winter can be especially charming, especially when there’s snow, but there are also less activities and less places open at that time of the year. Not to mention that winters can get really cold.
a Few facts about Sarajevo
The city of Sarajevo is nestled in a valley, in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but just a few miles away from the Republika Srpska territory. Historically, it’s one of the most interesting and varied cities in the whole Europe.
Due to the long Ottoman rule, the Ottoman influence is very present, especially in the Old Town – Baščaršija. During the Yugoslav Wars, the city was under a siege by Serbian forces for almost 4 years and was left quite destroyed. Since then, it has undergone post-war reconstruction and is now the fastest growing city in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
One Day in Sarajevo Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Sarajevo.
Stroll around the Old Town
Baščaršija, or the Sarajevo Old Town, is where most of the things from this itinerary are located. It’s actually not that big in size, and it’s super easy to explore if you only have one day in Sarajevo.
Start at the Baščaršija square, check out the Sebilj Brunnen Fountain and get lost in the cobblestone streets of the Old Town. The charming streets are lined with cafes and restaurants in Ottoman style and bazaar shops, which will surely give you a certain Turkish feel. Finally, visit the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, the biggest mosque in Sarajevo center and the place of Islamic worship. The Mosque was built in 1531 as an endowment of Bosnian sandžakbeg Gazi Husrev-Bey.
Try the Turkish coffee
Ottoman influence can be seen everywhere – from religion to architecture, clothing and food. The same is with the coffee. Turkish coffee, although spread all over the Balkan countries, is most popular in Bosnia. Start your day in one of the many coffee shops in Ottoman style around the Old Town. They mostly serve it with the rahat lokum – Turkish delight based on a gel of starch and sugar, usually with chopped nuts inside. Try it!
Have a burek for breakfast
The best burek in the world is made in Bosnia. It is a pastry made of a thin dough filled with minced meat, cheese, spinach or apple. The best one in the city you’ll find in Burekdžinica Bosna, very close to the Baščaršija square. The burek is served per grams, so you can try different types. Also, make sure to put some cream on the top.
Shop for souvenirs at Baščaršija and visit the old Bazaar building
The Baščaršija market, a synonym of the Turkish bazaar, is the best place to shop for some oriental souvenirs. Most of the products are either jewelry, pottery, metalware or textiles. Choose between handmade jewelry, scarf pashminas, traditional Bosnian rugs, metal džezvas (coffee pots) or decorated terracotta plates. They are all very much authentic and original.
For a wider selection of jewelry and accessories, visit the Gazi Husrev Bey’s Bezistan, a covered bazaar from the 16th century where during the Ottoman time textile was traded. Tašlihan, the other bazaar structure next to it, was built during the same time, but was badly damaged in a fire in 1879. Its remains are still present and can be seen from the street.
Visit the attractions along the Miljacka river
Walk along the Miljacka river and check out the place where WWI started. It’s the exact spot where Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot dead in 1914.
Pass the Latin bridge and relax a bit at the at Mejdan park. Visit the Music Pavilion in the park and drink something refreshing in the shades of the trees.
Walk east for a few minutes and you’ll notice the Inat house, which translated means the House of spite. The exact same house used to stand on the other side of the river, before the City Hall was built. The stubborn owner didn’t want to have his house demolished, so he insisted on moving the house, brick by brick, to the other side of the river. Today, the house is a lovely traditional Bosnian restaurant.
Visit the City Hall
Finally, pass the Seher-Cehaj’s bridge and visit the spectacular City Hall in Pseudo-Moorish style. It was built during the Austro-Hungarian rule in 1891 and renovated at the beginning of this century.
It was used as a library, but was demolished in 1992, during the Siege of Sarajevo. Many books, manuscripts and artifacts were completely destroyed at that time. Visit the exhibition that says more about the building and its history. The entrance fee is 5KM.
Have some čevapčići for lunch
While in Bosnia, don’t miss the most delicious Bosnian meat specialty. Čevapčići are a minced meat dish served in a bread with the kajmak cream cheese and onions. There are many čevapčići restaurants in the city, but the best ones are Željo and Petica. Keep in mind they don’t serve alcohol in those places.
Visit the Sarajevo War Tunnel
Don’t miss the chance to see the Sarajevo War Tunnel and the Tunnel Museum. This tunnel was built as an underground passage through the whole city during the four-year siege of Sarajevo in the 90’s. Since the city was cut off from the rest of the country and therefore from the rest of the world, it was the only way the life support materials and food could be moved through and into the city. The construction lasted for 6 months, and the whole thing was completely built by volunteers and all by manual labour. The private house in whose cellar the entrance to the tunnel was located today serves as a museum.
