John & Rachael welcome you to the city of Sarajevo & its ski resorts
There is something about its streets heavily influenced by the time Bosnia was part of the Austro/Hungarian Empire and its Ottoman influenced old town (Bascarsija) that bring you under its spell. The people of Sarajevo are friendlier than your average city folk and there is a unique culinary scene that combines Balkan delights with eastern flavours. When you visit you won't be able to stop yourself falling in love with Sarajevo’s diverse and wondrous culture.
Aside from all of the above, less than 45 minutes drive from Sarajevo are ski resorts that offer unrivalled value, beautiful pistes and a fare amount of snow. The Sarajevo winter Olympics of 1984 are testament to a reputation of a prime winter sports location that is slowly re-establishing its self.
The old center of Sarajevo, Bascarsija was built as a bustling bazaar during the Turkish Ottoman period. Today the narrow streets are still filled with tradesmen selling their wares and eateries serving up traditional dishes. Bascarsija is a great place to pick up a souvenir such as a copper coffee pot or to try Sarajevo’s legendary cevapi. Here you will also find several important religious buildings as well as the Sebilj, a fresh water fountain. It is said if you drink from the fountain you are sure to return to Sarajevo.
At every turn of the city there are impressive examples of architecture, each marking an important historical period. The Bascarsija highlights the Ottoman rule. The row of buildings running along the river highlight the best of the Austro-Hungarian period. The University of Sarajavo and The City Hall (the formal library which was rebuilt after the Sarajevo Siege) being particularly great examples. The Post-war period brought about modernisation to the city with the Aziz Twisting Tower and the reconstructed Hotel Holiday dominating the skyline. You’ll need your camera handy to take a lot of photos!
As you look along the Milijacka river, you will count a number of bridges many telling an interesting story. It was at one end of the Latin Bridge where the Archduke Franz Ferdinand from Austria was assassinated which triggered a series of events which led to the start of WW1. The Festina Lente is a modern counstruction, the design of three students. It translates “make haste slowly”. The Suada and Olga bridge (formally Vrbanja bridge) named after Sarajevo's Romeo and Juliet, may not be one of beauty but the poignant sad event which took place here during the Sarajevo Siege makes it one of the most important.
Sarajevo is a melting pot of cultures as exemplified by the diverse places of worship dotted around the city. Beautiful mosques, churches, cathedrals and synagogues can all be found. These include the Emperor's Mosque (the oldest mosque in Sarajevo), the Sacred Heart Cathedral (the oldest cathedral in Bosnia and Herzegovina) the Askenazi Synagogue and the Old Orthodox Church (one of the oldest places of worship in Sarajevo).
You certainly won’t go hungry in Sarajevo! Some traditional dishes to try include cevapi (look out for cevapdzinicas), burek & pastry pies (look out for buregdzinicas) and bosanski lonac (look out for ascinicas). All of these places serve quick and good value dishes. For something sweet, be sure to try baklava. It won’t take you long to see how important coffee is to Sarajevo and don’t leave without taking time to enjoy a Bosnian coffee. Craft beer is becoming popular through the city so make sure you try a few IPAs or for something stronger, a shot of rakija, the nation's drink! A fun way to learn about the culture of Sarajevo is through its food & drink.
If you want to see the full beauty of Sarajevo city, you’ll want to get up high for some unbeatable panoramic views. Take the lift all the way to the top of the Avaz Twisted Tower. Here you can look out across the city whilst enjoying a coffee and cake from the cafe. Without a car it’s a hike up, but from the white and yellow forts you will be rewarded with some breath-taking views across Sarajevo. Finally, from the Old Jewish cemetery, which in itself is definitely worth visiting, you will have views of the nearby neighbourhood and the skyscrapers of the city.
Vrela Borne is a nature park which includes a spring of the Bosna river. It is a stunningly beautiful and relaxing place, perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of city life. There are a number of paths for walking & cycling and a restaurant located in the park (the local trout is delicious). There is also a play area for children. You can drive to the park where you pay a small amount to park, or arrive in style via a horse and carriage which departs from the nearby town of Ilidza.
Also known as the Tunnel of Hope, this underground tunnel was built during the Siege of Sarajevo by the Bosnian army. Cut off by the Serbian forces, the tunnel connected two Bosnian towns in Sarajevo – one within the sieged area and one outside. It facilitated the movement of food, aid and other supplies, as well as people. You can visit part of the tunnel and the War Tunnel museum independently. However for a thorough explanation, we would would recommend a guided visit.
In 1984, the Winter Olympics was held in a socialist state for the first time, at Sarajevo. It was regarded as a huge success and was a massive boast for the country. Sadly, during the Yugoslav war, the Olympic sites were abandoned and have slowly turned to ruins. That said, the old ski slopes at Igman and the bobsled and luge tracks at Trebevic are interesting to visit and evoke nostalgia. The mountains of Bjelasnica and Jahorina still provide great alpine ski. There is also an Olympics Musuem with several donated items as part of its collection.
Just 40 minutes from the airport to Jahorina and 50 minutes to Bjelasnica, the mountains and ski resorts in Sarajevo offer great skiing or boarding for all. Blue, red and black slopes can be found at both mountains and are served by aerial and surface lifts. Equipment hire is available and you’ll find lots of instructors offering lessons. You can also hire sledges, ideal for children. There is plenty of accommodation close by and many restaurants and cafe-bars. Whether you come here for your winter ski holiday or just visit the mountains for one day, the snowy views are beautiful.