In Sarajevo, the compact city centre lends itself to easy exploration. The renowned Basčaršija, the old bazaar, is lined with Ottoman-era buildings, providing a historical backdrop to your visit.
The Sarajevo Holiday Market is a small yet notable highlight, where the charm of small stalls and the fun of an ice rink await you.
In this article, I’ll outline all the essential details, covering 2023 dates, opening times, locations, and local specialties to enhance your experience.
Christmas in Sarajevo uniquely blends traditions and religions, reflecting the city’s diverse cultural history.
The harmonious ringing of church bells resonates alongside the call to prayer from mosques, symbolising unity and peace amid the winter celebrations.
Many locals observe the holiday through family gatherings and religious ceremonies, while festive decorations illuminate the streets, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all who visit during this time.
Sarajevo Holiday Market 2023
Held since 2011, the Holiday Market in Sarajevo vividly reflects the city’s rich blend of cultures.
A multi-faceted event, it spans several sections, including a bustling bazaar where wooden kiosks sell a range of items from souvenirs and handicrafts to food and beverages.
It serves as a cultural junction where Catholic and Orthodox Christmases and Hanukkah are celebrated, along with the New Year, both Gregorian and Julian.
Young visitors in the Children’s Pavilion engage in various games, activities and educational classes under professional supervision. This area is close to Luna Park, offering additional entertainment for children.
An outdoor skating rink, covering approximately 300 m², adds to the festive ambience.
The Holiday Pub, set up under a heated, insulated tent, becomes a hub for adults to enjoy concerts, parties, and various events during the day.
The Santa Claus Village provides opportunities to meet Santa and his elves and buy sweets at the Sweet House.
The market successfully attracts a diverse crowd, from local residents to tourists, and celebrates multiple holidays, enhancing the winter season in Sarajevo with its multi-ethnic tradition and vibrant holiday atmosphere.
Dates and Location
Sarajevo Holiday Market dates: Likely dates: 14th December 2023 to 14th January 2024.
Location: Trg Oslobođenja (Liberation Square).
Opening times: 12pm to 9pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Christmas lights: Yes.
Ice skating: Yes.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes, but not recommended during busy periods.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: Unique fusion of Eastern, Western traditions; historic backdrop; traditional music, dance; distinctive crafts.
Recommended tour: Grand walking tour of Sarajevo.
Specialities: Bosnian coffee, savoury ćevapi, sweet baklava, rich burek, traditional japrak.
Where to stay: Hotel Story is a popular hotel, located one block from the Holiday market.
Hotels near Sarajevo Holiday Market
Staying near Liberation Square in Sarajevo ensures easy access to the Holiday Market. This area is central, filled with vibrant history and modern amenities.
I recommend Hotel Story, a highly-rated hotel, well-known for its excellent location, ensuring a convenient and enjoyable stay.
Location of Sarajevo Holiday Market
Recommended Walking and Food Tours
Taking a walking city tour of Sarajevo is an excellent way to get acquainted with the city’s rich historical backdrop and diverse culture.
Consider the Grand Walking Tour of Sarajevo, a choice for many visitors and locals alike. It covers significant sites including the City Hall, offers a walk through times of Ottoman influence, and enlightens visitors on the story behind the Eternal Flame. T
his tour offers a thorough view of Sarajevo’s highlights, providing a guided experience that caters to even first-time visitors.
Alternatively, the City Market and Old Town Food Tour could be a fun way to explore Sarajevo’s food scene.
With guided access to 10 distinctive food spots within Sarajevo, including the iconic Sarajevo City Market, you will taste a diverse range of dishes that hold a special place in the hearts of the locals.
Christmas in Sarajevo
Holiday Specialties in Sarajevo
At the Sarajevo Holiday Market, you’ll find an array of traditional and typical Christmas stall food specialties, as well as snacks, drinks, street foods, and vendors. Here’s what you can expect:
Bosnian Coffee: A rich and strong coffee served with a piece of sugar or Turkish delight. It’s a local tradition to enjoy this coffee with friends and family.
Ćevapi: Minced meat, usually a mix of beef and lamb, grilled and served in a flatbread with onions and red pepper-based condiment. Vegetarian alternatives are often available.
Sogan-dolma: Stuffed vegetables like peppers or tomatoes with rice and minced meat. There are vegetarian versions stuffed with rice, herbs, and spices.
Begova čorba (Bey’s soup): A creamy chicken and lemon soup, this comforting dish is enriched with flour and egg yolks.
Japrak: Grape leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice, offering a balance of texture and flavour.
