I’ve been exploring Sarajevo but decided to join a guided walking tour today. We walked several hours mostly covering territory in Old Town. Several Bosnians started the tour group – Meet Bosnia – a few years ago. They’re clearly passionate about their city. The tour was rich in history and stories.
The Meet Bosnia office in Old Town is at the corner of Gazi Husrev-Begova and Mula Mustafa Baseskija Streets. With its jewelry shops, Gazi Husrev-Begova is also known as Zlatarska – Goldsmith’s Street. Mula Mustafa Baseskija is near the Eternal Fire, a monument to Sarajevo’s liberation in World War II.
Baščaršija Square – Churches, Fountains, Mosques, Towers
The tour started at Baščaršija Square, the “lively core of Old Town” and home to Sarajevo’s oldest streets and most notable landmarks. Except for churches and temples next to mosques, the area is like a scene from Istanbul. We walked by the Old Orthodox Church dedicated to Archangels Michael and Gabriel. Built in the 16th century, it suffered from fires and destruction, but was repeatedly reconstructed.
We paused at Sebilj, a famous wooden fountain on Baščaršija Square. According to local legend, if you drink water from the fountain you’ll come back to Sarajevo.
We passed Gazi Husrev-Bey Mosque, a beautiful building from the 1500s considered Sarajevo’s “most important architectural monument from Ottoman rule”. We walked through the Bezistan, Sarajevo’s oldest shopping area. It’s near the 16th century Clock Tower which has an unusual clock that keeps lunar time. The clock indicates the five times for daily Islam prayer – dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and night. With the lunar system, “the day begins at sunset and the time shown is 12:00”.
Sarajevo City Hall
The group admired beautiful Sarajevo City Hall (Vijećnica), the most recognizable Austro-Hungarian building in Bosnia. It was the National and University Library and seat of Sarajevo’s city council. Now it’s a venue for major exhibitions and concerts.
Isa Begov Hamam
We passed Isa Beg Hamam, one of two hammams in Sarajevo. The hammam is named after Isa Beg Ishakovich, a successful Ottoman General and the Beg (Governor) of Bosnia Sandzak. Ishakovich is known as the founder of Sarajevo.
I’ve enjoyed a few invigorating Turkish hamams. Visiting Isa Beg’s Hamam is on my list of things to do before leaving Sarajevo. I’ve never felt so clean, relaxed, and refreshed as after the hamam process! This blog post explains the experience.
“The main idea in the Hamam is to use steam and hot water to cleanse the body and create a sensual relaxing.”
Our guide highlighted Sarajevo’s exceptional diversity and the mutual respect among Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, and Islam religions. Sarajevo’s Jewish community has existed for almost five centuries. The Old Jewish Temple is within walking distance of churches and mosques. Today it’s a Balkan museum.
Meeting of Cultures and Roses
We stopped at the “Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures” point on Ferhadija Street – a location tied to the Habsburg Monarchy. The Cathedral of Jesus’ Sacred Heart with a statue of Pope John Paul II is one of many iconic buildings on Ferhadija. Toward the eastern end there’s a marker showing the spot where “East meets West”.
The group listened to pointers on restaurants, cafés, and the best places for local cuisine like ćevapi and burek. Coffee is a very important part of Bosnian culture. Drinking their special strong brew – never to be mistaken for Turkish coffee – is a must. As you drink the coffee you must linger and enjoy the time with your companions.
Latin Bridge and Ferdinand’s Assassination Site
It was a beautiful clear day with temperatures in the high 40s. I’m smitten with Bosnia. Since the weather forecast is good, I’ll take full-day tours tomorrow and Wednesday: