Keep in mind that, in Sarajevo, social life largely revolves around coffee, and a call “to go for a coffee” is an invitation to join in on some socializing that can last for hours!
Bosnia and Herzegovina has a long tradition of drinking coffee, a drink that came to this region with the Ottomans.
Coffee and sevdah
The first coffeehouse to operate in this part of the world was Hajji Šabanova Kafana, which opened in the middle of the 16th century on Bentbaša and worked until 1942, when it was knocked down. In addition to the genuine Yemeni coffee that was pounded in an avan (stone mortar), guests were also served different kinds of juices, gurabije (cookies), đulbe šećer (a sweet drink) and Turkish delight. Aside from the Ottoman novelties that were used to provide entertainment for guests, all kinds of classic games, such as backgammon, dominos and chess were also available, as well as various traditional musical instruments, like the uk and kanun…. Since tobacco goes hand in hand with coffee, people would smoke from long pipes and elaborately-crafted hookahs.
Traditional Bosnian coffee is prepared by boiling finely-ground coffee in a džezva (coffee pot) or another kind of pot. It is usually served in traditional Bosnian fildžani (demitasses without handles) and is less commonly served in ordinary mugs.
After experiencing a hiatus of a few decades, nargila is again very popular, so you can catch whiffs of this flavorful tobacco in different spots around town, especially in Baščaršija. Most of these places serve Bosnian coffee and Turkish delight, a traditional sweet served on the side.
In order to experience the atmosphere of a traditional Bosnian house, be sure to visit Nafaka Tea & Coffeehouse, where you will find out how Turkish and Bosnian coffees differ and during the winter try some salep, a warm, non-alcoholic beverage made from the roots of wild orchids.
Bosnian-Herzegovinian sensibility gave rise to sevdalinka, and those who visit many of Sarajevo’s restaurants will have a chance to attend performances by interpreters of traditional songs and sevdalinka.
You can enjoy sevdah and become better acquainted with this form of music at Sevdah Art House, a museum dedicated to this genre and its interpreters. There is also a cafe on the premises.
If you would like to enjoy some coffee and a view of Sarajevo, the perfect cafes are Kamarija Point of View, near Žuta Tabija, Vidikovac Zmajevac and Coffee2Go at the Trebević cable car Upper station.
Charm and History
Sarajevo has its own tradition of drinking tea and herbal beverages and you can enjoy them almost everywhere in town, plus you can sample teas from all over the world at Franz & Sophie Tea Shop.
If it is unthinkable for you to have a daily break without something sweet on the side, we recommend that you visit the following sweet shops: Mrvica, Baklava Dućan, Cream Shop, Panna Cotta, Carigrad and Vijećnica.
At the end of the 19th century, when the western way of life was slowly beginning to influence its oriental counterpart, concerts were being held more often in Sarajevo. The first public concert was held in 1881 in Dom Armije FBiH, an officer's hall, and was performed by a military orchestra. This event would be followed by a stream of concerts given in Sarajevo.
The first cafes began to open here in the 1970s and, up until the 1984 Winter Olympic Games, most of these establishments had daily breaks that lasted from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and taverns and discos would stay open until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., at the latest.
Nowadays, you can find the perfect spot to have some good fun any time of day and most places work until late at night. If you’re looking for great night life, rest assured that Sarajevo has tons of options for an evening out. Many clubs host daily gigs by cover bands and there are also plenty of parties.
Kolobara Han is located in the remains of Sarajevo’s first inn (traveler’s lodge), which was built in the first half of the 15th century by Sarajevo’s founder, Isa Bey Ishaković. The inn was demolished in 1935 and only one of the original walls remained intact. Back in the 1950s the courtyard served as a venue for a summer cinema and then became a cafe bar with a summer garden.
Caffe Tito is a unique place that is dedicated to Josip Broz Tito, President of Former Yugoslavia. It is located on Wilson’s Promenade, behind the Historical Museum, and has tons of items that tell a story about this statesman. During the summer it is the perfect place to catch your breath and in wintertime it organizes performances by interesting bands, especially for those who love rock music.
The expression, “blind tiger,” was used to describe bars that sold alcohol illegally during the time of Prohibition in the USA. In Sarajevo it is the name of the Blind Tiger Cocktail and Burger Bar on Dalmatinska St. It serves some 50 different kinds of cocktails, craft beers and assorted dishes and the interior is dominated by a large collection of shakers and chairs that were collected from antique shops and auctions in Vienna.
Dance and music
If you like to dance, you can head to Cinemas Club Sloga on Mondays for their Latino Night. The decor of this popular destination for young people is dedicated to movies and cinematography and music stars from BiH and the region often perform here.
Celtic Pub combines a Scottish interior with the Bosnian spirit. The waiters and bartenders wear traditional Scottish kilts, plus there are live music gigs, 40 kinds of whiskey, a wide selection of beers and an atmosphere that is heavy on Celtic football club symbols, all of which are reasons to visit. The pub is located near Markale City Market.
Gastro Pub Vučko is located across from BBI Center and is a paradise for beer lovers. The eatery offers over 100 varieties of beer (including 15 craft beers) and 50 varieties of fine wine, as well as a daily à la carte menu and the chef’s daily choices.
Pivnica HS offers live music almost every evening, a rich wine list, as well as house specialties – unfiltered light and dark Sarajevo beer (pivo) – that are produced just a few tens of meters away from the restaurant in the famous Sarajevo Brewery, which was founded in 1864.
Underground is located in the basement of HKD Napredak, a building that dates from the Austro-Hungarian period. This rock club hosts performances by cover bands and often holds concerts by Rock ‘n’ Roll greats from BiH and the region.
For years, Sarajevans have associated the name Aquarius with good fun. A cafe with the same name first opened next to Grbavica Stadium in 1999. Aquarius Vils opened later, during the summer of 2014, on Wilson’s Promenade. There is a great menu, outdoor seating areas (for summer and winter), along with a children’s corner, and it hosts performances by top DJs and bands.
Party until dawn
Silver & Smoke is located in the center of Sarajevo, across from the Congregational Church of the Holy Mother (Saborna Church). This is the perfect spot if you like to dance late into the night and there are shows by famous DJs from both local and regional music scenes. Trezor Club is another great spot for electronic music lovers.
S-One Sky Bar is located on the rooftop terrace of the Courtyard by Marriott and is unique for its fascinating view of town, which you can enjoy over a wide range of food, drinks and cocktails. During the summer this bar organizes an outdoor #AfterWorkRecharge Lounge in the afternoons and in the evening visitors can look forward to some RNB parties and performances by local, regional and international DJs.
If you like to relax over drinks when you go out, you should know that you can enjoy some great domestic beers and that Herzegovina's wine tradition dates back to the Roman period. Domestic brandies can be made from plums, pears, apples or grapes and these varieties are very strong, often containing more than 40% alcohol. You can try a wide selection of domestic brandy at Barhana.
If you are looking for exclusive adult entertainment, be sure to visit Sarajevo's first strip club, Cristal – Cabaret Gentlemen’s Club, which has been patterned after other clubs of this kind elsewhere in the world. The club is located in Skenderija, on Soukbunar St., about half-way between Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott.