Things To Do In Sarajevo
Bosnia and Herzegovina's captivating capital, Sarajevo, is set among sensational mountain tops. It is a former war-torn city that has successfully evolved into a clamoring and inviting metropolis. When Bosnia declared independence in 1992, the Serbs living in Bosnia objected and began a brutal civil war. Forces from the neighboring republic of the former Yugoslavia became involved, and thousands were killed or forced to flee their homes. The United Nations sent peacekeeping forces, food and medical aid. Peace talks were held in an attempt to resolve the conflict through new divisions of territory. Bosnians and Serbs became scattered throughout Bosnia, making any land division extremely complex. However, today, it is a beautiful and bustling city that is more than worth exploring.
When To Go:
The city of Sarajevo has a mix of Mediterranean and focal European atmospheres: it gets extremely hot during the summer season. In winter, however, it gets frigidly cold, particularly in places where snow falls through April. The ideal time to visit is from May to September (Spring). Around these months, there is less rainfall and it is not very humid. If you want to explore and enjoy skiing, come and visit during the winter season (December to February). You can also arrange an excursion in the late Spring preceding the overwhelming downpours, which occur even in the summer. Early pre-winter is another good period too, as temperatures are much milder, and rain is not much of an issue. Aside from the complexities of winter, the weather in Sarajevo is mild year-round, making it an ideal travel destination outside the cold season.
Below is a rundown of the best attractions and things to do in the city of Sarajevo:
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Do not leave Sarajevo without going to the Gallery 11/07/95. This small space features a memorial built to commemorate the genocide in Srebrenica. It s hard to leave this place without a feeling of inner struggle; thinking about the role of the international community and the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The images of the BBC documentary, the pictures taken of the fields in the refugee camps and the faces of the victims are imprinted into the mind and doesn’t leave, even when you return home. This experience is essential to understand the actual depth of the situation that occurred. It is an experience that empowers all, especially the European citizens that had a front row seat to the chaos that occurred 20 years ago in the heart of their continent.
This haunting museum has the most complete and extensive documentation for those that cannot travel to Srebrenica (the site of the massacre museum’s subject). It is the best source of information about the absolute horror experienced in Srebrenica in 1995. Do not forget to visit this gallery; it is a must-see reminder that humanity has learned to live - even after the days of the Nazi holocaust.
To hear testimony from survivors through actual recordings tugs at the heartstrings. It's worth the visit if only to see the movies with survivor testimony. There is also an especially emotional picture of the hand of one of the victims, at the time of the exhumation of the mass graves, tightening, desperate for help and gripping the hand of a rescuer.
Bascarsija is the hub of the city center, full of shops, with reasonable prices and many things to enjoy. Ranging from a traditional coffee to smoking a typical shisha, you can try many homemade local dishes like kebabs, burek, and so on. The road, made of stones, and the classic alleys with aromatic scents make this area very attractive and unique. The covered market, full of shops selling a variety of competitively-priced merchandise, is also a delightful experience to discover. In the final part of the district, there are a myriad of traders and artisans selling articles of bronze and iron, services Bichieri, tea, and food of all kinds. Must-see attractions are the Mosque, the Cathedral, and the Orthodox Church, as well as various museums. At night, the local pubs around Movida Sarajevo have venues for all tastes, all accompanied by great music, both live and prerecorded.
This active business district of Sarajevo is fascinating. You can find many shops; the tea room, the hookah places, and cafes where you get served authentic Turkish coffee in demitasse cups or a taste of the rakija grappa at the local mosques. You can also visit the old church (you pay for the ticket), where you can take a walking tour. The ancient Serbian Orthodox Church where the child's sarcophagus is found intact and is now a place of pilgrimage for those who ask for the gift of fertility. The Turkish house is also a must see. The same goes for the ancient Koranic school, which is now a cultural center. There are many restaurants where you can eat Sarajevo cuisine, comprised of pita bread and Mediterranean inspired dishes. You can also drink water from the fountain that is at the heart of the old city. It’s believed that if you drink water there once, you have a high chance of visiting the city again. Also, if you want to buy excellent local cheeses, visit the market of beef and cheese, close to the Catholic Church.
