What to Do in Sarajevo & Why Visit?

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Bosnia & Herzegovina isn’t the most popular destination in the Balkans. Visitors prefer to head to Croatia and even if they cross to Bosnia, they end they journey in Mostar or the capital city of Sarajevo. It’s too bad, as the country has a lot of history and therefore a lot to offer.DSC00229


History lesson

Sarajevo was under siege for 1425 days – 3 years, 10 months and 24 days. It was surrounded by the Army of Republika Srpska. Despite this happening over 20 years ago, when you visit the city you can still see the damage caused by the shelling and gunfire.

During the siege Sarajevo became the world’s biggest firing range. For almost 4 years many residents were being shot. And those who managed to escape became refugees. I’m not going to give you a full story here, but if you’re interested you can read more about the fall of Yugoslavia online.

While many buildings were rebuilt, you can still see bullet holes and shell marks in a lot of buildings. There were so many bullets that to this day one of the main souvenirs from the city are pens and keychains made out of bullets. At least they know how to reuse old things.DSC00228

The city had a tumultuous history long before the siege. It was in Sarajevo where the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sofia were shot by Gavrilo Princip, causing World War I to break out.

Fun fact. Next to the bridge where the Duke was killed, there were once footsteps in the cement indicating where Princip stood when he fired. However, they were stolen.

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Stolen!


Multicultural architecture

The multiculturalism and mutual religious tolerance between Eastern and Western cultures was often, before the fall of Yugoslavia, used as an example to other European cities. You can see it clearly on the main street Ferhadija. One moment you are surrounded by central European architecture similar to that of Prague and in 10 minutes you might end up walking into a miniature Istanbul.

There are mosques next to Orthodox churches, a synagogue, and a Catholic church around the corner. It really impresses visitors and was definitely an interesting experience for me.DSC00193
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What to do in Sarajevo?

Eat some cevapi

I often start with food, so let me introduce you to some Bosnian delicacies. The old town of Sarajevo, known as Bascarsija, has the best cevapi to offer. Cevapi is a typical Bosnian dish made out of minced meat with onions and it’s usually served in pita bread with a lot of cream.

If you don’t like cevapi or are vegetarian, you should get some ‘burek’. It’s a pie made out of thin layered dough with cheese, spinach, or potatoes inside.DSC00200

Buy some silverware

Sarajevo has beautiful silverware and dinnerware at a lot of copperware stores in town. You can’t miss them even if you’re just going for a quick stroll as the stores selling beautiful teacups or silver platters are everywhere in the Old Town.DSC00188

Enjoy the nightlife

Those who like loud clubs or posh lounges will be disappointed in Sarajevo, but that doesn’t mean that the nightlife is bad. The city has a lot of nice local bars decorated in a bohemian style. I went to one that was underground and looked like a cave and I loved it (unfortunately I forgot the name).

If you don’t like smoke you’ll have a bit of trouble as the bars and lounges in Sarajevo (and most of the country) don’t have no-smoking rules. You can also check out the Zlata Ribica bar which is decorated with random trinkets and real goldfish!DSC00208

Get a Bosnian coffee and dessert

Bosnia is cheap so you can spoil yourself to an amazing hotel and fancy dessert without breaking the budget. My hotel would have probably cost at least 5 times more if it was in Paris, so my boyfriend at the time and I fairly enjoyed the place. Back to coffee now. Bosnian coffee is really strong, but tastes incredible. Combined with a fancy dessert, it can be a nice treat for a relaxing afternoon.DSC00206

See the city from the hill

For a few dollars you can take a taxi to the top of the hill to see the panorama of Sarajevo. You’ll also see a horrifying, but worth seeing, sea of crosses remembering the many victims of the siege.72ea7c787aea43780be9868d233f72e5

Visit districts outside of the Old Town

The Old Town might have been rebuilt and modernized, but the outskirts of the city have stayed the same since the siege. My former boyfriend and I were visiting his grandma, so we headed to an area outside of the center. The place would probably surprise a lot of Western tourists, who never had to experience a post-war environment.

But to me it looked like Poland, where I was born, around twenty something years ago. The buildings were old and covered in graffiti. There are stray dogs everywhere. Sort of like they portrayed Bratislava in an infamous movie Eurotrip.

