The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in many ways a unique city with its long, eventful history and carefully nurtured traditions. The city between the east and the west, a city with spirit, a city with charm – are only some of the phrases visitors use to describe it. It’s difficult to resist coming back to Sarajevo after the first visit; its appeal, the incredible mix of cultures and customs, friendly inhabitants, and delicious culinary specialties captivate tourists, making them wish they could put off their return home.
Sarajevo is the ideal weekend destination for tourists from Serbia. At only 300 kilometres from Belgrade, it is reached by air in less than an hour. Air Serbia offers its passengers scheduled departures on the Belgrade – Sarajevo route. Tickets for Belgrade – Sarajevo flights can be bought on airserbia.com, and those who subscribe to our Newsletter will receive updates on new departures and ticket discounts for their favourite destinations.
Sarajevo – the gateway between east and west
The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the few capitals in the world where the fusion of eastern and western cultures is so evident. As a matter of fact, you can actually touch this phenomenon, and it has become one of Sarajevo’s main attractions. Sarajevo meeting of cultures is a sign on the Ferhadija street and represents a place where tourists can meet, look this way and that, and decide whether they want to see works of Viennese architecture or immerse themselves in the aromas and tastes of Turkey. This line drawn with surgical precision is unique in the world and draws over half a million tourists to Sarajevo every year. The part of the city bearing the mark of the Ottoman Empire is dominated by Baščaršija, the central point of the city. It’s the busiest nightlife area, the most popular promenade, and the place with the most burger houses, taverns, and pastry shops. Baščaršija is also the cultural and historical centre of Sarajevo. This is where you will see the Sebilj fountain, the last of its kind in the city. It is made of wood and is the last public fountain from the Turkish period. Baščaršija is also home to the homonymous Baščaršija Mosque, the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque and museum, and the famous Clock Tower (Sahat kula).
Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque and Sahat kula
The Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque is one of the landmarks of Islamic architecture on the Balkans. Alongside it, tourists can stroll around Bezistan, a market selling unique handcrafted items, souvenirs, and traditional articles made by artisans. Standing 30 m high, the Sahat clock tower is visible from every point in the city and shows lunar time. It chimes to indicate midnight at sunset, which is particularly attractive for tourists discovering Islamic culture and customs for the first time.
The western part of Sarajevo is dominated by the Sacred Heart Cathedral, a Catholic church once visited by Pope John Paul II. Another interesting site is the Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos, the largest Orthodox church in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, also known as the Old Orthodox Church, dating back to the 5th or 6th century, constructed on two levels and singular because unadorned by frescoes. The western part of the city shows the strong prior influence of Austro-Hungarian architecture, giving visitors the feeling that they are strolling along the streets of Vienna. The Liberation Square stands in the central part of west Sarajevo, adorned by the statue of Branko Ćopić and the monument to Multicultural Man.
Sarajevo’s rich history at every step
Sarajevo boasts several unique monuments. In the vicinity of the Liberation Square stands the Eternal Flame, a monument to the liberators of Sarajevo in World War II. The flame on this monument has been burning continually since 1946.
A walk along the Miljacka River will take visitors alongside several interesting buildings and iconic places. According to many, the most beautiful building in Sarajevo is the Academy of Fine Arts, reached by the Festina Lente Bridge, designed by the students of the Academy.
The next important landmark on the riverbank is the City Hall, destroyed by fire in the war in 1992 and rebuilt and restored to purpose in 2014. Close to the City Hall is the Emperor’s Mosque, the oldest mosque in Sarajevo, whose restoration was financed by Suleiman the Magnificent.
Across the river from the City Hall, on the other bank of the Miljacka, stands the Spite House (Inat kuća). The house is now a restaurant with traditional cuisine and was named for the circumstances around its construction on the spot on which it currently stands. Originally, the house was located in the village of Vijećnice and its owner refused many offers of compensation from the Austro-Hungarian authorities who wanted to demolish it and build an elegant palace in its stead. In order to finally resolve the issue, the builders had to transport the house, brick by brick, to the other side of the river, and compensate the stubborn owner to boot.
The gaze of tourists strolling along the river is attracted by the Cyclist on a Wire, a sculpture seeming to hover over the water. The most famous bridge on the river is the Latin Bridge, better known to visitors and locals as Princip’s Bridge, in the vicinity of which Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination is considered the most immediate cause of World War I. The house in front of it incorporates the museum dedicated to the Sarajevo assassination and Austro-Hungarian rule over the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Sarajevo – a gastronomic paradise
One of the first associations to Sarajevo is traditional cuisine. While the city itself is divided between east and west, its cuisine is a testimony to Turkish rule over this region. Visitors can taste the most popular Bosnian delicacies in any of the numerous restaurants in Baščaršija but quality restaurants can also be found outside the city centre. Among the specialities not to miss are ćevapi in homemade pita bread, also available at street stands. For breakfast, residents of Sarajevo prefer burek or sirnica, with a topping of sour cream and ajran, traditional Turkish yogurt.
Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy homemade baklava, tulumbe, urmašice, kadaif or tres leches cake. Sarajevo is a city of gourmets, so there is no disputing the quality of the food. The only subject of debate can be the place where the best dishes made of minced meat are served, because everyone has their own “special” place.
The traditional drink here is Turkish coffee, served with sugar and in very small cups. Tourists can also enjoy oriental black tea, served with milk and in abundance.
The nightlife in Sarajevo takes place in quaint coffee shops and continues throughout the night. The hospitality and spontaneity of the people of Sarajevo is legendary, so a stroll around the city will often end with a new friendship, a glass of wine, and music. Evenings like that are this city’s particular tourist attraction, especially for visitors who have never heard the typical Bosnian town and folk songs, sevdalinke. For those who have, ending a day like this is always the crown of their visit and a lasting fond memory.