Travnik: The Medieval Ottoman Town

As one of the oldest towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Travnik is known for beautiful buildings dating back to the 15th century, an old fortress overlooking the town and unique cheese. Near the town you will find the mountain Vlasic, which is a very popular location for skiing during the winter.

Basic info: 

Travnik, the city once used by the Ottoman Governors (Viziers) as their seat of power, has been given the nickname “the European Istanbul”. Located in Central Bosnia and Herzegovina and is around 55 mi (90 kilometres) from the capital Sarajevo with the population of residents around 20,000. Travnik is 1640 ft (500 metres) above sea level and the river Lasva passes through the city with stunning mountains surrounding the town. 

 

The river Lasva next to a restaurant named Plava Voda. The Lasva river next to the popular Plava Voda Restaurant. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

Getting there:

Travnik has many popular routes via bus so it should be very easy to book your trip as buses are coming directly from Germany, Croatia, Austria and from over 20 cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Online you can find the departure and arrival schedule as well as buying your tickets.

If you decide to come by car, getting there from Sarajevo will take you around 2 hours or around 91 km but due to the highway not being finished, except for a small part near Sarajevo, there are mostly two lane roads. Be patient if you are stuck behind slow trucks on the roads where you can't see far enough ahead to pass due to winding roads near Travnik. On the other hand if you wish to have the visit arranged for you by locals we recommend the Full day Jajce and Travnik tour.

 

Vizier's grave in the city center of Travnik.The Vizier's grave in Travnik city center. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

Exploring and experiencing Travnik:

When walking through the main street of Travnik you will feel as if you have gone back in time. The Old Town of Travnik is dated back to the 15th century and there you will find 28 historical and cultural buildings that are protected. At the city center there are two Ottoman clock towers and the Travnik Fortress. Other structures that are still in good condition are for example numerous mosques and oriental homes. The city's museum was built in 1950 and is one of the most impressive cultural institutions in the region.

 

A man praying inside the Sarena Dzamija mosque in Travnik.Inside the Many Coloured Mosque (Sarena Dzamija). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

 

Travnik has through the years become famous for important people who were either born in the city or lived there. One of the main works by the Nobel Prize writer Ivo Andric is the Bosnian Chronicle (or Travnik Chronicle) depicting life in Travnik during the Napoleonic Wars and itself written during World War II. In his novel Andric describes the variety of the ethnic and religious communities in Travnik with a mixture of exasperation and affection.

 

Today you can visit the birthplace of Ivo Andric as it attracts thousands of tourists every year after the house was converted into a memorial museum. Another well known name is Miroslav Ciro Blazevic, the football coach who brought the Croatian National Team all the way to the podium when they won third place in the 1998 World Cup in France.

 

A girl smiling with the view over Travnik behind her. Travnik as seen from the Old Fort. Photo: Amna Hasecic.

 

Overlooking the town is the Stari Grad fortress, even though there is no record of the year, the builder nor the duration of construction, it is considered one of the best preserved medieval fortified buildings in Bosnia. Near the fortress you will also find a restaurant named Kastel Na Hendeku. As said before, in Travnik you will see many interesting buildings and structures.

 

One of the things you will definitely not miss nearby the town center are the two schools under the same roof. Gimnazija Travnik, the local high school is not only divided into two ethnic groups but the building Is also divided in two, with the Croatian Catholic school center on the right, painted light blue and in very good shape, while a fence divides the left side which is a public school attended by Bosniaks and is still standing in its original form with graffiti covering the main entrance.

 

The high school located in Travnik, split in two with the older part on the left a public school and a Catholic school on the right.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons          

Where to eat and go out: 

A few restaurants we recommend are Cevabdzinica Hari which is known for one of the best cevapi in the country and is located in the old town in Travnik. Near a small river on the street Sumek you will find Konoba Plava Voda which serves very tasty, fresh food as well as great desserts.

 

On a hot summer day there is nothing better than getting a table outside and enjoying the cold breeze that comes from the river. If you wish to try real traditional Bosnian food than you have to check out Kod Seje, which is located across the street from the Many Coloured Mosque (Sarena Dzamija) and they bake Bosnian burek or sirnica under traditional sac hoods right in front of you.

 

The old Fort in Travnik and mountains behind it.

The fortress in Travnik. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

For late night drinks or a relaxed coffee break you can go to Zenjak which is located on a side street from the center and has a great outdoor atmosphere over the summer time. For the colder months you should check out The V Club which is on the main street downtown, there you can also order a Hookah or play some darts.

 

During the weekends there are also often live bands playing so you can get the full Bosnian experience of throwing glasses on the floor and banging on the tables to very dramatic soulful Balkan music. Also during the winter months we recommend going to Vlasic, which is a mountain near Travnik, for the famous Šankanje, known as one of the biggest winter events in Bosnia and Herzegovina full of fun winter sports activities and crazy parties.

 

Things to see and taste:

In Bosnia, Travnik is known for its famous sheep cheese, also known as Travnicki sir or Vlasicki sir. You will see many booths selling the cheese and competing with each other over who has the best tasting cheese.

 

Ski area Vlasic mountain at night

Vlasic Ski Area. Photo: Azra K.

For great hikes, biking or skiing we recommend going to Vlasic mountain which has many spots overlooking Travnik. Its highest peak is Paljenik with an elevation of 6,375 ft (1,943 meters). Today the mountain is a major center for tourism over the winter time due to fantastic accommodations for skiing and other winter sports. Over the warmer months it is very popular for hiking as there are many hiking trails and undisturbed wilderness areas with breathtaking views, a sunset view from the mountain is absolutely unforgettable.

 

A open book, the readers toes and the view from Vlasic mountain.
 A view from a summerhouse located on top of the Vlasic mountain. Photo: Lejla Cardaklija.