Sarajevo Guides

Guide to Sarajevo

Guide to Sarajevo

It may not be the most popular city on Europe’s backpacker trail, but the small and mighty Sarajevo shouldn’t be underestimated.

Located in central Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sarajevo is the nation’s heart of Bosnian culture. Being the capital of one of the few predominantly Muslim countries in Europe, Sarajevo feels very different to other European capitals. Cobbled streets lined with cafés, shisha bars and impressive mosques give the city a more Middle Eastern or Turkish vibe. Having only gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1992, Bosnia was the site of the Bosnian war, lasting almost 4 years until 1996. Whilst the effects of the war are still clearly visible in Sarajevo today, this isn’t reflected in the friendly atmosphere of the city. The attitude of the locals seems to be more that they’re happy the war is over rather than being angry that it took place in the first place. This refreshing attitude and Sarajevo’s unique blend of European and Middle Eastern culture make this little gem of a city a must see!

Quick Trivia

Location: Bosnia & Herzegovina
Language: Bosnian
Population of city: 555,000
Nearest airport: Sarajevo International Airport
Main train/bus station(s): Autobuska Stanica Sarajevo
Best time to visit? All year round, but July and August would be best. It’s pleasantly warm in the summer and snows in the winter. It never gets too crowded with tourists.

Budget level? £

How long should I go for

There’s a lot to see and do in Sarajevo and it’s quite a nice place to relax, so you’ll want at least a full day there to see everything. You would probably find that two or three nights would be enough though.

The market place in Sarajevo, bustling with activitity

Getting there

International trains in Bosnia are unreliable and often can’t be booked in advance so the best way of getting to Sarajevo is by bus. There are direct buses from many other major cities in the Balkans, such as Belgrade, Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik and Kotor.

Top Attractions

War Tunnel

One of the most significant events to have taken place in Sarajevo was the siege of Sarajevo in 1996. This was the longest siege on a capital city in modern history, lasting over two years and claiming the lives of over 6,000 of the city’s residents. During this period, many of Sarajevo’s residents used tunnels to smuggle food and supplies past Serbian forces and into the city. Today, the tunnel remains intact and is one of the most interesting attractions in the city. Everything from the weapons used in the tunnel to the bullet holes in the walls remain exactly how it was since the siege, offering a wonderful insight into the impacts of the siege on the people of Sarajevo.

abandoned bobsleigh track in sarajaevo

Olympic Bobsled Track

A little-known fact about Sarajevo is that it hosted the winter Olympics in 1984, making Yugoslavia the first Slavic speaking country to do so. A bobsled track overlooking the city with the capacity to host over 30,000 spectators was built especially for the Olympics. The track hasn’t been used for bobsleds since 1991 and fell into disrepair for a while before being renovated in 2014. These days, Sarajevo’s bobsled track now has an eerie feel to it, but in a really captivating way. The overgrown forest and creative graffiti on the walls of the track certainly add to the character of the place. You can take a cable car up the mountain to get there, which also offers a stunning, panoramic view of the city.

Balkans small group tours

Stari Grad

Sarajevo’s old town, or Stari Grad, is the ancient heart of the city. The cobbled streets leading from the modern city centre are lined with café’s and tea shops, leading to Baščaršija market. The marketplace itself is a throwback to Sarajevo’s Ottoman routes. Streets lined with several hundreds of shops and stalls give it the feel of an amazing mixture of a European and Turkish culture. Stari Grad is also home to Sarajevo’s famous city hall. Large parts of the city hall were destroyed during the siege of Sarajevo, but it has since been renovated and is now one of the most beautiful buildings in town, with stunning mosaic designs all around the inside.

Yellow Bastion

Just a 15 minute walk up the hill from Baščaršija market, you’ll find Sarajevo’s Yellow Fortress overlooking the old town below.  This fortress, made up of five separate bastions, was originally built by the Ottomans in the 18th century to protect Sarajevo from Austro-Hungarian troops. The fortress itself isn’t the most exciting building to look at, but the view over the old town definitely makes up for it. There is now a café on top of the fortress, making it the perfect place for a coffee with a panoramic view of Sarajevo. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting at Ramadan, a cannon is fired from the fortress to mark the end of the fast each year.

Bosnian Culture Guide

Food

Klepe, which are small dumplings filled with meat or cheese, traditionally served with homemade yogurt are a Bosnian speciality. Baklava is a popular dessert in Bosnia, and the locally brewed tea and coffee is something that Bosnians are very proud of. These are very similar to what you would find in Turkey, although I wouldn’t say that to a local!

History

Sarajevo was founded as part of the Ottoman Empire in 1461. The Ottoman influence is still reflected today in the local food, culture and architecture. More recently, the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996. which saw the city being surrounded by Serbian troops for almost 4 years. The effects of this can still be seen in many of the buildings and is still fresh in the memory of many of Sarajevo’s residents.

Nightlife

Being that Bosnia is a Muslim country, many places won’t serve alcohol. There are a few bars around town though, most of which are laid back and friendly. Shisha bars are much more popular in this part of the world and there are loads of them along the streets in the old town.

Free walking Tours

There are several great free walking tours around Sarajevo but the one by Funky Tours would be our recommendation. The tour lasts around three hours and gives an amazing, detailed insight into the history of the city, covering all the main sites in the city centre. You’ll also have the opportunity to sample the local food, although this won’t be free. The tour itself is free, although it is customary to tip the guide, as is the case with any free tour.

Trips including Sarajevo

Group Tours to Sarajevo