Just like the city itself, Sarajevo cuisine is a blend of east and west, with both Turkish and European influences. Of the many reasons we were looking forward to visiting the city, sampling the local fare was high on the list. During our trip, we sought out the best Sarajevo restaurants and feasted on classic Bosnian fare.
Fellow travelers can use our list of what to eat in Sarajevo to route their way to the city’s best restaurants, cafes and bars.
Food in Sarajevo
On our previous travels to the Balkans, we quickly took a liking to two of the most popular regional dishes, cevapi and burek. Not only are these two meat dishes hearty and satisfying, they are also incredibly popular (and inexpensive, too!).
During our 10 days in the city, we navigated our way to the best restaurants in Sarajevo. In addition to indulging in our two favorite mainstays, we also branched out to try other gastronomy, sipped on plenty of Bosnian kafa, spoiled ourselves with a few decadent Bosnian desserts and sampled the local beer and traditional spirits.
Best Food & Restaurants in Sarajevo
Our list of the best food in Sarajevo includes classic dishes and our picks for the best places to eat in Sarajevo. Along with our list of the best restaurants in Sarajevo, we offer suggestions for Sarajevo cafes – and the best bars in Sarajevo, too!
For each of our recommended restaurants in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, we provide a link to Google Maps. And, at the end of the post, we provide a helpful map of Sarajevo restaurants.
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CEVAPI: Classic Sarajevo Food
Cevapi is the Balkan equivalent to the American hamburger and probably the most popular of all Sarajevo cuisine. The slightly seasoned minced meat (usually a mixture of beef and lamb) is formed into finger-sized sausages, grilled and stuffed into somun bread (Bosnian pita) and served with a side of diced onions.
In the region, we’ve seen variations of accompaniments, like ajvar (eggplant and pepper sauce), sour cream and French fries. In Sarajevo, it’s served two ways: with or without kajmak, a thick cream they sometimes call cheese. Yogurt is also often listed on the menu. It is served in a glass, because it is to be drunk – a cevapi-chaser of sorts. We thought we were ordering sauce, which elicited a few odd stares when we poured it over our meals.
The quality of cevapi ranges from greasy to gourmet. It is available as take-away or at sit-down Sarajevo restaurants, called cevabdzinicas. However, wherever you buy them, they are always inexpensive – about $2-5 per heaping serving.
Cevabdzinica Zeljo 1: Best Restaurant in Sarajevo for Cevapi
We didn’t try any that we didn’t like, but the cevapi we liked best was from Cevabdzinica Zeljo 1. The Old Town Sarajevo restaurant is a busy spot – and it can be difficult to find a seat! People stand on the sidewalk, waiting for space to become available.
We squeezed in at a table already partially occupied by other diners. The uncomplicated menu (basically: We serve cevapi, how many do you want?) makes ordering easy, with the one option being ‘with or without kajmak.’ The
better right way is with kajmak! MAP
BUREK: Traditional Sarajevo Cuisine
Our second favorite Balkan meat-and-dough option is burek. The flaky pastry is filled with ground meat, wound into a spiral and baked. Several Sarajevo restaurants sell small, individual pies, but traditionally a large portion is made on a platter and baked under a dome lid piled with hot coals. The pie is then cut into pieces (usually quarters) and sold by weight.
For non-meat-eaters, other versions of the pastry are stuffed with cheese, potato or spinach. Just as with cevapi, there is a range in quality; it’s sold from restaurants in Sarajevo called buregdzinicas (and can also be found in just about every bakery in town). Burek rings up even cheaper than cevapi at $1.50-$4 per heaping serving.
Buregdzinica Sac: Best Sarajevo Restaurant for Burek
Of all the burek that we ate – and we ate a lot – we favored the traditionally prepared pie from Buregdzinica Sac. Located on a small alley in Old Town Sarajevo, the Bosnian restaurant only has a few indoor seats with most of the seating outdoors at large picnic tables. Flavorful and filling, but not greasy, makes for perfect burek! MAP
SARAJEVO PANCAKES (PALACINKE)
During our stay in Sarajevo, we noticed that pancakes were offered on several menus, but not pancakes as Americans think of them. Instead, Sarajevo restaurants prepare ‘pancakes’ like crepes that are stuffed with both savory and sweet fillings.
Cakum-Pakum Pancake Restaurant in Sarajevo
Our interest was piqued when we found a small Sarajevo restaurant, Cakum-Pakum, run by a local couple who serve two things: pancakes and pasta. Intrigued, we ventured into the seven-table restaurant on our last night in town. The shabby chic interior is a throw-back to the 60s and highlighted by luggage cases. MAP
The menu is simple with several choices of fresh vegetables mixed with savory ingredients; each combination is available stuffed into a pancake or served over pasta. We ordered one of each – and both were divine. After our main course, we shared a sweet Nutella palacinke (which we have discovered is quite a popular dessert in Bosnia). The food and service were excellent – yet menu items are inexpensive.
Top Tip: Cakum-Pakum is regarded as one of the Sarajevo Best Restaurants and the small interior fills up quickly! We recommend going early or you may have to wait for a table.
PIZZA IN SARAJEVO
Rarely do we make it out of a city without having pizza and Sarajevo was no exception. We love seeing how an international dish like pizza is tailored to specific regions. (For example, my favorite pizza place in Split, Croatia puts beans on their pizza!)
