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Are there still snipers in Sarajevo? Genuine question our walking tour guide received via email. No, there hasn’t been snipers in stunning Sarajevo for two decades. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) capital, Sarajevo, is a charming city in a valley which wears its heart on its sleeve and shows its scars on its buildings. This Balkan city is often cited as a place where east meets west. Here’s a guide to the top things to do in Sarajevo including cevapi naturally!
Things to do in Sarajevo
1. Sarajevo Walking Tours
Learn the lay of the land by joining this walking tour in Sarajevo.
Sarajevo is a very historically significant city, its landmarks come with a story so it is recommended taking a walking tour of Sarajevo on your arrival.
Sarajevo is a small city so these walking tours are a great way to get your bearings and local recommendations as well as the backstory and personal accounts of the events this city has suffered and celebrated such as the Sarajevo Siege, the longest siege on a capital city in modern history.
You’ll see the Rose of Sarajevo (below) highlighted around the city, on this spot, 3 – 20 people were killed by one shell during the ’92 – ’95 attack on Sarajevo.
There are around 100 Sarajevo Roses.
According to our guide, one of the most frustrating things about living in Sarajevo is that Sarajevans wanted, and continue to want to, live in peace – Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats, Atheists, and now the increasingly popular group, Jedi, living together.
The city has been referred to as ‘Little Jerusalem’ to represent this cohesion.
These groups fought against those behind the snipers and the shells to continue living in this cohesive community.
Tours cover the Sarajevo attractions, Bascarsija Square, Sebilj and the Eternal Flame Monument.
*Note to those who attend walking tours – we love them, it’s our first port of call when we arrive in a new place but we want to listen to the guide, not your regurgitated information from YouTube videos we’ve already watched.
Was your life in danger every time you were sent to collect water or food packages?
No, then we’re not interested. Take a private tour if you want to be teacher’s pet.
2. Latin Bridge
Let’s go back, way back to 28th June 1914, the day that saw an event which (apparently) kicked off World War I and changed the world forever.
Latin Bridge is where the assassination in Sarajevo took place.
You can stand on the corner where Gavrilo Princip stood during the plot kill the Archduke of Austria-Este, Franz Ferdinand. Every Brit aged 30+ now has this tune in their head.
Princip successfully hit his target and the pregnant wife, Sophie, all because the driver of the open-top car didn’t have GPS and couldn’t navigate the one way streets!
Interesting fact, Princip wasn’t given the death penalty like his counterparts as he was only 19 years old when he committed one of the most influential crimes in history.
This Ottoman bridge over the river Miljacka is definitely one of the main Sarajevo attractions.
- Location: Stari Grad Sarajevo, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
3. Vijećnica/City Hall
The architecture in Sarajevo is just as interesting as the history is.
You’ll see a mix of grand and ghastly!
Austro-Hungarian craft sits side by side with the ‘function over frills’ soviet-style bland buildings!
The most decadent of them all is City Hall which looks like a big layered sponge cake close to Latin Bridge.
The architect responsible for the design was Czech, Karel Pařík. Pařík was designed over seventy buildings in Sarajevo where he spent most of his time.
This hall is also the National and University Library of BiH but it does not hold many historical books because the original library was bombed in ’92 during the Sarajevo Siege – a tactical move to remove any historical importance relating to the citizens of Sarajevo and BiH. 90% of the books were destroyed during the bombing.
60% of the buildings in Sarajevo were damaged during the ’92-’95 siege. City Hall was stripped of its looks during the conflict but reconstructed in 2014.
It is an important symbol in the city today.
- Location: Obala Kulina bana, Sarajevo 71000, just in front of the Old Town Sarajevo
- Opening times: 10am – 5pm
4. House of Spite – Man v The System
City Hall did not always sit on that spot at the start (or end) of the Old Town. Previously a little man’s house was in the prime location but the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy wanted it.
Like most men with power do, they tried to make this citizen move but he was stubborn!
He finally caved into the negotiations with the result that he was paid handsomely and his modest house was moved, brick by brick, over the river Miljacka, directly facing the new City Hall.
The House of Spite (Inat Kuća) is now a restaurant.
- Location: Veliki Alifakovac 1, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
5. The Old Town/Sarajevo Baščaršija
Stroll through the cobbled streets of Baščaršija, grab a coffee or shisha and people watch or buy some trinkets from the cute shops which line the small Old Town lanes.
Look out for landmarks such as Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque.
There are plenty of shops ran by friendly locals selling items such as Bosnian coffee sets.
Nearly half of Sarajevans are unemployed so I encourage you to spend money in this city.
BiH has the highest young unemployment rate in the world according to the World Bank.
Positively, further education is practically free, so don’t be surprised to see many young locals drinking coffee alongside you midweek.
Younger citizens have been faced with the ‘brain drain’ dilemma, stay in Sarajevo or leave?
The Old Town is safe to wander at night too.
Close to the Baščaršija is the Serbian Orthodox church, St. Michael the Archangel.
This is one of the oldest houses of worship in the city dating back to the 16th century. Thanks to the reader who introduced the church.
