Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was martyred by the war that ravaged the Balkans, but it managed to rise from the ashes and transform itself into a vibrant city that deserves a detailed visit.
Carved between impressive mountains, which make up the natural beauty of the region, the truth is that Sarajevo is a box of surprises at every corner. It is true that the devastation wrought by the shells of war has not been forgotten.
The city’s natives, especially the older generations, still feel a sinking heart when they recall the terrible times passed under the uncertainty of being alive one more day. But Sarajevo has managed to turn around and welcomes everyone with open arms. And it’s well worth a visit.
Sarajevo: from war to lasting peace
As we have already mentioned, the reality of the war and the infamous siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s are still present in the memory of many. In 1996, with the end of the war, the capital was destroyed. More than 60% of the buildings were destroyed and the marks of death and escape were present all over the place.
Gradually, the city rose from the ground, assuming tourism as one of the levers for the desired economic progress, generating employment. And Sarajevo has many points of high tourist interest to visit.
Among them, there is the natural beauty of some spaces, museums, religious or historical architecture and monuments. The past may be bloody, but now Sarajevo is a safe, hospitable place that awaits all visitors.
What to see in Sarajevo
Baščaršija is the historic and cultural center of the city, bathed by the Miljacka river, which crosses the city. Around here, you can find a bit of everything, from mosques to cafes, passing through a lot of handicrafts.
There is also the famous Praça dos Pigeons, which is a must. There is no shortage of birds to be admired by tourists and locals alike.
As we have already said, Sarajevo is a city still very marked and remembered for its wartime past. Therefore, it is not surprising that some of its most important museums focus on this theme.
The War Childhood Museum, for example, brings together stories from young people who grew up during this period. Galerija 07/11/95, on the other hand, exposes the photos of the terrible genocide of Srebrenica, in which more than 8 thousand people were killed.
There are also tours around the city that go through the places and marks of the war or that recall important episodes in the country’s history, such as the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This episode was the trigger for the First World War.
The city itself is also a good example of Ottoman influence and Austro-Hungarian rule, particularly in its buildings and older buildings. Among the most popular local museums are certainly:
- War Childhood Museum;
- Gallery 07/11/95;
- Jewish Museum of Bosnia Herzegovina;
- Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide 1992-1995;
- Bosnia Herzegovina History Museum.
Religious and historical spaces
Known as the “Jerusalem of Europe”, this city is known for its religious diversity. Therefore, in addition to communities of Orthodox and Catholics, there are also many Jews, but 50% of the population is Muslim.
That is why, right in the center of the capital, there is a mosque, a synagogue, a Catholic church and an Orthodox church. An authentic religious Babel that is always a great attraction for tourists.
Among the religious spaces most sought after by visitors is the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Spirit, in Fojnica. But there is no lack of churches that, given time, should be admired::
- Sacred Heart Cathedral;
- Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel;
- Serbian Orthodox Cathedral;
- Church of Santo António de Pádua;
- Church of San Jose.
There are also several mosques. Among the most beautiful are the Gazi Husrev-beg (in memory of an Ottoman king), Alipasina and the Emperor’s Mosque.
As we have already explained, Sarajevo has many Ottoman influences, namely in its buildings. In addition, some of the buildings still show the marks of war. All this characterizes and defines the architectural heritage of the city.
In the field of non-religious architecture, there are emblematic spaces that cannot fail to be part of any itinerary.
- Sarajevo Chamber;
- Sarajevo Post Office (imposing and very beautiful building);
- Olympic Park (ice training track created for the winter games);
- Yellow Fortress (charming defensive structure that allows you to contemplate a stunning landscape);
- Avaz Twist Tower (a luxurious and imposing building);
- Latin Bridge and Festina Lente Bridge (often recommended sights. Quite distinct, but both unique in their own way).
Absolutely not to be missed
It is impossible, even with all the beauty of the city, to walk around Sarajevo and not come across something that reminds you of the bloody war that decimated it at the end of the 20th century. So, don’t miss out on some of the spaces created and maintained so that history doesn’t repeat itself or forget.
- The Sarajevo War Tunnel is a war tunnel, a space that every visitor should take the opportunity to visit. Also known as Tunnel Spasa and Tunnel of Hope, it was built between March and June 1993, during the Siege of Sarajevo in the midst of the Bosnian War. It connected the neighborhoods of Dobrinja and Butmir and was extremely important for supplies to the population and arms to the army.
- In Veliki Park is the Memorial for Children Killed in the Siege of Sarajevo, a monument dedicated to the memory of the innocent who died in a senseless war.
Sarajevo: more activities in the city
Apart from the historical landmarks, there are some fascinating things to do in Sarajevo. In addition to strolling through the center on foot, or bike rideit is possible, for example, to fly over the city on a tourist flight.
And why not stroll along Ferhadija, the most famous pedestrian artery in the city? It is an emblematic street that becomes a must for any visitor to the city.
If you love skiing, and winter sports in general, try a visit to Mount Bjelasnica Jahorina!
Among all the activities, you can (and should) go for a coffee. But it’s not just any cafe… In this city, there is a true culture of cafes and coffee (kafa). The bosanska kahva is still an Ottoman heritage, much appreciated by the locals.
It is a thick and strong coffee, served in a kind of small pitcher (džezva), with the powder at the bottom. Afterwards, just sit on a low bench on a sidewalk and drink your coffee in a small ceramic cup without handles.
Sarajevo is built in a valley surrounded by hills, which gives it a welcoming atmosphere, allowing direct contact with nature. It is a much sought after leisure area, adorned by imposing pine trees.
Visit the hills and walk up to the Yellow Bastion (Žuta tabija), the white fortress (Bijela tabija) and Avaz Tower, iconic residential areas from where you can see the best sunset.
Anyone who visits the region and is a nature lover cannot miss the opportunity to visit the Sunnyland Sarajevothe parks Mejdan and Igman or the local zoo.
At Bijambare Caveshidden in the dense forested areas, are enchanting, as are the Bosna hot springs (which gave rise to the name of the country).
Where to eat
And there is no tour without keeping the body well hydrated and fed. Meat, vegetables, stews, seasonings, delicious breads, sweets, there’s nothing missing from the Balkan cuisine.
Be sure to try the bureks (buttery puffs filled with cheese, spinach or meat), the mussacks (something similar to eggplant lasagna) and local stews (meat with tomato, onion, carrot, tomato and other vegetables and sauce).
Meals are usually accompanied by delicious bread. There is also the cevapi, a kind of ground beef sausage served with onion and kajmak. It is also customary to serve vegetables stuffed with meat.
When it comes to confectionery, it shows many Turkish influences. THE tufahija it’s a baked apple stuffed with walnuts and whipped cream. THE baklava is a pastry made with a paste of crushed walnuts and bathed in honey.
To “push” the savory and sweet things, there’s nothing like trying local beers, like Sarajevska, and Rakija, a distillate made from plums and other fruits.
There are some excellent options in Sarajevo that are ideal for those who want to pamper themselves with the best that the world of hospitality has to offer. It’s just a matter of looking and fitting your wallet. Good trip!