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19 Best Things to Do & Experiences to Seek in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Must See Places When Visiting Sarajevo

When in Sarajevo, allow yourself to inhale a different layers of the past, local culture, and to understand the mentality of the Bosnians shaped by diverse circumstances.

The city has many nicknames, acquired through the different periods in the past. The “City of History” could be legitimately one of them. 

Ottoman oriental, islamic, eastern scent is being mixed with “Austro-Hungarian”, western, occidental influence, and all of that in the end was spiced with diverse Yugoslav, communist, brutalist stamp. 

Check it out why everybody should visit Sarajevo at least once in a lifetime.

Yellow bastion view over Sarajevo old town – Baščaršija

1. Explore Baščaršija (Business part of the Sarajevo’s Old Town)

Founder of Sarajevo Isa-bey Ishaković (15th century) and one of his successors on the position of the Bosnian-Ottoman governor, Gazi Husrev-bey (16th century), knew that the urban foundations of every town are based on the strong economy. Therefore, Baščaršija (Eng. main market) was meant to be, and it was, the nucleus of the city’s commerce and industry. 

Dip yourself in the time capsule, embodied in narrow cobbled streets stuffed with shops offering souvenirs, pottery, jewelry and other local products.

Coppersmith street in Sarajevo is a place where you can buy authentic copper products made in Sarajevo. However knowing a difference between authentic handmade and machine made products requires bit of experience and knowledge on how to differentiate one from each other.

2. Traditional Handicrafts

You will get to hear, quite often, that everything offered in the main market (frequently described as Old Bazaar) is handmade. Yet again, you will also hear if some product looks too perfect, it means it’s just manufactured, stamped etc. If you’re interested, not solely to see, but to learn how to make certain products by hand, the easiest way is to consult and learn from experienced craftsmen. 

Today, only street managed to preserve its authentic purpose and appearance is the coppersmith street. This is the place from where you have to take a material piece of Sarajevo with yourself back to your home. You can’t imagine a place with more credibility than this charming and picturesque place.

Copper master at Coppersmith street in Sarajevo

Some of the finest copper-made products can be found in Sarajevo coppersmith street. If you desire to try to make your own copper souvenir and master this art, perhaps you can consider doing Coppersmith Arts & Crafts workshop in Sarajevo.

3. Sebilj Fountain

One of the Sarajevo’s Old Town most perceptible landmarks, also the one that firstly pop-up when googling about Sarajevo, is Sebilj. Originally, this was a roofed place where passersby could take a cup of water. Later on, a place was equipped with two public taps and those offering the water lost the job. 

Nevertheless, the Sebilj we have today dates to Austro-Hungarian period, and it is a masterpiece of Karel Paržik, the one of the most distinguished architects who worked in Sarajevo. 

Sebilj is the most logical place to start the walking tour, and receive the first engaging data about the magical place you visited.

Sebilj Fountain at Sarajevo Old Town - Bascarsija

Sebilj being the most famous landmark in Sarajevo is a top spot for great photography or cup of Bosnian coffee. In case you find it interesting, feeding pigeons is perfect opportunity for few amazing photos or selfies.

4. Admire the beauty and importance of the City Hall

Vijećnica, a City/Town Hall, means much more than just a home to a city assembly. Frankly, a city assembly lost its influence that it used to have at the turn of the twentieth century. 

Regardless of that less important fact, a City Hall you will see today, apart from the epithet of being the most beautifully decorated building in Sarajevo, is a place triggering a lot of history and legends. 

Vijećnica stands as one of the greatest examples of the Pseudo-Moorish style applied during the construction of the many buildings during the Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1878-1918).

During the Sarajevo Siege, Vijećnica has been destroyed in August 1992. Being the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina, most of its archival and library holdings were destroyed.

5. House of Spite

City hall overlooks the bank of Miljacka river and the house situated at the opposite bank. A legend, a very popular one, says that particular house was at the very place where later on the City Hall has been built. 

The house owner, a stubborn old man named Benderija wasn’t quite willing to sell his house to the local government, despite the fact that they offered more than the house was really worth.  

Hear what was the outcome of the dispute, and learn about the spite, the basic foundation of the Bosnian mentality.

Today, Inat Kuća is Bosnian national restaurant, offering some real authentic Bosnian specialities. Traditional Bosnian cuisine is considered a slow-food, so make sure to try some dishes like Klepe, Sogan-dolma, Bosanski lonac and other.

