Sarajevo has become one of Europe’s most delightful and cosmopolitan cities. Besieged in the past, it is a remarkable, resilient place and is well worth a visit.
Top things to see and do
- Take in the sensory delights of the 15th-century Baščaršija – the Ottoman market place – with its winding side streets. Smell the Turkish coffee and watch the silversmiths hammering out plates and pots to a soundtrack of modern Balkan pop music coming from the many little shops and stalls.
- Reflect on the First World War at the Latin Bridge and Museum. It was on this spot that Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914, sparking the conflict.
- Hop on a rattly tram to explore the city. Sarajevo boasts Europe’s first ever electric tram system and it’s perfect for shuttling between the bus and train stations, the brutalist concrete Soviet-era suburbs and the exotic Old Tow
- Take a leisurely day trip to Vrelo Bosne, springs that are the source of the River Bosna, and part of a beautiful, green national park. You can get there by tram, then taxi or even horse-drawn carriage.
- Make sure you try Bosnia-Herzegovina’s national dish – Ćevapi – grilled beef sausages in pitta bread with chopped onion, kajmak (a type of cheese), and a side salad of tomato and cucumber. Perfect for a quick lunch.
- Experience what it is like to live under siege at the unmissable Tunnel Museum. An 800m hand-dug tunnel under the airport runway was the only supply line into Sarajevo during the siege of the 1990s. This museum retains part of the tunnel, with an exhibition on the conflict.
Sarajevo Old Town (& Baščaršija – the old town market)
Sarajevo’s Old Town is THE highlight of a trip to the city. It hasn’t changed much since the 15th century. Think courtyards, mosques, cobbled paths and more kebabs than you can shake a stick at, Old Sarajevo is where it’s at. And the blend of cultures, where Islam and Christianity began to mix is fascinating. Check out the copper stores and rug sellers for sure. Make sure you eat the Cevapi at one of the local haunts (sausage-like meet wedged in a pitta with cheese, delicious). Oh and don’t miss that Bosnian Coffee!
The Sarajevo Tunnel Museum
This is a good 30 minutes outside the city, but it’s a great reminder about the chaos that went on in the former Yugoslavia just 20 years ago. The tunnel was hand-dug when the city was under siege for about 3 years, without it it would have fallen, the museum really gives you a feel for what happened.
You can take a tour of the tunnels, with a guide to explain the war, for about $20.
The Yellow Bastion / Sarajevo Fortress
Standard practice for me when I come to a new city, get to a high point and have a good look at where I am. The Yellow bastion does that for you. The Vratnik citadel isn’t in the best condition, but it’s the views you come for so don’t complain! There’s only one way up, and it’s on foot.
Sarajevo’s Olympic Mountains The Bosnian Bobsled!
Pre-war, Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics. You can visit the Olympic mountains. Beautiful views and a nice hike. But the dilapidated, unused Olympic facilities hold a very ‘Chernobyl’ theme. A fascinating day-out. You can book that tour for about $45 here.
The City Hall
This typical Austro-Hungarian piece of architecture, locally known as Vijećnica, was built in 1892-94 and handed to the City Authority. Later, towards the end of the WW2 it was turned into a National library. Since it was the target of the Serbs during the war, it was completely destructed and the majority of the 1.5 million volumes and 155,000 rare books that the library held could not be saved from the flames. The restoration works have lasted for 15 years and today the Vijećnica is finally open to the public again. The interior of this magnificent building is simply breathtaking
Skiing: Winter sports are very popular in Sarajevo since it is surrounded with slopes. Jahorina, Bjelašnica and Igman are also known as the Olympic Mountains where skiers at all levels can enjoy over 40 km of ski lanes. Štitni Do on Bjelašnica is very popular for snowboarding, sledding and snowmobiling. Mountains are easy to reach, being located less than 30 km away from the city, and the destination is becoming more and more popular because of its reasonable prices and breathtaking nature.
