Anyone who has ever travelled in Europe will have more than likely taken in the sights of the most famous, photographed and recommended cities. They will have experienced the romance of Paris, the rich history and delectable food in Rome and experienced the sights and landmarks of London. But what about the lesser known, European cities that people often overlook?
Let us introduce you to Sarajevo, the intriguing, compact and culturally diverse capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, sandwiched between Croatia and Serbia in Europe’s East. Sarajevo has everything that you could want from a European city: rich modern and ancient history, superb architecture, great shopping and a surprisingly vibrant nightlife. Bosnia is not yet using the Euro either which means that visitors get more for their money compared to many Western European cities.
Baščaršija is Sarajevo’s beating heart and is a quaint old town, from the 15th century, complete with cobbled streets and charming narrow alleyways. It is an absolute “must” to spend some time meandering around, checking out the ancient buildings and shops, some of which have been around for hundreds of years. When your feet get tired, stop off at one of the many little cafes with sidewalk tables for a local beer or strong Bosnian coffee. Dine on the cheap and cheerful Burek, a delicious Bosnian beef mince pie of sorts with flaky crispy pastry that can be found in the many bakeries in the area. Shop in the Bezistan, a covered bazaar from the Ottoman era with stalls selling local handicrafts, handbags, jewelry and other unique items. There is a bustling night life scene with plenty of bars, clubs and pubs. One of the standouts is City Pub just outside Baščaršija. Popular with locals, it is a friendly, easy going place that features live music most nights. If you want something a little more traditional, Zlatna Ribica is your place, famous for its unusual décor and eclectic drinks menu.
If architecture is your thing, Sarajevo will not disappoint. The Ottomans, the Austro-Hungarians, the Yugoslav wars and the Siege of Sarajevo have all left their indelible mark on the city, making it one of the most architecturally interesting and diverse cities in Europe. Even if you are not that into architecture, the remarkable and historically significant triple arched Latin bridge is a must visit, it is the location that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, sparking the outbreak of World War I.
It is difficult to get your head around the fact that just over 20 years ago Sarajevo was amidst the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. The 1,425 day siege has left Sarajevo physically scarred, shell holes can still be seen on the facade of many buildings and in the pavements. Look out for “Sarajevo Roses”, scars in the concrete pavements caused by mortar shell explosions that have been filled with red enamel to remember those lost in the siege.
A little way out of the city centre is the not-to-be-missed Tunnel of Hope Museum. A private museum above the tunnel that was built during the Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990’s that allowed for food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to enter the otherwise completely cut off city. It is a great insight into what those years were like for the people of Sarajevo and you can walk through part of the tunnel that has been preserved.
So, take a detour off the well-worn European City trail and let Sarajevo delight you, you absolutely will not be disappointed.