6. Inhale different layers of the history

Sarajevo has many nicknames, acquired through the different periods in the past. The “City of History” could be legitimately one of them. 

Ottoman oriental, islamic, eastern scent is being mixed with “Austro-Hungarian”, western, occidental influence, and all of that in the end was spiced with diverse Yugoslav, communist, brutalist stamp. 

Learn how the mutual relations between Sarajevans were labeled with understanding, support, cohabitation. Even in the evil times, this Sarajevo’s attribute was not ever questioned.

Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo

The Academy of Fine Arts, was originally built in 1899, with purpose to serve as an Evangelical Church. It is considered one of Sarajevo’s loveliest buildings. It resembles a mini version of Budapest’s magnificent national parliament building

7. Take a sip of the Bosnian coffee

Having coffee isn’t merely that. It is more about the side effects of the tradition that exists since Sarajevo’s foundation stone was laid in 1462. 

Most traditional way of making coffee is preserved ‘till these days. Hand grinding of the coffee beans can still be seen at the Baščaršija (just like in the households, especially amongst the older generation).

While conversation during the meal is generally taken as rude, coffee drinking is tradition made to socialize. Hear the story why Bosnian coffee isn’t as same as Turkish one, even though most of the people think so.

reasons to visit sarajevo

Do you know that Bosnian and Turkish coffee are two different things? Even though most of the people will refer to Bosnian as Turkish coffee, most of the locals in Sarajevo will not agree about that. Once you try both, you will see the difference.

8. Experience the “Golden hour” from Žuta tabija (Yellow bastion)

Yellow bastion as the military building was meant to protect the old town of Vratnik (one of the Sarajevo neighborhoods) from a possible enemy incursion, like the one that took place in 1697. 

A bastion itself was named after the color of the construction material used by that occasion, and it stands as a tiny part of the wider fortification system.

Allow yourself to experience the most beautiful sunset just 10 min of light walk far from the Baščaršija. Once in Sarajevo during the month of Ramadan, go to the Yellow bastion and witness the iftar (sunset breaking fast) canon tradition. 

The Yellow Fortress or Yellow Bastion is a cannon fortress at the entrance of the “Walled City of Vratnik”. It was built between 1727 and 1739 in area called Jekovac after Sarajevo was heavily destroyed by the armies of Eugen of Savoy in 1697.

During the Holy month of Ramadan, the canon from Žuta tabija is marking the end of fasting. It is time when many Sarajevans are gathering up at the Yellow bastion and are breaking their fast with the food they brought with themselves.

9. Hear the heartbreaking story of the Sarajevo Kovači cemetery

Yellow bastion overlooks most of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Sarajevo, but the neighboring cemetery named after the settlement Kovači will catch your eye. Even though the older part of the Kovači cemetery dates to the Ottoman rule in Bosnia (1463-1878), the most recent part narrates the unfortunate story of the Sarajevo defenders from the last war (1992-1995). 

Martyrs cemetery was established during the war since the city lacked proper grave sites. On the way towards the Yellow bastion, you can stop and pay homage to those who gave all in order that Sarajevo preserves its libertarian spirit.

Kovaci Cemetery above Sarajevo

Kovači cemetery just above the Sarajevo old part, Baščaršija are memorial to all the Bosnian army soldiers who died during the Siege of Sarajevo from 1992 until 1995. On each of the tombstones is written: Quran,  Ayah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2:154: “Do not say that those killed in God’s path are dead; they are alive, though you do not realize it.”

10. Gazi Husref-bey's Mosque

Gazi Husrev-bey personally represented avant-garde and somebody who truly believed in the eternity of the afterlife. During his three mandates between 1521-1541 he thoroughly expanded the economic and educational basis of Sarajevo downtown. 

The most important part of his vakuf (endowment) was the glorious mosque built in 1530. Sarajevans often refer to it simply as Bey’s mosque, since there were many beys (sirs) during the past, but Sarajevo recognizes only one, Gazi Husrev-bey. 

Admire the elegance and monumentality of the mosque, hear how it managed to gather Sarajevo čaršija in one place for almost 500 years. You will get to know what makes this mosque unique worldwide.

Gazi Husref-bey's Mosque in Sarajevo was built in 1531 by Gazi Husref-bay

Gazi Husrev-bey was a military strategist and is considered the most important governor of Ottoman Bosnia. By building the World famous Gazi Husrev-bey’s mosque in early 16th century, and whole endowment (waqf) complex around it, including Gazi Husrev-bey’s Madrasa, the Khaniqah, the Imaret (kitchen), public toilette, the Bazaar, the Han (accommodation), the Musafirhana, the Hammam and numerous shops in Sarajevo, Gazi Husrev-bey became the most important benefactor of Sarajevo.

