When it comes to underrated European destinations, Sarajevo is definitely at the top of the list. Despite the city being fascinating and incredibly beautiful, it often fails to get the same recognition as it’s Western European counterparts. If you’re looking for a destination rich in history and culture, but without the big price tag, Sarajevo is definitely the city for you. Read on to discover more about Bosnia’s capital, and use this itinerary to have an extraordinary day in this extraordinary city.
8:00AM: Traditional Bosnian breakfast
Food-loving tourists are in for a treat if they choose to visit Bosnia. Because of the country’s geography, Bosnian cuisine is influenced by Mediterranean, Turkish, and other Eastern European cuisines, which makes the end result a perfect blend of Eastern and Western European flavours.
If you have a sweet tooth, make sure to try Uštipci. These bite size pancakes are usually enjoyed with powdered sugar, jam, or Nutella. However, they can still be enjoyed as a savoury dish with kajmak (Bosnian cottage cheese).
Another popular breakfast dish (that’s enjoyed throughout the day too) is the burek — filo pastry stuffed with ground beef. This savoury pastry is one of the most popular in the country. To Bosnians, a true burek is only filled with ground beef. But if you’re veggie, don’t worry, you’re still able to enjoy a variation of the burek too. Other fillings include spinach, cheese, and potato.
9:00AM: Explore the Old Town
Your first stop after breakfast is one of the most beautiful in the city. Sarajevo Old Town is a marketplace full of fabulous goods that’ll make you wish that you had a bigger suitcase! Some of the most popular items include Middle Eastern lamps, beautiful paintings, and gorgeous Iranian inspired rugs. If you’re after more portable souvenirs, there’s some gorgeous jewellery available that’s really reasonably priced and will make you feel incredibly glamorous. You’ll also find plenty of cosy knitted socks and lavender scented products from the area’s many lavender fields.
An absolute must-do when you visit any part of Bosnia is to try out the local coffee. Under the Ottoman Empire, Turkish coffee was one of the most popular drinks (after the ban on it was lifted), but it was available only to the middle classes and the very wealthy. However, as time moved on, coffee was available for all classes, and Ottoman coffeehouse culture became a key part of everyday life for everyone throughout the Ottoman Empire.
The influence of the Ottoman Empire is still seen in many cultures. In most Balkans countries, you’re able to order a Turkish coffee pretty easily. But trying to find it in Bosnia is simply impossible — however you will find Bosnian coffee. Bosnian coffee is a source of national pride, and citizens see it as a way to make their country distinct from those around them.
The coffee grounds used to make Bosnian are extremely fine. To make sure they are fine enough, they’re often ground by hand. To serve the coffee, add a sugar cube to your cup and pour just enough hot coffee for the sugar to dissolve. Once it is dissolved, fill the cup to the brim, without letting any of the grounds fall in. Bosnian coffee is incredibly strong, so you should feel pretty wired by the time you set off to your next stop!
11:00AM: Sebilj Fountain
Once you’ve got your caffeine buzz, head over to Sebilj Fountain. This wooden drinking fountain was built in 1891. Although it is not the oldest one in the city, it’s certainly the most prominent. The water is always refreshing, but especially if you visit in the summer months — the average summer high is just under 30°C, but it often exceeds this.
It’s definitely a great place to visit if you want to quench your thirst, but if you’re not a big fan of birds, be warned that the square is almost always swarming with pigeons. Seriously, there’s hundreds of them!
Legend says that anyone who takes a sip from the fountain will return to Sarajevo in the future. So if you’re already in love with the city and you can’t wait to come back, drink up!
11:30/12:00PM: Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
You’ll have already seen this mosque earlier in the day, since the impressive building towers over the Old Town. The 16th century mosque was one of the first buildings designed by Adžem Esir Ali, the most important architect of the Ottoman Empire. Outside the building, you will find his tomb. The mosques’ central location and cultural significance cements it as one of the most important monuments in Bosnia. Sadly, it was significantly damaged during the Siege of Sarajevo. But thanks to international donations it was able to be rebuilt in 1996.
Gazi Husrev-beg is an active mosque so the inside cannot be viewed during prayer times. There are multiple sites advertising multiple different times for the mosque, so I couldn’t pinpoint the exact best time to visit, but it should be open at either 11:30AM or 12:00PM. If you arrive before it opens, spend some more time exploring the Old Town (and try not to get tempted to buy anymore souvenirs!).
