The word Baščaršija comes from the Turkish word “baš”, which means “the main”, so in translation, Baščaršija means the main bazaar. Before the arrival of the Ottomans, the largest Sarajevo settlement was Tornik, which was located in Sarajevo field at the crossroads near the Ali Pasha’s Mosque.
Baščaršija represents a cultural symbol of Sarajevo and it is located on the north bank of Miljacka River. It was built in 1462, when Isa Bey Ishakovic built a han (inn) and numerous shops next to it. Most of the population in Sarajevo at that time lived near Careva Mosque, so Isa Bey decided to build a bridge over Miljacka River in order to connect populated part of the city with a new commercial center, Baščaršija.
The most significant buildings in this period were the mosques. Baščaršijska Mosque was built in 1528. Two years after came Gazi Husrev Bey’s Mosque, along with madrasa, library, hammam, khaniqah, bezistan. Later on, Morica Han and the Clock Tower were built as well as other tourist attractions.
Baščaršija experienced its golden age during the 16th century. There were 80 different crafts, organized in a strong guild organization. The streets were divided in a way so that each of them have one or more similar crafts (Kovaci (blacksmiths), Čurčiluk (tanners), Kazandžiluk (coppersmiths) etc). A number of commercial facilities was built so that Sarajevo has become an important trade center. Along with everything else, Sarajevo had three bezistans.
During the period of the greatest rise, the 16th century, Baščaršija owned around 12 000 craft and commercial shops. Travel chronicler Evliya Çelebi wrote in 1660 that Baščaršija had 1,800 stores, which were the model of beauty.
Due to number of fires and earthquakes during the 17th century (1640, 1644 and 1656) the importance of Baščaršija declined. Baščaršija suffered particular damage back in 1697 when the city of Sarajevo was ignited and destroyed by the Austrian forces under the command of Eugene of Savoy. A series of fires took place during the 19th century as well, so upon the arrival of the Austro-Hungarian authorities in 1878, Baščaršija was twice smaller than it used to be.
Baščaršija lost the importance primarily because the Australian architects planned to make a modern European city of Sarajevo. Today, it represents a symbol of Sarajevo and its main tourist destination.