In this Sarajevo travel guide, I will lay out all the amazing things to do in Sarajevo, the typical and the off-the-beaten path. I will tell you what I thought about the city, what you should know before your visit and give you all the tips and information you might need to make your Sarajevo trip as mesmerising as mine.
There are cities that steal your heart from the word go. But there are also those that slowly grow on you. And then maybe, you love them more for that!
Sarajevo, for me, belongs to the latter.
There are many Sarajevo attractions and the city has an undeniable appeal, especially the bazaar in the Old Town. It is the part of Sarajevo that receives the most love. But I have never been a fan of cities that only offer just that one thing. So I took my time, checked all the possible things to do in Sarajevo before I could officially say: I love Sarajevo.
Coming from a post-communist country myself, many of the things I saw when I first arrived were not very exotic, to say the least.
So I held my breath and went exploring. And Sarajevo grew on me. And now it proudly stands among the top 3 of my favourite cities ever!
So I decided to write this Sarajevo travel guide.
Table of Contents
Sarajevo, The Meeting of Cultures
What I love most about the city is this astonishing mix of cultures. And this isn’t just a slogan engraved on the tourist pedestrian path.
I’ve never seen this kind of cultural coexistence before. Sarajevo is often referred to as the Jerusalem of Europe.
The coexistence of all kinds of cultures is beautiful and mesmerising to me. The Turkish-sounding music, but sung in Bosniak, coming out of the stalls and restaurants, the style of Bosnian coffee and tea drinking that couldn’t be more Eastern, the mosque standing just a few metres from the Synagogue and the Orthodox church, the combination of Ottoman, Brutalist Eastern European and Austro-Hungarian architecture – all this gives you vertigo.
A beautiful, very pleasant dizziness, the kind you might experience after a shot of rakija.
But for many years and like many others, I’ve associated Sarajevo with just one thing. Military conflict. I was a teenager when the Bosnian War and then the Sarajevo Siege were broadcast on the news and somehow the vision of war and the destroyed city stayed in my memory for many years.
It was amazing to learn that there is so much more to Sarajevo…
What is Sarajevo known for?
Sarajevo is most known for being the place of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife causing a chain of events leading to the start of the Second World War. It is also known as a melting culture pot, a city of multiple religions often called the ‘Jerusalem of Europe’.
But Sarajevo as a city has a fascinating history and is marked by many events that changed the course of history and created the city that it is today.
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History of Sarajevo
If you don’t want to read about Sarajevo’s history you can skip it and jump straight to the best things to do in Sarajevo instead by clicking here.
Sarajevo was founded by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century when their conquest extended into Europe. Today, Sarajevo’s Ottoman past is still visible through food, religion, architecture, and culture
Over the coming decades, Sarajevo grew in its importance and soon Orthodox population appeared in town, followed by Catholic Croats and then Jewish refugees from Andalucia in the 16th century. Sarajevo officially became a city of 4 religions.
This is when Sarajevo was called for the first time “The European Jerusalem.”
Sarajevo also became one of the most advanced cities in Europe. At some point, Sarajevo was the biggest and most important Ottoman city in the Balkans after Istanbul itself.
But with the decline of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 17th century, Sarajevo followed suit. Eventually, at the end of the Austro-Ottoman war Sarajevo was raided and burned.
Eventually, Sarajevo became occupied by Austria-Hungary which added a rich layer of diverse culture and architecture to the city, which can still be admired in its magnificent buildings.
On June 28, 1914, a significant event unfolded on the iconic Latin Bridge in Sarajevo. A young Serb’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie took place during their visit to the city. The act was driven by the hope of freeing Bosnia and Herzegovina from Austrian-Hungarian rule, setting in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to the outbreak of World War I.
Following World War II, Bosnia became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which contributed yet another layer to its complex history and left a distinct cultural and architectural imprint on Sarajevo.
Back then, one of the most memorable moments in Sarajevo’s history was the 1984 Winter Olympics. It was regarded as one of the most successful Winter Olympic Games in history.
In 1992 Bosnian war started. The history and reasons behind it are so complex that I will not be talking about it here. But this horrific war raged in Sarajevo and the rest of the country and left scars visible until today.
Sarajevo endured the longest siege in modern history, lasting 1,425. The city faced unimaginable tribulations, lacking electricity, heating, water, and medical supplies while being relentlessly shelled by surrounding Serb forces. With an average of 329 shell impacts per day and a peak of 3,777 impacts on July 22, 1993, Sarajevo was left in ruins, losing national monuments and forever changing lives.
