Sarajevo is one of those cities with personality, with a lot to say and a lot to be silent about, with a painful recent past, with scars, but with an enthusiastic approach to the future.
I remember the first time I saw it, I came down from the bus feeling still drowsy. Our apartment’s host came to pick us at the bus station at 7 am. On the way to the apartment, I looked through the windows the trees without leaves, just waking from the winter, the mountains and the houses in the hills, the smoking chimneys, and the stream of minarets of the many mosques ottoman style.
We stopped by a Pekara (bakery) and the host kindly bought bread and burek for us to have for breakfast. Burek is a pastry filled with meat and spices. For those, like myself, who don’t eat meat, there are other options filled with cheese (called Sirnica) and my favorite filled with potato called krompirusa.
I recommend that you try them in Forino, an establishment on Marsala Tita Avenue (one of the main avenues in Sarajevo). The pastries are nice, the staff speaks English and they are nice people, and you can buy gelatos there too. Anyway, this is one of the most popular fast foods here and you can find them in any bakery.
Our apartment was quite close to downtown, in a typical Sarajevo neighborhood. Upon arriving I made a tour of the apartment which you can watch in the video below. I don’t remember how much we paid, but it was cheap and they have recently renovated it, so it’s more beautiful. You can check it out and book it in this link Blue Residence
The first we visited was the old town, bazaar or Bascarsija, a picturesque maze of shops, restaurants, and mosques where the time seems to have stopped. This is the oldest and most traditional part of Sarajevo.
Eating in Sarajevo
The first thing I wanted to try was the bosnian coffee (bosanska kafa in bosnian), which has fame to be thick and bitter (or at least that’s what I’ve read somewhere), but it is not stronger than an espresso, and they serve it in a charming recipient called džezva. They don’t have this coffee everywhere, usually, they serve it in the Ottoman style cafeterias. I had it in Baklavah Shop where you can also order a delicious baklava of the many varieties they offer.
Baklava can be found anywhere in this city. There are many shops of sweets, like Butik Badem which sells also spices and other edible eastern products, or Stalisnaca Canigrad, a cafeteria where they have also a wide variety of desserts including the tufahija (cooked apples filled with walnuts and cream) and different flavors of Turkish delight or lukum (sweets similar to gummies). I warn you, all desserts here seem to have a lot of sugar.
The currency in Bosnia is the convertible mark or konvertibilna marka, which you will see with these abbreviations: BAM or KM. Each mark is equal to 0.5 euro. This is, in general, an economic destination compared with the rest of Europe, and it’s the reason why, although we don’t eat much in restaurants when traveling, in this occasion we could treat ourselves with some of the gastronomical choices of this country.
Another popular dish is the cevapi or cevapcici, which are some grilled sausages made with lamb and beef, served with a traditional bread called somun with chopped onions. There are many good restaurants in Sarajevo to try this and other dishes.
A famous restaurant to eat cevapi is Ćevabdžinica Željo, however, they only serve cevapi, so if someone doesn’t like it, he or she will not have other options, and the menu is in the Bosnian language only. Yet, is a good way to interact with locals because it seems to be frequented by many
Another good option was Kod Keme, a cozy restaurant a little hidden, with a friendly staff, a traditional decoration and a wide menu (I ordered a vegetarian pizza).
Besides the mentioned dishes, there are 2 typical beverages of Sarajevo which are Boza and Salep. Boza is a fresh drink made with fermented grains like corn or wheat. It doesn’t contain alcohol so it is completely halal (allowed for Muslims). The same as Salep which is a hot drink made with orchid roots and usually taken in winter.
I read good reviews about Miris Dunja‘s salep so I ventured to try it. Honestly, I didn’t think the taste was anything special. It had too much cinnamon for my preferences and that’s the only flavor I felt. I didn’t have the chance to try the salep somewhere else so… anyone who has already tried it might tell me if it’s indeed as tasty as they say?, perhaps I just had back luck.
