Buildings pockmarked with bullet holes and sidewalks with deep marks (also known as Sarajevo Roses) left by grenades are some of the evidence from the terror of war that happened in Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995. It’s hard to imagine the condition this postcard-perfect city was just 20 years ago – the suffering and loss of life including 1,500 children.
Sarajevo remains the most intriguing city in Europe I’ve ever visited. To me, it’s a city that exudes resilience, courage, and hope. Besides that, there’s an east meets west culture and its history, food and coffee culture are unbeatable. There’s much to see and do in Sarajevo. I’ve chosen seven best things you can do there:
1. Join a walking tour of Sarajevo Old Town
There’s so much to see in Sarajevo Old Town. Join a guided walking tour and discover the 500-year-old history, from the Ottoman and Austro Hungarian eras to the Yugoslavia, Sarajevo Siege (1992-1995) and present time. Most walking tours will include:
- Old Bazaar (Bezistan)
- Pigeon Square
- Gazi Husrev-Bey mosque
- Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral
- Latin Bridge
- Ashkenazi Synagogue
- Sarajevo National Theatre
- Sarajevo City Hall
- Sarajevo roses
When you walk along the 16th-century Ferhadija pedestrian street, you can see the contrast between Bascarsija or Turkish Quarter, (Ottoman influence) and the Austro-Hungarian influenced part of the town. There’s a marker on the street that divides the spot between east and west Sarajevo Old Town.
2. Take a cable car and walk the abandoned Sarajevo Bobsleigh Track
Take a cable car (a seven-minute ride) at the foothills of Mt. Trebevic to the top for views of the city. The cable car was reopened on April 8, 2018, after being closed for 26 years. Mt. Trebevic was an important venue during the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. It cost 20 Bosnian marks for a return ticket and 15 Bosnian marks for a one-way trip to the top of Mt. Trebevic.
Along with enjoying the views, you can walk on the abandoned Sarajevo Olympics Bobsleigh and Luge Track. The over 4,000 feet (1,300 meters) concrete track is now covered with graffiti. You need to wear shoes with good traction to walk on the bobsleigh track.
3. Visit War Tunnel Museum and Tunnel of Hope
I recommend a four-hour guided tour called The Modern World Longest Siege Tour to learn about the Siege of Sarajevo. This tour will take you to the War Tunnel Museum and sites linked to the war. Learn about Sniper Alley, walk the 25-meter Tunnel of Hope, discover the massacre sites, and more.
4. Drink Bosnian coffee
It seems like everyone drinks coffee in Sarajevo. In Turkish Quarter, men and women, young and old sit in coffee shops or on chairs, stools or benches on the streets outside the coffee shops sipping Bosnian coffee served in a copper-plated pot with a long handle (dzezva). The fildzani, a handleless demitasse, and secerluk, a container with white sugar or Bosnian sweets on a copper tray complete the coffee set.
The complete coffee set with the copper tray is called kahveni takum in Bosnia. Bosnian coffee is robust and unfiltered, which means you might drink some of the mud-like coffee grounds.
5. Try traditional Bosnian food
Sarajevo’s range of food is remarkable. Throughout the city, there are restaurants and small eateries with meats sizzling off the grill, cuisine with Turkish influences. Some of the traditional dishes to try are cevapi (small lamb and beef sausages serve flatbread) and burek (cheese or meat wrapped in phyllo pastry.
Vegetarians may want to try dishes like dolma (eggplant stuffed with rice or stuffed peppers), zeljanica (spinach wrapped in phyllo pastry) and kljukusa (potato pie).
Save room for baklava (pastry made of nuts and honey) and tufahije (apple pie).
Make sure you try freshly pressed pomegranate juice offered by sidewalk vendors in old town Sarajevo.
6. Shop for souvenirs
Sarajevo is one of the few places in the world that I would spend time looking for souvenirs. On Kazandziluk street, also known as coppersmith street in the Turkish Quarter you’ll find many shops selling handmade and machine-made spoons, coffee grinders, kahveni takum (coffee sets), coffee cups, and more.
Kazandziluk is one of the oldest streets in Sarajevo.
7. Enjoy Sarajevo’s night view
Many places offer bird’s eye views of Sarajevo. I went to Hecco Deluxe Hotel, Sarajevo’s oldest skyscraper to enjoy Sarajevo’s night view. Take the elevator from the ground floor and head straight to the hotel’s rooftop cafe.
Other places according to Sarajevo tourism board:
- Yellow Fortress (Zuta Tabija)
- Bijela Tabija
- Jewish Cemetery
- Avaz Twist Tower
- Plava Prizma