Today, the scars of the 90s still linger, evident in bullet-riddled houses.
But the city rebuilt itself and is now one of the fastest-growing cities in this part of the world.
Is Sarajevo worth visiting?
Sarajevo is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. A place where East meets West. Packed full of amazing things to do, rich in history and tragic events but also a multicultural and diverse city very much worth visiting.
You will find everything in Sarajevo. Colours, smells, sounds, friendly people, amazing restaurants, hip cafes, historical landmarks, incredible views and plenty of outdoor activities. Sarajevo is one of the most worth-visiting cities in Europe.
Wondering if Bosnia and Herzegovina is safe to travel? Read my complete guide to Bosnia Travel Safety! And if are wondering how to budget for your Bosnia trip, read my guide to Budget Travel in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
And visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina is not complete without visiting beautiful Mostar! Read where why you should stay in Mostar for a few days!
How many days do you need for visiting Sarajevo
In order to see the most important landmarks you could spend just a couple of days in Sarajevo. The city is very easy to explore on foot, and most of the main sights are within walking distance of each other.
But if you want to explore and get to know the city, get off the beaten path, take time to soak up the atmosphere, and maybe do a day trip or two, I recommend spending at least 4 days in Sarajevo.
Things to do in Sarajevo / Sarajevo Travel Guide
Some travellers visit Sarajevo just for a couple of days, some merely pass by and some stay for a few days or even weeks. So I wanted to cater this Sarajevo travel guide to all of you folks!
So to make it easy I divided the ‘things to do in Sarajevo’ section into 2 parts.
To make it easy, I divided the ‘Things to do in Sarajevo’ section into 2 parts.
The 6 must-see attractions in Sarajevo – things to see or do even if you are only here for a day! I mean, you do not have to see anything if you do not want to – most of the time a walk around Baščaršija is enough.
But if you really want to immerse yourself in this glorious city, understand its history and feel its heartbeat – these are the things I personally recommend you do while in Sarajevo.
Then, for those slow travellers, digital nomads or just you know, explorers … I have more good stuff!
So let’s start.
Top 6 things to do in Sarajevo! / Sarajevo Travel Guide
1. Walk up the Ferhadija Street
Ferhadija is Sarajevo’s main pedestrian street leading to the old town. It is near impossible to miss it and most likely it will be the main tourist street you will walk to as you arrive.
Ferhadija Street is lined with shops, restaurants and cafes and is always bustling with locals and visitors. So why is it at the top of the list of things to do in Sarajevo?
Because on Ferhadija Street, you will find numerous museums, beautiful architecture and extremely important landmarks.
At the entrance to Ferhadija Street, you will notice the Eternal Flame in front of the Government Building. It is a memorial created to honour the victims of World War II and the flame is truly eternal.
As you continue walking, keep an eye out for the Gradska Tržnica Markale (a traditional market hall) and, of course, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
Watch your step. On Ferhadija Street, you’ll come across a couple of Sarajevo Roses.
What are Sarajevo Roses?
Sarajevo roses are striking memorials of the Bosnian War that took place between 1992 and 1995. Where the damage was made by the mortar shell’s explosion as their explosions bore into the concrete, the craters were left bearing a striking resemblance to floral arrangements. These scars were filled with vivid red resin which earned them the evocative name of “roses.”
There are approximately 200 of these symbolic roses in Sarajevo, placed at sites where the lives of at least three individuals were tragically claimed by the siege.
2. Explore Baščaršija / The best thing to do in Sarajevo
Baščaršija is the heart and soul of Sarajevo. All tourist roads in Sarajevo lead to Baščaršija. Whether you are a day-tripper or an in-depth traveller, Baščaršija is the place in Sarajevo you shouldn’t miss.
Baščaršija dates back to the 15th century when it became the city’s main trading centre during the Ottoman Empire. During its golden age, Baščaršija was Sarajevo’s vibrant centre and the largest trading hub in the Balkans.
It’s busy, noisy, colourful and full of incredible smells and other charms for the senses. A beautiful mix of tourist kitsch and tradition. You will hear the call to prayer, see hundreds of tourists trying to take a photo in front of the Sebilj, smell the grilled cevapi and see locals sitting and sipping Bosnian coffee as if time had stood still.
But Baščaršija is also packed with interesting and beautiful architecture, historical and cultural sights and places you simply cannot miss!
The Sebilj, a public wooden fountain in the shape of a kiosk, is an iconic symbol of Baščaršija and Sarajevo.
