It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Sarajevo. Maybe it was just a few minutes walking around the city until I realized that it would likely be one of my favorites of the trip. If you haven’t made it to Bosnia & Herzegovina yet, you ought to! Here’s my recommendations for 12 Things You Must Do in Sarajevo to convince you:
1. Stroll around Old Town. Walk over the Latin Bridge towards Bascarsija Square (also known as Pigeon Square), which is a great starting point for exploring Sarajevo’s Old Town. The historic Old Town is welcoming and charming, and had similarities to one of my other favorite European cities, Krakow (but with mosques)!
2. Peruse the Coppersmiths’ Shops. As you might expect, Old Town caters to tourists and you’ll have your pick of shops to purchase beautiful hand pounded copper souvenirs. However, a discerning eye can tell that not all of the goods are created equal. If you’re looking for a beautiful, high quality souvenir, make sure to stop in coppersmith Ismet i Ismir’s shop.
3. Indulge in Ćevapi. Yum. Ćevapi is minced meat formed into cylinder sausage shapes served with fresh bread, raw onions and kajmak (similar to sour cream). Do not let yourself leave Bosnia & Herzegovina without trying this local delight! As an added bonus, you’ll get a huge portion of this deliciousness for just a few dollars.
4. Grab a local brew. Head to Pivnica HS, a large beer hall (which also serves food) to sample some local freshly brewed beers. Pivnica HS is located just a block or so outside Old Town and next door to Sarajevskaya Brewery.
5. Learn About the Region’s History. The scars of the recent war are still very evident in the city, so I’d recommend “The Complete Sarajevo War Tour” with Toorico Tours to learn about the siege of Sarajevo. Our tour started at the Tunnel Museum where you can explore a portion of the tunnel that was used to supply Sarajevo with food and arms during the three year siege. After, we were taken into the mountains which surround the city and were shown (at a safe distance) an area which is still littered with active land mines. We continued to Igman Mountain where we saw the Olympic ski jumping hills and walked through the remnants of what once was the most luxurious hotel in the mountains, but was burned down during the conflict. Before heading to the Yellow Fortress, we were shown several “snippers’ nests” and the Old Jewish Cemetery (another stronghold for Serbian snippers during the war).
Our tour guide, Ervin, was extremely knowledgable and friendly, but what made the tour especially memorable was his personal stories and experiences during the siege. Just seven years old when the conflict started, Ervin shared vivid memories regarding his family being detained during the war, his flight to Croatia and eventual return to Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1996.
6. Visit my Favorite Bar in The World. Whoa – quite the lofty accolade to be handing out, isn’t it? Well, it’s true. I found my favorite bar in the whole wide world while in Sarajevo. Whether you fancy beer, wine, a cocktail or just coffee, you have to stop by Zlatna Ribica (Kapitol 5) for a drink. The interior of this small bar (the name translated to Golden Fishy) is decorated much like your senile great grandmother’s home could be – random vintage trinkets everywhere! Even if you were a regular, you would probably notice new pieces of decor on each visit. Wine poured from a fish pitcher, cocktail menus hanging from chandeliers and live goldfish make this bar a unique experience.
7. Learn How to Drink Bosnian Coffee. Sarajevo certainly has a coffee culture – everywhere you stroll, the sidewalk cafes are packed with locals enjoying their coffee. But, as an American, I was initially confused as to how to “properly” drink Bosnian coffee. So that you can avoid the same initial panic that I had, here’s a step by step guide for you:
Your Bosnian coffee will be served on a small platter which will hold the coffee-filled dzezva (a copper coffee pot with a long handle), an empty cup, a glass of water with sugar cubes or a Bosnian candy which is similar to Turkish delight. (Whatever you do, don’t just pour the coffee into the cup and drink it – all the coffee grounds are at the bottom of the dzerva)! First, spoon off the foam from the coffee in your dzerva, and then pour some coffee into your empty cup before topping your coffee with the foam. Next, dip your sugar cube into the coffee to soften it, then take a bite of the sugar cube and take a sip of the coffee. When you reach the coffee near the bottom of your dzerva, use your spoon to hold back the coffee grounds muck on the bottom. (You’re welcome).
8. Visit the Olympic Bobsled. The Sarajevo bobsled is often seen as a depiction of the juxtaposition of the city’s recent history. Sarajevo was flourishing in the 1980’s and hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, only to find itself in the midst of conflict a decade later during the Bosnian war. Since that time, the city has continued it’s revitalization and has again become a popular tourist destination.
9. Partake in a Unique Dining Experience. In the heart of Old Town you’ll find “To Be or Not To Be”(Cizmedziluk 5), a cozy restaurant with only two tables. During our visit, the woman who took our order subsequently retreated to the tiny kitchen (which was approximately four feet from us) and cooked our meals from scratch. The menu was extensive, but I couldn’t help but try the chocolate chili beefsteak, which was as unique as it was delicious.
10. Take in the City’s Views. Head up to the Yellow Fortress for sweeping panoramic views of Sarajevo.
11. Visit the Place Where WWI Started. In 1914, Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot dead in Sarajevo. The assassination, which began the First World War, is marked with a stone plaque.
11. Sample some Rakia. Rakia (or fruit brandy) is widely considered the national drink in Bosnia & Herzegovina. You can sample many different flavors of this local favorite in most any restaurant or bar in the city, but beware, rakia packs a punch!
12. Stay in Style. While in Sarajevo, I stayed at the modern and stylish Hotel Bistrik. Hotel Bistrik provides all the comforts of home, just a few steps from Old Town. The rooms are contemporary and welcoming, and the staff was more than helpful. While I was there, one of the hotel guest’s flight was canceled due to weather. When the Hotel Manager found out, he drove back to the airport to pick her up and bring her back to the hotel! You can check rates for Hotel Bistrik and other Sarajevo hotels here.
Are you planning a trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina? You can find great deals and book your hotel room, apartment or B&B here. (And, most bookings can be cancelled for free)!
Have you been to Sarajevo? What else would you add to this list?
Although I was a guest of Hotel Bistrik and Toorico Tours, my love for their services and Sarajevo is all my own. Some of the above links are affiliate links, meaning that if you choose to book through them I will earn a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your continued support to keep this site up and running! You can find FWTG’s full disclosure policy here.
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