Sarajevo, BiH's capital city, has an interesting and rich history. Many refer to it as the "European Jerusalem" because of the many places of worship of different confessions that change every 50 m, each with its own beauty.
Sarajevo is an attractive destination for tourists. Visiting craft shops in the Baščaršija area, going to museums and touring various religious buildings are the most popular activities for tourists to take part in. You can get to know the city even better by visiting some of its neighborhoods, or "mahala," enjoying one of the city's many festivals, and trying the local cuisine. The most important festivals include Baščaršija Nights (bs. Baščaršijske noći) in June, the Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF), the Sarajevo Winter Festival (bs. Sarajevska zima), the MESS Theater Festival, and the Sarajevo Jazz Fest.
The Sarajevo Valley has been inhabited since Neolithic times. In Butmir, near Ilidža, unique ceramic objects and pottery from that period (2400-2000 BC) have been found. Prior to the arrival of the Romans, the Deasitiates Illyrian tribe lived here. The main Roman colony, Aquae Sulfurae, was constructed on the territory of contemporary Ilidža. During the Middle Ages, Sarajevo was part of the Bosnian kingdom and the Bosnian diocese of Vrhbosna.
Today, Sarajevo is an attractive destination for tourists. Visiting craft shops in the Baščaršija area, going to museums and touring various religious buildings are the most popular activities for tourists to take part in. You can get to know the city even better by visiting some of its neighborhoods, or "mahala," enjoying one of the city's many festivals, and trying the local cuisine. The most important festivals include Baščaršija Nights (bs. Baščaršijske noći) in June, the Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF), the Sarajevo Winter Festival (bs. Sarajevska zima), the MESS Theater Festival, and the Sarajevo Jazz Fest.
Baščaršija is located on the right side of the Miljacka River and has always been the city's center of economic life. Around the main square are a number of specialized craft centers, from which the various streets derive their names. These include Sarači (saddler, slippers and leather accessories), Kovači (blacksmiths), Kazandžiluk (copper processing), Kundurdžiluk (shoemakers), Čizmedžiluk (bootmakers), Kujundžiluk (goldsmiths), and Čurčiluk (furriers). Many of these trades disappeared over time, but you can still get a feel for the old atmosphere today on Kazandžiluk Street, where wrought copper products are sold. Sebilj, a wooden fountain built in 1891, is located on the main square.
In addition to its craft shops, Baščaršija is characterized by numerous inns (bs. han), warehouses, covered markets (bs. bezistan), where textiles are sold, and hamams (public baths).
Sarajevo's city museums (www.muzejsarajeva.ba) can be found at multiple locations. The museum's main collection, on the history and development of the city of Sarajevo, is in the Bursa Bezistan. The museum features also a model of the Baščaršija area from 1878. Other collections are located in annexes to this main museum, including the Museum of "Sarajevo 1878-1918", the Jewish Museum of BiH, Svrzo's House and Despić House.
In the Great Daire you'll find the Sevdah Art House, a museum featuring the historical development of Sevdalinka, or traditional Bosnian love songs. There is a cafe in the museum's courtyard where, accompanied by the gentle sounds of Sevdalinka, you can enjoy a Bosnian coffee, a piece of cake, or a traditional juice made from elder, roses or juniper berry.
The BiH National Museum (bs. Zemaljski muzej), the country's most important cultural institution, was founded in 1888. The actual museum was built in 1913 and features archeological, ethnographical and natural exhibits, as well as a botanical garden.
The city's bridges were built due to the need to connect the right and left banks of the Miljacka River, where the city began to develop in the 15th c. On the right bank was the economic heart of the town (Baščaršija), while the left bank housed the government and military. The oldest preserved stone bridge is the Latin Bridge, which was built in 1541 by Ali-Ajni beg. Franz Ferdinand was assassinated not far from this bridge in 1914. Upstream from the Latin Bridge and near City Hall is the Šeher-ćehajina Bridge. It was built in 1585/6 as an endowment from Alija Hafizadić. Both are multi-arched stone bridges, as was the Emperor's Bridge in front of the Emperor's Mosque. The original Emperor's Bridge was made of wood and built by Isa-beg Ishaković. Gazi Husrev-beg then built a stone bridge at the same location in 1510. Due to deterioration, the Austro-Hungarians demolished this stone bridge and, a bit further upstream, built Sarajevo's first concrete bridge, which was given the same name.