It was originally commissioned by Mehmed Pasha Kukavica in 1754, but the original structure was destroyed in a fire about a century later. The present Sebilj was designed by architect Alexander Wittek and built in 1913.
The Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque, built in the 16th century, is one of the most important mosques in the Balkans and boasts impressive Ottoman architecture.
Besides mosques, you’ll also find Orthodox churches, Catholic cathedrals and Jewish synagogues. The Old Orthodox Church, the Old Jewish Temple, Gazi Husrev Bey’s Bezistan, the Clock Tower and the Jewish Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina are just some of the many fascinating sights you can find in Baščaršija.
Finally don’t miss the Ulica (Street) Kazandžiluk! It is Sarajevo’s oldest and most recognizable street which used to be home to metalworkers and coppersmiths creating iconic coffee pots and other metal goods. It’s an extremely photogenic street!
Ps. Pop into the Divan Cafe and thank me later!
I recommend you join a free walking tour while in Sarajevo! This is the best way to get to know the town, its history and hear interesting anecdotes from a local guide!
3. Walk across the river via Latin Bridge
Sarajevo is situated on the Miljacka River which flows through the centre of the city. Along both of the river banks, you will find a few iconic landmarks like the stunning Town Hall, Emperor’s Mosque or Inat kuća house (more on those later).
But the most iconic sight you will find here is the Latin Bridge. The bridge in itself isn’t anything special nor is it particularly beautiful.
It is however one of the most famous sights in Sarajevo as this is where Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated which led to the start of the First World War.
If this topic fascinates you and you would like to learn more about those events and this period in Bosnia and Herzegovina history, be sure to pop into Sarajevo Museum 1878 – 1918 located on the other side of the bridge.
4. See the sunset from the Yellow Fortress
To truly grasp the size of the city and enjoy a wonderful sunset, climb towards the Yellow Fortress. But there is more to that little evening trip!
As you walk be sure to follow Kovači Street where you will find picturesque and super cute teahouses and cafes. Ćejf Coffee Roasters is particularly pretty, I suggest you pop in for a tea!
From the top of the Yellow Fortress you will have wonderful views of Sarajevo and if the walk was a bit tiring, don’t worry. there is a cafe located at the top as well!
5. Try Cevapi and Baklava washed down by Bosnian Coffee
Food is an inseparable part of the travel experience. You cannot say you have been to Sarajevo if you didn’t sit at one of the small corner Cavaperias or drunk the Bosnian coffee. It might as well be the best thing to do in Sarajevo.
Around the bazaar, you will also find a large number of shops serving baklavas. But I suggest getting one as you sip on your coffee or tea as you watch people pass.
6. Visit at least one of the Sarajevo museums
I am not a massive museum buff. But Sarajevo was the town that made me do it.
There is so much to learn about this city, so much history, tragic events, glory and fall, that visiting a museum in Sarajevo is a must!
Some of them are brutal, so be prepared. But it’s a life curriculum. To learn about what happened, so maybe it won’t happen again.
Galerija 11/07/95 is a small museum displaying photographs and films portraying the Srebrenica genocide. There are 2 rooms. I spent 2 hours there. And had to take 10 minutes before I left to compose myself. One of the most important museums I have ever been to. As important as Auschwitz. If you see just one museum in Sarajevo, make it this one.
War Childhood Museum is one of the newest museums in Sarajevo and tells the story of the Bosnian War through the eyes of the children who had to live through it. It is World’s only museum focused exclusively on childhood affected by war.
The Jewish Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina is focusing on the history and culture of the Jewish community in Sarajevo and offers valuable insights into the city’s multicultural fabric. It features exhibits on Jewish traditions, the Holocaust, and the contributions of the Jewish community to Sarajevo’s heritage. Very interesting museum.
Museum of Sarajevo 1878 – 1918 is where you can learn about the interesting period of Austro-Hungarian rule in Sarajevo. The museum takes a deep dive into how this era shaped the city, covering a wide array of scopes, from changes in politics and administration to the vibrant worlds of art, architecture, and everyday life.
History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a place where you can learn about the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the first written record of the country until the modern day.
The Tunnel of Hope Museum. Sarajevo suffered a brutal siege, widely regarded as the most severe in modern history. Over a span of 1422 days from 1992 to 1995, the city became inescapable, surrounded by Serb snipers who targeted anyone attempting to escape.
The Tunnel of Hope offered that, hope. Stretching 800 meters (0.5 miles) beneath the airport’s runway, this lifeline connected the besieged area of Dobrinja to the unoccupied Butmir. Through this 1.6-meter passage, essential supplies, food, ammunition and refugees found their way. I wrote a separate article about this museum and how to get to Tunnel of Hope.
And visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina is not complete without visiting beautiful Mostar! Read where why you should stay in Mostar for a few days!
More (Equally awesome) things to do in Sarajevo
- Visit Sarajevo Tunnel of Hope
During the siege of Sarajevo, the city was completely cut off from the rest of the country. This made it impossible to obtain basic necessities such as food or weapons. No one could enter or leave the city without risking their lives.
The tunnel, built under the runway of Sarajevo Airport, served as a lifeline for the city’s residents, providing a crucial supply route and connection to the outside world. The tunnel allowed for the transportation of essential goods, food, weapons and humanitarian aid, as well as enabling the evacuation of the wounded and the movement of people in and out of the city. It played a crucial role in the survival and resistance of the city during the siege.
You can visit it as part of an organised tour with a guide. But you can also visit it on your own – I wrote a separate post about all the ways you can visit the Tunnel of Hope in Sarajevo.
- Take a cable car to mount Trebevic and walk down abandoned bobsleigh tracks.
First, take a cable car up Trebevic Mountain. The ride is exciting and the view is fantastic. The good thing is that the top of the mountain is peaceful and wonderful. There is only one track with snacks and drinks, otherwise there are endless walking paths and even a whole series of hiking trails! You can easily spend a whole day here!
What you can not miss though are the abandoned bobsleigh tracks. They are reminiscent of the 1984 Winter Olympics, but now nature has reclaimed the area and the tracks have become a canvas for graffiti artists.
- Have a coffee with a view at Hotel Hecco Deluxe
The hotel itself is also an interesting place. It stands at the beginning of Ferhadija Street and from the outside looks a bit like a relic from the communist era. But on the 9th floor, there is a nice cafe with an incredible 360-degree view of Sarajevo. Ideal for watching the sunset!
- Or from the top of the Avaz Tower
In complete contrast to the Hecco Deluxe Hotel, the Avaz Tower is a modern glass building. It is hard to miss and it is actually the highest one in the former Yugoslavia. The viewing platform is located on the 35th floor and you will have to pay a 1BAM entrance fee. There is also a cafe where you can order a beverage and enjoy the views.
- Discover Sarajevo’s Architectural gems!
Sarajevo boasts an eclectic mix of architectural gems. From the Golden Age of the Ottomans to the magnificent Habsburg buildings and Yugoslav brutalist architecture -discovering these gems is one of the best things to do in Sarajevo.
Here are some of the most interesting and beautiful architectural treasures:
Vijećnica/City Hall – opened in 1896 for administrative purposes and used as the National Library after World War II. Tragically, it was destroyed during the Bosnian War in 1992, along with the library’s extensive collection. City Hall was reconstructed according to the original documents and officially reopened on 9 May 2014. You can visit it from the inside and the entrance fee is 10 BAM.
The Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque – constructed in 1531 and is the main mosque in Sarajevo, reflecting the early Istanbul architectural style. The mosque is located in Baščaršija and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sarajevo. The fun fact is that it was the first mosque to have electric illumination.
Sacred Heart Cathedral – a significant neo-Gothic Catholic cathedral, constructed between 1884 and 1889. Serving as the largest Catholic church in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Clock Tower – located near the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, was built in the 16th century. Its unique lunar clock follows the movements of the sun and moon to set the time for Muslim and Jewish prayers and the end of their fast. in 1874, the clock mechanism was replaced by Gillett & Bland, a London-based company. Today, only two clock mechanisms of this type remain in operation, one in Big Ben and the other in the Sarajevo Clock Tower.
Sarajevo Brewery – the oldest factory in the country, Sarajevo Brewery was founded in 1864 and produced beer during the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Situated across the river from the Bascarsija, its iconic red exterior makes it stand out from the other buildings in the city, and the interiors are impressive too! It played a vital role as a source of fresh water during the siege and now houses a charming museum displaying beer-related items from different eras.
- Explore the up-ways of Sarajevo
Be sure to walk up the winding streets of Sarajevo. There is a lot to discover there and some spectacular views too!
- Take an afternoon walk by the river and have a drink at Tito Bar
There is so much more to Sarajevo than Baščaršija and Ferhadija Street! I was lucky to have rented a room for a few days slightly away from the centre and what a glorious area that was.
If you walk along the Miljacka River (around 30 minutes) you will get to the residential area with the river park/promenade to the left. The street is called Vilsonovo šetalište and as you walk along you will see many cafes and restaurants but you can also visit the The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina and pop into Tito bar which has tanks and canons on display in front of it!
