Bosnia was once the most western region within the vast Ottoman Empire, Sarajevo being one of its centres. In fact, Ottomans were the ones who invested in this region and built Sarajevo and Mostar. Later on, Austria–Hungary came into possession of Bosnia and Herzegovina, leaving its architectural and cultural mark on this historic city. Thus, Bosnia and Herzegovina is regarded as a true bridge between East and West, with Sarajevo being one of the best examples of that fascinating mixture. Sarajevo is sometimes called the “Jerusalem of the Balkans”, because of its long and complicated, yet rich history of religious and cultural variety. Here Muslims, Jews, Orthodox Christians and Catholics have been living together for centuries.
Once in Sarajevo, there are many places you need to see and even more things you have to try and taste. Oriental fragrances in the streets of Sarajevo Old Town are one of the things that make this city unique and by which people always remember it. Here are the most important things to do & see in Sarajevo:
Visit Baščaršija – Sarajevo Old Town
Traditional Bosnian coffee sets; džezva is a term for a coffee pot, required to make a proper Bosnian-style coffee
This is the Ottoman part of the city. Built in the 15th century when the town was founded, Baščaršija was its very centre with the Ottoman bazaar situated here. Baščaršija still is just that – the bazaar – as well as the cultural and historical centre of Sarajevo. The Sebilj Fountain in the centre of Baščaršija was originally built by Ottomans in 18th century, but then relocated a century later to where it stands now. The legend has it that once you drink the water from Sebilj, you’ll definitely come back to Sarajevo. Streets surrounding Sebilj are full of little shops that sell traditional products, always packed with visitors and tourists.
Stroll the main Pedestrian zone – Ferhadija
The Sarajevo rose
Whether you want to go shopping, have a cup of Bosnian coffee, or just take a stroll and see main attractions, this is where you need to go. This is yet a different part of Sarajevo, as it was built during the period of Austro-Hungarian rule. Thus, the architecture is very different from what you can see in the Ottoman part of the city. Strolling down this street, you’ll find yourself in front of the Sarajevo Cathedral, known as the Sacred Heart Cathedral. In front of it, on the floor, is one of the many Sarajevo roses. Those are concrete scars caused by explosions during the Bosnian War, that were later filled with red resin in order to mark the many deaths and loses from this city’s painful history.
Visit the Gazi Husrev-Bey Mosque
This is the central mosque of Sarajevo and of the Islamic Community of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It has been here, in the centre of Sarajevo Old Town, for a long time – ever since the 16th century, when it was built for the Ottoman ruler of Bosnia, Gazi Husrev -Bey. This magnificent mosque is the biggest in the country and is believed to be the biggest in the Balkans.
Enjoy the view from the Yellow Fortress
This Fortress was built as a part of defense system in the 18th century and served as one of the defense points against the Austria-Hungary in the 19th century. After Austria-Hungary finally took over Sarajevo, the Yellow Fortress lost its original function. Today this is a perfect place to enjoy a wonderful view over the city. From this spot, a cannon is fired at sunset during the Islamic month of Ramadan, marking the end of the fast.
Cross the Latin Bridge
In June 1914, a young member of the “Young Bosnia” revolutionary movement assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. The revolutionist’s name was Gavrilo Princip, and the crime was committed on the Latin Bridge, while Franz Ferdinand was taking a coach ride together with his wife, Sofia. The Latin Bridge has been known for this unfortunate event ever since then, as it was this event that caused the First World War. In fact, it was just an excuse to start a war that seemed inevitable, but it officially started on the 28th of June 1914, with assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife.
Ćevapi is the name for the most popular Bosnian dish, that could easily be regarded the Bosnian national dish. It is a grilled dish of minced meat, shaped into small sausages. Ćevapi are served together with a special flatbread called somun, chopped onions, sour cream or ajvar, which is a type of relish, made from red peppers, with garlic. Ćevapi can be found absolutely everywhere in Sarajevo, especially in many restaurants in the Old Town.