Some 20 years since Sarajevo suffered the longest city siege in the history of modern warfare, it once again has visitors flocking its way. And what they are finding is one of Europe’s most peaceful and accepting cities.
This is certainly apparent; from the moment you set foot in Herzegovina’s capital and Bosnia and meet its warm and welcoming people. Sarajevo’s architecture is an eccentric and intriguing amalgamation of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian styles. The city is a melting pot of cultures. Here’s all you should do in this majestic metropolis.
What to see
Taking a walking tour around the city is one of the best ways to get to know it. The tip-based, three hour stroll is highly recommended. Your guide will go into detail about the capital, from the Roman Empire and life under Ottoman rule to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which sparked World War I, and from the death of revolutionary President Tito, the Siege of Sarajevo and life today.
However, if you want to stroll alone, wandering the streets around the Bašèaršija bazar, which was built in the 15th century, is the best you could do. This is Sarajevo’s cultural and historical centre and is the largest market in the city. Having once been an important trade hub, this area is dotted with craft stalls, haberdashery markets, food traders and coffee shops. This area has a particularly Turkish feel.
Of course, you can’t escape the violence that occurred in the 90s. You can discover about them at Galerija, a mixed-media gallery that documents the events that occurred following the capture of Srebrenica town on July 11,1995. It’s well worth shelling out the Dhs4 for the guided tour. The wall that contains the names of the victims written across it will definitely move you.
Moreover, you can trek to the Tunnel of Hope and visit the underground walkway that connected the people trapped in Sarajevo to the UN-controlled area of free Bosnia, just beyond the city’s airport. The funnel allowed for the transportation of food, medicine and supplies into the city, as well as allowing people to get out. It is Dhs20 to get in, but well worth it. After the 1984 Winter Olympics, the track was used as a sniper location by the invading forces. Today, it’s a street art exhibit. In order to look out over the city, start at the bottom and walk up the paths.
You must also visit the Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque. Built in Sarajevo in 1532 by famous Ottoman architect Acem Esir Ali, the project was financed by the governor Gazi Husrev-bey and is one of the most representative Ottoman buildings in Bosnia. It was the first mosque in the world to receive electricity in 1898.
Another must see spot is the Vjecnica. It was constructed between 1892 and 1894 and was built to house the local officials and administrative staff of the city. The City Hall was turned into a National library towards the end of World War II, and remains the biggest and the most representative building from the Austro-Hungarian period in Sarajevo.
What to eat
Burek, a baked treat with flaky pastry and a savoury filling of, usually, ground beef. There are also other meats to sample and vegetarian options of spinach, and cheese. There are so many tiny restaurants that serve it with yoghurt. There are interesting eateries with stools that seem to be a mere 30cm off the floor. A burek and yoghurt costs, on average, about Dhs8 and fills you up for hours.
For a more historical foodie experience, pop to the open-air Pijaca Markale market. This is the epicenter of Sarajevan life. It primarily sold food and drink before the siege. During the conflict, it sold anything and everything to help the people survive. It is now serving mostly local food and beverages. An array of treats are on sale and the stallholders are a friendly bunch. There are so many fresh berries of all colours to try here.
What to drink
Bosnian coffee is part of the country’s history, culture and national identity. It takes influence from Ottoman Empire, but has a distinct flavour all of its own in Sarajevo. It is served piping hot and sipped along with a glass of ice cold water, giving it a smooth taste.