- Walk to the Sarajevo city centre.
No, not the old town. In the actual city centre, where people live, work, and shop, locals have coffee and commute to work. So-called Novi Grad.
It is a completely different face of Sarajevo, one that many travellers don’t see. You can go shopping, find great hip restaurants and cafes and get on top of the Avaz tower.
Also if you are on a budget and looking for a great supermarket – I recommend Crvena Jabuka there!
Best Sarajevo Day Tours and Trips
The most popular trip from Sarajevo is a day tour to Mostar and Kravice Falls. In case you are not planning to visit Mostar – this tour is a must!
In the other direction from Sarajevo, there is a day trip to Travnik, Jajce and Pliva Lakes. Also very popular although I recommend visiting Travnik and Jajce for more than a day. But if you are tight on time, this tour is a great option.
One of the most popular and recommended experiences within Sarajevo is a visit to Tunnel of Hope. A fascinating educational tour during which you will visit the War Tunnel Museum and hear about the siege of Sarajevo.
Where to stay in Sarajevo
There are a few things you need to keep in mind when choosing an area to stay in Sarajevo. If you are short on time and only want to see the most important landmarks – I recommend you stay near Baščaršija and Ferhadija Street. Here are the best accommodation recommendations for this area:
If you are planning on staying longer in Sarajevo you can stay slightly outside of the centre which often means you will save some money too. Keep in mind that you might need to use busses or trolleys to get to the centre.
I stayed in this cosy room for a few days and it was a truly great stay. The value for money is incredible!
You also have to keep in mind that Sarajevo is surrounded by hills and a lot of accommodation is located on top of those steep streets. A couple of great hostels like One Love or Hostel Kucha are located on the hill but also you get a lot of peace and beautiful views.
Herr you will find my full guide on where to stay in Sarajevo.
Useful Tips for Visiting Sarajevo
To wrap up this Sarajevo travel guide I will give you a few useful tips and some info you might find helpful:
- Tap water is safe to drink in Sarajevo. Bring your water bottle as there is plenty of water fountains located across the city.
- The best sim card to get in Bosnia and Herzegovina is BH Telecom especially if you are planning on visiting more Balkan countries. It has a very generous internet plan and you will get free roaming options in countries like Montenegro or Albania.
- You can visit Sarajevo at any time of the year. It is stunning in the late spring or early fall but you can easily visit during the winter. Be aware that it might be snowing in the winter, so come prepared. Summer gets hot so make sure you rent accommodation with air conditioning.
- Sarajevo is very walkable. If you think you might visit attractions outside of the city centre, there are plenty of very affordable public transport options in Sarajevo. I do not recommend driving in Sarajevo.
I hope you enjoyed this Sarajevo travel guide and found it helpful. There are many more awesome things to do in Sarajevo, beyond those I mentioned, but I would really have to write a book to include them all!
Sarajevo is a beautiful and fascinating city and if only you can, you should definitely visit!
Please let me know if there is anything you think I have missed!
Be sure to read my guide to public transportation in Sarajevo as well as my guide to the best areas to stay!
Until then, happy travels!
This post may contain affiliate links which means that if you purchase the product or make a booking via one of my links, I will receive a small commission. Please know that I will never recommend or promote a product I don’t believe in or haven’t used. This way, you are supporting this blog at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
Your Balkans Cheatsheet
If you are travelling around the Balkans by bus, Flixbus covers a lot of the routes but they often cooperate with local operators. It is convenient to book on the Flixbus website if you want to pay for your journey upfront.
If you prefer to pay directly with the local operator, be prepared to pay in cash. To check the timetable BusTicket4.me is the most reliable. But I still recommend only using it for checking the times and purchasing the ticket at the bus station.
In the majority of Balkan countries, you will pay a 1€ (or equivalent in local currency) fee for luggage.
The bus is the best way to travel between Balkan countries but there are a couple of stunning train routes you cannot miss like Sarajevo to Mostar or Belgrade to Bar!
If you are considering renting a car you can browse all rental companies via Expedia!
Always, always triple-check the information you were given, especially when it comes to inter-city travel. Only because one person, in one place says there are no busses, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Triple check.
Only Slovenia is within the Schengen Area so individual visa rules will apply.
Only Slovenia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Croatia use Euros. All other countries use their own currency. In some touristy spots, you will be able to use Euros but dont take it for granted. You will pay for a coffee pot from a souvenir stand in Mostar in Euros, but the supermarket will ask for Bosnian Marks.
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