Sarajevo at a glance
Because the fascinating, multi-faith Bosnian capital embodies the strength of the human spirit.
New businesses are setting up all over the Miljacka river in Novo Sarajevo.
You probably didn’t know
Sarajevo was only the second city in the world, after San Francisco, to have a tram network.
Suggested reading and viewing
To read: The Cellist of Sarajevo (Steven Galloway, 2008). To watch: Welcome to Sarajevo (1997) focuses on journalists who risked their lives during the Siege.
- Population: 370,000
- Annual visitor numbers: 1.7 million (2014)
- January mean temperature: -2°C
- August mean temperature: 25°C
Things to do in Sarajevo
An unpromising location in a residential area, way up in north Sarajevo (take a taxi) hides a real gem; the Kibe Mahala is the place to come for spit-roasted lamb and other classic Bosnian specialities – as well as a simply jaw-dropping view over the city.
Groovy Noovi matches quality regional wines with fresh local produce and a distinct Italian flavour. It’s a bit of a climb, so perhaps arrive by taxi – but the reward is a gorgeous view over Sarajevo.
Pretty waterside Spite House (Inat kuća) offers classic Bosnian fare, grilled meats, stuffed peppers, cheese pies in rustic surroundings. Try and get a prime river-view table on the first floor.
4 Sobe Gospode Safije
4 Sobe Gospode Safije translates as ‘The Four Rooms of Mrs Safija’ and refers to a local love story concerning a Sarajevo beauty and a Habsburg Count. The restaurant that carries this name is elegance itself. Similarly, its dishes are sumptuous: think slow-roast lamb with pistachio or sea bass with fresh ginger. Set over three floors, it’s also a wine bar and lounge.
A popular spot for late breakfast or lunch in the burgeoning business quarter of Grbavica over the Miljacka, Peppers is adept at providing a Western clientele with swift but tasty pastas, soups and salads. International beers and jazzy sounds keep things jigging along till midnight.
Sarajevo’s own Hacienda is rather different from its Manchester namesake, with Latin-tinged cocktails, Tex-Mex food and DJs spinning salsa, Cuban funk and danceable jazz. The Tamburasi folk group are also welcome regulars and there’s usually a kazoo band at some point in the week.
The old market quarter of Bascarsija is not all grilled-meat eateries and Turkish coffee. The funky Ma Jaba Bar adds a contemporary touch, with cheap but decent cocktails, an adventurous music policy and a scuffed, bohemian feel. There are weekend parties too.
Live entertainment at the legendary Kino Bosna can vary enormously – it could be an indie band, a fashion show, a Charlie Chaplin tribute night. Most of all, the former May 1 Cinema is a nightspot where everyone goes, whatever the schedule, to mingle and sink drinks in the expansive bar done out with classic film posters.
Harking back to Sarajevo’s Ottoman heyday, at the main crafts market of Bascarsija in the heart of the Old Town you can still see artisans finely crafting copperware, leatherwork and exquisite filigree jewellery. Some of the larger objects are fashioned from old shell cases from the Siege. Craftsmen always expect you to bargain when buying their wares.
Guides, coffee-table photo books and fiction you wouldn’t find elsewhere, in English and major European languages, are found on the shelves of the estimable Buybook. There are also non-mainstream postcards and sundry tasteful souvenirs, plus an in-house café so that you can peruse your purchase over a strong coffee.
Sarajevo is known for having a mosque, an Orthodox church, a Catholic church and a synagogue all in one small area in the city centre. The mosque is the Gazi Husrev-Beg, created by one of the finest architects of the Ottoman era, Mimar Sinan; it features a 45-metre-high minaret, a fountain and an enclosed garden that was once the official residence of Bosnia’s Ottoman rulers.
The Sarajevo Museum
Schoolchildren currently learning about World War I during the centenary events should be fascinated to see the actual bridge – Latinska Cuprija – where Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A plaque explains where everyone was standing on that fateful day in 1914. Next to the bridge, the Sarajevo Museum 1878-1918 shows the run-up to events and explains the reasons for Princip’s actions.
Events to look out for:
- Sarajevo Winter (February)
- Bascarsija Nights (July)
- Sarajevo Film Festival (August)
- International Theatre Festival (October)
- Sarajevo Jazz Festival (November)
- Statehood Day (November)
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