Among the many things that were dictated for his “vakufnama” (deed of endowment) in 1531, Gazi Husrev Bey, also stated the following:

“Good deeds cause evil to flee, and the loftiest of all good deeds is charity. The loftiest of all charities is the one that lasts forever, while the most beautiful of all good deeds is the one that keeps on giving…. The efficacy of the vakuf will persist for as long as this world exists, and its work will continue until Judgment Day.”

11. Feel the place that shook the world in 1914.

Sarajevo was mentioned in all of the history schoolbooks as an inevitable part of the WWI story. Notorious and (un)famous legacy this city was confirmed unfortunately in 1992. Most historians agree that the 20th century has started in Sarajevo and ended up in the same place.

Place of assassination of Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand stands nowadays as a major place of interest for most of the city visitors. While being at that very corner you will almost feel emotions of Gavrilo Princip and motives he had when decided to pull the trigger of his FN Browning model 1910 calibre 9 mm K pistol.

Background story of the Sarajevo assassination is very loaded and those amongst you who are not into history will not resist to hear it. 

The corner which sparked the WW1. At this location Gavrilo Princip assassinated Franz Ferdinand. An event what triggered the chain of events, that soon led to beginning of the biggest war the World has yet seen, WW1.

12. Old Jewish quarter with the synagogue (Old Temple)

Standing not more than 150 m as the crow flies from the Bey’s mosque, a Jewish quarter narrates the story of the most affirmative Sarajevan segment of mutual acceptance and cohabitation. Understand how the Jews came to Bosnia and Sarajevo in 1565, what were  their reasons and how they were accepted both by the government and locals.

Synagogue wasn’t active since 1966. when it was turned into a Museum of the Jews of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yet, it was preserved in authentic style and still beautifies the former Jewish quarter, which was always an integral city part.

Sarajevo Old Jewish Temple or also known as Old Synagogue or the Great Temple was built at the end of the 16th century. As the dominant number of Jews escaping from Spanish inquisition in late 15th century was welcomed by the Ottoman Empire, meaning Sarajevo and Bosnia became safe refuge for those seeking shelter in this part of the Europe.

13. Stroll through the Ferhadija street

Ferhadija resembles any main pedestrian street in Vienna, Budapest or Prague. Once there you couldn’t tell the difference. Traditional Austro-Hungarian architectural style appears and opposes the Ottoman one. Either opposes or upgrades will stay as everlasting questions. Whatever it seems, in Sarajevo that sort of combination looks very harmonious and utterly natural.

Ferhadija as the main pedestrian street, therefore, is one of the most crowded places in the Sarajevo downtown. During the high tourist season, many languages could be heard, as many tourists from all meridians and parallels could be seen there.

Extending from Vječna Vatra (eng.eternal flame) to Slatko Ćoše (eng.sweet corner), it is home to Sarajevo’s must busiest and most elite promenade called, Ferhadija street. Most of the locals prefer to “be seen” here, so if you like to mingle and potentially hang out with local Sarajevans, Ferhadija street is the best place to be.

14. Explore the Sacred Heart Cathedral

The Sarajevo Cathedral was consecrated in 1889. and ever since stands as a pearl in the middle of the Ferhadija pedestrian walkway. Hear the story how this church accomplished the mission of making Sarajevo into, how the local Jews used to say, “chico Yerushalaim” (Eng. Little Jerusalem). A radius of 350m encompasses 4 religious buildings of all three abrahamic religions. 

Learn how important was the relation of Pope John Paul II. with Sarajevo, and why his statue stands in front of the Cathedral. Allow yourself to enter the church and witness utter aesthetics of the interior and serenity of God’s house. 

Sarajevo Cathedral

Today’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Sarajevo has its roots in the Middle Ages and is connected with the Cathedral of St. Peter in the middle of the 13th century at Vrhbosna area, stretching from today’s Skenderija to Marin dvor. An altar stone with the inscription “Apostles Petri Vrbos” has been preserved and is still kept in the National Museum in Sarajevo.

15. Old Orthodox Church of Saint archangels Michael and Gabriel

This religious building fulfills the fourth element in Sarajevan melting pot. It isn’t representation of the most monumental Orthodox sacral architecture but definitely the most charming. Nowadays church appearance dates to the 19th century, even though the historic sources are dating to the early Middle Ages. 

