Sarajevo is where East meets West in Europe. A cosmopolitan city that effortlessly incorporates its Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Slavic roots, Sarajevo is a cultural and architectural feast for visitors.
Sarajevo is the political and cultural capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A city vibrant with cafes, music, art and world-class cultural events, Sarajevo has seen a remarkable renaissance since the end of the war in 1995. Most of the city has been repaired and rebuilt in resplendence beyond its history, though some signs of the war still remain.
As the crossroads of cultures and faiths, Sarajevo has often been described as the "Jerusalem of Europe", with an Orthodox church, Catholic cathedral, synagogue and mosque within easy walking distance. Visitors who want to better understand the city can explore its distinctive Roman, medieval, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian architecture, or simply soak up the contemporary urban scene in the city’s many restaurants and cafes.
Bascarsija (Old Town)
Visitors take a step back in time as they walk forward down the sixteenth-century cobble-stoned streets that weave through the Turkish quarters among graceful mosques and old craft shops. The Bascarsija is home to the finest Bosnian carpets, handicrafts and traditional cuisine. Highlights of this oriental quarter include the Bey’s mosque, covered market, traditional coffeehouses, and travelers’ inns that are now restaurants with secluded courtyards.
The Museum “Sarajevo 1878 – 1918” is small in size but large in historical significance. Located in the Old Town, along the river and major tramlines, this museum presents the history of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and graphic details on the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne, and his wife Sophia.
Tucked in a narrow street above the Old Town, Svrzo’s House is a carefully restored eighteenth-century merchant’s home. Furnished in the style of the period, this personal museum represents Sarajevo’s domestic Ottoman architecture and traditional housing arrangements.
Set in the old Turkish public bath in the Old Town, close to the Sarajevo Cathedral and the outdoor market, The Bosniak Institute is a private institution devoted to the history of the Muslim population in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It houses a collection of rare books and manuscripts and a gallery.
An essential stop on the journey through the history and culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina is The Jewish Museum. The museum is part of the oldest synagogue in Sarajevo built in the sixteenth century by the Sephardic Jews who found a new home in Sarajevo after their expulsion from Spain. Following damage from fires and the Nazi regime, the temple has been restored and today displays documents and other exhibits testifying to the enduring history of Jews in this country.
Across from Sarajevo's landmark Holiday Inn Hotel, The National Museum presents the natural history, archaeological and ethnological treasures of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the priceless Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated traditional Jewish manuscript from the 14th century. The museum’s four buildings date from the Austro-Hungarian era and are situated around an inner courtyard with a small botanical garden.
The Bosnian Historical Museum, very close to the National Museum on Sarajevo's main avenue, belongs on any visitor's 'to do' list. This museum displays a permanent exhibition of Sarajevo under siege, where visitors can get a glimpse of how Sarajevans kept going despite the war.
During the siege of Sarajevo, the inhabitants built a tunnel under the airport, and it soon became the lifeline for the city, as it was the only way for goods and people to be transported. The tunnel ended in the home of a family, and today The Sarajevo Tunnel Museum houses the last 20 meters of the tunnel. The museum is open daily for visitors who want to experience a walk through the tunnel and learn about its history during the most recent war.
Sarajevo is famous for hosting the 1984 Winter Olympics, and skiing is just half an hour from the city center at Bjelasnica, Mt. Igman and Jahorina ski resorts. In summer the resorts double as hiking and picnicking areas.
In 2005, a local archaeologist discovered strange, triangular hills outside the nearby town of Visoko, and claimed that they were ancient “Bosnian Pyramids” erected by residents who lived there 12,000 years ago. Despite a great deal of controversy surrounding the claim, the Pyramids have become a pilgrimage site. Guided walks of the stone blocks and other elements of the dig are on offer; even hard-hat tours into the hillside can be arranged.
On the road from Sarajevo to Mostar, the town of Konjic is the gateway to riverrafting on the Neretva and camping, swimming and picnics at nearby Boracko Lake. Downtown Konjic is also home to one of the area’s oldest furniture makers, the Niksic brothers, who still make traditional Bosnian furniture on-site at affordable prices.
Further down toward Mostar, the town of Jablanica is an almost obligatory stop for its local specialty: roast lamb on a spit.
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