Tufahija: A traditional Bosnian dessert made with poached apples stuffed with walnuts and sugar, cooked in water with lemon. It’s a favourite sweet treat during the festive season.
Pita sa Sirom: Flaky pastry filled with cheese, pumpkin, or potato, which can be a vegetarian option. This pastry is baked to golden perfection and served hot.
Kuvano Vino (mulled wine): A classic drink in many Christmas markets across Europe, mulled wine is spiced and served warmly, often with a slice of orange. In Sarajavo, the vendors use red wine from the surrounding region.
Sarajevska Pivara Beer: Locally brewed beer is available at the market. Sarajevo has a history of brewing, and sampling local beer is a part of the cultural experience.
Burek: A popular pastry filled with minced meat, cheese, or spinach. Vegetarian options are usually available and common street food items in the region.
Rakija: A fruit brandy, often homemade, provides warmth and a taste of Bosnian hospitality. A classic Balkans drink.
Unique Gifts and Stocking Fillers
At the Holiday market in Sarajevo, a range of typical gifts, products, and stocking fillers reflecting both the local culture and classic Christmas market offerings can be found. Here’s a detailed list:
Handmade Copper Coffee Sets: Sarajevo is known for its coppersmithing, and these sets are often intricately designed. Used to serve Bosnian coffee, they make elegant gifts.
Woollen Goods: You can find hand-knitted scarves, hats, and mittens. These are often made by local artisans, and they reflect the region’s need for warm clothing in winter.
Wooden Craft Items: Hand-carved wooden spoons, bowls, and figurines are popular. These are often made using local wood and traditional techniques, making each piece unique.
Traditional Rakija Glasses: Small glasses are used to serve Rakija, a popular Balkan spirit. These glasses are often decorated and make a cultural gift for friends back home.
Bosnian Lace: Intricate lacework, often used for tablecloths or decorative pieces. This traditional craft is unique and reflects the region’s textile heritage.
Sarajevo Roses Jewelry: Inspired by the concrete scars filled with red resin, known as Sarajevo Roses, artists create beautiful jewellery that symbolises the city’s history.
Spices and Local Food Products: Jars of local honey, spice mixes, or jams make for delectable gifts. They represent the rich culinary tradition of the region.
For additional information on things to do and the latest events in the city, I suggest checking Visit Sarajevo, the city’s official website. It’s a valuable resource that includes updated event schedules and practical insights to make the most of your time in Sarajevo.
Sustainable Christmas Tips
Here are a few tips on how you can travel more responsibly in Sarajevo at Christmas:
Eco-Friendly Accommodations: In Sarajevo, many hotels are taking significant strides towards sustainability by employing renewable energy sources. When booking your stay, I recommend looking for accommodations that adhere to eco-friendly practices, including energy efficiency and waste reduction, to support the city’s commitment to environmental protection.
Reducing Food Waste at Markets: While enjoying the delicious food at Sarajevo’s Christmas market, consider ordering only what you can eat. Leftovers often end up as waste, so being mindful of portion sizes helps reduce unnecessary food disposal. Some stalls may even offer smaller portions to help you sample a variety without waste.
Ethical Consumption: Sarajevo’s bazaar is filled with artisan products, and purchasing only what you genuinely need or can use encourages responsible consumer behaviour. Look for locally made products that reflect the area’s culture and heritage, and consider each item’s longevity and practicality before buying.
Sustainable Diets: Sarajevo is growing toward organic and locally sourced foods. You’ll find options at restaurants and market stalls that support local farmers and promote sustainable agriculture. By choosing these dishes, you actively contribute to the local economy and reduce the environmental impact of your meals.
Sustainable Transport: Sarajevo’s public transport system, including trams and buses, provides an efficient way to explore the city. Utilising public transport instead of taxis or rental cars minimises carbon emissions. Many areas are also pedestrian-friendly, and cycling is an excellent option for getting around the city in an eco-friendly manner.
Sarajevo Holiday Market 2023 dates are from 14th December 2023 to 14th January 2024.
Sarajevo’s Holiday Market is held in the heart of the city at Trg Oslobođenja (Liberation Square) and in the surrounding streets.
The opening times for the Sarajevo Holiday Market are from around 12pm to 9pm.
Yes, Sarajevo is generally considered safe for tourists during the winter months. Proper precautions for winter weather, such as appropriate clothing and footwear, are advised, and it’s always wise to stay informed about local weather conditions.
Beyond the Holiday Market, Sarajevo offers various cultural and historical sites, including the Baščaršija, the city’s old bazaar district; the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum; and the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque. The proximity of these attractions to the market area allows visitors to explore multiple facets of the city in one trip.
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Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.