Church complex comprises a scenic garden where visitors can take a look at a well-equipped museum with valuable examples of the icons. Don’t miss to see and hear the legend of the “Child’s Tomb” inside of the church and its “healing powers”.

The Sarajevo old orthodox church is among the oldest preserved religious buildings in the Balkans. The church museum keeps a collection of icons, which has been declared the fifth most valuable in the whole world.

16. Clock Tower (bos.Sahat kula)

One of the landmarks of Sarajevo is the Sahat kula (clock tower), an unavoidable part of the Gazi Husrev-bey vakuf (endowment). Sits within the complex of the previous Imaret (public kitchen). Since the Sarajevo is surrounded by the high hills and mountains, the horizon is not visible, hence the time assessment was quite a tough job to do. 

Knowing the exact time was an important thing because of the muslim pray. Learn why the clock numbers look different, what is the exact time measurement that this clock mechanism shows, and what is the exact purpose of a person who takes care of “setting the time” on the clock tower. 

It will be interesting to learn what role a Sahat kula had in one of the most famous movies in early 1970’s that affirmed Sarajevo as the seat of resistance towards the Nazi WWII occupation.

The clock shows lunar time, in which the hands indicate 12 o’clock at the moment of sunset, the time of the Muslim Maghrib prayer. It is assumed that this is the only clock in Europe still showing the lunar time.  A caretaker sets the clock’s time manually once a week.

17. Take a gondola ride to Mount Trebević

Cable car in Sarajevo have existed since 1959, and ever since figured as the family member to a lot of Sarajevans. Plenty of memories are attached to the Trebević gondola ride. That was the case with Mr. Edmond Offermann, a Dutch scholar who experienced the ride with his Sarajevan wife Maja in 1991, a year before it was demolished at the beginning of the Sarajevo siege.

After 26 years of inactivity, in 2018. a cable car was fully restored, mostly due to benevolence of Mr. Offermann and his wife, and serves all of the Sarajevans and visitors today. Do not miss your chance to experience this scenic ride, it will take you to the place with the very comprehensive viewpoint at Mount Trebević. 

Sarajevo Cable Cars

During the cold winter days Sarajevo cable cars are the best way to escape from the city’s pollution created by the fire and coal burning, through which vast majority of Sarajevans are hating their homes. Taking an 8 min ride to the beautiful Trebević mountain is the best and fastest way to go outdoor.

18. Walk on the only abandoned and demolished bobsleigh and luge track in the world

Nowadays, very popular war tours in Sarajevo are unimaginable without visiting the bobsleigh track, which along with cable car defines Mount Trebević, one of the four Olympic mountains during the 1984 Olympics. 

Either walking, cycling or riding the skateboard you will be undoubtedly amazed with so much cool history attached to this site. Hear why Yugoslavia as a host nation didn’t have Bobsleigh competitors, why it was so heavily destroyed, and is renovation something much needed at the moment.

Sarajevo Olympic bobsled and luge

If you were to experience the bobsled as locals do, take the single way Sarajevo cable car ticket, take a walk down the bobsled and instead coming back the same way, take 1 hour downhill walk back to Sarajevo old town, via old gravel road and Bistrik neighbourhood.

19. Feel the Olympic spirit

Third historic event attached to Sarajevo, a very positive one indeed, is the organization of the Winter Olympics in February 1984. Sarajevo used to be a global sport center during the 11 days, and the most positive vibe was transmitted to the whole world. 

You will get to learn why Sarajevo was picked amongst Sapporo and Götheborg and what the organization of the Olympics meant to the urban development of the city. Many consider this moment when Sarajevo was turned from the town into the city.

Matti Nykänen was the one who will have the Sarajevo Olympics always in his heart. He won the gold medal in the large hill discipline. Apart from that fact, be able to admire the gloriousness of this venue, and everything it went during the recent war in Sarajevo.

Learn why Igman was the most popular site for most of the Yugoslav national teams during the 1980’s and why shared the same importance between 1992-1995. 

Don’t miss to climb on 250 that takes you to the top of the jumping ramp (in-run) and at least try to put yourself in the shoes of Matti Nykänen.

Igman mountain with it’s ski jumps is located some 45 min driving away from Sarajevo. The most convenient way to reach there is to take tour taking from Sarajevo into tons of Olympic locations such as Igman ski jumps, Igman hotel, bobsled, and few other which are not directly related to the Olympic story but still amazingly interesting, such as Tito’s bunker, Sarajevo War Tunnel.

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