48 Hours Exploring Sarajevo
Sarajevo is situated in the heart of Bosnia, along the Mijacka river and surrounded by the Dinaric Alps. Infamous for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which sparked the beginning of the First World War, and more recently, for being the main battleground of the third Balkan war of the 1990s, it still bears the scars of both. But it also provides an incredibly diverse mix of various cultures and traditions with the city’s major influences coming from the Ottomans. It’s one of the few major European cities to have a mosque, a Catholic church, an Orthodox Church, and a synagogue within a stone’s throw of each other. This truly fascinating emerging European city is well worth a visit so we thought we’d give you our recommendations for a weekend in Sarajevo.
DAY 1 – SARAJEVO
MORNING – FOOD WALKING TOUR
What better way to start a visit to a new city with oozing history and culture than a walking tour to get your bearings. But with so much to see and take in, we recommend you combine it with sampling the local cuisine with Balkantina Food Walking Tour. The tour takes in all the main central sights such as the Bascarsija Old Bazaar, Gazi Husrev-beg’s Mosque, and of course the Latin Bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. Conveniently nestled between the cultural sight visits are various food and drink tastings from local cheeses, smoked meats, Bosnian pies, traditional cevapi, Bosnian gourmet specialties, and homemade brandy which will also warm you up! All in all, it’s more than enough for you not to have to worry about lunch which we think makes the 38 Euros rather good value.
AFTERNOON – THE ABANDONED BOBSLEIGH LUGE
Walk off the lunch with a highly recommended visit to the nearby abandoned Bobsleigh luge which was originally a symbol of the 1984 winter Olympics. It later became the front line for the battle of Sarajevo (1992-1996) and now sits eerily abandoned and decaying. It’s situated in the forests around the city and makes for both a pretty and fascinating walk. You can either travel there independently via public transport (it’s about a 15-minute drive) or you can sign up for a local tour and they will take care of the logistics, but please note that with a tour operator it’s a good half-day (4 hours).
EVENING – BARHANA
Barhana is one of the most vibrant dining spots in the area, thanks to its courtyard full of locals that fill the place every evening. The restaurant offers a range of classic Bosnian dishes as well as some more familiar offerings making it the perfect place to relax, rest your feet and talk about the adventures of the day. For those who like their beer it’s worth trying Sarajevska, the local beer, and for those who are a little braver, then naturally there’s local rakija on offer. Dishes are very generously portioned and great value.
DAY 2 – SARAJEVO
MORNING – SARAJEVO TUNNEL MUSEUM
Often referred to as the Tunnel of Hope, this was built by the Bosnian Army in 1993. Its purpose was to ensure that the suppliers of food, arms, and humanitarian aid could get into the city as it was entirely surrounded by Serbian forces. The construction took only 4 months and was integral to ensuring that the defenders had the necessary arms to defend the city from the advancing Serbian forces. It is a must-see museum to help gain a better understanding of the Siege of Sarajevo.
LUNCH – KIBE MAHALA
Given you are already outside the city, rather than returning to the old town it would make sense to make a small detour to Kibe Mahala which is located on a hillside offering stunning views over the city. The food is delicious, in particular, the spit-roast lamb which is a house specialty and there is an extensive local wine menu. There is also traditional Bosnian music played by two guitarists which very much adds to the atmosphere.
AFTERNOON – WAR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY AND GENOCIDE 1992-1995
As the name of the museum suggests this is a rather harrowing but very important museum. It’s crucial that the human race as a whole acknowledges its darker past to ensure lessons are learnt and such atrocities are hopefully avoided in the future. To think that a genocide took place right in the centre of Europe during the 1990s is shocking but although there were stories the true extent wasn’t revealed until after the war. Given the sensitive material, with so little time having passed and still many unknowns, the museum excellently delivers the shocking extent of the war crimes committed, always remaining impartial and highlighting that none of the countries involved in the war were completely innocent. With various videos documenting the harrowing tales, maps, photos, and exhibits it’s easy to spend at least a couple of hours here.
EVENING – MALA KUHINJA
Given it’s your final night, we think it’s best you leave on a high and what better way to do it with one of the most delicious dining experiences in Sarajevo. Mala Kuhinja is inspired by Asian cuisine, the chef prepares dishes that fuse Asian and Balkan culinary traditions to produce a truly unique combination of flavours. But the really unique aspect is that there is no menu. Instead, your waiter directs you based on your dietary tastes and requirements before offering suggestions. There is an open kitchen, meaning that you can also watch your meal being prepared.
If you are interested in visiting Sarajevo then you might want to consider our Adriatic & Beyond Experience which includes a two-night stay or look out for our Mini Bosnia Experience which is soon to be released.
Written by James Chisnall, Untravelled Paths