Bosnia and Herzegovina is a wonderful country in the Balkans. Even though it is often overshadowed by the neighbouring Croatia and its many stunning beaches, the country has seen a significant boost in tourism in the past decade. This is especially true for its capital city – Sarajevo.
Everyone who visits Sarajevo, Bosnia falls in love with it in a way. Some people are blown away by the city’s rich culture and tradition, while others can’t remain emotionless once they learn about its devastating and blood-soaked history. But the vast majority of people are simply charmed by the city’s ancient beauty and exquisite food.
And if you too want to be blown away by this charming city, you are most definitely in the right place. I have collected all the information you need to plan an awesome trip to Sarajevo, from the best times to visit all of the top sights you should explore!
Best Time To Visit Sarajevo
The city really comes alive during the annual film festival, and a lot of people choose to visit Sarajevo during the festival week. All the bars and clubs stay open longer, celebrities grace the red carpet, there are photographers and cameras everywhere – if you really want to experience the city in all its glory, you should definitely visit it during SFF.
But if you’re looking to avoid huge crowds, plan a visit in spring or autumn instead. There’s really not a best time to visit Sarajevo, but there is a worst time – winter.
The temperature drops below -10 degrees Celsius, making it impossible to enjoy walking around Sarajevo streets. Additionally, the city also struggles with pollution, which becomes unbearable between the months of November and February. During this period, Sarajevo is often one of the most polluted cities in the world, so I recommend you stay far away.
The only scenario in which it’s okay to visit in the winter is if you’re interested in skiing or snowboarding. Since the city is surrounded by mountains, it’s actually the perfect base for someone looking to enjoy the ski season. Sarajevo’s surrounding mountains attract avid skiers and snowboards from the neighbouring countries, due to their amazing slopes and affordable ski passes.
Top Things To Do In Sarajevo
There’s quite a lot of things to do and see in Sarajevo, so we’ve broken them down into categories. Whether you’re looking to learn about the city’s history or just shop ‘til you drop, you’ll find everything you need to know right here!
Get To Know The Culture And Tradition
Sarajevo has a very rich history. It’s known around the world for being the host of the 1984 Winter Olympics, an event that brought monumental changes to the city. But it’s also known for being the home of a much darker event – the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, which effectively started World War I.
And those are just the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in learning about the history of Bosnia and its capital city, you should explore Sarajevo’s many museums. The most popular ones in the city are all dedicated to the war and its massive consequences on the people. Those would be the Gallery 11/07/95 and the War Childhood Museum. But bear in mind that the exhibits in the museum are very sad and not for those that are just looking to have fun.
The more light-hearted museums in the city are the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These two are across the street from each other, and are often home to modern art exhibits and performances.
Explore Baščaršija and City Centre
Sarajevo city center is where all the magic happens. It’s where you’ll find the most popular shops, the best restaurants, pubs, clubs and art galleries.
The most famous monument in the city center is the Eternal Flame. It was built in 1946, as a monument to the victims of WWII. The flame runs on gas, which is how this iconic Sarajevo sight manages to continue burning despite heavy rains and snow.
The next must-see spot is the Sacred Heart Cathedral, often called just the Sarajevo Cathedral. The 19th century cathedral was modeled after Notre-Dame in Dijon, and it is a great example of Neo-Gothic architecture with elements of Renaissance revival.
If you continue walking straight through Ferhadija, you will eventually make your way to Baščaršija. The entrance into the old town is not marked – once you’ve walked past Optika Baroš and the bridge near hotel Europe, that’s when you’ve officially entered Čaršija.
Baščaršija is the heart of Sarajevo. It’s the old town that everyone falls in love with, and that makes people want to come back to this charming Bosnian city.
Sarajevo’s old town is characterized by narrow alleys, cobblestone pavement and the smells of food and hookah. But before you sit down for a meal anywhere, you should explore the popular attractions. The most famous one is Sebilj – a public drinking fountain in the heart of Baščaršija.
And don’t be surprised if you see a flight of pigeons near the popular fountain. That’s a very common occurrence, and many locals will buy some bread in one of the bakeries and spend some time feeding the pigeons.
Another popular Baščaršija sight is the Gazi Husrev Bey’s Mosque. The 16th-century mosque is one of the best examples of Ottoman architecture in the Balkans, and it truly is a majestic sight.
Excellent Base For Outdoor Adventurers
Sarajevo is surrounded by hills and mountains, which makes it an amazing base for people who love exploring the great outdoors. No matter where you are in the city, you can be in a mountain field in about 30 minutes.
The closest mountains to the city are Bjelašnica, Jahorina, Igman and Trebević. You can actually take a cable car from the city center to Trebević – the ride lasts only about 7 minutes, and during that time you get to experience some incredible picturesque views of the city.
When you get to the top, you’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere – there are two recreational centers on Trebević, but they are nowhere near the cable car station. The only attraction that is actually reachable on foot is the abandoned bobsleigh track – a very popular backdrop for photoshoots.
