When you think of Sarajevo you can’t help but think of the recent past, it conjures up images of a city in ruins, refugees, bombs and violence. Even the most open minded of us have to try hard to quell these negative images swirling around in our head. But we never judge a place until we have experienced it and for some reason Sarajevo had always been a city I had longed to visit. After having an amazing and eye opening time in Mostar we headed over to the capital of Bosnia unsure of what we might find. A short stay ended up being extended several times and in the end resulted in us finding somewhere that will always be special to us. Some cities grow on you, others take you on a whirl wind ride and sweep you off your feet as soon as you arrive. Sarajevo was love at first sight! Here is a guide to this multicultural city where we left our hearts!
Sarajevo is a city that is easily walkable and most of the main areas of interest are well within walking distance if you are staying within the city.
Sarajevo does have a network of trams that do cover large but not all areas of the city. Depending on which bus station you arrive at (if it is the one nearest the train station) you should take the number 1 tram into town. The other bus station is a little bit more difficult and is located near the Airport. From here you should take a local bus to the main train/ tram interchange.
Where to stay!
We stayed in a great hostel called “Travellers Home”, this turned out to be one of the best hostels we have ever stayed in. The place itself is in a converted apartment and has both privates on the upper floors and dorms below. We ended up having some unforgettable evenings here chatting to the freindly and knowledgable staff about the culture, history and future of Bosnia…in what turned out to be quite an intense and enlightening conversation. We also met some amazing people here to we have continued to keep in contact with and hope to meet up with again as well as going as a group up to the bobsleigh tracks.
Often even the most amazing city can become overshadowed by accommodation that sucks! It can put a dampener on the mood and bring you down. But here it really contributed to us loving Sarajevo that much more! This is also a personal recommendation too, we didn’t get any discount on our stay!
Bazaar/ Turkish Quarter/ Bascarsija:
By far the most interesting and culture filled area of the city, this is where you really not only see but feel the Ottoman influence on the city. The whole area is a maze of stunning mosques, markets, tea houses and traditional eateries that is just a joy to explore. The old cobbled streets and while washed wooden houses and stalls take you back in time to Old Sarajevo. The capital might have come a long way and have some super modern high streets on offer, but these 15th century streets are the place to be! Don’t miss the Gazi Husrev-Beg’s Bezistan and the Sebilj Fountain.
Vijećnica, as the City Hall of Sarajevo is commonly known is not only a stunning example of Austro-Hungarian architecture that captures the eye and the imagination, but it is also an important historic symbol for the city. Originally build in 1896 this national monument has seen its fair share of important moments in history. It was from here that Franz Ferdinand took refuge between attempts on his life and ultimately the last place from which he departed before those fateful shots. In more recent history the building became a symbol of the damage the city suffered in the Siege of Sarajevo, the longest in modern times. The building was all but completely destroyed by Serbian shelling and some of Bosnia’s most important literally works burnt when the library section fell. Finally reopened in 2014 this building now represents the re-built Sarajevo.
The haunting Srebrenica Genocide Exhibition (Gallery 11/07/95)
When visiting Bosnia there is no escaping the horrors of the Balkan war. Many of us grew up seeing the pictures on the tv and reading the headlines in the news. Visiting Bosnia brings this to life and into sharp focus. Many of the events we know about and visit to get a clearer picture on them. But one major and sickeningly shocking even we never knew about was the Srebrenica Genocide. Over 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks were brutally massacred in this border town by the Serbs. The exhibition here explores and explains just what happened here with some moving photographic and video presentations.
The Abandoned Bobsleigh Track
For Urban Explorers such as ourselves this was one that we had looked forward to for years and a primary reason to visit the city. This one time beacon of hope for the city of Sarajevo in the 1984 winter Olympics became a brutal position from which the Serbs launched their attacks on the city. The once busy and bustling track full of happy spectators and primed athletes ended up as a mine covered no go zone. Since the end of the war in the early 90’s the site has become overgrown and abandoned, nature and graffiti artists taking it back. The hike up here is well worth the amazing and haunting exploration of this fascinating place as well as the stunning views down onto the city.
Read more about it here: Hiking to the amazing Sarajevo bobsleigh track
Eat Burek at Saç
When in the Balkans there really is only one food you must try; the humble Burek! We have pretty much lived off these for the last 2 months but by far the best was the one we had over at Saç in the old quarter of the city. Here this no nonsense local bar serves up tasty Bureks in several flavours. This savoury pastry dish comes filled with Cheese, Spinach, meat or Pumpkin and is topped off with yogurt! All for only small change!
See the most important bridge of modern history!
We mentioned him before but he deserves another shout out here! But here in Sarajevo, when the Balkan war was way in the distant future, the city was writing another passage in world history. It was on the Latin bridge back on 28 June 1914 that Gavrilo Princip shot and fatally wounded the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. This was the straw that broke the camels back and instigated the beginning of the First World War which in Turn lead to the Second World War and countless events afterwards. To stand here is to really be at the crossroads in history.
See the tunnels that saved the city during the siege
Just a little outside of the city is a remaining section of some of the most important tunnels in the world. Here in the backyard of local Bosnian this tunnel allowed the surrounded city of Sarajevo to survive. As the Serbs had cut off all entrances and exits from the city the tunnel became a way to arm the Bosnians, evacuate women, children, the elderly and the injured and also provide food, supplies and communication to a city under siege. without this tunnel the death tole for the Bosnian’s would have been inconceivably higher and the war may have continued for much longer or even been lost. Over 400,000 people fled Sarajevo through here and over 2million passed through.
Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
This 16th century mosque is the largest historical mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the most representative of the Ottoman period. It is the centre for islamic culture not only in the city but the country as a whole and serves as the main congressional mosque. The mosque was a specific target for the Serbs during the war and as a result received a high amount of damage and destruction. They aimed for centres of culture within the city but now this fully restored monument to Islam in Bosnia is back to its stunning former glory.
Have you ever visited Sarajevo?
There is such a wealth of things to see and do in Sarajevo that it really did become one of our all time favourite cities. With a unique culture all of it’s own and a friendly spirit, this often misunderstood capital came by surprise for us and we really didn’t want to leave!