The Olympic Mountains are also very popular during the spring and summer for all those who love hiking and mountaineering. The prime destinations for all hiking enthusiasts are villages Umoljani and Lukomir where visitors can enjoy pristine nature and tasty meals in one of the village cabins.
Besides skiing and hiking, these mountains offer different extreme sports for all those who crave adrenaline rush. Paragliding is getting more and more popular on Bjelašnica and Jahorina. The surrounding nature is also great for biking, and so far there are approximately 50 km of marked trails on Bjelašnica, Igman and Treskavica. The area also offers several horse-riding clubs which offer riding classes, and a golf course near Slatina. Also, there are some caves in the area for all the speleology enthusiasts of which the most popular ones are Bijambare, Orlovača and Novakova.If you are staying in Sarajevo for more than one day, there are places outside of the city which are definitely worth visiting. For more suggestions where you can go around Sarajevo, you can check out our recommendations for best day trips from Sarajevo.
Dining in Sarajevo is one big specialty of the city since it offers the ultimate cultural experience with Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Blakan flavors. We will mention just some of the most authentic places:
Avlija: This really special place is located slightly uphill of the tourist area, and while it is hard to describe the interior of that place it is cosy and charming for sure with potted plants hanging on the walls and colorful yard. here you will find generous portions of central-European pub food.
Hodžić: While both locals and visitors are arguing whether Hodžić or Željo serve the best classic ćevapi in town, we will focus on Hodžić. It is located in the very central part of the city, in the middle of Baščaršija. It serves traditional Bosnian food with emphasis on ćevapi, and it is definitely one of the most authentic meals you can get in Sarajevo.
Kibe Mahala: It is also located on the hillside but definitely offers one of the most stunning views on Sarajevo. But that is not the only thing this restaurant offers, it also serves traditional Bosnian dishes with the house specialty – spit-roast lamb. There you can also try a variety of wines from throughout the region. The atmosphere of the restaurant is spiced up with two guitarists playing traditional Bosnian music.
Mala Kuhinja: This is also one of the most exceptional places to eat in Sarajevo, making a fusion of Asian and Balkan cuisine producing a combination of flavors hard to find anywhere else in the world. in there, you won’t find a menu but the waiter will chat with you and suggest dishes that suit you the best. tables are overlooking the open kitchen which means that you can watch your meal being prepared. Most of the food is locally sourced, lactose- and gluten-free.
Inat kuća: Besides a wide range of Bosnian specialties being served in this place, this restaurant has an interesting historical background. When the City Hall was being built, the City Authorities decided to demolish two restaurants and a house. The owner of that house, the old man called Benderija, refused that idea, and demanded from the City Authorities to pay him in ducats and move his house, brick by brick, on the other side oh the river. In the end, his request was fulfilled and the house was symbolically named The House of Spite (Inat Kuća), later turned into a restaurant.
Sarajevo is the place where the east and west converge so the city offers both the international brands and products made by local producers. The main shopping zone is definitely Baščaršija together with Ferhadija and Titova Streets all the way to Marijin Dvor. There you can find plenty of souvenirs, handmade crafts, jewelry, copper items, oriental carpets and clothing which all together remind of the Turkish bazaar. Also, make sure to check the souvenirs, clothing, fashion accessories and items made by local designers in the stores such as BH Crafts, Thara Concept, Burtuquaali, Maksuz, Galerija Egoist etc. If you want a guarantee that you are buying authentic Sarajevo products, check whether the shops display the seal of Original Sarajevo Quality.
Besides the places with authentic products, Sarajevo’s most popular shopping centers are BBI Center and Sarajevo City Center. The first one is located in the center and has a lot of stores, once again combining the western and eastern fashion. The center has several cafes and restaurants where you can take a break between the shopping. The second one is Sarajevo’s biggest shopping complex, located in Marijin Dvor, with two smaller shopping centers nearby, Alta and Importanne. There you can find products of popular western fashion.
The city offers a lot of open markets with organic products, fruits, vegetables, spices etc. City Market (Tržnica) is great for buying domestic meat and dairy products, while in the vicinity you can even find some fish markets offering fresh seafood.