What we find interesting about pizza in the Balkans is that locals eat pizza with ketchup. However, the ketchup is not a dipping sauce, but rather it is poured on the pizza pie in a spiral before anyone takes a slice. I was skeptical – Why would anyone want to ruin good pizza?! – but I have to admit, it exceeded my expectations!
Pizza U2 Sarajevo
While Pizza U2 will not likely win any awards, it is a favorite fast food Sarajevo restaurant. Around for more than 15 years, Pizza U2 hits the spot at the end of a late night…just don’t forget the ketchup! MAP
There are almost as many sweet shops in Sarajevo as there are cevabdzinicas – and no better way to balance out a meal of salty meat than with sugar. While baklava and tulumba are the two specialties in town, we preferred the bars of marzipan topped with chocolate.
Our favorite dessert shop in Sarajevo was Carigrad, but really, we liked them all! Simply take a stroll through the Sarajevo Old Town and you will surely find something sweet! MAP
Sarajevo Cafe Culture
The cafe culture in Sarajevo is unmissable. Life in Sarajevo revolves around the cafe scene. Coffee is consumed throughout the day in Sarajevo cafes, restaurants and bars (often pre- or post-beer). However, rarely do you see anyone drinking coffee on-the-go. Kafa – or coffee – is to be sipped and shared with friends…and there are plenty of cafes in Sarajevo to do just that.
Drinking traditional Bosnian kafa delivers quite a jolt. Similar to Turkish coffee, the grounds are boiled in a small copper pot and left to settle into sludge before pouring the top liquid into a small ceramic cup. The bitterness is countered with a gummy sweet called rahat lokum, similar to a Turkish delight.
Traditional Cafe Sarajevo
While it is impossible to go far in the city without stumbling onto a cafe, we think the best Sarajevo cafes – the ones that serve classic Bosnian kafa – are found in the tangle of the Old Town streets. In the Old Town Sarajevo cafes, both locals and tourists sit at the tables that spill into the lanes. Unsure on the proper etiquette of consumption? Just ask! The waiters and locals are friendly – and love to share their traditions.
Cafe Tito Sarajevo
Not all Sarajevo cafes serve Bosnian coffee. As machine-made lattes and espressos become more popular, more modern coffee shops are opening in the city. Although it may not be steeped in tradition, we found the cafe environment as stimulating as the cappuccino.
While it’s difficult to find a cafe in the city that isn’t humming with people, Cafe Tito has a particular edge and a flair of Yugo-nostalgia. The Sarajevo coffee shop, which honors the late Yugoslavian president, Josip Broz Tito, attracts a young crowd. Visitors should be sure to check out the eclectic array of Yugoslavia decor…including the old military tank that sits out front. MAP
Sarajevo Beer and Local Spirits
Beer and spirits are almost as much a part of the Sarajevo culture as kafa. The city has long been producing their own alcoholic beverages – and we were eager to try them!
SARAJEVSKO: SARAJEVO BEER
The local beer, Sarajevsko, has been brewing in Sarajevo since 1864. However, we’ve heard debates regarding how the taste is holding up post-war. From what we’ve gathered (which isn’t much), either the process or the ingredients have recently been improved and some locals are coming back around to the old favorite.
All of the bars in Sarajevo serve Sarajevsko – either in the bottle or on draft. However, we think the best bar in Sarajevo for a taste of Sarajevsko is the brewery itself. The Sarajevo Brewery is located on the south side of the river, opposite the Old Town. MAP
In addition to the two standard beer options – either light or dark – available in bottles, at the brewery they also sell a special wheat beer (which was the best of the three to our taste buds!).
Rakija, or fruit brandy, is popular throughout the Balkans. In Sarajevo, we saw it ordered both with beer and on its own. Although many varieties are quite potent, we favored medenica, a sweet honey brandy with a smooth finish.
Best Bars in Sarajevo
The Sarajevo bars that we liked the most were the places that were unique and emitted a fun vibe.
Zlatna Ribica: Goldfish Bar
For whatever beverage we were after, we could find it and a mesmerizing atmosphere at Zlatna Ribica, or in English: Goldfish Bar. The interior resembles an antique shop and the wait staff dress the part. A goldfish swims in a small tank with a plaque that reads, “I am the fish that is made of gold, what is your wish?” MAP
RajvoSA: A Locals Bar in Sarajevo
The legendary RajvoSA is an absolute hidden gem! We wandered into the basement bar off a side-street, lured there by the sounds of music and colorful lights. Inside, there were only four small tables and and walls covered in historic memorabilia. MAP
A family inside was having a celebration and the owner played songs paying tribute to Tito and Yugoslavia. We were invited to join their party and they shared stories of how, in the late 90s – during the war – the small bar would fill nightly with more than a hundred friends, packed so tightly they could barely move.
Nightlife in Sarajevo
We didn’t go to many clubs in Sarajevo, but because of the annual Jazz Fest Sarajevo, many of the nightclubs feature live music. Shelter Pub (the former Monument Club) is a night club in Sarajevo that has a full line up of live acts – mostly playing rock music. MAP
Map of Sarajevo Restaurants
MORE ON VISITING SARAJEVO…
We want to know: What are your favorite Sarajevo restaurants? Is there anything you would add to our list of what to eat in Sarajevo? Give us your best tips in the comments below!
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