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14 Things to Do in Sarajevo & Why Visit?

14 Things to Do in Sarajevo & Why Visit?

Bosnia & Herzegovina isn’t the most popular destination in the Balkans. Generally, visitors prefer to head to Croatia and even if they cross to Bosnia, most end their journey in Mostar, missing out on the capital city of Sarajevo. 

It’s too bad, as the country has a lot of history and therefore a lot to offer anyone who’s curious! So fear not, just because many people skip Sarajevo, it doesn’t mean there is nothing to do, here are my top 14 things to do in Sarajevo to add to your itinerary!

sarajevo bosnia

Quick History Lesson

Understanding a little about Sarajevo’s history will go a long way in helping you appreciate this incredible city so I thought I would start with a little lesson.

Not that long ago (relatively speaking), Sarajevo was surrounded by the Army of Republika Srpska and was under siege for 1,425 days – 3 years, 10 months, and 24 days. 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!

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.


Things to Do in Sarajevo

1. Explore Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s Old Town

As you can imagine, there is a lot of history to explore in Sarajevo’s Old Town, Baščaršija. Just walking through the narrow streets brimming with traditional shops, cafes, and landmarks, you can see remnants of the city’s past.

But something that makes Sarajevo stand out is the multiculturalism and mutual religious tolerance between Eastern and Western cultures. Before the fall of Yugoslavia, it was even used as an example to other European cities and you can see it clearly on the main street, Ferhadija. 

One moment you are surrounded by central European architecture similar to 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.

Recommended Tours: 
Old Town Walking Tour with Local Guide
Grand Walking Tour

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2. See the City from the Yellow Fortress

For a few Dollars you can take a taxi to the top of the Yellow Fortress to see the best panorama of Sarajevo. You’ll also see a horrifying, but worth seeing, sea of crosses remembering the many victims of the siege.

The Yellow Fortress, or Žuta Tabija, is a historic fort that was a part of Sarajevo’s old defensive walls and today provides one of the best places to watch the sunset. 

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3. Eat Cevapi

I often start with food when visiting a new place, so let me introduce you to some Bosnian delicacies, namely Cevapi. 

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 and a lot of cream.

Alternatively, 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.

Recommended Tours: 
Sarajevo City Market, Old Town Food Tasting Tour
Walking Food Tour with Local Craft Experience

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4. People Watch at the Sebilj Fountain

Located in the heart of Baščaršija square, the Sebilj Fountain is a beautiful wooden structure that was built in the Ottoman style. Today it serves as a meeting place with a bustling atmosphere and plenty of pigeons making it the perfect spot for people-watching

Sitting by the Sebilj Fountain, you can enjoy local snacks and soak in the vibrant atmosphere that defines Sarajevo’s Old Town while getting a glimpse into the daily life of Sarajevo’s people. 

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5. Buy Some Silverware

Something you’ll notice quite quickly here is that Sarajevo has a lot of silverware for sale. You can’t miss these stores, even if you’re just going for a quick stroll you’ll find places selling beautiful teacups or silver platters everywhere in the Old Town!

You’ll actually find some variety in the metal goods sold with everything from elegant dinnerware to decorative copper pieces, but most of it will be handmade and unique.

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6. Cross the Latin Bridge

The Latin Bridge is a historic stone bridge that spans the Miljacka River and is famous for being the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, an event that sparked World War I.

There used to be footsteps in the cement next to the bridge where the Duke was killed indicating where Princip stood when he fired. However, they were stolen and can no longer be seen so today the bridge is mostly just a bridge. That being said, it’s surrounded by charming streets and riverside cafes so it’s worth a visit for the experience. 

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Stolen!

7. 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. You can also check out the Zlata Ribica bar which is decorated with random trinkets and real goldfish. Or, I even went to one that was underground and looked like a cave. I loved it but unfortunately, I forgot the name.

Note that if you don’t like smoke you’ll have a bit of trouble as despite the new laws preventing smoking indoors, there are still many people who smoke inside the bars and lounges in Sarajevo (and most of the country). 

