In this article, we will discover all of the best things to do in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia Herzegovina.
Today Sarajevo is a charming city situated along the Miljacka River with a beautiful backdrop of the Dinaric Alps. Although the city has a troubled past, it’s an incredible destination and one that more people need to visit.
Whether you’d prefer to explore the city’s interesting streets, taste authentic dishes or simply relax, there are plenty of wonderful Sarajevo attractions to keep you occupied. Sarajevo and Bosnia as a whole are often overlooked as holiday destinations. However, there are so many interesting sights to see that Bosnia should definitely be on your bucket list!
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The best things to do in Sarajevo
1. Visit the Old Town of Baščaršij
The old town of Baščaršij is the historical core of the city and dates back to the 15th century.
Within the heart of Baščaršij, you will find the Old Bazaar which is filled with shops and cafes. Don’t miss the opportunity to wander around the maze of cobbled streets, shop for traditional handicrafts and indulge in the local delicacies such as burek or cevapi (see food section below).
During the 19th century, the bazaar suffered a disastrous fire that destroyed nearly half of its area. Little was done until the historical and cultural significance of the old town was reassessed after WWII.
After that point, it gradually became the symbol of the city once again, and today, visiting the old town is one of the best things to do in Sarajevo.
2. Sebilj Fountain
Sarajevo has a variety of fountains scattered around the city, but by far the most popular is Sebilj Fountain.
Sebilj is an Ottoman-style wooden fountain that is found within Sarajevo’s Old Town.
The fountain was built in 1753 by Mehmed Kukavica and is one of the top things to see in Sarajevo. It is one of the most famous landmarks in the city, so is a must-visit.
The water from the fountain is clean and drinkable, so make sure you have a taste. The legend says that if you take a sip, you will return to the city in the future.
3. Walk over the Latin Bridge
Walking over the Latin Bridge is one of the top things to do in Sarajevo. Aside from its unique architecture, the bridge is better known for its significant part in history.
On the 28th of June 1914, this bridge was the site of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. He and his pregnant wife were both killed that day as the assassin fired a bullet into their open-top car.
You can even stand on the spot where Gavrilo Princip stood as he fired that fatal bullet.
Due to its unique Ottoman architecture and significant role in history, Latin Bridge is one of the most popular Sarajevo tourist attractions.
4. Catch a Gondola up to Mount Trebević
Catching a gondola up Mount Trebević is one of the best activities in the city.
The original gondola opened in the late 1950s and was a popular attraction until 1992 when its guard, Ramo Biber became the first victim of the Sarajevo Siege.
Even after the siege ended, the gondola wasn’t opened until April 2018 because it took so many years to clear the mountain of landmines.
However, today the gondolas are back in action with each one decorated in the colours of the Bosnian flag. The views on the way up are stunning, but just wait until you get to the top!
You can also choose to hike up the mountain but it’s not an easy feat, especially in the summer months with the heat.
If you are looking for awesome things to do in Sarajevo, then catching a gondola up to Mount Trebević needs to be on your list.
Book Tickets for the Gondola with Get Your Guide
5. See the Sarajevo War Tunnel
The Sarajevo war tunnel was built during the civil war to link the city with another Bosnian-held territory. This area was located past the airport and was controlled by the United Nations.
The tunnel was dug from both sides of the city 24-hours a day and took around 4 months to complete.
It was crucial to the survival of residents, as it allowed medicine, food, weapons and aid to be transported into the city.
Visiting the tunnels and the museum is hands down, one of the best things to do in Sarajevo.
You can choose to go on a tour, where an experienced local will be able to give you history into the civil war. The tours will often take you along Sniper Alley too, which was the main street targeted by the army.
6. Head up the Avaz Twist Tower
The Avaz Twist Tower is an impressive skyscraper with a unique design. At over 170m tall, the tower is the tallest building in Sarajevo and offers one of the best views of the city.
For €1, you can go up into the observation deck which gives you a 180-degree view of the city.
The tower has incredibly fast panoramic elevators, meaning you won’t have to tackle stairs to get to the top.
However, there is an event called “Avaz Tower Running” held here every year which does focus on the steps. During this event, athletes attempt to run up the 780 steps to get to the viewing point at the top!