Tram in Sarajevo

Tram in Sarajevo

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Explore the war tunnels

During the siege Sarajevans built tunnels in order to transport people, supplies, and weapons. Today, you can visit a part of the tunnel near the airport and find out how life was during the siege. It’s a short visit, but definitely worth it.DSC00232

what to do in Sarajevo

Hug some cats

If you’re a cat person you might fall in love in Sarajevo instantly! The city has a lot of cats just wandering around. I spent ages petting this little cutie near the tunnels right before we left to the airport.

Meow!

Meow!

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22 Comments

  1. Jul 26, 2015 / 5:37 pm

    A beautiful country with sad and cruel history…

    • Jul 26, 2015 / 5:42 pm

      Indeed 🙁

  2. Jul 29, 2015 / 7:36 pm

    I visited Sarajevo few years ago during my hitchhiking trip through balkans countries. I was impressed by the size of devastation and incredible history of these places

  3. Jul 29, 2015 / 9:21 pm

    I really like Sarajevo – it is very interesting mix of cultures. Food is also very good and I remember cool place with shishas. It is for sure one of my favourite city in Balkans.

  4. Jul 30, 2015 / 10:27 am

    I’ve never been in Sarajevo, but one day I will be there! 🙂

  5. Jul 30, 2015 / 10:14 pm

    Sarajevo is a huge story and a thing to remember so that Europeans don’t repeat it again! And besides yes, it’s worth visiting just because it’s a nice city!

  6. Aug 4, 2015 / 7:49 am

    A brilliant city to visit. You did some great things that I didn’t do. A visit to Sarajevo Brewery is also fabulous. Great beer, food and decor. It was also important during the war as the spring they use became a massively important source of water.

    • Aug 4, 2015 / 11:16 pm

      I don’t think I’ve been there this time… but I hate beer so that’s probably why 😉

  7. Aug 14, 2015 / 11:29 am

    I loved Sarajevo! Apart from visiting the war tunnels (which is a shame, we enjoyed all the activities you listed). We loved the multicultural air of the city and the varied cuisine you can try there! Cevapcici is great but we tried some Lebanese food as well and it was super tasty!

    • Aug 14, 2015 / 12:12 pm

      Have you had burek?

  8. Aug 14, 2015 / 11:46 am

    The history of Sarajevo shows that even in Europe, in the time of developed democracy and stabilization there are in neighborhood countries that cannot manage with solving of their problems peacefully. Till today it is well seen how destrucive role have conflicts – Bosnia is one of the poorest countries in Europe.

    • Aug 14, 2015 / 12:17 pm

      Yeah… it’s sad to see how poor they are out there 🙁

      • xyx
        Nov 7, 2016 / 8:47 pm

        Never got this impression…contrary, I believe that people in Sarajevo have better quality of life than in many European countries and are not turned into companies’ robots

        • Nov 7, 2016 / 9:05 pm

          You can’t deny the poverty. However, they mentality is different.

  9. Aug 14, 2015 / 12:23 pm

    wow … medalik z nabojem :)) dobrze, że nie granatem, potem by było sporo tłumaczenia na granicy :] …widać, że chociaż minęło zaledwie 10 lat od zakończenia wojny to nadal ja czuć… widać to w wielu miejscach a i ludzie przecież wciąż żyją wspomnieniami. To będzie jak z Polską…musi minąć parę pokoleń by kraj zaczął, żyć na nowo. bardzo interesujący kraj. Pozdrawiam

    • Aug 14, 2015 / 12:55 pm

      Haha medalik z granatem 😀

  10. Aug 16, 2015 / 8:26 pm

    Sarajevo is among my favorite European cities – interesting history, mix of cultures and great people, and even speaking similar language what makes communication very easy!

  11. Aug 17, 2015 / 3:50 pm

    W Sarajewie byłam jeszcze jak była to Jugosławia…. Potem tylko patrzyłam na te potworne zniszczenia i tragiczną lekcję historii. Ale w zeszłym roku była tam autostopem moja córka i zachwyciła się miastem. Widzę, że trzeba tam pojechać 🙂

    • Aug 17, 2015 / 4:48 pm

      Mnie sie podobalo, pomimo zniszczen – przemili ludzie 🙂

  12. Sep 9, 2015 / 10:35 pm

    Thank you for the post. Just have been in Sarajevo several days before and find your post very useful
    Cevapi and burek are must eat for sure!

  13. Nov 5, 2015 / 10:26 pm

    I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everybody else experiencing issues with your blog.
    It looks like some of the text on your posts
    are running off the screen. Can someone else please
    provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to
    them too? This might be a issue with my browser because I’ve had
    this happen previously. Many thanks

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