The other three mountains boast great skiing slopes, plenty of hiking tracks and multiple restaurants and cafes. Jahorina is easily the best destination for avid skiers and snowboarders, while Igman takes the crown when it comes to hiking and trekking trails. Bjelašnica is best suited for people who want to breathe in fresh air while sipping a cup of coffee at a trendy cafe.
Visit Sarajevo Bazaars & Markets
Sarajevo is the perfect city for those that like shopping on a budget. Sure, there are several big malls where you shop popular brands like Zara and Superdry, but that’s not what I have in mind.
We’re thinking of Sarajevo’s bazaars and markets, which sell very affordable clothes, shoes and accessories. Most of the items are imported from Turkey, hence the really low prices. And when I say affordable, I mean that – you can buy a brand new coat for about 30 Euros, and a pair of sneakers for 20 Euros.
The most popular such market is Sirano, right in the city center. With dozens of different boutiques and stalls, you can shop for hours without doing too much damage to your wallet.
Experience Sarajevo Nightlife
There are loads of clubs and bars throughout the city, but the trendiest locales are actually the gastropubs. Their popularity is on the rise, and a new one opens its doors to the public every couple of weeks.
So, let’s start with those. The most popular gastropub in Sarajevo is Vučko. With excellent food and a wide variety of beers, it’s the perfect spot for a casual drink with friends. Just make sure to book a table first, as the pub is always crowded.
Lovers of craft beer can have an excellent time in Sarajevo. They should head straight to Brew Imperial Society, a pub that is located in the space of the former movie theatre Imperial. It’s a very large venue with excellent craft beers on tap, and concerts and stand up comedy specials every weekend.
Those that are looking to dance the night away will have more fun exploring Sarajevo’s underground scene. Clubs like Underground, Trezor and Silver & Smoke are known for parties that last until the wee hours of the morning.
Where To Stay In Sarajevo
The city center and the old town are the best parts of the city to stay in if you want to be able to explore all the main attractions on foot. There are loads of hotels and hostels in these parts of the city, but the best ones are definitely the Marriott and Hotel Europe.
There are many more options outside the city center. The Swissôtel and the Bristol hotel are both luxurious options, located close to the tram and bus stops. However, these two hotels don’t serve alcohol to their guests – something you should definitely be aware of before booking a room.
If you’re looking for cheaper accommodation, you’re better off finding private apartments than hostels. Beds in hostels in the city center are around 15-20 Euros per person, which is only worth it if you’re travelling alone. If you’re visiting Sarajevo with someone else, you’re better of renting an Airbnb. For 40 Euros a night, you could find a very modern and beautifully decorated place in the city center.
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Where To Eat In Sarajevo
Sarajevans love to eat, and there are many amazing restaurants in the city. However, Sarajevans also really love meat, so there’s a serious lack of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the city.
But, most restaurants in the city have vegan and vegetarian options on the menu. The ones with the most vegan-friendly options are Fit Bar and Falafel Restaurant – both are in the city center, and have very affordable prices.
For those that are looking to indulge just a little bit, I recommend booking a table at either Bon Appetit or Mala Kuhinja. These two are easily among the top five restaurants in the city, and they have vegan-friendly options as well.
Travellers that aren’t on a strict, no-meat diet should explore traditional Bosnian cuisine. The majority of traditional dishes are meat-heavy and greasy, but also very delicious. Head to Ćevabdžinica Željo to try ćevapi, a Sarajevan dish so iconic that there are restaurants all over the world that try to replicate it. And none come close.
Other excellent places to try authentic Bosnian dishes are Aščinica ASDŽ, The Singing Nettle and Barhana. And when it’s time for something sweet, head to Sarajbosna – undoubtedly the best patisserie in the city that serves traditional desserts.
Sarajevo Travel Tips
I want to properly prepare you for your trip, and that includes giving you some inside information that you can’t really find online.
Most restaurants, cafes and bars in Sarajevo are cash-only. Some of the pricier restaurants accept cards, but you should always check with the staff first. Additionally, you will also need cash to purchase tickets for public transportation and pay for taxi rides.
Which brings us to another important information you can’t find online – always purchase a ticket if you’re riding the tram. You can buy them from the driver, and they cost 1,80KM. If the ticket inspectors catch you without a ticket, they will try to rip you off. They are extremely rude to tourists and attempt to charge them insane fees for not having a ticket – don’t get yourself in such an uncomfortable situation. In case the inspectors catch you without a ticket, you need to pay a fee of 26,60 KM. If they try to extort more money from you, feel free to call the police on them. Often times, a friendly Sarajevan will come to your rescue – they love arguing with the ticket inspectors simply because they are so incredibly rude to everyone.
How Much Time Do You Need In Sarajevo
A long weekend should give you plenty of time to explore Sarajevo. It is a small city, and you could easily explore all of the popular spots in 2-3 days.
But that’s if you only want to explore the city of Sarajevo. If you want to travel to other cities or explore the mountains, you will need at least 5-6 days to really be able to enjoy your time in Sarajevo and see everything worth seeing.
About The Author: Mike is addicted to both adventure and travel, so decided to combine the two to form TheAdventourist. There he shares his journey from one adrenaline rush to another, always exploring new places as he goes. You can find him sharing his travels on Facebook.