10 things to see and do in Sarajevo

Published on: Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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From epoch-defining historical attractions to fine restaurants, Sarajevo has much to offer the discerning traveller.

Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a forward-looking city with so much to offer to visitors. The city centre has been largely rebuilt since the 1990s conflict and here are ten of the best things to do in Sarajevo:

1. Visit the spot where the world changed forever

A plaque outside the Museum of Sarajevo (Musej Sarajeva) marks the spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was gunned down by Gavrilo Princip, an event that triggered WWI. Inside, the museum gives more information about that fateful day and tells the story of Sarajevo’s tumultuous history before the conflict that changed the world.

2. Go sightseeing in the old town

A mash-up of neoclassical and Ottoman era architecture, Satri Grad (‘Old Town’) has been largely restored to its former splendour after the devastating Bosnian War (1992-95). A cultural crossroads between the east and west, the old town is home to the city’s most important religious sites, including Sarajevo Old Orthodox Church, Sarajevo Cathedral and Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, the first mosque in the world to have electricity.  

Another iconic attraction is City Hall. This imposing neo-Moorish building was one of the first targets during the Bosnian War and reopened last month after an extensive restoration. Also nearby is the Emperor’s Mosque and the Latin Bridge, which crosses the Miljacka River and is a good spot to take photographs.

After that you could challenge locals to a game of big chess in front of the Serb Orthodox Church.

3. Discover the delights of Bosnian cuisine

Like Sarajevo itself, local cuisine is a fusion of east and west; the city’s culinary highlights include ćevap (minced meat and fried onions in bread), burek (pastry stuffed with meat, vegetables or cheese) and baklava (a sweet pastry soaked in honey and sprinkled with nuts). 

For traditional Bosnian cuisine in homely surrounds head to the cheap and cheerful Buregdzinica Bosna (Bravadziluk 11), which is renowned for its delicious burek. To get a flavour of the wider Balkan region (and to sample some of the finest bread in Bosnia) book a table at Dveri (Prote Bakovica 12), which is an old town institution. The Bosnian Moroccan dishes at Maroko (Vladislava Skarica 3) are a pleasant surprise, while Biban Restaurant (Hosin Brijeg 95) serves fine cuisine and splendid views across the city.

4. Haggle with hawkers in the old town

The narrow, cobbled streets of the Old Town are lined with a rich variety of independent shops, selling everything from decorative Arabian lanterns to copper coffee sets and carpets. Some of the more tasteless wares include vases made from spent mortar shells and pens made from bullets.

5. Go underground at the Tunnel Museum

During the Siege of Sarajevo – the longest and bloodiest siege in modern history – a tunnel underneath the airport was the only way in and out of the city for many inhabitants. Today, visitors can walk along a length of this underground passage at the Tunnel Museum, were they will also learn about the extraordinary resolve and ingenuity of the people of Sarajevo during the dark days of the Bosnian War.

6. Explore abandoned Winter Olympic sites

If the hustle and bustle of the city gets too much, head for the hills surrounding Sarajevo. They are great for hiking, bird watching and for taking photographs of the abandoned 1984 Winter Olympic sites. The bobsled run is about 15 minutes away from the city by taxi and the walk back down to Sarajevo takes you through woodland and charming hillside suburbs such as Bistrik.

7. Party until daybreak with the locals

Young Sarajevans are a hedonistic bunch and they have plenty of pubs, bars and clubs to choose from. To catch a local band, make for the Underground Bar (Marsala Tita 56). This smoky, London-themed boozer serves cheap beer and good music to a friendly crowd.

Festooned with antiques, the Balkan Express (Maršala Tita  36) is a cosy pub that’s popular with locals. While a Mexican themed cocktail bar in the Balkans might seem out of place, it works at Hacienda (Bazardzani 1). For something a little more high-end head to 4 Sobe Gospodje Safije (Cekalusa 61), which is a popular hangout for local celebrities.

8. Take coffee in Caffe Tito

‘Coffee is to Bosnia what tea is to Britain,’ explains Samra, a tour guide in Sarajevo. Every Sarajevan has their favourite café, but if you like a bit of history with your brew, head to Caffe Tito (Zmaja od Bosne 5). This coffee shop is dedicated to hot beverages and the late benevolent dictator of the former Yugoslavia, Josip Tito. Located down a small side street, it’s hard to find but worth the effort.

9. Have a beer in the Avaz Tower

Sarajevo’s tallest sky scraper flirts with the clouds at 176m (577ft) and offers sweeping views across the city and the hills beyond. A glass-walled lift takes you from the ground floor up to a sky bar, which serves alcohol and soft drinks. For the best views, head out to the viewing platform above the bar. 

10. Try to make sense of Balkan history 

It’s hard to make sense of the Bosnian War, but the Sarajevo History Museum does a good job trying. Miraculously, the museum was able to keep its artefacts safe during the conflict and visitors can pore over some 300,000 exhibits as they learn more about Balkan history and the horrors that have befallen the region.