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8. See the Sarajevo City Hall (Vijećnica)

Getting back to the multiculturalism I mentioned before, the Sarajevo City Hall which is known as Vijećnica, is an architectural masterpiece that showcases the Austro-Hungarian influence on the city. 

Originally built in the 19th century and recently restored, Vijećnica now houses a museum and hosts various cultural events. You can visit to learn about the city’s tumultuous history or simply enjoy the bright facade and elaborate interior. 

9. 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 I feel you can indulge in as many cafe trips as you like! 

If you’re a coffee drinker, you must try a cup of the local blends at least once during your trip. Bosnian coffee is really strong but tastes incredible and when combined with a fancy dessert, it can be a nice treat for a relaxing afternoon.

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10. Visit Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque

Built in the 16th century, the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque stands as a testament to Sarajevo’s rich Islamic heritage. In fact, it’s one of the most important Islamic structures in the Balkans and a center of worship and community life. 

The mosque offers tours where you can learn about Sarajevo’s multicultural identity and the Islamic traditions that have shaped the city. You’ll also get to see the stunning Ottoman architecture which includes the mosque’s impressive dome and intricately decorated interior.

11. Visit Districts Outside of the Old Town

Tram in Sarajevo
Tram in Sarajevo

The Old Town might have been rebuilt and modernized, but the outskirts of the city have stayed the same since the siege. My friend and I were visiting his grandma, so we headed to an area outside of the center. 

Visiting the suburbs surrounding the city center would probably surprise a lot of Western tourists who have never had to experience a post-war environment.

But to me, it looked like Poland, where I was born. The buildings were old and covered in graffiti and there were stray dogs everywhere, sort of like how they portrayed Bratislava in an infamous movie Eurotrip.

Getting out of the city center allows you to see the real Sarajevo, how local people live, and the ongoing impact the country’s past conflicts have. 

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12. Take the Gondola to Mount Trebević

If you want to get out of the city a little bit, all you have to do is jump on the gondola to Mount Trebevic. From the gondola, you’ll not only get to see Sarajevo above but also the sprawling valleys surrounding the city. 

At the top, you can take a walk on nature trails, see the remnants of the 1984 Winter Olympics bobsled track, and relax in a cafe with panoramic views. 

Recommended Tours:
Sarajevo Winter Olympics Tour
Olympic Mountains Private Trip

13. Explore the War Tunnels

While it is quite small, one of the most interesting museums in Sarajevo is the Tunnel Museum which is located out by the airport. 

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

Recommended Tours: 
Times of Misfortune War Tour with Tunnel Museum
Bosnian & Yugoslav Wars Tour with Tunnel Museum

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what to do in Sarajevo

14. Hug Some Cats

Last but not least, if you’re a cat person you might fall in love in Sarajevo instantly! The city has a lot of cats just wandering around and many of them are super friendly! I spent ages petting this little cutie near the tunnels right before we left for the airport.

Meow!
Meow!

rokundo

Thursday 24th of May 2018

Hoi Anna, I found your article after I was in Sarajevo but it is quite interesting what I have missed, like the tunnels :-O But in the suburbs are a lot of bullet holes, which remember at the war. Did you walked to the top of the hill where is like a platform and more further like the old castle and entrance door behind the craveyard.. I am just interested in architecture and collected some buildings at my platform surrounding, perhaps it is helpful for somebody else.

Mohammad

Wednesday 22nd of November 2017

I would Love to see Bosnia, including Sarajevo. A lot of people say it i boring . You would rather go to the Middle East or an exotic beach destination. But I believe Sarajevo has a lot to offer in terms of history and culture. Sure I don't expect it to be like Istanbul but I hope it is vibrant and worth the visit. A lot of people from neighbouring countries like Croatia recommend it.

Winnie

Thursday 5th of November 2015

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

July Gadabot

Wednesday 9th of September 2015

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!

PlanetKiwi

Monday 17th of August 2015

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 :)

Anna

Monday 17th of August 2015

Mnie sie podobalo, pomimo zniszczen - przemili ludzie :)

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