If you’re coming from other parts of Europe and expect the same level of festive treats, you may be disappointed. Christmas in Bosnia is a secular celebration for all and a religious holiday for Catholics. You won’t find the same number of Christmas markets in Sarajevo as other parts of the Balkans and Europe.
Instead, one large Holiday Market opens up to celebrate the Catholic and Orthodox holidays. Apart from this, there isn’t really much else but you can still soak up the winter festivities in the Bascarsija and buy your gifts from the malls.
Sarajevo’s Holiday Market is the capital’s largest and most famous Christmas Market. Active since 2011, local artisans sell handicraft inside more than 30 traditional stalls. A giant Christmas tree marks the centre, and the PAN Winter Pub makes the perfect retreat for a drinks, snacks and to enjoy live entertainment. Locals of all ethnicities come to appreciate the festivities at the Holiday Market.
Tourists will often reminisce about the traditional Christmas markets in other parts of Europe as they stroll around the stalls. Everything from souvenirs to food and perfumes are available in the cold wintry Sarajevo evening.
Opens from Dec. 6 2017 to Jan. 13 2018
71000, Maršala Tita 10, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Tel: +387 62 130 024
The Bascarsija is Sarajevo’s Old Bazaar and the capital’s main attraction. Ottoman style buildings and stalls line cobblestone streets branching in all directions to create a giant maze. Despite having its origins with the Muslim Ottomans and not strictly being a Christmas Market, the Old Bazaar makes a great place to visit during the holidays. A wide range of souvenirs from copperware to fridge magnets and paintings are on sale.
What makes the Bascarsija special at Christmas is the atmosphere. You won’t see a Christmas tree or a nativity play, but you may very well see the most historical part of the city covered in a thick blanket of snow. And you can head for your daily dose of Bosnian coffee or a plate of Cevapi inside a warm restaurant watching the snow fall around you.
For a festive experience in the not-so openly merry Bascarsija, order a plate of Sarma. Sarma, pickled cabbage with minced meat made into a roll, is a Christmas dish and Bosnians eat endless plates of the snack during the holidays.
The two malls in Sarajevo, the Alta Shopping Center and BBI Centar, make good spots to do your winter shopping. Don’t expect elaborate decorations and endless carols and songs blasting from speakers. Instead, you’ll experience a more toned down version of Christmas without the constant bombardment of advertising. Shops stock the latest winter fashion and accessories along with perfumes, shoes and electronics, which make the perfect gift for yourself or special someone back home.