Top 5 festivals in Sarajevo

Sarajevo's major festivals play an important role in contributing to the quality of Destination Sarajevo's cultural and entertainment offering.

Here we share an overview of the five most important festivals that you should definitely try to attend. All of these manifestations offer their own diverse programs and continue to attract more and more visitors every year.

Sarajevska Zima (Sarajevo Winter)

The Sarajevo International Festival – Sarajevska Zima – is one of the city's longest-running cultural festivals.

The first edition of this cultural event was held the same year that the XIV Winter Olympic Games were held in Sarajevo, when it ran from December 21, 1984 to April 6, 1985.

Since then, this annual festival has typically run from early February to the end of March and the festival program has at least one interesting cultural event taking place every day, whether it be an exhibition, promotion, concert, play, film screening, interesting performance….

Baščaršijske Noći (Baščaršija Nights)

Baščaršija Nights is an international summer cultural festival held in Sarajevo during the month of July.

The festival venues are scattered throughout town, but most are held in Baščaršija.

Every year, more than 100,000 visitors attend Baščaršija Nights events, which provide the public with the perfect opportunity to enjoy various cultural manifestations, such as opera, ballet and theater performances; concerts, folklore ensembles, literary evenings, exhibitions, film screenings….

Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF)

At the end of August, some of the biggest movie stars will hit the red carpet in front of the National Theater and audiences will have a chance to enjoy top films of Sarajevo Film Festival.

The first Sarajevo Summer Film Festival was held in 1995 and ran from October 27 to November 7. Since then it has earned the title as “the most important cultural event in Southeastern Europe.”

Bono Vox, Mike Leigh, John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Steve Buscemi, Morgan Freeman, Jeremy Irons, Michael Moore, Gaspar Noe, Mickey Rourke, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt... are just some of SFF’s most famous guests.

MESS – International Theater Festival

MESS is the most important theater festival in Southeastern Europe and is the reason why so many theater greats descend upon Sarajevo in early autumn.

The festival first got underway in 1960 under the name, Festival of Small and Experimental Scenes of Yugoslavia (Festival Malih i Eksperimentalnih Scena Jugoslavije = MESS), and it was even held when Sarajevo was under Siege.

The festival is made ​​up of several programs: World MESS is dedicated to plays from other continents; Mittel Europe MESS brings performances from Southeastern, Southern and Eastern Europe; Children MESS is intended for the youngest audience; Future MESS Festival presents the works of young and innovative theater professionals.

There’s also MESS OFF, a complementary program that includes concerts and exhibitions; plus MESS Workshops, which focus on providing education for young theater artists from BiH and the region.

Sarajevo Jazz Fest 

Sarajevo Jazz Fest is an international music festival that organizers love to say is “the largest little festival in the world.”

The festival starts in early November and the program features performances by top jazz artists, as well as cutting-edge music styles that cannot be neatly classified as jazz, even though they still manage to convey a certain subtlety to audiences.

The festival was founded in 1997 and, in addition to the main concerts, there are also jam sessions held in some of Sarajevo’s clubs, plus workshops directed at young musicians.

More than 600 artists have performed during Sarajevo Jazz Fest, including some greats, like Dave Holland, Dhafer Joussef, Merchan Dede, Dianne Reeves, Gregory Porter and many others.