Old Town (Stari Grad)
The Old Town (Stari Grad) is lined with monuments, full of history, located along the main streets. In this part of Sarajevo, Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Croats, and Bosnians now live together peacefully despite recent national conflict. Visitors to the Balkans cannot miss seeing this remarkable city. It is a collection of diversity co-existing happily in one part of Sarajevo. At first glance, it leaves you puzzled, especially due to how small it is compared to the large bombed city, welcoming you from the infamous ‘Snipers Alley’. But, then you realize that everything works to promote tourism. The hotels, the restaurants and the hospitality of the people will leave you speechless.
The Old Town of Sarajevo City is beautiful, with its intertwining cultural, economic and architectural attractions. Support the free walking tours with your voluntary tips and choose local products and handicrafts as souvenirs and food. This helps the local economy, and the people work hard to earn it. Walking around the old town is like being in an old Arab center, with smells, tastes, palaces, mosques, and songs of the muezzin being played every prayer time. You can also purchase first-rate carpets. Here, in the heart of Sarajevo, is where mosques coexist with Catholic and Orthodox cathedrals, as well as synagogues. The Old Town is surrounded by narrow lanes dedicated to crafts and crowded with theme shops. Stari Grad is warm, open, friendly and cosmopolitan, so be sure to check it out on your visit to Sarajevo City.
Sarajevo War Tunnel
The tour of the Sarajevo War Tunnel must be booked in advance from the tourist office. It costs 12,00€ and includes the bus ride (groups of 6) as well as other features. Enjoy your trip from the center of the tunnel (past the airport), as well as a visit of the tunnel (25 meters viable), a film showing a documentary, and a wealth of historic information providing guidance along the way. The experience lasts two hours and is in English.
If you decide to visit it alone, it may be difficult to find, as the route to it is poorly marked. You should, however, refer to the back entrance of the airport to access this place. A visit to this museum is very appealing not only because it allows visitors to recreate moments from the last war, but because of the detailed construction of the tunnel. You will visit a part of the tunnel that is exactly as it was and then you can also access a farmhouse that has been converted into a small museum under which the construction of the tunnel began.
The people who built and maintained this tunnel speaks to the heroism of the people, as it was the only access point capable of saving thousands of lives. They wanted to leave it very similar to what it was in the times of conflict. In the West, it would be housed inside of a building, a tourist center, or a mausoleum. However, here in Sarajevo, the preservation of the site gives a better idea of the suffering endured by the people.
The Vrelo Bosna is a fantastic piece of nature at the edge of the city. It is a natural park where you can find the source of the river Bosna. To get there, you must travel a long path used by a majority of the locals. There is also a coach service that will bring you there, if you don’t want to walk, or have mobility issues. The park is vast. In addition to the source, which is protected by an iron grating, there are several small lakes connected by streams of crystal clear fresh water. Many well-kept lawns give you a place to play, to run and to entertain the kids.
It is a delightful place that will put you at peace with the world. The icy waters are crystal clear and even in summer it is comfortable underneath the trees. It is quite indescribable to see and feel its exciting features. Finally, and just like a fairy tale, you can take a horse-drawn carriage back to the exit. There is a restaurant with tables outside under the trees. Vrelo Bosna is a beautiful place to spend a day while being surrounded by nature in Sarajevo City.
Jewish Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Jewish Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina is fascinating. It highlights the character of the multi-religious center of Sarajevo, just like in East Jerusalem. The museum itself is more solemn than the famous gallery; it has a wealth of information to tell about what happened to the Jews who once lived in town. The museum, however, can convey only a tiny part of the story. Feel free to go there if you have time and are interested in learning more about how important Jewish culture is in Sarajevo.
Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel
The Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel is an old Orthodox church in Sarajevo that refers to the early period of Christianity. Its architecture is unusual for traditional Orthodox churches - it is square and looks plain from the outside, but it has great decorations and icons on its interior.
There is an astonishing statue of the Mother of God with Jesus brought from Crete. Near the Museum of Icons, there is a wine shop and café. Be sure to explore the church and its surroundings when in Sarajevo.
Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
The Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque is located in the historic part of the city. It has a beautiful patio and an impressive interior. The mosque is open to all who wish to get in at certain hours. At the entrance signs, you can see the signboard that says what is not recommended to do and how to dress when visiting a Muslim shrine.
It is advisable to visit here in the evening, during an evening stroll through the old town. This mosque is one of the famous attractions of Sarajevo, harmoniously integrated into the architectural ensemble of the Old City. It is situated right in the heart of Sarajevo and just a few meters away from the characters of the three other relics of world religions.
Cathedral of Jesus' Heart (Sarajevo Cathedral)
The Cathedral of Jesus' Heart (Sarajevo Cathedral) is the primary symbol of Catholicism in Sarajevo. The building is half the size of a football stadium and looks impressive; it is decorated with two impressive bell towers. The cathedral is one of the landmarks of Sarajevo. The spires of its belfries are recognizable on most panoramic pictures taken of the Bosnian capital. The temple fits perfectly into the surrounding architecture. The only problem - because of the narrowness of the streets, it is impossible to take its photograph from the outside and capture the entire cathedral in one shot. However, the cathedral is just as mesmerizing on the inside as it is on the outside– all in all, the venue is emotionally warm and not too overwhelming.
Unfortunately, the cathedral can only be viewed during religious services. You can manage to take some pictures inside through an open window. One interesting thing is that on the left side of the church (at the altar), the pavement has one of the few visible images of the “Rose of Sarajevo”. Roses are holes in the asphalt or pavement caused by the impact of the mortar. They were symbolically filled with red paint to erase the memory of a terrible war and vaguely resemble the shape of a flower.
Sarajevo City Hall
The Sarajevo City Hall symbolizes the history of an entire century and the turbulent one that just passed, all within its four walls. It is just a set of four simple stone walls, but it is steeped in a rich history. The city hall served as the last "home" of Franz Ferdinand before he was shot and killed by Gavrilo Princip, a symbol of the siege of Sarajevo Serbs. This structure was destroyed by cannon fire, but it was completely rebuilt with the same techniques the original structure was originally constructed with. It is worth visiting and can be accessed for free in Sarajevo City. Within it, it has recently reopened and restored the national library. It is now even more beautiful and colorful than it was before. A plaque and a brochure are also now placed at its entrance to remind visitors of the tragic events that have affected this essential structure of the city.
The new library of Sarajevo is the phoenix of the city, rebuilt twenty years after the fire that made it burn for an entire night after it was targeted by artillery fire. It represents one of the symbols of Sarajevo – a tribute to the ups and downs of the past. Because of its location, it is visible from many parts of the city. It was built in the Moorish style in the nineteenth century and is characterized by its exotic elegance and its stained glass windows. Now, only the central atrium part is open to the public, and there are vintage photos and images of the building after the fire and recovery projects on display.
Sarajevo is a city that is still reeling from the ill-effects of an ugly war, Sarajevo has a bewitching beauty that basks in its wealth of ancient attractions and things to do. In every season, and at all hours, you will be quite entertained. Travel the old streets; from there, the city radiates into a magic that rips the heart and holds it as a precious treasure that you can always find each time you want to come back. Sarajevo is like a shot to the soul. A mystical place that fills the spirit with memories of pain and horror, but also echoes hope. It leaves a souvenir printed in the mind and a sense of respect and humility, and in Europe, that can be a rarity.