Whilst you’re in the Old Town area, head to a nearby restaurant for some lunch. In some cities, the areas most popular with tourists are the ones with the most average food, but this couldn’t be further from the truth in Sarajevo’s Old Town. There are numerous restaurants in the area loved by locals and tourists alike. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out this list of the best restaurants in the Old Town.
If you’re after Bosnian cuisine, make sure to give Cevapi a try. These small kebabs are made from either lamb or beef, and served in pitta bread with a side of raw onions and sour cream sauce. This dish is one of the most popular in the country, and everyone who tries it gets hooked!
Another popular Bosnian dish to try is Bosanski lonac. This hearty stew is full of meat and veg, and it takes a whopping 4 hours to cook. One of the most important aspects of this dish is the clay pot that it’s cooked in (the lonac). It’s such an important component that the meal itself is named after it!
1:30PM: Gallery 11/07/95
Your next stop will stick with you long after your visit to Sarajevo — it certainly has with me. Before my visit, I knew next to nothing about the Bosnian War and Genocide — it was just before my time, and it (shockingly) wasn’t something I was taught about at school. If you don’t know much about Bosnian history either, I urge you to give this place a visit. By the time I left the museum, I felt like I knew and understood the country so much more. I was shocked, angry, and disheartened, but also in awe of the strength and bravery of Bosnians.
Gallery 11/07/95 is a museum and gallery hybrid, that teaches visitors about the War through pictures, documentaries, news reports and other forms of media from that time. At the end of the exhibit, there are interviews with survivors, which are absolutely heart-breaking. Gallery 11/07/95 is a public institution in Bosnia, and acts as a memorial to all the Bosnian lives lost in the War.
The museum acts as a reminder of how shockingly dark our recent history is, and how doing nothing is being complicit in these awful acts. The manager of Gallery 11/07/95 states that the aim of the museum is ‘to be a strong and decisive voice against all forms of violence in the world. Srebrenica is a symbol – not only of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also of the suffering of innocent people and the indifference of others’. I can safely say that it does this better than any other museum that I’ve visited to date.
3:00PM: Visit Latin Bridge and City Hall
This next stop is definitely one for the history lovers. As well as being a triumph of Ottoman architecture, the Latin Bridge is one of the most important ones in history — it’s where the First World War started!
The murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was the final straw before the outbreak of the War, and it was committed on this very bridge by Gavrilo Princip (after several failed attempts). You’ll find a plaque on the bridge of the exact spot where it happened. Even people who have just a passing interest in history will be interested in visiting this spot.
Right next to the Latin Bridge stands the City Hall. Like many of the major monuments in the city, the building was destroyed in the Siege of Sarajevo (along with 2 million irreplaceable manuscripts inside) and didn’t reopen until 2014 — but it was worth the wait. This recognisable building is a work of art that truly has to be seen to be admired.
And the inside of the Hall is just as beautiful as the outside. The gorgeous stained glass and the grand ceilings make you feel like you’re royalty! In the building you’ll find an information centre, a museum, and a replica of a courtroom in the Hague.
4:00PM: Do some exploring!
After you’ve seen all the major monuments in the city, take some time to explore. There are so many other great things to see and do in the city, so you certainly won’t struggle with finding things to fill your time! If you’re looking for some inspiration, try doing one of the following:
- Walking tour: Lots of walking tours set off from around the Sebilj Fountain. Many of them are free, but make sure to tip your guide!
- Street art: Sarajevo is full of amazing street art that isn’t just pretty to look — it tells you a lot about the history of the city too. Keep an eye out for Sarajevo Roses, which are craters created by explosives in the war that have been filled with red resin as a reminder of the cities’ past.
- Avaz Twist Tower: Head up to the 35th floor of the building to get amazing panoramic views of the city.
- Sacred Heart Cathedral: Not only is this the largest Cathedral in the country, but the interior is simply spectacular!
Once it gets close to sunset, grab some food to takeaway and take it to enjoy at your final stop for the day.
Sunset: Admire the view from the Yellow Fortress
For the perfect end to your day, head up to the Yellow Fortress to get some stunning views of the sun setting over the city. If you go during Ramadan, you’ll also see the firing of the canon to mark the breaking of fast. The views stretch for miles, and Sarajevo sunsets are absolutely stunning. This is by far the best place to spend your final few hours in this magical city.
Are you planning on visiting Sarajevo? What are you looking forward to seeing most? Let me know in the comments below!