Ah, Sarajevo! What a city you are, I’ve never been so delighted and heartbroken all at once, but with you, it certainly was an interesting experience. I was in Sarajevo back in September for three days, and this interesting Balkan city was the first leg of my trip, and in this post, I’ll write few out of the many interesting things to do in Sarajevo – the underrated city of Europe and the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Truthfully, with little shame on my part, I did not exactly plan my trip to Sarajevo – not even a little bit! The only thing I planned ahead of time is the amount of time I’ll be spending in the city before taking off to Zagreb where the awesome peeps over at BIG BERRY eventually picked me up to enjoy Slovenia under their care.
While googling “Things to do in Sarajevo” (because that’s always the first and last resort) I did not exactly found anything interesting about this city and didn’t even bother to read further. I thought that it is just one of those beaten up after war cities that Eastern Europe is well known off.
Well, I was not wrong (but right at the same time). Sarajevo is like any other Eastern Europe cities – the war is evident from the walls of the city.
However, there is one little thing I did not expect… The fact that this town is full of tales I did not know nor did not realize how relevant it is to what I already know about the world’s history.
I’m not a huge history buff, but I’m interested in it – mainly European history. It beguiles me almost equally as the local cuisines. I don’t know much but I know the main facts, and after visiting Sarajevo, I tell you, you’ll start to question everything you learned from school.
Interesting Things To Do in Sarajevo
Interesting Things To Do in Sarajevo
PARTICIPATE IN NENO AND FRIENDS FREE WALKING TOUR
Neno and friends free walking tour is the first thing the receptionist from The Doctor’s House Hostel, the hostel I stayed during my trip to Sarajevo, recommended to me. She said that it is free and by far the best and everyone who went with Neno and friends around the city of Sarajevo enjoyed the walk.
Neno, the guy himself, was our guide during this tour and is a local of Sarajevo and if you know a little bit about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s past then you probably know that not even 20 years ago, Sarajevo was under attack.
I don’t remember much news about this war since I was only five when it ended. However, for an eleven years old boy which Neno was at the time of the war, it was vivid. He lived his younger years under such awful circumstances, and he lived until this day to tell his tale.
Nowadays, Neno and friends organize a free walking tour that starts at the National Theatre at 10:30 A.M.
Keep in mind though that this tour is for free, and the guides are doing it without pay, and the tour is all about explaining Sarajevo’s past and culture! It takes about 2.5 hours and Neno and friends will take you around Sarajevo and show you some of the city’s iconic sites.
If you enjoyed the tour, don’t forget to give tips! They don’t necessarily expect it but the tour is tip based, and that’s how they somehow get paid. It would be a nice gesture especially if you liked the tour.
LEARN ABOUT SARAJEVO’S PAST THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHS
If there’s something I learned about wars from Sarajevo’s history is that it brings nothing good but only sorrow. It is a fact, and it is something that should not be forgotten.
When I arrived in Sarajevo, in the hostel there was a talk that spreads around fast, it is about this one gallery that is apparently rather famous for making people cry… No kidding.
It is Galerija 11/07/95 – the gallery of sorrow, I must say. It is intriguing and a must visit if you stumble upon the city and should be a priority in your things to do in Sarajevo itinerary.
Why is it so important to visit this gallery?
Upon visiting this place, I was a person not so interested in anything but only seeing pretty beautiful things during my travels. However, after my visit to this gallery, I was awakened – my eyes opened to the world’s reality about the fact that humans will kill just for about everything and anything.
I was devastated. I was heartbroken. I broke down.
If my experience is as such, why do I recommend this to you? Well, I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to feel devasted, heartbroken and broken down. This is the moment you’ll feel how human you are still.
TAKE A VISIT TO THE TUNNELS
The Sarajevo Tunnels, located just a bit far off from the city, is a tunnel constructed during the war in 1993 to serve as a connection between Sarajevo and Sarajevo Airport, the latter being the place controlled by the United Nations.