What to visit in Sarajevo
Well, no doubt there are many places. Besides the, already mentioned, old town and its famous fountain, I would recommend:
To climb to the Zuta Tabija or Yellow Bastion, where you can have wonderful scenic views of the city. This is the place from where, every year, the beginning of the Ramadan is announced with the shoot of a cannon.
the national museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina: It is not a big deal as it is noticeable the little interests and the lack of funds (there were not many visitors neither). But still is an interesting museum. There is an important exhibition of archaeological sites and objects of the region. There is also a big hall with stuffed animals and insects. Also another one with a full-scale reproduction of the life in Sarajevo under the Ottoman empire rule. Unfortunately is not allowed to take photos. The entrance fee for adults was 6 KM (€3,00)
Historical Museum of BiH: The exhibitions of this museum were not of the complete history of Sarajevo, but about the siege that lasted from April 5th, 1992 to February 29th, 1996. there were displayed some newspapers and improvised artifacts made by the people. There were examples of the little food they had to survive too.
The hardest thing was to see a little sweater, stained with blood. It belonged to a child who died when a bomb was dropped over the school in which he was attending to class. For me, this and the hundred bullet holes in many of the buildings in Sarajevo were enough to understand the atrocious of the war.
(Note: recently I researched about this museum and it seems it has been improved, more exhibitions added)
There are many other places you can visit if you are interested in the war in Bosnia. For example, The Gallery, where they have material of the Srebrenica massacre. The Tunnel of Hope, that is the tunnel a little away from Sarajevo which was the only possible way to introduce food to the city during the siege. And The Museum of crimes against humanity and genocide 1992-1995 (I think the name speaks for itself).
Before traveling, I watched too many documentaries and read many articles about it. Then I preferred to concentrate my attention and energy in the present and in enjoying the beauty of this city and its people. Bosnian people are friendly with the visitors. In general, they speak a lot of English. This fact surprised me because Sarajevo is not so popular in touristic terms ( I mean if we compare it to the rest of Europe)
Here you can have more information about the museums in Sarajevo.
Where to shop
Bascarsija is the ideal place to buy souvenirs. For me, that I love ethnic products, arts, and crafts, the old bazaar of Sarajevo is the paradise. In fact, Bascarsija streets are named according to the artisans that, until today, are still working on them.
Then, in the coppersmith’s street, you can find beautiful products like coffee sets, tea sets, coffee grinders, little spoons, vessels and other copper handmade artifacts. I loved a tea set which, unfortunately, was out of my budget. So I had to be satisfied with a coffee set instead. It was ok after all, as coffee is more traditional in Bosnia ( and I like it better too).
By the way, it’s possible to bargain, especially if you buy more than one product in the same shop. I didn’t, but the owner offered me a small discount and a free spoon. So I ended up paying 35,00 KM ( about €12,50) which seemed to me to be a fair price.
You can also find textiles like rugs, carpets, pillow covers, scarfs, art in wood, Aladdin style shoes, handbags and local honey. Besides, they have the typical postcards, magnets, and key chains, in short, the options are endless. There are also Islam gifts like Holy Quran copies and home decor with Quran verses.
If you want to buy less traditional items like fashion accessories or clothes, you can go to the shopping centers like the BBI, City Center or the Alta Shopping. BBI and City Center have also big Conad supermarkets, as well as more commercial brands like Zara, Mango, and Stradivarius.
For those who like vintage stuff like I do, in Alta Shopping Center there is a store called Retro Home. They have beautiful furniture and decorative items for the house. You cannot carry a couch, but what about some nice kitchen towels?
Another great find for crafters and scrapbookers is a shop called Hobby Art Centar. It is located near the Sarajevo City Center (the mall). They have Italian and Turkish decoupage paper, scrapbook paper, clear stamps, stencils, etc. The staff speaks English so whatever you are seeking, you can ask.
It’s worthy to come here, it’s cheap, the food is great, there are many accommodation options, the landscapes are beautiful, the people are friendly and you can have a unique, authentic experience. Besides from Sarajevo is possible to make day trips to the mountains ( I was left with the desire to visit). You can also go to Mostar, a charming place which I will write about in the next post.
If you liked this post please share on your favorite social media. Now tell me, have you been in Sarajevo? Do you plan to visit Sarajevo soon? leave your comments below! or if you have any questions I will be glad to help 🙂