6. Sebilj Fountain
Like Ljubljana in Slovenia, Sarajevo has lots of fountains sprinkled all over the city.
This water is clean and drinkable so fill up! Sarajevo can get very hot from May, stay hydrated.
The most visible fountain is Sebilj Fountain in the Old Town.
Take a sip and legend says you’ll return in the future!
Like pigeons? You can buy some feed and act like the Bird Lady from Mary Poppins. No thanks!
- Location: Baščaršija, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
7. The Yellow Fortress/Yellow Bastion
One of the prettiest things to do in Sarajevo at night is to take in the sunset and city views (there is a better viewpoint to come) from the Yellow Bastion/Yellow Fortress. Take some beers and join the locals to watch the day disappear.
How to Get to The Yellow Fortress
- Walk past Sebilj Fountain, leaving the Old Town behind you. Take one of the roads in front of you to the right.
- You’ll walk past shops before reaching the Muslim graveyard (check the dates on the tombstones, so sad, such loss).
- After passing the graveyard you will see The Yellow Fort, there is a set of stairs which will take you to an elevated point, be cautious of the signs advising you to leave your guns, knives, cannons, and alcohol at home during Ramadan (what?!)
- If you continue to walk a little further you’ll reach The White Fort, for an even higher viewpoint. Enjoy
- Location: Jekovac, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia-Herzegovina
What to do in Sarajevo in the Rain
7. Srebrenica Gallery 11/07/95
Over 100, 000 (some reports state 200, 000) people died during the (nearly) four years of the Bosnian War.
Over 8000 of them were Muslim men and boys, slaughtered by an army of Bosnian Serbs over three days in the United Nations ‘safe area’ – Srebrenica in the East of Bosnia.
This is genocide, it is harrowing but it happened, and we did nothing at speed. It took 14 years to find General Ratko Mladić, The Butcher of Bosnia.
Gallery 11/07/05 has two large televisions which play educational films on a loop.
One TV tells the story of Srebrenica, one film shares the stories from distraught women who never saw their husbands and sons again, many of which never had the chance to even bury them because the bodies of their loved ones were not identified in the mass graves.
The other TV focuses on the Sarajevo Siege, giving you an insight into how the citizens of the city (Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats, Atheists) survived by running fast and sharing dark humour!
You can take a tour of the museum with a guide who will explain the images on the walls, most of which are stills used in the films.
If you are on a budget, skip the tour and head straight to the films. Learn about the history, an interesting thing to do in Sarajevo.
- Website: Gallery 11/07/95
- Location: Trg Fra Grge Martića 2, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia-Herzegovina
8. Sarajevo Tunnel of Hope/Tunel spasa
800 metres of man-made underground tunnel connected the city of Sarajevo with the United Nations ‘safe place’ at the airport.
This tunnel was dug by citizens from both sides of the city and took 4 months to complete. It allowed for the passage of medicine, food, and artillery which helped the locals survive and the army fight during the siege.
I’d highly recommend taking a tour for two reasons.
Firstly, it’s pretty far out of the city so you will have to take a taxi but the tour gets you there by minibus and also takes you along Sniper Alley, the main street targeted by the army.
Secondly, landmarks with such complex history require an explanation from an educated and/or experienced local.
The tour took us to the Tunnel of Hope via minibus with an extensive discussion around the causes, characteristics, and consequences of the Sarajevo Siege included an entry fee and the opportunity to walk through part of the tunnel open to the public.
The bus then dropped us off back at the office in town.
9. Avaz Twist Tower
Another excellent view of the city is the 35th floor of the Avaz Twist Tower which is 176 m tall.
This shiny building has a cafe/bar which sells hot and cold drinks, such a nice venue let down by smoking.
Sarajevans are big smokers and the ban on smoking in public places hasn’t filtered through here, it’s the only thing that lets the city down.
For a small fee, you can reach the observation deck on the next floor which gives you 180 degrees views of the city from behind a cage.
If, like me, rooftops with views are your thing, put Avaz on your Sarajevo sightseeing bucket list.
There is even an unusual annual event called the Avaz Tower Running where athletes attempt to blitz the 780 steps to the viewing point!
You may also be interested in our post on what to eat in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
10. Mount Trebević
I’ve saved the best for last, my third and final viewing point of Sarajevo is Mount Trebevic.
This hike is not for the faint-hearted (as in 30 degrees angled vertical hills) but worth it for the views of the city.
… and the hidden discovery at the very top of the mountain…
11. Sarajevo’s Abandoned Bobsleigh Track
Did you know that Sarajevo played host to the ’84 Winter Olympics?
The bobsleigh and luge track still stands (in most parts) at the top of Mount Trebević Sarajevo, a visit is a pretty unusual thing to do in Sarajevo!
The abandoned bobsleigh track was used by the Bosnian Serbs during the siege as a base for their attack on the city, you can see that some of the concrete tracks have fallen from the impact.
Now, the track has been attacked by the street artists of Sarajevo and makes for interesting photos to spruce up your Instagram with!
As of April 2018, Sarajevo’s 32 cable cars are now open which makes reaching the mountain and bobsleigh travel easier.
Craig says take your skates.
