A warm welcome for visitors to Sarajevo
It may sound like a cliché, but Bosnia and Herzegovina really is a hidden gem in the very heart of Europe. Today, Sarajevo is moving on from its turbulent history and looking forward to a bright future as a vibrant multicultural society.
The previous lack of direct flights has meant that Europeans are not as familiar with Bosnia and Montenegro, as they are with its neighbours Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia, but it has already been discovered by visitors from Turkey and the Middle East.
Many Muslims know Sarajevo for its turbulent history, and especially the terrible attacks which took place on its people, and particularly on its Muslim community, following the break-up of the Republic of Yugoslavia, and Bosnia’s declaration of Independence in 1992. Today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, which applied to join the EU in 2016, is a testament to the strength and positive outlook of its people.
Halal-conscious visitors to Sarajevo will find a warm welcome from local people enthusiastic about sharing their rich heritage and fascinating history.
Here are 5 great reasons to visit Sarajevo now:
1. Delicious Halal Food
Just over half of the population is Muslim but eating halal food seems to be the norm in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In fact, you would have to go out of your way to find food that is not halal. Much of the food has its origins in the Ottoman period, so it has a distinctly Turkish flavour, with a local Bosnian twist. Make sure you try the dzandar baklava– a fine, sweet, sticky pastry, rolled tightly around a creamy filling. Cevapcici are small sausage-like kebabs, made from minced meat, wrapped in flat bread, whilst the traditional Bosnian burekis filo pastry stuffed with minced meat, rolled in a spiral and cut into sections. Whatever you choose to try, wash it down with a cup of strong Bosnian coffee – it’s reminiscent of the Turkish variety, but in Bosnia you dissolve the sugar on the side, before adding it.
2. Beautiful Countryside
Sarajevo is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. Take the cable car up to the top of Mount Trebević for stunning panoramic views over the city. Sarajevo was famously the host city for the 1984 Winter Olympics, and there are two popular ski resorts within a short drive of the city: Jahorina and Bjelašnica, also known as Babin Do. Stay at the alcohol-free Hotel Han Bjelašnica. It’s easy to hire equipment locally and the resort has recently been updated with new ski lifts and snow cannon. In summer, the mountains are perfect for hiking or mountain biking. If you want to travel further afield, one of the best ways to view the countryside, with its green rolling hills and clear rivers, is to take the train for the two-hour journey to Mostar.
3. Rich Ottoman Heritage
Sarajevo’s beautiful old town of Baščaršija feels very much like an Ottoman city, with its narrow streets and grand Ottoman squares, fountains and mosques. It is an inspiring experience to pray in the 16th century Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque and visit its Medresa, which is still the focal point for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Muslim community. The city’s oldest mosque, meanwhile, is the Emperor’s Mosque or Careva Dzamija, which was the first to be built after the Ottomans conquered the city, in 1457. To see how local Muslim families lived during Sarajevo’s Ottoman period, visit the beautifully preserved Svrzo’s House, which gives an insight into urban Muslim lifestyle during the late 18th and 19th centuries.
4. Powerful Recent History
The Tunnel Museum is Sarajevo’s most-visited attraction. It is impossible not to be moved by the archive film and other exhibits here which tell the story of the tunnel, which was the only connection between Sarajevo and the outside world, during the siege of the city from 1992-1996. You can even walk through part of the original tunnel, giving a small insight into the suffering of the people of Sarajevo. You may also wish to pay your respects at the grave of Alija Izetbegović, the renowned Muslim politician, writer and philosopher, who was the first President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Kovači War Memorial and Cemetery.
5. Great Value for Money
The local currency is the Bosnian Mark and those travelling from elsewhere in Europe, with Sterling or Euros, will find that their money goes a long way. Eating out is great value for money as is getting around by taxi or public transport. The tram network in Sarajevo is very easy to use – just pay the driver as you get on. If you want to pick up some souvenirs to take home for family and friends, then the stalls and shops of Baščaršija are a great place to start. Intricate jewellery, ceramics and the famous copperware all make excellent presents. You can still see copperware being made in the traditional way on Sarajevo’s renowned Coppersmith Street.
Here are some of our top choices:
📍 Osenik, Sarajevo
Hotel Han Bjelasnica