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The Best Things to do in Sarajevo, Bosnia

Things to do in Sarajevo, Bosnia
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The term “rebirth” undoubtedly applies to Sarajevo. A melting pot of cultures for centuries, Sarajevo was heavily destroyed during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. Today it’s a vibrant and diverse European capital with countless attractions. Here are the best things to do in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Welcome to Sarajevo: the Jerusalem of Europe

Sarajevo was founded in the 15th century when the Ottoman Empire conquered the region of Bosnia. The Ottomans built a recognizable core and lots of mosques. Today, Sarajevo’s Ottoman past is still visible through architecture, culture, food, and religion. 

For centuries, the city has been split between Catholic Croats, Orthodox Christian Serbs, and Muslim Bosniaks. The multicultural flair has been a constant throughout Sarajevo’s history. 

In the 1870s, Bosnia was occupied and later annexed by Austria-Hungary, who added another layer of diverse architecture. One of the most iconic buildings that sprang up during the Austrian period is Sarajevo City Hall. 

After World War Two, Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of Yugoslavia. One of the most memorable episodes of Sarajevo’s Yugoslav history were the highly successful 1984 Winter Olympics. 

In the 1990s, the terrible Bosnian War raged in Sarajevo, and the city was beleaguered for 1,425 days, the longest siege in modern history. The scars of the 90s are still visible in Sarajevo, and many houses are riddled with bullet holes, even today. 

The city recovered in the 2000s and is today a dynamic European capital. Its diversity is second to none on the old continent, giving it the nickname “Jerusalem of Europe.” 

Don’t skip Bosnia on your Balkan itinerary as it is one of the most fascinating and unique countries in all of Europe

Here are the top attractions and best things to do in Sarajevo, Bosnia. 

The Best Things to do in Sarajevo

You’ll find most of the top places to visit in Sarajevo in the city center around the Ferhadija pedestrian zone.

The Three Main Religious Sites in the Center

Sarajevo is home to many mosques and churches, explaining the nickname “Jerusalem of Europe.” 

In this context, three religious sites are located just a few hundred meters from one another. The first one is the Serb Orthodox Cathedral of the Nativity of Theotokos (completed in 1874), the Catholic Croat Sacred Heart Cathedral (1889), and the Ottoman Gazi Huzrev Beg Mosque (1530).

All three are worth a stop and are among the top places to visit in Sarajevo. 

Things to do in Sarajevo - Theotokus Cathedral
Cathedral of the Nativity of Theotokos / Unsplash

The Old Ottoman Area: the Bascarsija

Sarajevo’s Ottoman history is visible throughout the old bazaar area called “Bascarsija.” In this neighborhood, you’ll find tea houses, coffee shops, local restaurants, and traditional shops. 

The central neighborhood is also home to Sebilj Fountain, an Ottoman monument from the 18th century. The local legend holds that anyone who drinks from Sebilj Fountain will return to Sarajevo one day. 

Things to do in Sarajevo - Sebilj Fountain
Sebilj Fountain

The Best War Museums in Sarajevo

When in Bosnia, learning about the terrible wars of the 1990s is an absolute must. 

In this context, several museums will teach you something about the terrible events of the past. 

The Siege Museum explains the 1425-day-long Siege of Sarajevo, the Genocide Museum is all about atrocities committed that resulted in some of the darkest days of the conflict, and the Srebrenica Gallery showcases pictures from the Srebrebica Massacre of 1995. 

The Best Culture and History Museums in Sarajevo

The best museums in Sarajevo don’t just include the Bosnian War and Siege. 

A visit to the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a great way to learn about the long history of this fascinating country.

Apart from the National Museum, the History Museum (400,000 artifacts from different eras), and the Olympic Museum (1984 Olympic Games) are also among the best things to do in Sarajevo. 

Avaz Twist Tower

If you want to catch some of the best views of central Sarajevo, head to the observation deck on the top floor of Avaz Twist Tower. The 172m-tall tower has a bar and outside deck on its top floor. Access only costs 2 KM (€1).

The view from Avaz Twist Tower

The Abandoned Olympic Bobsledding Tracks 

If you want to see some actual venues from the 1984 Winter Olympics, a trip to Mount Trebevic is among the best things to do in Sarajevo. 

In the center, you can take the cable car up the mountain and then hike on the abandoned bobsledding tracks. The bobsledding tracks are covered in graffiti, adding an artistic flair. Better still, the entire Mount Trebevic area offers stunning viewpoints and hikes. 

Things to do in Sarajevo - abandoned bobsledding tracks

The War Tunnels

If you want an authentic Siege of Sarajevo experience, a trip to the War Tunnels is a must.

The best way to visit the War Tunnels is on an organized tour during which you will get all the information about the horrors of the Siege of Sarajevo. 

I recommend this tour which will take you to several Bosnian War sites, including the War Tunnels, Mount Trebevic, Sniper Alley, and the Yellow Fort. 

Food and Nightlife in Sarajevo

Sarajevo has a bustling food and nightlife scene, and there are many options to choose from. From coffee shops to grill restaurants and Irish pubs, you’ll find everything here. 

Try the cevapi (local mixed meat sausages) at Hodzic or Zeljo in the Bascarsija. They are served with bread, cream, and onions – and are one of the most famous staples in Bosnia. 

For night owls, I recommend the City Pub, one of the city’s nightlife institutions.

Where to Stay in Sarajevo 

The best area to stay in Sarajevo is undoubtedly the center, around Ferhadija Street and the Miljacka River. You can find hotels and apartments for any type of budget and style here. 

I stayed at the Hotel Aziza, a fantastic modern boutique hotel with top-notch amenities in a perfect location overlooking the Old Ottoman core. 

Find more places to stay in Sarajevo here

Best Things to do in Sarajevo: Know Before You Go

To round off our Sarajevo guide, here are more things to know. 

How to Get to Sarajevo

Sarajevo has an international airport with flights to many destinations in Europe. The airport also has lots of connections to Istanbul

You can also get to Sarajevo by bus from Zagreb (eight hours) or southern Croatia (six hours from Split). The companies Centrotrans and Croatiabus offer the journey. 

Belgrade is about twelve hours away by bus. Be aware that Bosnia and Herzegovina is not part of the European Union or Schengen Zone. So you’ll always have to pass border checks.  

Is Sarajevo Safe? 

Sarajevo is today as safe as any other European city. Use common sense, and you won’t have any trouble here. 

How to Get Around Sarajevo

The center is walkable, so you won’t need to rely on public transportation. To get to places further out, trams and buses over certain sections, but overall, public transit isn’t highly-developed. 

Taxis are another option but make sure to fix the price beforehand, as many don’t use the meter. 

The Best Time to Visit Sarajevo 

The summer months are the best time to visit Sarajevo if you want to explore the city and hike in the surroundings. The winter months are great for skiing (several ski resorts are located in the vicinity). 

During the summer months, Bosnia’s vast diaspora returns to the country to visit relatives. As such, Sarajevo becomes a mix of locals, tourists, and Bosnians living abroad. 

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