Don’t want to hike? Take a tour of all the Winter Olympic spots
- Location: Top of Mount Trebević
- Hike time: 1.5 hours
- More information: How To Get To Sarajevo Bobsled Track
Getting To Sarajevo
Sarajevo’s airport/Sarajevo aerodrom is called Sarajevo International Airport or Butmir Airport.
There’s a bus service which connects the airport to Sarajevo City Centre (5KM). It takes around 30 minutes.
It is possible to move between the following cities and towns from Sarajevo by bus:
- Sarajevo to Mostar (which you can also reach by train)
- Sarajevo to Belgrade, Serbia
- Sarajevo to Split, Croatia
The bus station in Sarajevo is close to the Avaz Twist Tower. There is an ATM, booking office, toilets, and cafe.
Sarajevo’s Railway Station is in operation. It was closed when we visited and were casually told that it planned to open, “maybe next month”.
Trams, as well as buses and taxis, run within the city.
Sarajevo’s cable cars have now opened after 26 years of being out of action. Great progress for the city which makes reaching the mountain easier.
Private pick up from the airport can be booked here.
Sarajevo: Where to Stay
Many of the hotels in Sarajevo are condensed in the Old Town.
Hotels in Sarajevo
- Hotel Old Sarajevo – Clean, central and friendly staff.
- İsa Begov Hamam Hotel – Traditional hotel with hammam experience.
- Holiday Inn – Unique hotel, restaurant, fitness suite. Rooms have aircon.
Hostels in Sarajevo
- Franz Ferdinand Hostel – Fun, social, clean hotel with small kitchen and free breakfast.
- BALKAN Han – Customers rave about the community, lovely garden.
Hostels in Sarajevo are a great option for those on a backpacker’s budget and solo travellers.
Sarajevo Packing List
- A waterproof coat like Marmot Precip US / UK or Mountain Equipment Rupal US / UK
- Comfortable walking shoes – I like my Salomon Ellipse trek shoes US / UK
- Camera and battery
- Battery pack for your phone – Anker US / UK
- Osprey bag cover US / UK for downpours, protect your gear
- Eco water bottle such as the Tree Tribe US / UK
- Or Water to Go Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off]
- Bamboo cutlery set US / UK, avoid single-use plastic
- Skross universal travel adaptor with USB options US / UK
- Pacsafe safety net US / UK
- Hydration tablets US / UK if participating in some Sarajevo partying!
Bosnia-Herzegovina Convertible Mark is the main currency in BiH. You can check today’s rates here.
Major credit and debit cards are accepted in most accommodation, shops, supermarkets and bigger restaurants.
ATMs are widely available. Currency exchange is also available in the Old Town.
Tipping is not expected but shows gratitude for good service. Rounding up or 10% is acceptable.
Food in Sarajevo
It is relatively inexpensive to eat out in Sarajevo.
Cevapi is one of Bosnia’s main dishes – a naan type bread filled with small sausages (also popular in Slovenia), sour cream and fried onions.
There are lots of restaurants which serve this Sarajevo food in Baščaršija with the option to sit in or outside. One plate will cost around £3. Cheap as chips, or sausages.
Another popular dish is Burek – meat or vegetable-filled pastry snakes served on a metal plate (like Cevapi is). This quick meal will set you back £2.
Bosnians love coffee! It is similar to Turkish coffee, bitter.
Sarajevo’s freshest beer is stocked at the brewery. The national beer is Sarajevska Pivara.
Best Restaurants in Sarajevo
- Vidikovac Zmajevac – Coffee, food, shisha and views
- Revolucija 1764 – Ferhadija St (main street), modern, varied menu
- Pirpa – Popular kebab, falafel, burger shop
- Konyali Ahmet Usta – Traditional menu
- 4 Sobe Gospođe Safije/The Four Rooms of Mrs. Safija – Foodies love it
Cevapi – the national dish (with some onions!)
Where is Sarajevo?
Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is the biggest city in the country and has a river called the Miljacka running through it.
Is Sarajevo safe?
Sarajevo is safe.
I felt safe walking at night.
As with every European capital city, be aware of where your wallet and phone is at all times.
While the streets are not overpopulated with visitors, tourism in Sarajevo is on the increase.
What are popular events in Sarajevo?
Thinking of going to Sarajevo?
Why not pin to your Bosnia board…
Overall: Surviving Sarajevo
The conflict in Bosnia is complicated. I would encourage anyone interested in history, politics, human survival, to do a bit of research before you visit Sarajevo if you intend to do any of the above-related activities.
It’s surreal being in a country which was at war when you were old enough to ‘kind of’ comprehend what was going on.
The girls in the videos look like me, I was 7 – 10 year old, I wore sports tops and tracksuit bottoms like the girls in the video (and Sporty Spice) then progressed to wearing white jeans and dark lipstick like the teenagers in the videos.
Visiting Sarajevo has moved this war from ‘textbook’ to reality, and for that, I urge everyone to do the same.
As one video in the museum reminds us ‘It happened, therefore it can happen again’ – Primo Levi, Holocaust Survivor.
Over to you – have been to Sarajevo, have I missed anything?
Would you like to go?