Although it may remind you of war, destruction, and death, today Sarajevo is a vibrant, friendly, modern, and safe city. Let me guide you through the amazing capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and share with you the best things to do in Sarajevo, a must-see city in Europe that will inspire you to reflect on the past and never forget the tragedies of history.
Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a city that will both break and steal your heart. Although it’s safe to visit Sarajevo today, we shouldn’t forget the bloody conflict that ravaged the city after the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the subsequent war in the Balkans. The Bosnian War was especially cruel, with Sarajevo being besieged for almost four years and ending up completely destroyed. Twenty-three years later, the walls of Sarajevo still carry bullet holes, exposing the wounds of war.
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina and spend a few days in its capital. Despite its terrible history, I found the city fascinating, a hidden gem in Europe worth discovering. While walking through its damaged streets, it’s impossible not to imagine the hell that took place there not so long ago. But despite the pain it carries, Sarajevo has many pleasant surprises to offer. The city has truly shown the world its resilience and ability to reinvent itself.
Today, I want to share with you the best things to do in Sarajevo, a perfect city for a getaway and a great destination for women traveling alone!
Best Things to Do in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
01 | Take a Walk in Baščaršija, the Ottoman Quarter of the City
Sarajevo is known as the European Jerusalem, the point where the East meets the West, and Baščaršija is definitely proof of that! The district of Baščaršija (also known as the Turkish Quarter) is the historical center and Ottoman part of the city. A walk through its streets will feel like a walk through Turkey, thanks to the Ottoman architecture and influence left in Bosnia, where they ruled for more than 400 years.
The cobbled streets of Baščaršija are full of cafés, souvenir shops, and restaurants. In this neighborhood, you’ll also find the Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque, the most important mosque in Sarajevo and the largest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The most iconic landmark of this neighborhood, however, is the popular Sebilj fountain that dominates the Baščaršija Square, which is always full of people and pigeons. If you like Sarajevo, don’t forget to drink from this fountain: legend says that if you do, you’ll return to the city!
02 | Cross the Latin Bridge Where World War I Started
If you love history, you won’t want to miss this chance to visit this historic place. It was here that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated, triggering one of the biggest international conflicts in history. A Serbian nationalist killed the archduke near the Latin Bridge of Sarajevo, and one month later, Austria declared war on Serbia, marking the beginning of World War I.
03 | Visit Vijećnica, Sarajevo’s City Hall
First built in 1886, Sarajevo’s City Hall has been a witness and victim of the city’s turbulent past. The building was converted into the national library in 1949 but was burned down during the siege of Sarajevo in 1992, turning over two million books to ash. The city hall was then restored and opened to the public in 2014, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of World War I.
Vijećnica is a must-see landmark, not just for its history but also for its architecture. Although it was built during the reign of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it boasts a fascinating neo-Arab architectural style. The entrance fee is 10 mark (5 euros).
04 | Watch the Sunset from the Yellow Fortress
The ruins of the Sarajevo Yellow Fortress (Žuta Tabija) are the perfect place to watch the sunset. You can find some of the best views of the city here!
05 | Escape from Sarajevo through the Tunnel of Hope
One of the best things to do in Sarajevo is visiting the Tunnel of Hope (also known as the Tunnel of Life). This tunnel is a symbol of the spirit of survival in the people of Sarajevo. It was built during the siege and was the only way out of the city when it was completely surrounded by Serbian enemies.
The tunnel was built over four months by civilians who risked their lives to return hope and life to the ruined city. They took advantage of the area below the airport, which was guarded by the Blue Helmets of the United Nations and was therefore relatively safe from attack. Built 800 meters underground, this secret road was used to bring in weapons and provisions during the war and allowed up to 4000 people to escape from the city every day.
I highly recommend you visit this tunnel, especially as part of the Times of Misfortune tour, which will take you to many of the key places of the siege and destruction of Sarajevo. The tour guide himself escaped from Sarajevo through this tunnel, so you’ll hear a firsthand account of the atrocities that happened in the city and to Bosnia in the wake of the war. This fantastic tour is a must-see attraction if you want to learn about Sarajevo’s terrible history and the complicated political situation in Bosnia that led up to the war.
