With so many destinations in the WHL Group’s ever-expanding network, we have an incredible wealth of local travel information at our fingertips. Through the Inside Word, our local partners – all travel experts – share their top tips on what to do, what to eat, where to party and where to shop in their necks of the woods.
This month, whl.travel local partner Dzenita Delibasic of Green Visions delivers the scoop on Sarajevo, capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Sarajevo never fails to capture the imagination. Whether it fascinates with its rich history of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian influences, intrigues curious minds with sights like the Latin Bridge where Franz Ferdinand’s assassination triggered World War I, or charms with its towering green surrounding mountains, unquenchable cafe culture and friendly hospitality, Sarajevo is a place that exceeds expectations.
On your city tour of Sarajevo you’re brought to the city’s beating heart, the Old Town’s main square – Baščaršija – which has for a long time been the most happening place in town. All around it are old houses and cobblestone streets filled with numerous tiny shops where you can pick up the perfect gift for loved ones back at home.
In the nearby surrounding area, you will be captivated by the Old Town Hall (National Library), built in 1896 on the banks of the Miljacka River just across the street from Inat Kuca (Spite House), a well-known restaurant. Within just a few hundred metres of there is a wide range of historic sites such as Brusa Bezistan (a former trading centre that is now the Sarajevo City Museum), the Orthodox Church (1539), the Synagogue (1581), the Roman Catholic Cathedral (1889) and Gazi Husrev-beg’s Mosque (1531), to name just a few. If you wish to see how people lived in the time of the Ottomans, there is the Svrzina House, a Turkish-style house of well-known Muslim families.
Once you get your fill of the busy city centres and wish to escape into the mountains, we recommend a trip that combines both culture and nature. A day trip to Lukomir – at 1,469 metres above sea level it’s Bosnia’s highest village – combines a glimpse of life in the mountains with a visit to the local ancient stecci (medieval tombstones). Lukomir villagers still adhere to the ‘old way’ of doing things, including wearing traditional dress and the occasional turban or fez. This is the perfect place to understand a bit more about the realities of living in a Bosnian mountain village cut off from the outside world during the winter months.
A more active outdoor alternative is to join us on one of our snowshoeing trips which, thanks to the masses of deep, powdery snow that falls on the surrounding mountains, are becoming more and more popular in this part of the world. Nothing compares to the tranquillity of snowshoe walks far away from the crowds through pristine and snow-covered fairytale forests and mountain peaks.
The perfect place to start shopping in Sarajevo is in the centre of the old town Baščaršija. On Kazandziluk Street, for example, old coppersmiths work at making fantastic coffee and tea sets. Other artisans produce handmade shoes and slippers, Bosnian and Persian carpets and high-quality gold jewellery.
Modern stores are in the shopping centres like BBI on Titova Street and Alta on Marijin Dvor. Fresh and organic fruit and vegetables can be bought at the Markale Market close to the Eternal Flame War Memorial.
And when that’s all done, it’s always time for a coffee in one of many cafés, where you experience the laid-back atmosphere typical of Bosnian coffee culture.
If you desire a beautiful view with affordable tasty traditional Bosnian food, go to Kod Bibana restaurant.
Vegetarians and seafood lovers will enjoy Karuzzo, a small but comfy place next to the Markale Market. Inat Kuca, mentioned above, offers a great variety of local food in an authentic Bosnian atmosphere.
For a refreshing pint of good beer on a hot summer night, head to the Pivnica (Brewery) restaurant near the Franciscan Church on the left side of the Miljacka River. Its got excellent food and is the only Bosnian brewery that produces dark beer. Eager to try local and international wines instead? Visit Noovi Wine Bar situated on a small hill above Djece Sarajeva Park on Tina Ujevica Street. Do not forget to order their mind-blowing mali kolaci (small chocolate cookies).
Cevapi, small and tasty sausages served with pita bread and onions, are ubiquitous, but best in the many cevabdzinica shops in Sarajevo, two of the most famous of which are Zeljo and Petica, both in the old town.
Another traditional treat is burek, baked pastry filled with meat that can be bought in a buregdzinica. After this filling snack, treat yourself to a hurmasica, a date-shaped pastry soaked in a very sweet syrup sauce, or tufahija, stewed apples with a walnut filling.
As soon as the Sarajevo weather warms up, the entire length of Strosmajerova Street is crowded with the tables and chairs of its flanking coffee bars. From there, depending on your desire, you can choose between a cosy little Mediterranean restaurant like Barhana, at number 8 Djulagina Cikma Street, and staying late at the popular Cafe Opera, which is a kind of a mini-club with lots of local events like live music, DJ performances and thematic evenings.
Lovers of ethnic cuisine, cocktails and wine will be among good company in Hacienda. This Mexican cantina is not only a lounge bar and restaurant, but also one of the best clubs in Sarajevo. Elsewhere, you can dance through the night in Sarajevo’s Basement disco or spend a relaxing evening with a cup of unbelievably delicious hot chocolate in the Cafe Zlatna Ribica (goldfish). This small bar is in the immediate vicinity of the Eternal Flame and its fin-de-siècle interior is decorated with sewing machines and other paraphernalia.
Whether it is summer or winter there is always some Sarajevo cultural event you can attend, like the Sarajevo Film Festival, the music of Baščaršija Nights, the arts-oriented Sarajevo Winter Festival and the MESS Sarajevo International Theatre Festival.