Sephardic Jews came to BiH following their expulsion from Spain in the 16th c. The first synagogue, the Old Temple inside of the Sijavuš-Pasha Daire, was built in 1581. The Jewish Museum has been housed in the Old Temple since 1966. During the 19th c., the Sephardic Jews built the New Temple (which today houses a gallery) and a synagogue in the Mejtaš neighborhood. Between 1926 and 1930, the Great Temple, with its huge ellipsoidal dome, was built on the right bank of the Miljacka. Today, the Bosnian Cultural Center is located in this building.
The largest building featuring Islamic architecture in Sarajevo - and in BiH - is the Begova Mosque (1531) in Baščaršija. The interior of the mosque contains exquisite wall decorations and calligraphy, as well as many oriental carpets. In the mosque's courtyard, you'll see a pavilion-style fountain (bs. šadrvan), two mausoleums (bs. turbe), where Gazi Husrev-beg and Murat-beg Tardić are buried, graves of prominent Sarajevans from the 19th c., and an Islamic elementary school (bs. mekteb). Near the mosque is a Clock Tower from the 17th c. The clock displays time "a la turca," or according to the lunar calendar. Thus the sun sets at exactly 12.
The old Catholic church was located between the Latin Bridge and Hotel Europe (in Latinluk). It was destroyed by fire in 1697 during the attack carried out by Eugene of Savoy. A new church was not built until 1881, when Sarajevo became the center of the Vrhbosanska diocese, on the site of the contemporary Franciscan church of St. Anthony. The founder of the Vrhbosanska diocese, by order of the Pope, was Archbishop Josip Stadler (1843-1918).
The complex of the Old Orthodox Church, one of the oldest and most valuable cultural and historical monuments in Sarajevo, was built at the beginning of the 16th c. The Temple of the Archangels St. Mikhail and Gabriel occupies the center of the complex. The temple is characterized by a gallery on columns around the central area of the church. The gallery used to only be used by women during prayer times. The bell tower was built in 1881. The church museum was opened in 1889 on the east side of the churchyard, inside of the church storerooms (Daire). The museum consists of 4 exhibition rooms and possesses a valuable collection of icons, manuscripts, books, liturgical objects and artwork. Within the complex you'll also find a summer garden and a wine cellar.
Sarajevo's soul can be found in its "mahala," or residential neighborhoods around the old town. You should be sure to visit these parts of the city, beginning in Baščaršija and on through Kovači to Žuta Tabija (Yellow Bastion). After that, continue along Nevjestina Street to Bijela Tabija (White Bastion). From either Žuta or Bijela Tabija, you can take beautiful panoramic photographs of Sarajevo. Return back down into town via the Vratnik neighborhood and the Širokac Gate. Finally, be sure to take a walk on Ćemerlina, Sagardžije, Logavina and Josipa Štadlera streets.
This is the best way to get to know the part of the city from the Ottoman period, and will reveal Sarajevo's many alleys, fountains and staircases. Some of houses are still preserved and display older architectural features, including large living rooms and high fenced walls.
Traditional Sarajevan cuisine can be sampled in "aščinica," "buregdžinica" (pita) and "ćevabdžinica" (ćevapi).
An aščinica offers soups (including Begova, Sarajevo or vegetable), cooked meals and desserts. The most common dishes included sarma (meat and rice wrapped in pickled cabbage, kale or grape leaves), bamija (cooked okra with meat), small ćevap (pieces of stewed beef with vegetables), and sogan dolma (onions stuffed with minced meat). Vegetables can be ordered as side dishes. Desserts usually include baklava, kadajif and hurmašica. Popular aščinica include ASDŽ, Hadžibajrić and Sofra.
Pita is the most famous traditional Bosnian dish. It's made from jufka (phyllo pastry) wrapped around various fillings. The jufka can stacked in layers, formed into circles or in parallel rolls. The most common types of pita are burek (with meat), sirnica (with cheese), zeljanica (with spinach), and sweet pita with apples (jabukovača).
In Sarajevo, ćevapi is served in somun (a soft flatbread), with chopped raw onion - and if desired - kajmak (sour cream). Well known ćevabdžinica include Ferhatović, Mrkva and Željo.
Numerous traditional and modern cafes and teahouses can be found in the city center. In traditional cafes, coffee is still prepared in the Turkish, or Bosnian, way. Coffee is served in a džezva (a copper vessel) and then can be drunk from a fildžan (a small cup without a handle) with a sugar cube. Something interesting to try is the so-called mashed (bs. tucana) coffee, which is prepared from mashed instead of finely ground coffee.
Be sure to visit the restaurants in the hills surrounding the city. These restaurants offer beautiful views of the city, especially in the evening.