A city that is still surviving its turbulent past, Sarajevo is the flourishing and vibrant capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The historical center of the city is at its old town, and between its narrow lanes lie tons of restaurants and cafes — each serving some of the best of the country’s unique cuisine, combining influences from the Ottoman period and the country’s traditional culture. The food here is meaty, chunky and creamy — absolutely heaven for the meat-lovers.
I only had one full day to explore Sarajevo — and between visiting the sites and attractions in and out of the old town, I had to make sure I had enough time to try all the delicious Bosnian dishes. It was great that I was visiting the city with my siblings (who eat a lot), so between the four of us, we managed to sample some of the best Sarajevo has to offer. We definitely ate more than we should!
So here’s sharing with you my top 10 Sarajevo must-eats, and a few of the places I visited to get a taste of these popular dishes and delightful meals.
The Burek makes a great cheap meal — be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even supper. The dish originated from Turkey, but is now a popular Bosnian meal. Burek is a sort of pie with flaky pastry, and filled with either minced meat, potato or spinach. The Burek in Bosnia is usually rolled into long spirals and baked, and then sold by weight.
I absolutely loved this dish (it is almost similar to a local Malaysian street food called the Murtabak). Buregdžinica Bosna in Sarajevo’s old town serves up excellent Burek, and I enjoyed dunking the roll into a whole chunk of soft white yogurt and then sinking my teeth into the pastry and succulent meat. Delish!
Recommended: Buregdžinica Bosna, Bravadžiluk 11, Sarajevo.
Often called Bosnia & Herzegovina’s national dish, and a definite must-try when you’re in the country is the Cevapcici, or the Cevapi. This dish consists of minced meat (beef/lamb) shaped into cocktail sausages and grilled; and is served with warm Bosnian flatbread, diced raw onions and a garlic cheese dip.
We had our Cevapi at Cevabdzinica Zeljo 1 while exploring Sarajevo’s old town, and the restaurant only serves this one dish so it was easy to order. It usually gets crowded during peak dining hours, but we visited outside of those times and didn’t have to wait for a seat. The waiter was pretty helpful with our order, and we absolutely enjoyed the meal.
Recommended: Cevabdzinica Zeljo 1, Kundurdžiluk 19, Sarajevo.
For some authentic traditional Bosnian dining, head to the Ascinica restaurants. These places offer home-cooked meals and are mostly frequented by the locals. The dishes at the Asicinica’s are usually displayed at the counter — just choose from the selection of stews, meat and vegetable dishes and soups; that are then served with a plate of home-baked bread.
While in Sarajevo’s old town, I dropped by the Aščinica Hadžibajrić F. Namika, believed to be one of the oldest Ascinica’s in the city — dating back to the Ottoman times (that’s almost 400-500 years ago). I didn’t know what I wanted to order, so I just told the man at the counter I wanted a mix — and he did the rest!
Recommended: Aščinica Hadžibajrić F. Namika, Ćurčiluk veliki 59, Sarajevo.
4. Bosnian Hot Pot
A Bosnian Hot Pot, or locally called the Bosanski Lonac is a Bosnian dish that has been eaten by both the country’s rich and poor for centuries. It is considered a local culinary specialty and is a layered mixture of all sorts of vegetables and large pieces of mixed meat like beef and lamb; and simmered over fire for a couple of hours. The result is almost like a meat stew.
Barhana in Sarajevo’s old town is one of the places that offer this dish, and my tour guide recommended it for its lively atmosphere. The restaurant also offers many different kinds of Bosnian stew dishes like goulash, spicy chicken stew and stuffed vegetables; and is a popular place to enjoy a drink or two.
Recommended: Barhana, Đulagina čikma 8, Sarajevo.
5. Baklava and Bosnian Desserts
In Bosnia, Baklava is usually made for special occasions like Eid or Christmas. This rich and sweet dessert however, is believed to originate from countries like Turkey and Armenia, and considered a traditional Balkan dish. Baklava is made out of many layers of flaky pastry filled with chopped nuts, bread crumbs and honey; and poured over with a sugary mixture when served.
I had my taste of the Baklava at the popular (and almost always packed) Cafe Ramis along the main street of Sarajevo’s old town. I am not exactly a dessert person (and the dish isn’t much to look at) — but I did enjoy all those nuts. Cafe Ramis also serves many types of other sweet Bosnian desserts and cakes, as well as coffee.
Recommended: Café Slastičarna Ramis, Sarači 1, Sarajevo.
6. Bosnian Coffee
The cafe culture is strong in Sarajevo. While in the city, you have to sit down in one of the street side cafes with a cuppa strong brew; and just chill, do nothing, and people watch. Walking around the old town, I noticed many locals, visitors, the young, the old, men and women; sitting al-fresco under the shaded umbrellas, and drinking coffee all day long. And yes, I really mean all day long.
And when you’re in Sarajevo, don’t miss out on trying the mighty strong Bosnian Kafa (coffee). The coffee is served in a small copper pot, along with a small cup (to fill the coffee with once its settled), sugar to add, as well as a glass of water and a small gummy candy to counter the coffee’s bitterness. The coffee is so thick that the bottom of my cup was always covered with a layer of sludge. I really liked the Bosnian coffee though, and during my visit, probably had one too many cups.
7. Rakija and Beer
Fruit Brandy is a popular spirit in Southeastern Europe — and is known as the Rakija in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The alcohol content in the Rakija is about 40-50%, and is commonly served in a vial. It comes in many different fruit flavours, like pear, grape, plum, apricot and mint, just to name a few. I had Rakija at Barhana (mentioned above No.4), and though it was too strong for me, at least I can say I tried it!
I much prefer the Sarajevo local beer, Sarajevsko, brewing in the city since 1864. The Sarajevsko brewery is located near the old town and is open to visitors.
8. Zlatna Ribica Bar
There are a couple of food/drinks places in Sarajevo worth visiting — and one of them has got to be the Zlatna Ribica Bar. Tucked in a quiet alley just outside the old town, the bar is grand and eccentric — and is filled from top to bottom with antiques, kitschy decorations, gaudy furniture, and odd paintings and photographs. It gives out a enchanting and magical, yet spooky vibe.
Looking through the menu in a tiny old book dangled by a phone cord, I played it safe with a bottle Sarajevsko. And I have to mention the special (and really odd) goldfish (Zlatna Ribica translates to Goldfish Bar) in a vase with a sign that says, “I am the fish that is made of gold, what is your wish?” Weird yet fascinating, no?
9. Inat Kuca
From the end of the 19th century till today, Inat Kuca stands in its place because of one man’s stubbornness. Also known as the House of Spite, the house was transferred brick by brick from one side of the river to the other as a result of a land negotiation. Inat Kuca’s entire story can be read from the house-turned-restaurant’s menu, which also offers a delicious selection of Bosnian cuisine.
I absolutely enjoyed my dinner of meat skewers, steak, stuffed vegetables and Bosnian ravioli (klepe) on the restaurant terrace overlooking the Miljacka River and restored City Hall. With its interesting history, lovely views, and good food — Inat Kuca is worth the visit.
Walking around Sarajevo’s old town, it is hard not to notice the many (and I really mean MANY) ice-cream stalls located along its streets. I visited the city in summer, and on a hot summer’s afternoon, an ice-cream is the perfect treat to cool down. I had such a fun time selecting my ice-cream from the vast array of exciting flavors like extra black chocolate, macaroon cheesecake, oreos, snickers, bounty — how do you even choose!?
And if colors are what you’re looking for, you can also pair your ice-cream with different colored cones — they come in pink, blue, orange, and even black!