10 Things to do in Sarajevo
Having grown up during my early teens with the news dominated by the horrors of the Balkan War, in particular, the Siege of Sarajevo, I’ve always been drawn to Bosnia. If I’d known what lay in wait, I would certainly of visited sooner. Stunning landscapes, beautiful and tranquil towns and a truly unique mix of Ottoman and European influences. Nowhere is this more evident than in the country’s capital, Sarajevo. This vibrant city of delicious food, inclusive and friendly people, mix of architectural influences and fascinating recent and old history is simply a must-visit. Here are 10 things I’d recommend doing while in this fabulous city.
1. Stroll around the Old Bazaar
The obvious place to start but also the best place to start once in Sarajevo’s centre. The Baščaršija gives you are real sense of the city, its energy and how people now live peacefully side by side. It was built when Isa-Beg Ishaković established the city in the 15th century on behalf of the Ottoman empire. Those influences are still very much felt today with the architecture, the many mosques and of course the atmospheric call to prayer. It’s a little surreal being in the middle of Europe but that’s very much what Sarajevo is all about, so enjoy a Turkish coffee, take a stroll and barter at the many market stalls.
2. Visit the Tunnel of Salvation
Best visited on arrival in Sarajevo as it’s by the airport as you enter the city, the Tunnel of Salvation which acts as a stark and sobering reminder of the horrors the city endured from 1992 to 1995. With the city surrounded, the secret 800m tunnel, stretching under the Nato control airport linked Sarajevo to the rest of Bosnian held territory and was integral to the survival of the city. Please note more or less everything is written in Bosnian. The English tour is through a 45-minute audio app, along with free wi-fi, so you’ll need your headphones and mobile to utilise this.
3. Eat Local food at Dveri
A little hidden gem ideal for stopping to rest your feet after wandering around the Bazaar. This cosy little place isn’t easy to spot as it only has a street-facing doorway between two seemingly bigger establishments but once you’re inside you’ll be thankful for the comfy, warm setting and friendly service, especially on colder days! Renowned for its steak which we recommend, there are plenty of other options on the menu which has a mix of local and international dishes. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner so you can essentially visit anytime but please note it’s likely you’ll have to book for dinner to avoid disappointment.
4. Abandoned Bobsleigh & Luge Track
In 1984 Bosnia hosted the Winter Olympic Games, with Sarajevo at the centre, hosting many of the events including the bobsleigh and luge. Fast forward almost a decade and the bobsleigh and luge track was used as an artillery position for the Bosnian Serbians to bomb Sarajevo. It’s as eerie, with its graffitied bullet-ridden track, as it is pretty with its beautiful surrounding forest and panoramic views of Sarajevo, the surrounding hills and mountains. Try and coordinate your visit with the weather!
5. Take a Food Walking tour
This walking tour allows you to explore, see the main monuments and taste some delicious local cuisine – what better way to sightsee! You’ll learn about the history of Sarajevo and Bosnia & Herzegovina as well as the everyday life of the locals who inhabit the city. All typically delivered by a local who lived through the Siege of Sarajevo so there is really no one better to show you around. If you have any special dietary requirements please be sure to let your guide know at the start of the tour!
6. Smoke a Shisha Pipe
Live like a local and indulge in one of their favourite pastimes, smoking a Shisha pipe. Locating one of the many hookah lounges won’t be an issue, just stroll around the Old Town Bazaar and you’ll find one in no time! For those that don’t know Shisha is essentially drawing the smoke from hot coals through a pipe containing water. The coals contain tobacco which is mixed with fruit and sugar giving it a sweet taste. For those that have sampled them in the UK, in particular, London will definitely be a struct with how expensive it is, needless to say as, with everything in Bosnia, you won’t need to worry about the price.
7. Enjoy a Premium Sarajevsko at Klopa
As you can see from our pictures, we enjoyed our visit here. Located next to the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Klopa is an ideal place to enjoy a Premium Sarajevsko and people watch. The architecture and influences in the square are incredibly European and of course, you’re next to a Cathedral so it’s hard to believe that the old Baazar is a few hundred yards away but that’s what makes the city so special. Our food was delicious, the service attentive, friendly and we highly recommend the Klopa cake.
8. War Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide
As the museum’s rather long-winded name suggests it is not an easy subject matter. But for us, this is a must-see, as difficult as the content is to absorb and reconcile it’s crucial for all those that suffered the harrowing atrocities across the whole country to be acknowledged and understood. The museum itself is small but very well done with the information easily digestible allowing you to greater understand a complex war. Information on the internet is a little scarce but on our visit, it was 5 Euros entry and opening hours were daily from 09:00 – 18:00.
9. Eat Turkish Delight
With Bosnia’s obvious strong Turkish influence, it’s a great place to enjoy this sweet treat. Now for those, who like me, always avoided the chocolate covered gelatin square in the old school daily milk tray boxes as frankly they didn’t taste great, try and eradicate that from your memory – this is a very different animal. With so many flavours we decided to try a selection with the guidance of our helpful shop attendant. Much like Revels or Jelly beans some were delicious, some not so much and other definitely not for me but I’m now a Turkish Delight eater so I’d recommend you give it a go. I particularly liked the pistachio flavour. For Turkish delight lovers, there’s nothing I need to say!
10. Drink at La Cava
One of our favourite wine bars in the city. It always has an upbeat, lively atmosphere with friendly service and some genuinely good locals wines. There are also all the other options you’d expect from any good bar, some interesting cocktails and a hot bar snacks menu if you need little refuelling. It’s great to sit outside on a hot day and watch the world pass you but similarly, La Cava has a very cute and cosy interior when the weather is a little cold and miserable, if, of course, you’re lucky enough to get a seat!
If you’d like to visit Sarajevo then take a look at our Mini Bosnia Experience which includes 2 nights in Sarajevo as well as some of the best highlights Bosnia has to offer. If you have any questions or would like to book a trip please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by James Chisnall, Untravelled Paths