Sarajevo turned out to the biggest surprise of our Balkan trip. It is an interesting historical city with beautiful architecture and lush green hills. However, the greatest asset of Sarajevo is its multicultural character. One moment you imagine yourself in the streets of Istanbul and a little later you think that you are in Vienna or Budapest. Sarajevo is a city that brings different worlds together. Here are my tips for multicultural Sarajevo.
5x Tips for multicultural Sarajevo
1. Taste the Ottoman influences
For Sarajevo, the Ottoman empire had a crucial influence. This empire founded the city in 1461. For four centuries Sarajevo belonged to the Ottomans and they developed it into a modern European city. Nowadays, you can still see many Ottoman influences in the city. Take for example the old city center, Baščaršija. A walk here almost feels like a stroll through old Istanbul. Taste the oriental atmosphere in the tea houses and baklava cafes and walk through the streets of the bazaar.
Sarajevo Tips: things to see in Baščaršija
- Sebilj on the Baščaršija: a wooden water fountain from 1753. They say that if you take a sip of the water, you will someday return to Sarajevo.
- Gazi-Husrev-Beg Mosque: the oldest and biggest mosque in the city. If you are planning on visiting this mosque, please make sure that your knees and shoulders are covered.
- Taslihan ruins: once the largest caravanserai of the region. Up to 90 travelers and their horses could stay here overnight.
- Latin Bridge: the spot where Gavrillo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914. This event triggered the First World War.
2. Look up to the heritage of Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary took over rule in 1878 and innovated Sarajevo. This empire installed Europe’s first tram in Sarajevo. They also gave the city a facelift. A large fire in 1880 certainly ‘helped’ with the reconstruction. The Austro-Hungarian style was characterized by neoclassical and pseudo-Moorish architecture. The most beautiful buildings can be found at Ferhadija Street and Obala Kulina Bana.
Sarajevo Tips: You don’t want to miss these Buildings
- Vijećnica, the city hall of Sarajevo. This was the largest building of Austro-Hungarian Sarajevo.
- Sarajevska Pivara: this brewery survived the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian rule. It is still up and running.
- Sarajevo Main Post Office, more than just a post office. This building has a beautiful interior with a glass roof, chandeliers, and many more stunning details.
- Academy of the Arts: built as an evangelical church. After 1918 many evangelical Christians left Sarajevo. Nowadays the building is used as an Art Academy.
3. Stand at the Meeting point of East and West
There is one place in the city which functions as a clear marker for the different historical periods of Sarajevo. This is the ‘Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures’, an inlaid marker on the Ferhadija street. If you look in one direction, you will see a typical Turkish street scene. If you look the other way, you see a Viennese street scene. An interesting spot where the worlds from east and west meet each other. Near this marker, you will find Slatko Cose. This crossing has a pastry shop located on every corner. So visit the meeting point and have a cake and a coffee.
4. Churches & mosques next to each other
Sarajevo has always been a multicultural city. According to the 1991 census, half of the population was Bosnian Muslim and one-third were Serbian Orthodox. There was also a small group of Croatian Catholics. Despite the different religions, the city has always shown a lot of tolerance. Background or religion did not really matter. The buildings in Sarajevo are a good reflection of this multicultural character. On the Trg Fra Grge Martića, you will find the Sacred Heart Cathedral. This is the largest Roman Catholic cathedral of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A few streets away there is an Orthodox church. And one street further you will find the Ferhajjia dzamija (mosque). And all this within a radius of 500 meters!
5. Remember the Jerusalem of Europe
In addition to churches and mosques, Sarajevo also used to have a synagogue. This is the Old Synagogue, today the Jewish Historical Museum. In the 16th century, a large number of Sephardic Jews settled in Sarajevo after being exiled in Spain. They were on good terms with the Ottomans. After 1945, there were only 1,000 Jewish people left. The Bosnian war in the nineties was a second turning point. In four years, more than 10,000 people died. These historical events changed the balance of Sarajevo.
Have you also been to Sarajevo? I’d love to hear your Sarajevo tips.