Charming Travnik Is An Off-Beat Alternative To Sarajevo

Add on a short trip either side of a Sarajevo Film Festival visit to discover the spectacular scenery, chilled-out vibe and lively food scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina's historic heart


Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Why now?

A Unesco City of Film since 2019, Sarajevo pulls in around 100,000 movie buffs to its film festival each year. Whether you're in town for the 29th edition (11-18 August), where 49 feature films, documentaries and student submissions will compete for a prestigious Heart of Sarajevo award, or just to soak up the buzz, you won't regret building time into your itinerary for a trip to Travnik, 90km west of the capital. Seat of power during the Ottoman era, the small town is today a laid-back, history-steeped, red-roofed charmer with a dynamic hospitality scene and thriving creative community. In a country where more than 65 per cent of land is still forested, the getting there in itself will make jaded urbanites glad they came, with technicolour views through the car windows featuring emerald-green, pine-covered slopes, honey-hued gorges and glittering waterfalls. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even spot a brown bear: there are estimated to be some 1,000 teddys roaming Bosnia and Herzegovina's hills and valleys and, sometimes, seen swimming in its dazzling turquoise rivers.

Windows, Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mosque, Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Photo credit (R): Flickr by Brian Eager

Don't miss

Reminders of Travnik's historic cultural importance are everywhere, from the town's 14th-century fortress to Islamic landmarks such as the Sulejmanija Mosque, but one of the first things on your to-do list here should be trying cevapi. The country's de facto national dish comprises a beef or lamb mixture rolled into sausages, grilled and served in warm bread called lepina. Every restaurant has their own twist on the recipe, with the local water even being said to affect taste and consistency - and Travnik is reputedly home to the country's best. Get yours at Ćevabdžinica Hari, a beloved-by-locals all-day diner.

Where to stay

Check in at the accessible, 31-key Hotel Vezir Palace, in the medieval Varoš neighbourhood. Spacious rooms and suites in a neutral palette overlook a mosque-studded, fairy-tale-esque skyline, and there's an in-house restaurant serving Bosnian and Turkish cuisine, a spa, free WiFi and, to cinch it, a roof terrace perfectly placed for sunset castle views.

Where to go for dinner

The Italian-leaning Ex Ponto, according to one in-the-know local source, is "quite possibly the best restaurant in the world". With a dining room decked out in shades of espresso and café au lait and a wall of pop art that pays homage to locally born writer and Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić, this champion of slow food is an unstuffy date night delight. Service is impeccable and the vegetarian options a treat for non-meat-eaters - not always the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The cherry on the cake? The entire bill, including copious amounts of earthy, full-bottled native red blatina, will come to less than the average price of a round of drinks back home.

Jajce Waterfall, Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Door handles on a Mosque, Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina

And for a drink?

The Hotel Vezir Palace bar, whose heart-of-the-old-town location makes it a great place to kick off a night on the tiles.

Who to take with you

That friend who consumes good food and good books in equal measure - they'll be as on board for a trip to the Ivo Andrić Museum as they will be for browsing market stalls for picnic fixings and heading out to the hills to feast.

Essentials to pack

Wear this Etro floral-print crepe kaftan to glide seamlessly from poolside to old town tour.

How to get there

Fly direct from the UK to Sarajevo International Airport. From there, catch a bus (around £8pp), take a taxi (around £60) or rent a car for the short road trip to Travnik.

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