The tunnel was used as a transport system to deliver relief goods brought by the U.N to the locals of Sarajevo who are hiding and under threats by the Serbians – they could not leave the city unless they want to face death.
What’s interesting about this place that I could convince you to visit it?
History. Also, people unite to build this tunnel with whatever tools they could use or come up with. In a state of crisis such as that time in history, you’ll learn about the few moments when people worked together to help the masses as much as they can – even if it means they are risking their lives.
For me, that is interesting. It is interesting to see the moments in history where we, as humans, act like humans. Not for us, but also for others.
CHECK OUT THE ONCE WORLD FAMOUS OLYMPIC BOBSLED SITE
So, despite all the depressing things I mentioned above, this one is some of the fun things to do in Sarajevo: Visiting the bobsled site located in Trebević mountain overlooking the city of Sarajevo.
What is this site anyway and why should you visit it?
Well, if you don’t know, Sarajevo was the Winter Olympic location for 1984, and it took about a year to construct it. That’s little time for how big it is but don’t worry; it is quite sturdy!
Nowadays, the bobsled track in Sarajevo is used by young people as a canvas for their graffitis, and some artworks are great while some are what the heck. But you’ll certainly see some great ones, and the walk around the site is cool. You can even go hiking to the abandoned Sarajevo bobsled site from Sarajevo city, if you must.
What’s even more interesting?
Yeah, yeah, it is about the history and the war but hears me out! As mentioned above, this bobsled was used during the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984 – that said, this site was already built when the Seige of Sarajevo took part in history… It is fascinating how intact the whole site is! It is severely damaged, and you’ll see that when you visit, but the whole place is still intact. Impressive.
This exact spot is where WWI started
FOR THE CURIOUS MINDS – DO YOU KNOW HOW AND WHERE WORLD WAR I STARTED?
I was pretty surprised about this fact myself! Okay, I was not exactly aware of how World War I started, but it was interesting to learn it from the place where it all started.
Back in 1914, Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of Austria-Hungarian Empire, a union between Austria and Hungary governing most of Eastern Europe and was with great powers – something people are quite hungry for, just out of observation.
During that time in 1914, Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, was visiting Sarajevo with his wife, Sophie, when something unexpected happens; After their public appearance and meeting, the couple was killed by Gavrilo Princip by throwing a grenade at the car the couple was riding – thus ending their lives
They were assassinated near the Latin Bridge and in there you’ll find a museum where you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about this time in history.
And because of this, my friends, this street corner of Sarajevo became an iconic site as it became the exact place that started the 20th century – World War I and eventually the rise and fall of Yugoslavia.
SEE SARAJEVO FROM ABOVE (AERIAL VIEW). SHE’S STUNNING!
After you visit the Bobsled site and if you’re there either by hiking or by an organized tour – you should not miss the hilltop aerial view of Sarajevo! I went to the Winter Olympic site via an organized tour by the awesome The Doctor’s House Hostel, and our guide took us somewhere around Tebević Mountain.
He did mention that it is must not miss and should certainly be one of the top things to do in Sarajevo if you visit. He took us there for a short detour since it is on the way. If you’re hiking, I’m sure you can find it rather easy from the map! Exploring Sarajevo has been fun, indeed.
TRY BOSNIAN COFFEE
Ah, coffee! It is such a tease to write about coffee right now as I try to quit drinking it and I’m having some serious caffeine withdrawal as I write this article. However, how can I not recommend coffee to anyone who will visit Sarajevo?
That’d be cruel of me. Right?
Anyway, if you’re curious what is Bosnian coffee then let me explain to you a little bit of, guess what, history! Hah!
Back in time, around the 17th century, the Ottoman or the Turkish Empire arrived in Sarajevo and shared their culture and beliefs to the locals thus you’ll see tons of Turkish influence around the city. Here is where Bosnian coffee came from, it is pretty much just like the Turkish coffee – strong, tasty, and with a touch of sugar, sweet. They even prepare it just like the Turks do!
