Lying north of the River Miljacka and forming the original heart of Sarajevo’s Old Town (Stari Grad), Bascarsija is a vibrant, bustling Oriental bazaar where several mosques and hammams (baths) date back to 1462, when the country was under the Ottoman rule. Starting life as a caravanserai, with accommodation for travelers and stabling for horses, its foundations were laid by Isa-Beg Ishaković, who was the first Ottoman governor of Bosnia. Over time, Bascarsija grew into a labyrinthine district of cobbled alleyways and shaded lanes, and by the 17th century it was a thriving trading hub with thousands of workshops practicing scores of crafts from coppersmiths to potters and jewelers, all existing amid the mosques and minarets.
Curiously innocuous considering its momentous role in 20th-century history, the Latin Bridge spans the River Miljacka between Obala Culina Bana and Obala Isa-Bega Ishakovića in Sarajevo. Built in Ottoman times, its four stone arches date back to at least 1565 – although a wooden one may have preceded it – making it one of the oldest bridges in the city.
By the advent of the 20th century, Turkish rule in Bosnia had long been superseded by the expansion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and unrest was brewing across Europe. On June 28, 1914, Serbian mercenary Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie while they were on a state visit to Sarajevo, choosing the northern corner of the Latin Bridge to commit his crime and sparking the political events that lead directly to the outbreak of World War I. Today a plaque marks the spot, and there are portraits of Princip and Franz Ferdinand on the exterior of the Museum of Sarajevo 1878-1918.
Bascarsija is the medieval Oriental bazaar lying at the heart of Sarajevo’s Stari Grad (Old Town), where mosques and hammams (baths) date right back to 1462. The most important and grandest of Bascarsija’s mosques is Gazi Husrev-beg, named after a Turkish governor of Bosnia and built in 1530 in Ottoman style by the Persian architect Adžem Esir Ali. Originally a complex of prayer halls, madrasa (Koranic school), medieval soup kitchen for the Muslim poor, wash room and library, the mosque was badly damaged during the Balkan wars of the 1990s but has been extensively reconstructed; today its distinctive dome once more forms the heart of Bascarsija and its spiky minaret is a landmark visible all over Sarajevo.