7. Look for the Sarajevo Roses
The Sarajevo Siege was the longest ever siege on a capital city in modern history. It had a devastating toll on the city, and many people lost their lives.
During this period the shell blasts would cause a spreading pattern on the concrete. These patterns were said to look like flowers.
As a memorial to the people who lost their lives during this siege, these patterns were filled in with red resin to resemble a rose.
Named Sarajevo’s roses, there are around 100 located throughout the city and they act as a reminder of the city’s history and its people.
8. See the City Hall – Vijećnica
The architecture across all of Sarajevo is impressive, but there is something about the city hall that just stands out.
Although a weird analogy, the City Hall or Vijećnica looks a bit like a custard layered sponge cake.
The architecture of this impressive building is from Austria-Hungary’s era of imperial rule as the city hall was built in 1898.
The building suffered extensive damage during the Sarajevo Siege after it was bombed to remove any historical importance relating to the local citizens. Unfortunately, 90% of the important books found here were destroyed during this time.
So although the city hall is also the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina, unfortunately, it doesn’t hold many historical books.
9. Visit Srebrenica Gallery 11/07/95
Gallery 11/07/95 is the first memorial art gallery in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is an exhibition dedicated to preserving the memory of the 8372 people who tragically lost their lives during the Srebrenica genocide.
The Srebrenica genocide is a horrific part of Bosnia’s history. The 8372 people who died were all Muslim men and boys, who were slaughtered by Bosnian Serbs over three days in Srebrenica.
Two educational films are played on a loop at the galley; one is about the Srebrenica genocide and the other is about the Sarajevo Siege.
Although an emotional visit, the gallery is one of the best places to visit in Sarajevo.
10. Walk up the Yellow Fortress
The view from the top of Yellow Fortress makes this spot one of the best places to see in Sarajevo.
The fortress or Žuta Tabija as it’s also known was built in the early 1700s, and although not much of it remains it’s still a popular place in the city.
The best time to visit is just before sunset, so you can head up with a few beers or some food and take in the view of the sun setting over Sarajevo.
The Most Popular Day Trips from Sarajevo
If you find you have some extra time, there are plenty of cool day trips you can take from Sarajevo.
The city of Mostar is one of the most popular places in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is located on the Neretva River and boasts amazing views.
Aside from its beautiful backdrop, Mostar offers plenty of incredible things to see including its quaint old town, the Mostar peace bell tower and the Museum of War and Genocide Victims.
However, the city’s most popular attraction is Stari Most (also known as Mostar Old Bridge). The bridge connects the two sides of the city and is a popular spot for cliff diving.
Stari Most is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must-visit if you are making the trip out to Mostar.
The best way to reach Mostrar from Sarajevo is by train, as the line has recently been renovated. The journey takes just under two hours.
Sutjeska National Park
Sutjeska National Park was established in 1962 and is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s oldest national park. The park is also home to Maglić which is the highest mountain in the country.
The National Park is incredibly isolated and is one of Europe’s two remaining primeval forests. With beautiful scenery, and a peaceful atmosphere, Sutjeska is the perfect spot to go hiking.
The national park is home to an array of flora and fauna, with you having the opportunity to see bears, wild boar, wolves, chamois, wild goats and golden eagles among others.
Unfortunately thanks to the isolated location of the national park, there are no public transport options. If you want to come here, you will have to hire a car.
Although the town of Jajce is one of the lesser-known destinations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s definitely worth the visit.
As you head into town, the one thing you will notice without a doubt is the beautiful Pliva falls. They are the first thing you will spot as you arrive into town, with the town and fortress sitting high on the ground behind.
Aside from the beautiful falls, some of the most popular spots to see include the Jajce catacombs, Jajce Fortress and the old town.
Pliva lakes are also located about a 10-minute journey out of the town, so it’s worth stopping by here if you are making the trip to Jajce.
Buses run fairly regularly from Sarajevo to Jajce, and the journey takes around 3.5 hours.
Getting to Sarajevo
Sarajevo International Airport is located around 12km from the city centre which makes the city incredibly accessible. There is an airport bus that runs from the airport daily, or you can choose to get a taxi or public bus to get you there.
