Sarajevo is a city that has a perfect combination between East and West. It has belonged to the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It has also suffered the ravages of a more or less recent war whose traces we find in its buildings and streets. These are the 5 experiences in Sarajevo that you should not miss if you want to immerse yourself in its peculiar environment.
Take a Bosnian coffee (and eat baklava)
One of the experiences in Sarajevo that I enjoyed the most was having a coffee in one of the Ottoman style cafes in the old town. Nothing compares to sitting on a bench and having a coffee following the Bosnian “ritual”. Due to its strong taste Bosnian coffee combines well with sweets. So you can add some of the Ottoman desserts like the baklava (my favorite) lokum or tufahija.
Bosnian coffee is very similar to Turkish coffee, but it differs a bit in preparation. Bosnians prepare coffee in a container called džezva. They first add hot water and then finely ground coffee. Then put the džezva on the fire several times to achieve a foam on the surface.
They serve the coffee in a nice tray, the džezva, and an espresso-sized cup. Sugar is served in cubes. The way to drink it is by taking the foam from the surface of the džezva and pouring a little into your cup. Then add the coffee to the cup. You take a sugar cube, dip it lightly in the coffee, put it in your mouth and drink the coffee.
You can also put the coffee cube inside the cup and dissolve it. Bosnian coffee is not filtered so you have to wait for the coffee grounds to settle on the bottom of the cup to drink it. The taste is more or less as strong as an espresso. You can not leave Sarajevo or Bosnia without having tasted this coffee.
Read more about my trip to Sarajevo at this link: Sarajevo, a city with a soul
Listen to the Azhan (and visit the mosque)
The majority of the population in Sarajevo are Muslims. Even if you don’t see them dressed in the traditional way it doesn’t mean they are not practicing. That is why you will see that there are more mosques than churches in the city (although there are churches as well).
Where I live there are no mosques, and if there are, they don’t call to prayer (adhan). That is why I believe that one of the most interesting experiences in Sarajevo is to listen to this call. For me, the first place where I was able to hear the adhan live was Sarajevo.
And even if you are not a Muslim, I assure you that it is a unique experience. In Sarajevo, the call to prayer is not very loud, amid the noise of the people might go unnoticed. For me, it was very relaxing to sit in the Sebilj Fountain and immerse in the Ottoman atmosphere listening to the adhan.
It is also advisable that you visit a mosque if you have never done it before. I recommend visiting the Mosque of Gazi Husrev-beg because of its history as it is the oldest. It was built in the year 1530 in the heart of Bascarsija.
It is also one of the largest mosques and most visited by tourists. If you are a Muslim you can enter to pray and see it, otherwise, access will only cost 1 euro (2 KM). More information on opening time for visitors on this link.
Buy a souvenir in Baščaršija
You should not leave Sarajevo without having walked through Baščaršija‘s shops and taking home a souvenir. Because in Baščaršija tradition is breathed. You will often see artisans making their products in their stores. Some of the most typical craft products are copper objects such as coffee sets, trays, and grinders.
You can also find a variety of textiles such as cushion covers, rugs, carpets, scarves, purses and handbags. Buying a traditional souvenir you will be taking a part of the history of Sarajevo. The merchants are very friendly and it’s possible to haggle, especially if you are buying more than one product.
Visit a war museum
One way to learn about the tragic history of Sarajevo is by visiting a museum about the war. For sensitive people, it may not be highly recommended, as images may be crude. There are several museums and galleries that display objects, photos, and newspapers of the war.
Visiting a museum is one of the experiences in Sarajevo that you should not miss if you want to understand the complex history of the region. The truth is that I only went to one museum and for me, it was enough to have an idea of how terrible was the Sarajevo’s siege.
If you can visit the Tunnel of Hope, a tunnel that was used to bring food to Sarajevo during the siege. The entrance costs 10 KM (about 5 euros). On the official page, you can learn more about the history of the tunnel and the visiting hours.
Talk to the people
Last but not least, another of the experiences in Sarajevo that you should not miss is the interaction with the locals. I was surprised at how widely spoken is English, especially among the young people. They are very friendly and generous people. Almost in all the shops that we entered or purchased they had a conversation with us.
The owner of a tea and coffee shop in Baščaršija even taught us some words and phrases in Bosnian. And another woman in a honey shop told us a bit about his Albanian origin, she was very friendly. They are people who seem very eager to get ahead and overcome their past.
We didn’t want to ask anything about the war because we thought it would be disrespectful, right? but I know that some people do talk about it. If you know someone with whom you feel comfortable you can ask them and get ready to get shocked by their stories
Final thoughts of my experiences in Sarajevo
These are the experiences in Sarajevo that I recommend you not to miss. There are many more, but to have an impression of this city in the Balkans I think these are essential. Especially if, you are just passing-by or are short of time.
It is also advisable to take a tour or a day trip to nearby places in Sarajevo. For example to the Olympic Mountains or to Mostar. Do visit Sarajevo because it’s a very different city from the rest of Europe and I’m sure that you will like it. It is also an economic city with impressive landscapes.
If you have already visited Sarajevo or some other city in the Balkans, tell me what you liked best. Or if you have not visited it, what experiences would you like to have? Leave your comments in the box below! ⇓
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