Sarajevo – Hidden Gem in the Balkans

Sarajevo – where East meets West. With its majestic mosques, narrow cobblestone streets, delicious food and amazing locals it’s my second favourite city I’ve ever been to. It’s a real hidden gem in the Balkans and it should be visited more often. I fell in love immediately and if you think about visiting Sarajevo – don’t hesitate, do it!

Baščaršija Sarajevo

Did you know that there were Olympics in 1984? During your visit you can visit the abandoned bobsleigh track from Olympics.

And you know what? Food in Sarajevo is absolutely delicious! I still crave ćevapi and burek!

About Sarajevo

Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina and it’s very diverse city – cultural and ethnically. History made it like this. It has a population of 275.000 people and it is nestled in a mountain valley. Around 50% of the population is Muslim, so you’ll see mosques all around the city and you’ll hear the call to prayer several times per day. Alongside Muslim building you’ll see Christian churches and synagogues. I told you – the city is really diverse! And the landscape is pretty amazing. Sarajevo is surrounded by hills and the Miljacka River runs through the city. There is a feeling of old and new in Sarajevo and maybe that’s why I find it so amazing. It reminds me of Istanbul, which is my favourite one.

Sadly, many people associate Sarajevo with war.

A short history lesson

The assassination of Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Franz Ferdinand’s wife Sophie occurred on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo when they were shot by Gavrilo Princip. That’s the event that started WW1.

Latin Bridge

From 1918 to 1993 the structure was called Principov most to memorialize the Sarajavo Assassination and the assassin, Gavrilo Princip. The name Latin Bridge was again restored in 1993 and it became a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004.

The other conflict is the Bosnian War. Sarajevo was under the siege by the Serbian army for four years from 1992 to 1996 and it was brutal. More than 10.000 people had been killed in Sarajevo and 100.000 lost their lives in Bosnia. The city was repeatedly bombarded by enemy forces. Many of the explosive craters left behind by the shelling were filled with red colour to mark the casualties suffered at the spot. The explosion patterns reminds some of a flower leading to the memorials being named “Sarajevo Roses.”

Sarajevo Roses

Evidences of war are still easy to spot in Sarajevo. You’ll see bullet holes on buildings and if you visit one of the city’s war museums, you’ll get a picture of what life looked like during the war. The Bosnian War it’s a dark spot in Bosnian history but the people have done a great job at moving forward.

However, in my opinion Sarajevo is one of the most underrated capitals. Sarajevo really has a soul and it’s so pretty and peaceful. I was there for 5 times already and I still can’t get enough. And no worries – Sarajevo is totally safe to travel!

MUST SEE & THINGS TO DO IN SARAJEVO

Now when you know something about the history, it’s time to get to the good stuff. What to see and what to do in Sarajevo? Here is my top 10 thing to see in Sarajevo.

1. BAŠČARŠIJA

Baščaršija is the Old Town of Sarajevo. This is the oldest bazaar in Sarajevo and this is the heart of the city. It has an authentic feel and you should really see this on your own. It is an old marketplace with shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafés. This has to be the number one attraction in Sarajevo. Here you’ll find many important building like Gazi Husrev Bey’s Mosque, Sebilj, Morića Han and the Sarajevo City Hall. Baščaršija hasn’t changed much since the 15th century and it will blow you away with charm and eastern mystique.

Sarajevo Old Town
Morića Han Sarajevo
Baščaršija
Baščaršija

2. VIJEĆNICA – SARAJEVO CITY HALL

Right next to the Old Town and the Latin Bridge, you’ll find Vijećnica. Sarajevo City Hall is one of the examples of Bosnian multiculturalism. Serb forces completely destroyed Vijećnica in 1992 and it was under major renovation recently. The building reopened in 2014.
Entry: 5€

Sarajevo City Hall
Vijećnica

3. LATIN BRIDGE

This is the place where Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife were killed by Bosnian-Serb Gavrilo Princip. This is the spot where WW1 actually began. He gunned them down at the northern end of the bridge.

Latin Bridge

4. SEBILJ

I am sure that you have seen this photo of Sarajevo. This is Sebilj fountain, a symbol of Sarajevo. Legend says that whoever drinks water from it will return to Sarajevo. And if I look at myself… I guess they were right 🙂
Right next to it there is a pigeon square. There is no need to explain how it got that name.

Sebilj
Sebilj
Pigeon Square

5. THE YELLOW FORTRESS

This is where you should go to get one of the best views of Sarajevo. The Yellow Fortress is part of the fortified defensive wall outside the historic city centre. There are five fortresses at certain points along the defensive wall. Nearby is another one, White Fortress. If you are lucky with the weather you’ll get an amazing view.

6. AVAZ TWIST TOWER

Rising 176 meters in the sky, the Avaz Twist Tower is a skyscraper and the most notable modern building in Sarajevo. It is a headquarters of a Bosnian newspaper and at the moment this is the former Yugoslavia’s tallest building. Head to the 35th floor for the best views of the city.

