1. Because the Old Bazaar is utterly enchanting
Perched on the steep slopes of the Miljacka Valley, Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s old bazaar, is a noisy, hectic and smoky neighbourhood that’s quite unlike anywhere else in the Balkans.
Pick your way through the maze of narrow alleys, bursting with ancient Ottoman monuments, sweet-smelling ćevabdžinica and street corner cafés, and a motley assortment of stalls selling all manner of goods, from slippers and sandals to coffee sets and copperware.
Baščaršija © sashk/Shutterstock
2. Because this is where you’ll find the best cevapcici in the Balkans
…and that’s quite a feat given the status this legendary staple has in the region.
These calorific rissoles of spiced minced meat are typically served with kajmak (a thick, slightly sour cheese) or ajvar (roasted red pepper spread), and somun, a deliciously doughy flatbread.
Take your pick from any number of outlets in Baščaršija serving these delicious morsels, but ask any local, and there’s a fair chance that they’ll point you in the direction of Ćevabdžinica Petica.
3. …and coffee too
Whisper it quietly though; they don’t like to call it Turkish coffee round these parts. Bosanska kafa is the name of the game, yet to all intents and purposes, the process is the same. Presentation, however, is all-important: served on a thin metal tray, the bubbling coffee is poured from a cute copper vessel (džezva) into small tumblers (fildžan).
Sugar lumps can be added if so desired – the common practice is to dip aforementioned lump into coffee before a wee nibble to customize yourself with the taste. Just park yourself down at any street café and give it a go; it’s a fair bet that you’ll be hooked.
Bosanska kafa © Merlot Levert/Shutterstock
4. Because it boasts two world class summer festivals
Festival-wise, Sarajevo is fortunate to host two absolute belters: throughout July, the streets of the old town rock big time during Baščaršija Nights, a month-long gathering of music (classical, rock and folk), comedy, theatre, opera and ballet – and most of it is free.
Bigger, and more prestigious still, is August’s Sarajevo Film Festival, which has grown since its inception during the siege of 1995 to become the pre-eminent movie gathering in eastern Europe.
Although very much an international film festival, its premier focus is on showcasing the best film (features and shorts) and documentary from south-eastern Europe and the Caucasus, with the biggest names in the industry in attendance.