Two decades on , the scars remain but Sarajevo is a city that is shaking off its past and blossoming. What Sarajevo lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up for in culture and locals are eager to ensure visitors enjoy their time here. Though still off the radar for many travelers, this will likely change as people continue looking for new, hidden gems. Sarajevo is one of those special places.
One of the most interesting culinary aspects of the city is that each course seems to have its own location. Locals tend to have a favorite spot for Bosnian coffee and another for tea. They have their favorite restaurants that follow. For dessert, they will likely relocate again. For these reasons, the Cheap Eats Guide to Sarajevo will list some course options separately. This is in hopes of allowing visitors to enjoy this city similarly to the locals.
Available in coffee houses everywhere, €1 or less
Bosnian coffee is so widely available in Sarajevo, it’s difficult to pick a ‘favorite’ spot. If it’s warm outside, head in to one of the coffee houses inside one of the many courtyards in the city. If you’re in the mood to people watch, have a cup on one of the many busy side streets that don’t allow motor vehicles, only walking traffic. Regardless of where you enjoy this beverage, make sure to order the Bosnian coffee. Though it may appear identical to the coffee of other Balkan countries, locals will assure you this is their own special version. Locals are very proud and protective over this favored drink. They also enjoy it at all hours of the day and night. This may be why they seem to have so much energy.
Try a few spots and find your favorite.
Cajdzinica Dzirlo (Tea House)
Street Kovaci Cilcma 6, Sarajevo 71102
€1-3, Open daily from 8:30-23:00
For a less caffeinated beverage, or just a change of pace, head to Tea House. The eclectic atmosphere and attentive service made this one of the most memorable tea experiences I’ve enjoyed while traveling. A family owned and operated shop, it’s very common with locals and earns rave reviews. Looking over the menu, it was filled with new types of teas I had never seen before. After asking a local friend I was still having a difficult time deciding.
I explained my difficulty deciding to the staff and they brought me a sampler of their five favorite iced teas. I was stunned. It’s rare to have one of two free samples handed out, let alone five. They were all so unique, it was such a great experience to be able to try each of them. With flavors of apple and cinnamon, I favored the local sharbat iced tea. It was a little sweet but Bosnians like their sugar and it was a nice treat.
Prote Bakovića 10, Sarajevo 71000
€4-8, Open daily 8:00-22:00
The local Bosnian cuisine at Dzenita was my favorite. At the recommendation of our waiter, my friend and I started with the klepe. This is a domestic dish is similar to ravioli, only softer and more tender. The klepe (€4) is hand rolled with a mix of meat and herbs inside. Something about the pasta makes it even softer and more delicious than many Italian ravioli I’ve eaten previously. Instead of tomato sauce, the klepe is topped with sour cream and a hint of spicy sauce.
Perhaps the Balkan region’s most popular dish, cevapcici (also known as cevapi), is served here on pita bread with raw onions (€3.50). A large sandwich, my friend and I split this dish. The skinless beef sausages were perfectly seasoned and grilled. In one form or another, I enjoyed cevapi about every other day I was in the Balkans. This was one of my favorites. If you only have one chance to try these dishes in Sarajevo, make sure this is the restaurant you choose. The owners and servers are kind and attentive and the food is fantastic.
Kundurdžiluk bb, Sarajevo 71000
€4-14, Open daily 7:00-23:00
For a venture outside of local cuisine, Konyali is a popular Turkish restaurant worth a visit for dinner. I say dinner because having eaten there a few times, the food seems to get kicked up a notch later in the day. Iskander (€5), one of my favorite Turkish dishes, stood out right away. The kebab is grilled and then a tomato sauce is added. This is all served over pita bread with some yogurt sauce on the side. It may look a little curious to the Western eye, but it’s delicious. The combination of textures, temperatures and flavors make this one of my favorite meals from Turkey. The beef and onion skewers over rice are also very nice here for about €4. Slow grilled over an open flame, the meat and onions are slightly charred on the outside, soft and savory in the middle.
The pidas (Turkish pizza) such as the etli ekmek topped with ground beef for €6 also looked fantastic. Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to give one a try as they’re quite large. For the hungrier diner, the Governor kebab plate is one of the most expensive dishes at €12 but allows a sample of nearly every kebab available. Avoid the desire to go with the doner kebab for €1.50. Attempting to grab a cheap lunch one day the server’s reaction was not a good one when I ordered this dish. When he delivered the doner and I saw that it was merely a few slivers of meat and veggies and 75% pita bread. They should either make this worthy of being on the menu or get rid of it all together. Again, lunch wasn’t as on point as dinner in my experience so perhaps this dish is better in the evening.
Sevdah Art House
Halaci 5 – Velike Daire, Sarajevo 71000
€1-4, Open daily 10:00-18:00
Finally, head to Sevdah Art House for dessert during the day or early evening. Make sure to try the kadaif, a thin type of noodle made with flour and water. It is typically stuffed with crushed walnuts and a sweet, sugar-based syrup. Also, make sure to sample the national dessert, tufahije. It’s made by hollowing out a cooked apple and filling it with walnuts, cream and sugar. The tufahije is then covered with whipped cream.
These recommendations should allow you to enjoy your time in Sarajevo. But wait, there’s so much more this city and Bosnia & Herzegovina as a country has to offer!
- Another local favorite dish is a bread called burek. It’s made with thinly layered phyllo dough and is usually stuffed with cheese, spinach, ground beef, or a combination. Widely available from street vendors and bakery windows, this is a must-try.
- Also make sure to order it with ayran, a type of slightly sweet and salty yogurt drink. Have a sip with each bite of burek like the locals do to add additional flavor.
- Some restaurants have to-go options and/or street windows. This is sometimes cheaper than ordering inside the restaurant. If you’re in a hurry or want to save a little money, see if you can grab a cevapi sandwich to go this way. You may also be able to find a street food vendor or two.
- Bosnia & Herzegovina is rich in culture and history. Make sure to visit one of their many museums to learn about the Siege of Sarajevo and World Wars I & II. You can also see the bridge near where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. The free walking tours offer great ways to see the city and hear its history from a local. The guides work for tips from those who enjoy the tour.
- If possible, head out of Sarajevo to the small town of Mostar. There you can see the beautiful Stari Most bridge and explore the town. Trains run between the cities at least once or twice per day. Two nights is ample time to explore the city, find some good food and even take a paid tour of the surrounding area. Your hotel or hostel should have information on the tours that are available. They’re usually around €15-25 per person for the day.
I hope you enjoyed the Cheap Eats Guide to Sarajevo!
Živjeli! (Cheers in Bosnian)