Summer in Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, can be fun, especially if you're around during the very popular Sarajevo Film Festival. In that time city is literally flooded with tourists coming not only for the movies, but also to party and enjoy many other events city offers.
But to be honest, Sarajevo is a winter city and cold days can be way more fun and way more charming than summer heat. This is mostly due to the fact that Sarajevo is located in the valley of beautiful and snowy mountains – Jahorina, Bjelašnica, Trebević and Igman. These mountains are a part of the Dinaric Alps mountain chain that dominates the geography of central Bosnia. Ideal for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter, the Bosnian mountains attract a lot of visitors looking for adventure.
These mountains are very close to the city center (you can reach most of them by car in less than an hour), and the city itself offers a lot of fun things to do in December, particularly around the holidays.
So, these are things you shouldn’t miss:
Photo: Wikimeda Commons
Ice skating in Sarajevo is a popular seasonal activity for all generations. The biggest and the most popular place to go ice skating is the ice rink in the outdoor area in front of Zetra Olympic Complex, built for the '84 Winter Olympics. A 130×65 ft (40×20 meters) ice surface is covered with a tile tent and it includes a dressing room for skaters, an 80-seat stand and a great sound and lighting for the unique winter experience.
Zetra also has experienced trainers and instructors in skating and hockey for all those who want to learn a few new tricks on the ice. The best thing is that tickets for skating are very affordable, one hour on the ice costs only 1,5 Euro. Borrowing ice skates for the hour will cost additional 1 euro, and there are special offers available for family tickets and group skating.
Another popular outdoor skating rink is at the Sarajevo Holiday Market. With a unique festive atmosphere, this ice rink covers approximately 4,305 square ft (400 m2), it offers regular times for public skating and serves as a place where Sarajevo skating clubs sometimes hold their training sessions.
Ice skating is also available in several other locations in the city as many municipalities have their own ice skating rinks during the winter.
Since 2011, the Sarajevo Holiday Market is a central holiday fair that offers many cultural, sporting and entertaining events suitable for all generations. It has a bazaar section with more than 30 cabins selling souvenirs, handcrafts, clothing, books, toys, foods and beverages, the Children’s Pavilion for youngsters, mini theme park 'Santa Claus’ Village', already mentioned ice skating rink and last but not the least - the Winter Pub.
The Winter Pub, among a wide assortment of food and drinks, offers different events such as concerts, poetry nights, mini exhibitions and plays, stand-up comedy nights, sports viewing events, film screenings and quizzes.
If you don't know what to do on a weeknight in December, just go to the Holiday market and we can guarantee you'll find something!
We all know that Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the cheapest European countries so doing your shopping in Sarajevo during the December is not bad idea at all. Shopping malls and most of the stores in the city have holiday sales and offer variety of discounts. This goes both for the local and for the more expensive world brand stores, so you will not be sorry for either treating yourself with something nice or buying presents for friends and family.
Our recommendation is to check the Sarajevo City Center or the BBI shopping center as both are located in the center and within reach either by foot or public transport. There are also many stores in Ferhadija - the main pedestrian street.
Photo: Wikimeda Commons
Bosnian food is hearty, cheap and tasty and very well 'adapted' to winter cold. This means that almost every traditional restaurant serves a variety of slow-cooked food and warm soups, stews and delicacies such as sarma or dolma (stuffed veggies), ideal for the cold days. Don't miss out on trying Begova čorba, traditional Bosnian creamy soup with chicken and okra, or Tarhana čorba, veal soup with bits of homemade sourdough tarhana.
When it comes to hot beverages, warm yourself with a cup of Turkish coffee or tea, or go for a cup of mulled wine for the full winter experience in the city.
Since Sarajevo is a multicultural city, winter holidays are a very special time of the year. Two Christmas celebrations (Catholics mark the day on December 25th and Orthodox celebrate two weeks later on January 7th) and the New Year's Eve celebrations makes this time of the year a bit different than in other countries. There are many cultural and religious events all around, and for a city with such a difficult past, it is surprisingly a time of tolerance and respect for other people's religion and tradition.
Along with these events, there is of course a lot of partying, and pubs and clubs in the center are usually full even on weekdays. Some of these places are open on New Year's Eve, and others are available for reservations.
On New Year's Eve, the city government traditionally organizes a big open air celebration and a concert as a present to the citizens and its guests. If you want to take part in this, beware of the cold and dress accordingly. Don't forget your scarf and gloves and join Sarajevans in their big celebration of the New Year!
Skiing resorts, hotels and clubs in the mountains also offer a lot of fun on New Year's Eve, so don't forget to check that out as well! If you already have in mind a specific place or event, it's best to make a reservation or buy tickets in advance.
As previously mentioned, recreation and vacation in the mountains in the vicinity of Sarajevo is the best thing that the city can offer during the wintertime.
The mountains Jahorina, Bjelašnica, Trebević and Igman are the most popular skiing destinations in this part of the Balkans and you will definitely not be sorry for going up there, even if it’s only for the day.
The Jahorina Olympic Ski Center, which is only around 40 minutes far from Sarajevo, offers a variety of winter sports and outdoor activities, especially for those who enjoy alpine skiing, snowboarding and sledding. Jahorina also has a vibrant nightlife and many excellent accommodation options, so it’s also an ideal weekend destination.
Trebević is the closest to the city, so if you’re short on time, this may be the best and cheapest option. You can literally go up there to have a drink and enjoy the city view for a couple of hours before getting back to the city. Also, check out Mt. Bjelašnica and Mt. Igman, another two “Olympic beauties” adored among both local and foreign skiers and hikers.
The best travel recommendations come from locals. Check out these Wanderguides from Bosnia and Herzegovina by locals sharing their travel tips and hidden gems.