So, if you haven’t been to Turkey but stumble upon Sarajevo, then you’re in luck because you get to taste a bit of Turkey during your visit, as well!
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski | CC 2.0
YOU HAVEN’T BEEN TO SARAJEVO WITHOUT TASTING RAKIJA
If you have been around Eastern Europe, you most probably have heard about rakija, and I no longer can fool you of trying it, am I right?
But I’m sure you secretly loved it.
So, to newbies who will visit the Balkans, be adventurous because let me tell you, rakija is awesome especially drank with fellow travelers and backpackers alike.
What is this anyway?
Well, it is a strong alcohol! It is a fruit brandy and widely popular around the Balkan area thus you’ll stumble upon this strong drink with a whopping 40% of alcohol. Sounds fun! You should try it but with caution.
…AND OF COURSE, DON’T FORGET TO SAMPLE THE LOCAL BREWS!
There’s no denying that each country has their versions of beers, so it is not a surprise that Bosnia and Herzegovina produce its beers. I’m always about supporting the local community of each place I visit, and one way do that is to work your way through by sampling some of the country’s fine local brews!
Sarajevo has an interesting back story, which you’ll learn if you take Neno’s and Friend’s walking tour, about the oldest brewery in the city. The Sarajevo Brewery Museum or Sarajevska Pivara, opened its door to the public to share its story about how the brewery survived history without stopping its production.
People need brewskies under any circumstances, right?
Anyway, although the idea of pubs in Sarajevo is still new, you’ll find great bars where you can hang out for a pint for a low price. If you’re on a budget, which makes Sarajevo the perfect destination for you, then local grocery shops have a variety of beers you can choose from.
Here are some of Bosnian beers you can get in Sarajevo:
- Sarajevsko Pivo (the famous one)
- Premium Crno pivo
- Tuzlanski Pilsner
…AND EAT ĆEVAPI WITH YOUR BEERS. IT IS GOOD. TRUST ME.
Ah, food! If you have read some of my previous travel guides, such as the things to do in Budapest post, then you probably can tell that I like to give tips on what to eat. Well, that’s because, in my opinion, food plays an important part when it comes to truly having an awesome experience.
That said, what is Ćevapi and why you should try it?
It is a sort of skinless sausage typically made with beef and is usually cooked on the grill. Often served with a type of flat bread (like pita), chopped white onions, and sour cream. It is delicious!
I’ve seen locals dig this Ćevapi as well and they drink yogurt while they eat it – I tried, it is fab. If you’re not fond of yogurt or you find it weird then eat it with beer because that combination is even more fab, in my opinion.
Bosnian food is meaty, greasy, and heavily spiced, and normally I find food like these to be a perfect match with cold beer. So, try it!
ALSO, SAMPLE SARAJEVO’S DELICIOUS LOCAL RESTAURANTS
There are tons of restaurants in Sarajevo, and I’m certain you will find one that will cater your diet. Also, if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll find tons of restaurants that serve vegetarian dishes so don’t worry! You’ll be okay in Sarajevo even though the local cuisine is meaty; there’s always a place for everyone to eat.
With that said, it should be in your top things to do in Sarajevo itinerary to eat your way through the city. It is a must. Bosnian food has strong Turkish influence, but in time, the locals put a touch of their flavor in their cuisine making it Bosnian and unique on its own. Plus, the food I’ve eaten are a bombshell of flavor. I highly recommend sampling the local delicacies! You will not be disappointed.
You might be wondering if eating out in Sarajevo will damage your budget. Well, wonder no more because I tell you now, it is cheap in Sarajevo or Bosnia and Herzegovina in general! If you’re in a budget, you’ll feel like a rich man in this city.
