How to Make the Most of Twenty-four Hours in Sarajevo
What to Eat, See, and Do
By Robin Koning on August 9th, 2016
Many of Sarajevo‘s most famous sites are located a stone’s throw from one another in the Bascarjia – Sarajevo’s Old Town – including the Cathedral of Jesus’s Sacred Heart, Ashkenazi Synagogue, the Congregational Church of the Holy Mother, and Gazi Husrev Bey’s Mosque.
“As the sound of craftsmen’s hammers, ringing church bells, and the scent of Turkish coffee fills the air, you’ll feel transported back to the early 15th century…”
Morning is the perfect time to explore the Old Town’s cobblestone, pedestrian-only lanes. Along Copper Street, shopkeepers will be opening stalls filled with Turkish coffee sets, handmade on site out of copper and silver. As the sound of craftsmen’s hammers, ringing church bells, and the scent of Turkish coffee fills the air, you’ll feel transported back to the early 15th century when construction of the Bascarjia began under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Feast on local specialties at Bakeries
Breakfast time in Bosnia means one thing: pita. Sarajevo’s streets are filled with burekdzinice, small bakeries dedicated to selling delicious stuffed phyllo pastries that are popular throughout the Balkans, but Pita is what’s for breakfast. It’s ordered by the gram and is typically washed down with a takeaway container of yoghurt.
“No matter what burekdzinice (bakery) you end up at, you’re in for a filling treat.”
If pita isn’t your style, the most popular types of burek pastries are eljanica (stuffed with spinach and cheese), krompiruša (potato), burek (ground meat), and sirnica (cheese). In the Old Town, head to Ahmo Burekdzinice or Sac Burekdzinice, both located just steps away from the famous Sebilj fountain . No matter what burekdzinice you end up at, you’re in for a filling treat.
Sarajevo lives and breathes history, from the Bascarjia’s fifteenth-century houses of worship to the bullet grazed buildings lining the city’s hilly side streets. While you can kick around the old town on your own, an organized tour will add a layer of history, and make getting to out-of-the-way sites easy. A small handful of tour companies in Sarajevo offer “Sarajevo Siege Tours” so that visitors can hear first-hand accounts from local guides who lived in Sarajevo throughout the Balkan War, while visiting landmarks out of reach by public transport, including the War Tunnel Museum and the Trebević hillside region.
“Sarajevo lives and breathes history, from the Bascarjia’s fifteenth-century houses of worship to the bullet grazed buildings.”
These tours are worth the small splurge: group sizes are typically limited to eight people or less, guides are enthusiastic and eager to share their stories and answer questions. A company worth checking out are Sarajevo Funky Tours, who offer a four hour “Sarajevo Siege Tour” twice daily except on Sundays – for 20 euros (excluding the ten euro museum fee).
Soak up Art and History at Museums and Galleries
Sarajevo’s museums are small, and a
morning would suffice to visit two or three popular spots, including the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Sarajevo City Museum, and the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Museum entrance fees range from 4 to 10 DM.
Art aficionados might prefer to skip the museums altogether and head to Center Skenderija on Terezije Street, an underground shopping mall in desperate need of revitalization, and in the meantime the current home to Sarajevo’s contemporary art scene. Tucked away among corridors lined with nail salons and archaic garment shops are galleries including Charlama Depot and the Collegium Artisticum.
“Tucked away among corridors lined with nail salons and archaic garment shops are galleries…”
Located next door to Skenderija is the Ars Aevi Depot, which will house the Ars Aevi collection of world-class contemporary art until construction of the permanent building – designed by Renzo Piano – is completed. The Depot was designed by Bosnian architect Amir Vuk to resemble a large wooden crate and includes works varying from performance artist Marina Abromovitch to Bosnian collage artist Jusuf Hadžifejzovic. For the most part, art galleries don’t have entrance fees.
Find an Urban Oasis
Spend the afternoon outdoors at Vrelo Bosne Park (Spring of Bosna), a large park located only twelve kilometers from Sarajevo’s city center. To get there take tram #2 to Ilidza, the last stop on the line.
“Inside the park wander along one of the many lakefront paths or settle into a bench and watch the famous Vrelo Bosne bubble out from under a forested hill.”
The entry to the park is a five-minute walk from the station, past a block of bars and cafes and across a small pedestrian bridge. A beautiful 3-kilometer tree lined avenue leads up to the park. If the thirty-minute walk is too much to handle, you’re in luck: settle into a horse-drawn carriage for 15 Euros. Inside the park wander along one of the many lakefront paths or settle into a bench and watch the famous Vrelo Bosne bubble out from under a forested hill. The park has a playground, food stalls, and two cafes where you can enjoy a snack or late lunch.
Sarajevo’s turn hosting the Winter Olympics in 1984 left a strong stamp on the city’s skyline. Olympic Hall Zetra, which housed ice hockey and figure skating during the Games and then suffered substantial damages during the Balkan War in the 90s, and the Sarajevo Olympic Museum are both located on Kosevo Street and worth the thirty-minute walk (or five-minute taxi ride).
Take the tram back towards the Old Town and exit at the intersection of Alipasina Street and Marsala Tita. Hail a cab or walk north up Kosevo Street. Along the way, you’ll pass the Orthodox graveyard where a large tombstone pays tribute to the burial site of Gavril Princip and five other revolutionaries arrested following Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Several blocks ahead is the Zetra Olympic Center, now used for local sporting and civic events.
Located next to the Center is the small Sarajevo Olympic Museum – the original Olympic Museum was bombed during the War (no entrance fee), or walk north of the Zetra for a great view of Sarajevo, the perfect place to take a few photos of the city.
Head back to the Old Town, where as the sun sets, the narrow streets fill with well-dressed locals and camera-toting tourists seeking their watering-hole of choice from the numerous bars, pubs, and sidewalk cafes. Zelenih Beretki Street is home to popular spots including City Lounge Bar and the Viennese Café in Hotel Europe.
“Zelenih Beretki Street is home to popular spots including City Lounge Bar and the Viennese Café in Hotel Europe.”
When the world-renowned Sarajevo Film Festival takes over the city in July, then the best seats in the city are patio-side on Obala Kulina Bana street, where you can watch stars walk the red carpet at the National Theatre. During Jazz Fest Sarajevo in November, catch a performance and quaff a pint at the Have you been to Sarajevo? What would you do with a 24-hour stopover there? Share in the comments.