Travelling overland into Sarajevo is a great option as it’s often cheaper. There are direct bus lines to the city from many European countries including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and the Netherlands.
Although Bosnia and Herzegovina’s train system isn’t very popular or modern, it is cheap. From Sarajevo, there are daily trains to Mostar and other Bosnian cities.
It’s an easy journey from Sarajevo to Zagreb in Croatia, and from there you can travel to various destinations in Europe. You can also take a direct train to Belgrade in Serbia.
Getting around Sarajevo
When it comes to getting around Sarajevo, you won’t be short of options.
There are a variety of public transport options to get you around the city including trams, bus services, minibus services and the trolleybus. Between all these different route networks, it’s easy to get anywhere within the city.
Getting a taxi to travel around the city is another great choice, as Sarajevo has some of the cheapest taxi rates in Europe. Taxis operate 24 hours, and all legitimate ones will have a taxi sign on their roof and operate with a meter.
If you’re staying in the centre of Sarajevo, likely, you won’t need public transport at all. The city is relatively small compared to other European cities, and nearly all the main attractions will be within walking distance.
What’s even better is that a lot of the main walking streets are closed to traffic, making it a lot easier to get around.
The Best Food Dishes to try in Sarajevo
You will find so many tasty dishes to try in Sarajevo! Here are a few of the most popular options:
- Ćevapi – Cevapi are small, hand-rolled minced meat sausages that are often made with ground beef or a combination of beef mince, veal, lamb or pork. They are then seasoned with an array of different spices, left for a couple of hours and then finished off on the barbecue.
- Sarajevski ćevapi – This variety originated from Sarajevo, so is a must-try whilst in the city. This version is often made only with ground beef and salt and then refrigerated for 48 hours. After this, it is grilled and more than likely served in a beef stock-dipped bread which is called Somun.
- Jabukovača – Jabukovača is another dish that originates from Sarajevo, and is a traditional Bosnian apple pie. It is a layered pastry dessert filled with chopped apples, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla sugar and walnuts.
- Burek – served all over the Balkans, burek is a trype of pastry filled with meat, potatoes, vegetables and sometimes cheese (a little like a Cornish pasty).
If you are looking for nightlife, then discover these amazing bars in Sarajevo!
The weather in Sarajevo
Sarajevo’s summers are known to be warm and mostly clear, whilst their winters are very cold, with plenty of snow.
The warmest month to visit Sarajevo is July, when the average high temperature is 27°C. The coldest month to visit is January, with an average low temperature of around -5°C.
The summer season in Sarajevo lasts from June to September, with the cold season lasting from November to March.
The Best Time to Visit Sarajevo
The summer months of June, July and August are by far the busiest when it comes to visiting Sarajevo. With high temperatures and low levels of precipitation, it’s a great time to visit but accommodation will generally cost more than usual during this period.
If you don’t mind the weather being a bit cooler, September is a great time to visit. The weather is still warm, the crowds are a lot thinner and accommodation prices start to drop around this time.
Is Sarajevo a Safe Place to Visit?
Sarajevo is generally a very safe city to visit. The local people are incredibly friendly and are willing to go out of their way to help you.
Crime is on the rise in the capital, but it’s mostly organized crime gangs and doesn’t affect tourists, so isn’t a reason to worry. The main thing to be mindful of is petty crime in the more touristy areas including pickpocketing and scams.
Accommodation in Sarajevo
There are plenty of accommodation options when it comes to staying in Sarajevo. Here are some great options for each budget:
Budget accommodation: Apartments Marrakech (a one-bedroom apartment with double bed)
Mid-budget accommodation: Apartment DINA (a two-bedroom apartment close to the main attractions)
Luxury accommodation: Courtyard by Marriott Sarajevo (A king room with private bathroom)
So, is Sarajevo Worth Visiting?
Sarajevo is a one-of-a-kind city with culture, wonderful architecture, history and plenty of tasty food. Although not a popular holiday destination, the city offers so much for travellers in terms of attractions.
You can take a gondola up the nearby mountain, wonder at the city’s unique architecture or get lost whilst exploring its charming old town. With so many incredible things to do in Sarajevo, this city should be added to your list.
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About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang, the tropical paradise of Sanya and Hong Kong.
He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.