As hard as it was to leave Belgrade, the draw of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina was enough to give us the push needed to (finally) leave. Sarajevo was a city that I had always been keen to visit and I am immensely glad I did. An absolutely beautiful city with a rich and complex history, it is also plagued by its tumultuous past. Although it is an amazing and culturally significant city that should definitely be on your Balkan itinerary, it can be difficult to figure out what to do in Sarajevo.
Getting To Sarajevo
Sarajevo is fairly well-connected with other major cities in the region, so getting in isn’t difficult. There are no train connections, so you will be arriving via aeroplane, bus, or minibus. Michael and I opted for the minibus route, which was about a 6-hour ride all in from Belgrade and the views from the winding mountain roads were gorgeous. A minibus will take you directly to your accommodation, which was a nice addition for us as we ended up arriving after midnight.
There are two bus stations in Sarajevo, Autobusna Stanica (the main one, serving most domestic and international destinations) and Lukavica (located on the outskirts of the city in the Republika Srpska part of Sarajevo, serving locations in Serbia and Montenegro). The main bus station is located in the New City and it is an easy (and cheap) cab ride into the Old Town, just make sure that either the meter is running or you agree on a fixed price before getting in to prevent scams, I would personally recommend the former.
Where To Stay In Sarajevo
Like elsewhere in the Balkans, accommodation in Sarajevo is both plentiful and affordable. There are myriad hostels and other budget options so it can be tricky to figure out where to stay in Sarajevo. Michael and I stayed both at Hostel Franz Ferdinand and Doctor’s House and while the facilities and location of the former were quite good, we much preferred Doctor’s House. It is located a bit outside the city centre atop a steep hill and provides beautiful views of Sarajevo from the rooftop balcony.
What To Do in Sarajevo
There are no shortage of things to do in Sarajevo, the city possesses a rich and complex history and its numerous museums are a good starting point to gain an understanding about Bosnia and its capital. The Bosnian Historical Museum gives an excellent look at horrors of the Siege of Sarajevo, though don’t go expecting it to be an uplifting experience. The realities of the years-long siege were brutal and inhuman and the museum, rightly, does not sugar coat this.
If you’re wondering what to do in Sarajevo the might be a little offbeat and quirky, head to the abandoned bobsled/luge track — a remnant of the 1984 Winter Olympics hosted in Sarajevo, the decrepit track is now overgrown with vines and covered in graffiti. There have been reports of thefts and muggings happening around this area, so I would suggest going in daylight hours and keeping a vigilant eye on your belongings. Also, of course, do not flash around obvious valuables, such as a smartphone or a nice watch. As always, just practice some common sense and you will be fine.
The Latin Bridge in the Old Town is interesting to visit, not necessarily for its beauty, but for its historical significance. It is the location of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, the cataclysmic event most historians agree to be the igniting spark of the First World War. From there, wander through the winding streets of the old town; as you browse through the shop windows and market stalls, you will feel as if you’ve left Europe altogether — Ottoman rule substantially left its mark on Sarajevo, generating a magical East-meets-West feel. Make sure you get a fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice on your way! A walk through the war cemetery and up to the Yellow Fortress will provide both a sobering look at the lives lost in the 1990’s war and a beautiful view of the city and its surrounding hills.
Sarajevo is also a great place to hike, being tucked high up in the mountains. If you do decide to experience the nature outside the city, make sure you stick to the marked trails as there are still undetonated landmines in the surrounding areas, due to the lack of international aid in the aftermath of Bosnia’s devastation. If you happen to be there in the winter, Sarajevo is also a top-notch skiing destination and you will be able to hit the slopes at a fraction of the cost of some its Western European counterparts.
Where To Eat in Sarajevo
Please note: at the time of writing 2 KM = 1 Euro
If you’re wondering where to eat Sarajevo, it can be nice to know that food is both cheap and very good in the city. Traditional food differs little from what you would find elsewhere in the Balkans, and you can get a massive plate of čevapi or a burek without breaking 4 KM. Even a meal at a mid-range restaurant won’t set you back much — we ate dinner a couple of times at Barhana (great pizza and pasta!) for less than 20 KM for the two of us, and that included wine and starters.
Perhaps our favourite place in the whole of Sarajevo, though, was Čajdžinica Džirlo. A cosy tea house on a small street just off the main square, Michael and I managed to spend a couple of hours here each day, people watching and admiring the beauty that was Sarajevo. The owner, Hossein, adorned in robes and a long white beard that made him nearly indistinguishable from Albus Dumbledore, was beyond hospitable and friendly. The place provides an ample selection of teas and Turkish-style coffee and an unbeatable, chilled-out atmosphere. Seriously, if you don’t know what to do in Sarajevo, go here.
While Sarajevo does have a handful of bars and nightclubs, the best thing to do at night time is to follow the locals and smoke some shisha. Being a Muslim-majority country, although largely secular, the drinking culture isn’t as prominent in Bosnia as it is in the rest of the Balkans. The city is, however, littered with hookah bars, and Michael and I spent a number of leisurely hours at a couple of them, most notably Dibek, which was centrally located and had a large and comfortable outdoor area that was wonderful in the warm weather.
Michael and I really enjoyed our time in Sarajevo and I’m sure we will be back again sometime in the future. The city does seem to embrace the general Balkan sentiment of remembering their history while trying their hardest to move onwards and upwards.
Are you wondering what to do in Sarajevo? Have you been? Leave a comment below!