Beautifully set amongst mountain ranges, Sarajevo is an awe-inspiring city. Traditional Bosnian houses cover the sides of the valleys. The renowned Old Town allures visitors with a variety of scents, sounds, and colors. Chaotic streets are full of people, out of which each one carries a bunch of incredible stories. In Sarajevo, everything seems to be alive, including the buildings, the trees, the temples, and statues.
Despite its charm, Sarajevo is one of the least visited capitals in Europe. It deserves more attention, especially from authentically interested, caring travelers. If you are not yet convinced to visit this city, here is a list of reasons why you should do it.
History of Sarajevo
For many, the word ‘Sarajevo’ still only awakens the images of war and suffering. The city has been through a dramatic turmoil indeed. A lot of terrible things happened inside of its walls during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s. Sarajevo has suffered the longest siege in the modern history – it lasted 1425 days. Bullet holes, museums, exhibitions and the melancholic looks of locals who often seem to be lost in the past, all of these remind of this tragic time. Nevertheless, Sarajevo is now a safe city. Its history should not be a reason for visitors to avoid visiting it. In contrary, the past should be remembered and learned about. When visiting Sarajevo, do not forget to visit at least some of the museums (i.e., the Bosnian Historical Museum, the National Museum or the Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum).
Even though Europe these days is very multicultural, not many cities are as diverse as Sarajevo. Islam, Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Judaism have been present there for many centuries. This mixture used to be a cause of serious conflicts, but it has also made a fascinating place out of the modern city of Sarajevo.
Sarajevo tends to make people bigger, not only in the philosophical sense of learning and developing but also in the very down-to-earth sense of gaining some ground, fatty kilos. The food there is as hearty as yummy, so make sure to pack some loose pants when going for the trip. You will not want to restrain yourself when faced with the beauty of Bosnian pita. If you like meat, you should try burek – a meat pie. If you prefer vegetarian food, go for sirnica ( a pita filled with cheese), krompirusa (pita with potatoes) or zeljanica (pita with spinach). Cevapi, a meaty fast food, is perfect if you are hungry and in a hurry. If you want to try something lighter, order punjena paprika (stuffed pepper). Besides, do not forget to try as many local cheeses as possible.
The Old Town is full of lovely, old-style cafés, where you can get a cup of real Bosnian coffee. Even though people constantly compare Bosnian coffee to the Turkish one and usually repeat it is the same thing – it is not. Bosnians have developed their tricks that make their coffee unique, and they are proud of it. Besides, drinking coffee plays an important part in the daily life culture. The locals love to gather around a table, sip their coffees for hours and discuss greatly significant matters.
Art & festivals
As an eventful capital, Sarajevo has a lot to offer to those who are interested in arts and culture. There are plentiful events being held on a daily basis, as well as regular larger festivals. One of the most famous events is the Sarajevo Film Festival (http://www.sff.ba/en). It was founded in 1995, during the siege of Sarajevo. If you are planning to visit Bosnia-Herzegovina in August, you definitely should not miss it.
For theater enthusiasts, there is MESS, the International theater festival Sarajevo. It is held annually in October. November brings some treats to music lovers. During the Jazz Fest, you can hear some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians. In case you happen to be in Sarajevo in February-March, you do not have to worry the winter is going to be dull and boring – there is the Sarajevska Zima art festival. This great event brings together artists from all over the world.
It is one of the cheapest capitals in Europe. You can get a coffee for about a Euro (keep in mind though that Bosnia and Herzegovina have its own currency – the convertible marka), delicious meal for about 3-4 Euros or a bed in a cozy hostel dorm for 10-15 Euros. Even the lowest prices often come with great quality. You can get seriously surprised being served a huge lunch that costs less than 5 Euros.
The rich history and cultural mixture have lots of effects on the city of Sarajevo, but one of them is especially evident – the wondrous architecture. The streets of Sarajevo are full of buildings representing so many styles and eras; it is truly mind-blowing to walk and look around. Churches, synagogues, and mosques stand right next to each other, singing their religious songs, calling to prayers, surrounded by the aura of awe and wonder. Sad but beautiful, local cemeteries with their marble gravestones remind of the city’s lost residents and their often tragic stories.
The market, on the other hand, is full of life and colors. Its little oriental shops might not be examples of grand architecture, but they are adding something specific to the city’s ambiance. Then there is also the Yellow Fortress with its great views of the town, the famous Latin Bridge, and the impressive City Hall.
As if the city itself was not beautiful enough, its surrounding is impressive too. Located amongst marvelous mountains, Sarajevo can boast with a perfect setting. The mountains are not just pretty though. They also make an excellent destination for hiking, trekking and skiing enthusiasts. Besides, Sarajevo is a good base for a day or weekend trips. There are many lovely places nearby, such as Mostar or Visegrad (both of them are about 100km away).
All of the things mentioned above make Sarajevo a perfect destination for travelers, especially backpackers and adventurers. Even the travelers who have already seen most of Europe can get surprised with this bewitching town. It is as exotic as Europe can get, as colorful, charmingly chaotic and crazy as backpackers could ask for. The atmosphere one can sense in Sarajevo is impossible to be found elsewhere. While each city is original in its own way, Sarajevo’s originality goes beyond imagination.
Are you convinced now? Let us know! And do not forget about sharing this article with your friends – let’s spread the information about this fascinating yet overlooked city!