Avaz Twist Tower

7. SARAJEVO TUNNEL OF HOPE (TUNEL SPASA)

If you know something about the conflict in Sarajevo, you’ve probably heard of the Tunnel of Hope. The tunnel saved Bosnia during the war. During the siege of Sarajevo, the city was cut off from the rest of the world. This tunnel was the only link to the outside world as it was allowing food, supplies and humanitarian aid to come to the city. On the other side it was the only way to get the people out of the city.

8. ABANDONED BOBSLED TRACK

Sarajevo hosted the Olympics in 1984 and bobsled track is now abandoned and it is a walking grafitti art museum. The track is located on the Trebević Mountain. To get there, you can walk, but the terrain isn’t particularly flat, so keep that in mind.

9. GAZI-HUSREV BEY’S MOSQUE

The Gazi-Husrev bey’s mosque is located in the Old town and it really deserves a visit. This is the largest mosque in Bosnia and one of the most representative Ottoman building in the Balkans. This mosque is one of the top attractions in Sarajevo.

The thing I love about Sarajevo is that the city is very diverse and you can immediately notice that. You’ll find mosques, churches, synagogues and this really shows the religious diversity. In fact, there is a street here where you can see a mosque, a synagogue, an orthodox and a Catholic church.

Gazi-Husrev Bey's Mosque

10. THE ETERNAL FLAME – VJEČNA VATRA

The Eternal Flame is a monument to the victims of World War II. It is located a short walk from the Old town, at the junction of three most important streets in the centre. The flame never stops burning, which makes it a total unique thing to see in Sarajevo.

The Eternal Flame

GET OUTDOORS – VRELO BOSNE

At the foothills you can visit a public park featuring River Bosna’s natural spring. It is located on the outskirts of the city and the ride with tram will take you around 30 minutes. The place is great to escape and get a little bit of fresh air. This area serves as a habitat for various plant communities and animal species, some of which are endemic. Six streams from the Vrelo Bosne source area flow into the Mala Bosna watercourse, which is home to indigenous varieties of river trout. This gem is something that should be on the bucket list every time someone visits Sarajevo. 

Vrelo Bosno is very well maintained. There are benches, covered rest areas, play areas for children and a restaurant in the center of the complex which serves a local specialty – fresh river trout.

Vrelo Bosne
Vrelo Bosne

FOOD & DRINK

The food here is absolutely delicious.

As I come from the Balkans too I know what to expect from Bosnian food but I really didn’t expect it to be soooo good. Bosnian food is super delicious and you should try everything. The most popular dishes are ćevapi and burek. And they are inexpensive too! They serve this dishes in restaurants called ćevabdžinica and buregdžinica. Other places with traditional Bosnian food are aščinicas. You can eat traditional Bosnian food in other places too, but the best choice is to eat in the Old Town.

Ćevapi

If you are looking for traditional Bosnian food, you should try ćevapi (grilled meat served with a onion and somun bread – you can also add kajmak), burek (pastry dough with meat), klepe (something like Bosnian ravioli), begova čorba, sarajevski sahan (onions filled with meat, stuffed grape leaves and stuffed pepper).

P.S.: Burek is always made of meat, but you can try zeljanica (stuffed with spinach), sirnica (stuffed with cheese) or krompiruša (stuffed with potato) if you are non-meat-eater.

Burek
Klepe

BOSNIAN DESSERTS

What is the best way to balance out the salty meal? Yes, you are right. With sugar. Sarajevo is the right place to do it. There is almost as many sweet shops as čevabdžiničas and the most popular desserts here are baklava and tulumba. They are delicious and you should try it, but they are so sweet that one at the time is more than enough for me.

Baklava

WHERE TO EAT IN SARAJEVO?

COFFEE CULTURE IN SARAJEVO

Life in Sarajevo and in Bosnia revolves around the coffee. They drink coffee throughout the day and time for coffee is time to hang out with friends & family. You’ll rarely see someone with coffee-to-go. Order Bosnian kafa like Sarajlijas do and spend some time with friends. There are plenty of cafes in Sarajevo to do that.

Similar to Turkish coffee, they boil the grounds in a small copper pot and left to settle into sludge before pouring the top liquid into a small ceramic cup. The best cafés with traditional Bosnian coffee are located in the Old town.

Bosnian Coffee

If you are tea lover, you really have to go to the čajdžinica Džirlo. I would advise you to go there even if you love coffee more than you love tea, because this place is really worth of visiting it.

The official currency is BAM (Bosnian Convertible Marka). You can use Euro in many restaurants and stores, but you’ll still need some of the local currency with you. You can use ATM to withdraw local currency. Many stores also accept credit cards, so there won’t be any problem.

Have you been to Sarajevo already? Did I miss something? Feel free to ask me anything or give me your advice for my next trip!

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