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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Sarajevo Guide

When my family first decided to go to Croatia oh so long ago, my dad and I knew if we were that close to Sarajevo, a day trip must be made. We are both huge history lovers and seeing the corner where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated to start The Great War was important. Now that I'm back, I think visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina should be something you seriously consider if you are going to the region. The country is gorgeous, and it's a fascinating country to witness firsthand. It's kind of east-meets-west as half of the country is Muslim and the other half are made up of Orthodox Christians and Catholics. I saw more mosques in five square miles than I've ever seen in my life — and I think that is important given the climate that we live in. Plus, Sarajevo is a little rougher around the edges, you can see the USSR's influence, more than in places like Dubrovnik. They don't experience as much tourism as other European countries, and while we were there, I didn't hear another American accent, some British but mainly people from countries closer to the area. We got out of our comfort zone a bit, and I think that with travel, you should do that. Experience another culture, try different foods, you know all those cliche things. But seriously, if you have the opportunity, I would go and here is my guide if you do — xoxo darling, Hayden. P.S. As a reminder, we went for a day, so I don't have recommendations on where to stay, and it's not a ton of things to do, so take that into consideration. 

How to Get There:

If you are doing a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, you'll probably fly or drive or whatever. Since we were in Dubrovnik, we took a day trip with Amico Tours. And let me tell you, it was totally worth it. If you choose to go to Sarajevo, be prepared for about a four-hour car ride through the mountains. As a person who gets car sick like crazy, I took Bonine and wore Sea Bands. I never got ill and was so happy with the long drive because Bosnia was absolutely beautiful. We drove through adorable towns and saw the most breathtaking scenery. We met our guide, Gabriel, at 6am outside the Dubrovnik City Walls and proceeded to drive along the coast in a super comfy Mercedes, like I said it was worth it! Gabriel was a fantastic guide; he is from Bosnia, so we got to learn about the country as we drove — when we weren't sleeping, we went on our second day so the jet lag was intense. He gave us recommendations for food (see below) that were wonderful and I, overall, cannot stress enough how great Amico was (p.s. not sponsored, I just loved it).

What To Do:

Walk around Old Town

As with any city, the best thing to do is just walk around, get your bearings and see the architecture fo the town. Old Town is a fascinating mix of design. You have Ottoman buildings, Mosques, a little Austro-Hungarian color and, of course, USSR style cement block buildings. Old Town is tiny, and I would suggest walking up and down each street, you'll see tourists and locals drinking coffee, doing their shopping and maybe see something you want to do while you're visiting. 

Sarajevo Museum & Latin Bridge

The biggest highlight of our trip was seeing one of the most important street corners in the world. It was a Sunday, so this museum was closed, but I'm sure it's great. There is a marker set into the wall that talks about the assassination. You can also walk across the bridge that the Archduke and his wife crossed shortly before being killed. It's powerful to stand there, knowing that so many people's fate changed that day in June 1914. 

Sarajevo City Hall

Also known as Vijećnica, the city hall is a must-see, if just for the architecture, which is pseudo-Moorish. It was completed in 1894 but destroyed in 1992, after it had been turned into the National Library. They lost the building and so many Bosnian manuscripts. But, they rebuilt it, and it reopened in 2014. Aside from its beauty, it's a testament to the resilience of the country. 

Gazi Husrev-beg's Bezistan

This is the covered bazaar of Old Town and is a piece of Ottoman culture nestled in Sarajevo. It was presumably built in 1540 and is a must walk through. You'll find vendors selling everything from traditional coffee sets to knock-off designer bags. I would suggest a quick walk-through to see the vaulted ceilings.


This public fountain, located at the center square of the oldest section of the city, is considered one of the symbols of Sarajevo. It's made of intricately carved wood and was built in 1753. The fountain makes for a great meeting point or just a beautiful photograph. Also, in researching it, I discovered there is a replica in St. Louis, which is so cool! 
A short walk from the old town is the brewery of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It opened in 1864 and has been making beer ever since. The brewery is the only European brewery whose production was not interrupted during the Ottoman Empire or during the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy — crazy, right? The museum is a tiny gallery in the giant complex but is a cool way to introduce yourself to the history of the brewery before sampling one of their creations. 

Where to eat & drink: 

This is the place to go for burek, a traditional pastry filled with meat from Turkey. It's cooked slow, buried in a covered pan under coals. Bosnians eat it for any meal, and it is a common food in the country. ASDž is a little spot in old town that serves up some of the best. We tried three different kinds — potato and onion, meat with yogurt and spinach and cheese. I loved the potato the most; I will not lie when I say the yogurt covered one freaked me out a bit. But Bosnians seem to love their yogurt, it often can be ordered as a thinner substance than what we're used to, and it comes in a glass that they drink with their meal. 
One of my favorite foods from our trip was Ćevapi. It's considered the national dish of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is made up of grilled minced meat, served inside a pita called sonum. Get it with Kaymak, a condiment kind of like clotted cream to smear on the sonum and meat. I suggest sitting outside to enjoy the weather and watch life go by as you scarf the delicious dish down. 
This place, right by ASDž, has so many different types of baklava it might blow your mind. Growing up with a Greek best friend, I thought I knew about the dish, but dang, it's so much more! I will say, the treat from this shop was super sweet, so if you don't like overly sweet things, maybe skip it. I liked the chocolate walnut, but my parents weren't the biggest fans due to the sugar levels. 
Since you've been to the museum at this point, might I suggest heading next door to one of the most beautiful brewery taprooms I've ever seen? It's soaring ceilings, massive bar and dark woods make you feel like you're drinking in a brewery that has seen some things and come through it stronger than ever. Be forewarned: the cigarette smell is heavy in the air, and the bartender will probably be smoking while he serves you — but that's authentic. The lager, which is the most popular beer in the country, is good and a classic. 
If you're visiting Sarajevo, you must try Turkish coffee. It seems to be a staple of life for locals and tourists alike. We chose this cafe randomly, and I will say the guys behind the counter were super nice! The coffee itself is an experience, you get it served in the classic pitcher, called a cezve, and then pour it over a sugar cube into a kahve fincanı, or traditional cup. You can see my mom doing it here. I loved it; it's strong and creamy. Plus, I think it is worth it for the experience.

Other Resources:

  • Here is my vlog of our trip to Sarajevo, it's inside the Croatia vlog so that link starts at the Bosnia and Herzegovina portion of the journey.
  • Be prepared for the cigarette smoke. It's not illegal to smoke in restaurants and bars in Bosnia. We tried to avoid it as we are all not fans, but it's unavoidable. 
  • Public Restrooms — okay, let's have a serious conversation. This is not a thing in the country, at least the kind we're used to. The public restrooms in old town are, literal, holes in the ground where you squat over them to pee. Now, I did not have a problem with this because I will use the bathroom pretty much anywhere, but some other people in my family were not fans. The ones you pay for are much cleaner than the free ones, so pay! The brewery was the only place where we found a normal bathroom; none of the restaurants we went to seemed to have them. Just want y'all to be prepared! 
  • Below is a map with everything mentioned in this guide, so you can plan your own trip.

1 comment:

  1. This looks like a dream destination!