Travnik, the Ottoman Viziers (Governors) capital of Bosnia for 150 years (1697 to 1850), was once called the European Istanbul. Today, located 90 kilometres (56 miles) to the northeast of Sarajevo, the town attracts visitors to its historical centre, an open museum of Ottoman architecture. Here’s your guide to the best things to do in Travnik and how to get the most out of your time in Bosnia’s oriental town.
Stari Grad (Old Town)
A city’s heart and soul usually lies in the historical districts where streets and buildings resist change. Travnik’s Stari Grad has an Ottoman centre with mosques, centuries-old buildings, and Bosnia’s only sundial. Walking through gives a sense of what life is like in the 18th century when Ottoman governors used the area as their official seat of government. You’ll find the best restaurants in Travnik inside the old town. Most serve grilled meat, cevapi (Bosnian kebabs), and Vlasic Cheese, the famous Travnik cheese.
Stari Grad Castle
Stari Grad Castle, or Travnik Castle, dates back to pre-Ottoman Bosnia when the former Christian Kingdom ruled the region. The conquering Ottomans later developed and expanded the 14th- or 15th-century castle, transforming it into a fortress with watchtowers. Today, the castle is the best preserved in Bosnia and a national monument, making it a must-do in Travnik for all tourists. You’ll find a small museum dedicated to its history and an ethnographic section inside.
Travnik 72270, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tel +387 30 518-140
Opening hours: 8 am to 8 pm. Admission: KM2.50 ($1.50).
About one kilometre to the west of Travnik Castle is Travnik’s oldest mosque. Jeni Mosque, completed in 1549 in a classical Ottoman style, predates the official Ottoman Vizier’s seat by more than a century. Every early settlement had at least one central mosque, and Jeni was Travnik’s. Throughout the almost 500-year lifespan, it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. If you want to appreciate the rich history of the town, Jeni Mosque rates as one of the best things to see in Travnik.
Colourful murals cover the Many-Coloured Mosque or Ornamented Mosque’s exterior, making it one of the more intriguing Travnik attractions. Built in the 16th century, the colour has since faded. Today, the mosque has three horizontal stripes. Tall arches form the lower and colourful murals decorate the top with a white-washed middle.
But, Sulejmanija has another characteristic making it somewhat unusual in the Islamic world. Below the main prayer room sits a Bezistan, or small bazaar, selling a selection of Bosnian souvenirs, clothes, and snacks. According to local sources, this is the only mosque in the world with a market at its base.
Ivo Andric Museum
Ivo Andric, one of Former Yugoslavia’s most renowned writers and Nobel Prize winner, authored The Bridge on the Drina and Bosnian Chronicle among many others. The museum, inside an Ottoman-style house to replicates Ivo’s home, displays relics of his life. A few years later, he moved from Travnik to Visegrad.
Zenjak, Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tel: 030-518140
Opening hours: 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. Admission: KM2.50 ($1.50)
Haji Ali-bey Mosque
Haji Ali-bey, west of Ivo Andric Museum, has Arabic inscriptions on the two-storied exterior stone. A giant sundial dating back to 1886, one of few remaining today, is on the Mosque’s southwest wall. Visitors tend to come to the mosque to see the sundial, but it can be challenging to get a decent photograph.
For a window into the former glory of this historical town, visit the Vizier’s Graves. A total of 77 Viziers called Travnik their home. The archaeological site has the tombs of the former rulers along with Ottoman officials and revered poets. Opposite UniCredit Bank, you’ll see an arched ceremonial dome on pillars. The tombs are underneath. If you visit Travnik, the graves will give you an appreciation of town’s historical importance.
The blue water of Plava Voda trickles along the stream to the east of Travnik Castle. A series of wooden bridges crisscross over the water. Restaurants and bars line the water’s edge, serving as a serene spot for photographs and to enjoy a meal. Relaxing in this environment is one of the best things to do in Travnik after exploring the old town and visiting the fortress.
If you’re visiting Travnik for longer than a day trip, head to Galica. Mountain village Galica, a few kilometres before the town, gives excellent views of the valleys. The Devecani Highland Area has an 8-kilometre (5-mile), easy-medium level hiking trail around the ridge, typically taking less than four hours to complete. Some of Bosnia’s most beautiful natural sites are in and around Travnik.