Watch the most beautiful Sarajevo sunset
Head up to the Yellow Fortress (Žuta Tabija) right before the sun sets behind the mountains that surround the city. Even if you don’t come at sunset, it’s still a great spot for a breathtaking panoramic view. You can reach the place by taxi or you can climb up the hill and include a visit to the cemetery of young victims of the war on your way there.
It’s time for Sarajevo nightlife!
Start your night at one of the two parallel streets – Muvekita or Strossmayer. It’s the area where many famous bars are located. On weekends they usually play live music, so make sure to check the schedule on time and arrive a bit earlier.
After the bars, head to Sloga – the most famous club in Sarajevo. They also play live concerts, so check out their Facebook page if you want to be informed about the events.
Where to stay in Sarajevo?
Malak Regency Hotel
Malak Regency Hotel is a luxurious and inspiring 5 star hotel designed in a modern spirit. The hotel features 174 relaxing and comfortable rooms and apartments. It is great for both business and leisure travelers. It’s perfectly located, just by the river with a breathtaking view of the mountains!
İsa Begov Hamam Hotel
İsa Begov Hamam Hotel is a luxurious hotel known for its health and wellness facilities like Turkish/steam bath, sauna, jacuzzi and all sorts of body massages. It’s actually Sarajevo’s first hammam, built by Isa Begov in 1462 and renovated in 2015. The interior combines historic design and traditional oriental decors and patterns.
Courtyard by Marriott Sarajevo
Courtyard by Marriott Sarajevo is a perfect choice for those who seek for a comfortable accommodation and a convenient location in the center of Sarajevo. It offers modern design, stylish and bright rooms and provides facilities like an outdoor terrace, fitness center and meeting/business rooms.
Hostel Kucha is one of the top-rated accommodations in the whole city and definitely the best hostel stay in Sarajevo. Its charm, great design, comfortable rooms and amazing outdoor terrace will make you want to stay there forever.
DAY TRIPS FROM SARAJEVO
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country absolutely brimming with different cultures and this city is a great example of that. However, there are other fascinating places to visit, so day trips from Sarajevo are very rewarding experiences. Read about some of the most popular destinations below.
Mostar, the capital of Herzegovina region, is an absolutely beautiful city to visit. Just like in the rest of the country, you will notice a mixture of cultures wherever you look. Stroll along the river Neretva and visit the iconic Old Bridge, Mostar’s greatest symbol, and its historic surrounding.
This day trip from Sarajevo will be very enlightening. The story of Srebrenica is the story of how Yugoslavia ceased to be, and coming here will show you everything about the terrible war that took place in the Balkans in the early 1990s. The town is the site of an unspeakable massacre which is considered to be the worst such act after WWII. Today, fortunately, it is a quaint little town with excellent food and a lot to teach you.
If you’re looking for some incredible nature, head to the town of Jajce. Pliva waterfalls will not disappoint you – their location in the city center makes for a unique surrounding and the perfect opportunity to snap some incredible photos. If you venture out of town, however, you will soon come across the Large and the Small Pliva Lake, which is another opportunity to enjoy nature. Don’t forget about the town either – it was the capital of the medieval Kingdom of Bosnia.
To understand why the Ottoman influence is so prevalent in the whole country, you only need to visit Travnik. This now rather small town was once the capital of the province of Bosnia in the Ottoman Empire and an extremely important city. You will see buildings from that period practically at every corner, with the city fortress being probably the most important sight to see. Foodies will love it here as you can try some fantastic čevapčići at very affordable prices.
Catholic believers won’t miss the opportunity to visit Međugorje, the place where, allegedly, Virgin Mary talked to six local children. Today, this place is visited by thousands upon thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, and you will probably see that when you get there. There is also a special aura of serenity around this place, plus the city of Mostar is very close by, so you can incorporate it into your day trip.
Extra tips for visiting Sarajevo
– The official currency in Bosnia is the Convertible Mark. Since 1 EUR is exactly 2 KM. it’s very easy to calculate the price. Just divide it by two.
– Taxis in Sarajevo are very cheap, but make sure the driver turns the meter on.
– If you’re planning to visit the Mosque and religious sites, bring some long sleeve modest clothes. At times, women are not required to wear scarves, but it’s always good to have one.
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