Apart from Times of Misfortune, there is other great tours that you can do in Sarajevo:
06 | Visit Sarajevo’s Mosques, Cathedrals, and Synagogues
For centuries, Bosnia has been a haven of cultures and religions where Muslims, Christians, and Jews have lived in peace and tolerance. Sarajevo is known as the European Jerusalem for having a mosque, a cathedral, a synagogue, and an Orthodox church all within 500 meters.
07 | Take in Sarajevo’s Tragic History at the Gallery 11/07/95
Visiting the Galery 11/07/95 is as painful as it is important. The gallery exhibits photographs and videos documenting the horror of the Srebrenica genocide, when 8372 Bosnian Muslims, including children, were brutally murdered within the span of a few days. It was the worst European massacre since World War II and it should never be forgotten.
I recommend visiting the gallery with an audio guide to learn more about the history of the massacre, though it will always be difficult to understand the reasons behind it. Although the gallery will surely move you, possibly even to tears, it’s one of the most significant things you’ll do in Sarajevo. As philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The entrance fee is 12 mark, with an extra 5 mark for an audio guide. A tour with an audio guide lasts about two hours and the ticket is valid for three days.
If you want to learn more about the genocide, you can also do a day-trip to Srebrenica from Sarajevo.
08 | Find the Sarajevo Roses
Sarajevo “roses” are red spots that can be seen on the ground throughout the city. These roses were created by people filling marks left by bombs with red resin. Although you can still find some, many have quietly disappeared and been replaced with fresh asphalt.
09 | Visit the Ruins of the Olympic Winter Games of 1984
People from Sarajevo fondly remember the winter of 1984, when the city hosted the Olympic Winter Games. The Bosnians are still proud of this honor, despite the horrors that followed only a few years later.
Some facilities like the bobsleigh track still stand today. The track fell into disrepair after the Bosnian War and is now full of graffiti, but you can still take a pleasant walk there.
To get there, take the cable car that reopened in Sarajevo in April 2018 or visit the track as part of the Times of Misfortune tour.
10 | Taje a Day Trip to Mostar
Two hours from Sarajevo, Mostar is a must-see destination during any trip to Bosnia. The city boasts some impressive medieval and Ottoman architecture, as well as the imposing Stari Most (literally “old bridge”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can take a day trip to Mostar from Sarajevo. Don’t miss this lovely city!
Where to Stay in Sarajevo
There are plenty of good, affordable places to stay in Sarajevo. If you travel alone, I recommend staying in a hostel: besides saving money, you’ll have the chance to meet other travelers. I highly recommend the Franz Ferdinand hostel: it’s one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in! You’ll find it right in the heart of Sarajevo, only a few minutes from the main tourist attractions.
Here are some other great options for places to stay in Sarajevo:
The Doctor’s House Hostel – This hostel is new and has very good reviews. As a con, it is not right in the city center. A good option if you are looking for a more secluded and quiet place.
Hostel Denal – This is another of the downtown hostels with better reviews and prices in Sarajevo.
Halvat Hotel – Small and charming hotel right in the center of Sarajevo.
Hotel VIP – If you are not on a budget, this elegant and modern four-star hotel is a perfect choice for you.
Where to Eat in Sarajevo
A warning for vegetarians: Bosnia doesn’t have the most vegetarian-friendly cuisine. I couldn’t even try most of the national food, including the national dish, ćevapi. If you’re a vegetarian like me, there are a couple of restaurants I recommend with healthier options that I loved.
The restaurant I liked most was Karuzo: the menu includes vegetarian and vegan options, as well as sushi and other fish dishes. It’s a cozy restaurant where the chef is usually working alone, so it makes you feel at home. Because it’s small, you should make a reservation before going. It’ll be worth it, though: it’s one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in a long time!
Another restaurant in Sarajevo with healthy options for all tastes is Klopa.
How to Get Around Sarajevo
The center of Sarajevo is perfect for walking, but if you need to get to the train or bus station, you can take the tram. I don’t recommend taking a taxi from Sarajevo airport: taxi drivers in Bosnia have a reputation for overcharging tourists. Instead, take a bus downtown. It will cost only 5 marks and will get you to Baščaršija in 25 minutes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the best things to do in Sarajevo, and I really hope you’ll love the city as much as I did. Whether you want to reflect on life or immerse yourself in history, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the perfect destination for your next solo escape!
Have you been to Sarajevo? What did you enjoy most about the trip? Share your experience with us in the comments below!