Anyway, here are some of the restaurants I recommend you should hunt if you visit Sarajevo:
Aščinica Hadžibajrić F. Namika
Recommended by Neno and Friends Free Walking tour and it is not far out from Vijećnica, or Sarajevo City Hall, where the tour eventually ends. The restaurant is fairly small, and there are no big signs so make sure to find this place through the address.The restaurant is quite similar to a buffet where you can choose whichever you fancy, and the dishes are prepared according to traditional recipes thus making your experience truly unique.
Address: Ćurčiluk veliki 59, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Opening hours: 7 AM – 6 PM
I stumble upon this restaurant with two Turkish guys I’ve met while visiting Galerija 07/11/95 by asking locals for a recommendation. The restaurant is easy to find and is located in the old town near the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque.The restaurant mostly serves typical Bosnian food such as Ćevapi, Veal Steaks, and other grill foods. It was good, and the Turks approved although they said it does taste similar to what they have in Turkey.
Address: Ćurčiluk veliki 11, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Opening hours: 7 AM – 11.30 PM
Dva Jablana is possibly the best restaurant in Sarajevo I’ve been. The lady and her husband who runs the place are so friendly, though they don’t speak English, they are accommodating. Plus, the food was beyond tasty! This restaurant was just two blocks away from the hostel I was staying and was recommended to me by the owner herself.I don’t find that much information about this restaurant online but if you ever stay over at The Doctors House Hostel, they I highly suggest you pay this restaurant a visit.
Address: Zaima Šarca 9, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia and Herzegovina
IF YOU’RE FOND OF SARAJEVO NOW, I RECOMMEND YOU TO STAY IN THIS HOSTEL!
If you’re on a budget but seeks a hostel where you’ll find yourself comfortable, then I highly suggest staying over at The Doctor’s House Hostel – a beautiful hostel that is clean and quiet. Also, the beds are comfortable, and there’s a curtain on each bunk for additional privacy.
Not to mention, it is not far from the top sites to see in Sarajevo! Only one thing, though, you do need to hike a steep hill to get here and as what the receptionist mentioned: “It takes few minutes to go down but about ten minutes to go back up.”
Truthfully, the hike didn’t bother me though at one point I swore to myself that I need to start doing some physical activities because, well, it was a steep hill and after few beers and the casual party cigarettes, it can be a bit of a challenge.
FOOD FOR THOUGHTS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KEEP IN MIND
While I dub Sarajevo as an underrated city of Europe, you also have to remember that there are reasons why the city or the country is not as well-known, unlike its neighbors. Not long ago, twenty years to be exact, the country went under some of the history’s saddest moment. The city was heavily damaged during the war, and since it hasn’t been that long ago, the city is slowly recovering from that events.
Being that said, I found Sarajevo beautiful on its own and although it made me sad looking at war beaten buildings that still exist around the city – it serves as a reminder that even the suppressed get back to its feet, moves on in life, smile to the world, and fight to live.
I can’t promise you you’ll love it as much as I did, Sarajevo is incomparable to bigger cities of its neighboring countries but if you look past by its appearance – you’ll see what I mean, and it will grow into you.
Also, diversity is a huge thing in Sarajevo; you’ll find Mosques, Synagogues, different sorts of Christian Churches, and other religion minority here and there. And Sarajevo is not a big city! It is, in fact, tiny so to find such diversity was impressive. In Sarajevo, there’s a place for everyone despite your religion, your ethnicity, or color.
Overall, my personal experience in Sarajevo was great. It opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on learning tidbits of new information about history I did not know. Who knew the city would give such impact to me? I mean, I did not even do that much research beforehand! I’m happy though that I didn’t think otherwise these things won’t come in as a surprise.
Do I recommend you visiting Sarajevo? Absolutely. At least once in your life, you should see a city as diverse as Sarajevo. You’ll be surprised too.
DISCLAIMER: I was hosted by The Doctor’s House Hostel all throughout my stay in Sarajevo but bear in mind that I only write truthfuly with the readers in mind thus if I recommend something, it is something I truly believe in. I will not recommend anything I’ve not tried myself because trust from my readers’ more important and by all means, I’d love to keep the trust flow intact.
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