9 Top Activities for Exploring Sarajevo
In just one visit, Sarejevo stole my heart. At a little under 700,000 residents, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital is pretty small, but overflows with history and culture. The city of Sarajevo is situated along a low-lying river and creeps up into the surrounding hills. Instant charm!
From the site of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination (which triggered WWI), to the dividing line of the Roman Empire, to the Bosnian War, there is no shortage of historical significance here. Walk around the old town and you’ll find a mix of Ottoman Empire meets Austro-Hungarian Empire meets “socialist ugly” architecture. The vibe of the city, in a nutshell, is East meets West, old meets new; smile and take your time.
Most travelers will find the city very affordable and if you’re already in Europe, it’s also quite easy to get to. Wizz Air flies from Budapest for a handful of Euros round trip. So spend a few days or a week here and get to know the friendly, well-humored people of Sarajevo.
Here are 9 great things to do when in the Bosnian capital:
Hike to White Fortress
This site is an old defensive fort, now in ruins, and national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina. White Fortress, or Bijela Tabija, is 667 metres (2,188 ft) above sea level. On the way up you’ll wander through the hills and see how the locals live. The restaurant Bijela Tabija nearby is a good stop for a tea or coffee.
Hike to Yellow Bastion
The remains of another old fortification are now the best spot in the city to catch the sunset. For a bit of exercise, combine this with a hike up to the White Fortress. I recommend going to White Fortress first, then hiking down to Yellow Bastion in time for the sunset. You’ll get stunning views of the city from this very photo-worthy spot.
Free Walking Tour
Have I mentioned there is a lot of history here? Let a local fill you in on all the juicy details during a free walking tour of the old city and other important monuments nearby. Tours take place daily in high season, and every few days during low season. Tip as you wish.
In addition to the massive National History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo has many inexpensive smaller museums that are doable in an hour or two.
Permanent Exhibition “Srebrenica” at the Gallerija 11/07/95 – This exhibit casts a multimedia eye on the systematic genocide of over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in July 1995. Here you’ll get a peek at how “life goes on” even in times of tragedy.
Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide 1992 – 1995 – Visit this small museum for a good overview of events during the Bosnian War, including the role of other Balkan countries and the trials of offenders such as Slobodan Milosevic and others.
War Childhood Museum – This unique space features 50 objects with accompanying stories, donated from Bosnians who were children during the Bosnian War. Inspired by the 2013 book created by over 1000 people, the project tells this generation’s story through a mosaic of memories and artifacts.
Museum of the Jews of Bosnia and Herzegovina – Located in the oldest Jewish synagogue in Bosnia, circa 1581, the exhibit tells the story of Jews in the Sarajevan community and their centuries-old presence in former Yugoslavia.
Eat Balkan Style
Get ready to eat your weight in meat and bread. Try a burek filled with meat, spinach, or potato at Buregdzinica Bosna and top with yogurt sauce – about 2 Euros later you’ll be full and happy. You’ll also find ćevapi or ćevapčići everywhere. These little skinless minced meat sausages are served with bread and sliced raw onions.
On a cold day, make sure to try Bey’s soup, a rich chicken soup with veggies and of course, bread. You’ll also find lots of Turkish delight, baklava and other sweet treats.
Explore the Nightlife
Hey, it’s no Berlin – but for a small town, Sarajevo has its fair share of nightlife. Join the locals at City Pub, which draws big crowds on the weekends when bands play. Monday nights at Kino Bosna is said to be the city’s best event, with live traditional music in an old cinema.
Get your fill of hipster-grandma kitsch over a cup of mulled wine at the Café/Bar Goldfish (Zlatna ribica in Bosnian). Tom Waits fans should swing by basement bar Pink Houdini. And everyone should visit the historic Sarajevsko Brewery (Sarajevska Pivara) for local beer and swanky surroundings. I heard from more than one local to skip the food there.
1984 Olympic Bobsled Track
Not your average tourist attraction! Built in 1982 for the Olympic Games in Sarajevo, the track was a beloved sporting attraction until it was abandoned during wartime. Now it remains broken and in disrepair, but graffiti artists have given it a new life.
You can walk to the bobsled track from old town, around 1.5 hours through the neighborhoods in the hills (an adventure in and of itself) or find a tour that takes you there combined with other sites.
Tunnel of Hope
Get a taste of Bosnian resilience when you visit the site on the city’s edge known as the Tunnel of Hope. The hand-dug tunnel linked the besieged Sarajevo to the free zone beyond the airport through which people, food, fuel, soldiers and even weapons passed. What’s left of the original 800m tunnel is short, but the impact of the site remains deep.
Take it Slow!
Part of Sarajevo’s appeal is the “no hurry” attitude. Have a Bosnian coffee or a tea, and don’t be afraid to spend hours savoring it – that’s what the locals do! Enjoy a Turkish delight afterwards and wander the streets of the old city where traditional crafts are still made by hand. Go shopping at one of the many modern shopping centers. Or, spend a day at the Turkish baths and just relax. “Just chilling” is definitely one of the best ways to experience this underrated destination.