Why Sarajevo is your next weekend break destination
Named one of 2014 Best Trips by National Geographic, the “Urban Phoenix”, capital of young Bosnia Hercegovina will transport and surprise you. With a mix of history, spirituality, culture and gastronomy, Sarajevo offers an alternative to traditional week-end break destinations like Paris, Roma or Prague. Ice on the cake, it’s one of Europe hidden germs that crowds of tourists have not invaded yet!
Sarajevo is a seducing blend of Europe and Orient, a place where Austro-hungarian buildings complement elegantly a landscape where the red from the tile roofs dominates and dozen of minarets point to the sky.
Some scars of the 1990s conflict may still be visible, but you will discover a city far from the images of media coverage of this period. And will be seduced by a warm and welcoming culture and by turkish heritage.
Where to wander and soak up Sarajevo’s special vibe
- Start by strolling along the Miljacka River to admire Austro-Hungarian buildings (strong presence in the XIXe), until the exact spot of 1914’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that you have seen in your history books.
- Stop for a kafa (Bosnian coffee) at classic Ottoman house Inat Kuca at the end of Riverbank, from where you can admire the National Library. Totally burnt down during the war, it finally is getting its splendor back thanks to a restoration financed by Austria and European Commission. A strong symbol of the renaissance of the capital.
- For more Austro-Hungarian buildings, walk along Marsala Tita until the eternal flame that commemorates WWII.
- You have then reached Ferhadija Saraci, one of the main pedestrian streets, and a place full of contrast: within 200m you can visit a catholic cathedral, an orthodox church and a mosque.
- At the end of the street lies the famous turkish old quarter from the XVth century, Bascarsija. Get lost in the back alleys, narrow street and hidden years. Admire the traditional art of craftsmen in their wooden shops, discover awesome snacks in “restaurants” that have been here for decades or centuries. Relax in the spiritual ambiance of imams’ calling for prayer.
- It’s at night-time that I personally found the atmosphere of Bascarsija especially captivating. Maybe because after dawn the area is still a favourite of locals to hangout, especially during the Ramadan fast.
- You can also walk up the narrow and steep streets at the edge of turkish quarter to embrace the city skyline and its red tile roofs.
Ambiance of Sarajevo
Take a short visit of the old turkish quarter in music with local pop singer and national icon Dino Merlin (he actually represented Bosnia at Eurovision song contest twice). The song is poetically called “Dagoba” = Hopefully
Get there and get around
With directs flights from many European cities (Stockholm, Munich, Koln, Vienna, Zurich, Stuttgart..), Sarajevo is an ideal destination for a weekend. It’s also closer that what you may think (for example, only 1h30 from Munich).
Most of points of interest for the visitors are concentrated in central Sarajevo, making it perfect for a 2 days exploration by foot. You can use your last day to take a day trip to nearby mountain for outdoor activity (more in a future post).
May – October is the best time to explore the city.
Now it’s your turn: What’s your picture of Sarajevo?