Encircled by towering mountains and vivid historical architecture, the lively city of Sarajevo is famous for its tumultuous history. Visiting Sarajevo takes you on a journey of exploration from its clouded past to the impressive landscape.
There is no shortage of things to do in Sarajevo. Whether you are there to check out the mosques or sample some delicious cuisine, you are in for a treat. However, the most impactful impression for me is the war stories and experiences by the locals.
Things to do when visiting Sarajevo
Today, the flourishing capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is not defined by its past. Instead, it is appreciated for its triumphant comeback. Here are some of the best things to do in Sarajevo!
Catch Views at the White Fortress
Nestled at the tip-top of one of Sarajevo’s many hills is the infamous White Fortress. This national treasure offers stunning views of the city. It is part of the five fortifications in the defensive wall that surrounds the old town of Vratnik.
The name “White Fortress” originates from the white rocks used in its construction. Some parts of the fortress were built during the Middle ages. Any additional sections were constructed during the Ottoman period and later during the Austro-Hungarian period.
Given the fantastic view inside and out, the White Fortress was established as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, the fortress is one of the most visited historical monuments in Sarajevo.
For a fixed fee of 5KM, you can check out this amazing fortress any day from 10 am to 7 pm. You should definitely factor in time to visit this great vantage point in your Sarajevo travel itinerary.
Soak in the city at Yellow Bastion
Also known as the Yellow Fortress or traditionally the Žuta Tabija, the Yellow Bastion is a cannon fortress. Originally built between 1727 and 1739, it rests at the entrance of the Walled City of Vratnik. At one point in time, the structure served as a defense point against Austro-Hungarian troops.
Today, the Yellow Bastion serves as an observation deck where tourists and locals can visit. The Yellow Bastion is a prominent spot to catch the sunrise and sunset with a spectacular view of the old city. Many consider this gem one of the most romantic things to do in Sarajevo.
These vantage points can also be good places to get some drone shots.
Marvel at the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
One of Sarajevo’s many mosques, the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, is the largest in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, it is the main congregational mosque in the Baščaršija region and a tourist favorite. It is known locally as Bey’s Mosque and serves as the most prominent architectural monument from Ottoman rule.
The mosque also serves as a resting place for many dominant Bosnian leaders buried in the mosque’s courtyard. During the Balkan wars of the 1990s, the mosque was severely damaged. Since then, it has been reconstructed and serves as the heart of the Baščaršija neighborhood.
Bey’s Mosque features ornate architectural detailing throughout. The interior is decorated with marble and Arabic inscriptions with golden chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. The floors are cloaked with handcrafted carpets gifted overseas by Muslim visitors.
The Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque is open daily to the public and is a must-see when visiting Sarajevo.
Fill your Stomach at Sarajevo’s Old Town
Sarajevo’s old town offers more than 15 restaurants, pastry shops, cafes, and more with a variety of tasty foods. At least more than 1,500 guests visit to embark on a journey of favor. The Gastro offers meals from cuisines such as Bosnian, Turkish, Thai, Italian, and Tunisian.
Snack on Sweets
If you have a sweet tooth like me, you are in for a treat. At the city center of Sarajevo, you’ll find a diverse selection of delectable treats that will satisfy your sweet tooth. A popular spot includes the Bubble Waffle Market that offers plenty of choices, including delicious waffles.
Additional sweet treats include the Bosnian Cake Shops and candy shops. Many offer delicious gelatos, cakes, as well as vegan and vegetarian-friendly options. From international snacks to traditional sweets, don’t miss sinking your teeth into these yummy delights when visiting Sarajevo.
For digital nomads, some of these cafes make for great spots to work at. However, note that smoking is allowed in cafes in Bosnia so that might be disturbing for non-smokers.
Try Bosnian dishes and Balkan food
Needless to say, you will also find traditional bosnian dishes and great food from the region. Here are some of my favorite places.
- Cevapi at Ćevabdžinica Željo
- Burek at Sač
- Home cooked flavors at Bosnian Cuisine Hadzibajric
Coffee with View At The Avaz Twist Tower
The Avaz Twist Tower is an impressive skyscraper reaching up to 172 meters in height. It is most famous for its intricate twisted facade and is located in the Marijin Dvor neighborhood. Now, it serves as the headquarters for a newspaper company and is one of the world’s most beautiful high-rises.
Given its height, the tower offers some stellar views of Sarajevo. Travel up to the 36th floor in a glass elevator for a vantage point of about 500 feet from the ground. From there, you can scope out the city and its surroundings through a telescope.
The tower has a cafe onsite with open panoramic views of the city just like the SkyTower in Tirana. I like to visit just before sunset to get both the day view, sunset view, and night view. Nice coffee with impressive views makes this one of the most relaxing things to do in Sarajevo.
Visit Sarajevo’s Prominent Museums
Sarajevo has its fair share of global historical events that left a lasting impact on the city’s future. With pivotal events, including the assassination of Archduke Franz Fernidad to the eclectic mix of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian influences, there is much to discover.
A good part of Sarajevo’s history is reflected in the architecture and overall vibe of the city. You can even see bullet holes in some of the structures. The museums are good places to visit to get more insights on certain cultures, history and incidents.
A few of Sarajevo’s prominent museums include the Tunnel museum, the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Jewish Museum.
The tunnel museum sits on the outskirts of Sarajevo and used to serve as a secret transportation route during the war. The Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina features over 400,000 artifacts, photographs, and archives that influence the origins of Bosnia. The Jewish museum tells the story of the 14,000 residents who perished in the Holocaust, featuring manuscripts, scrolls, and engraved items.
Go on walking tours with locals
However, the main reason why Sarajevo left a strong impact on me is because of the stories from the people. The conflict history of Sarajevo is not too long ago and even the young adults have their own unique stories to share. This includes childhood struggles and even economic and employment challenges today.
Speaking with locals or going with a local guide is one of the best ways to really experience the city’s past and present. Guides are not just regurgitating historical facts but also have first-hand stories to share.
There are a bunch of tours available, some of them covering locations outside the city. If you are a budget traveler and want to stick in the city, there are free walking tours available where you can pay by tips. Regardless, the locals’ stories are a big part of visiting Sarajevo.
Places to visit near Sarajevo
Not every place of interest is in the surrounding of the city center. There are a couple of prominent attractions sitting outside the city. Some of them make for a nice day trip into nature. You can get to these via tours or by public transportation.
Visiting Sarajevo Tunnel (War Tunnel)
Also known as the Tunnel of Hope, the Sarajevo Tunnel was first built amid the Bosnian war in 1993. The initial intention was to serve as a link to the city of Sarajevo to avoid Serbian forces. The tunnel was a passageway for transporting food, war supplies, humanitarian aid, and a way for people to escape.
The tunnel was initially built in secrecy under the codename “Objekt BD.” Using only basic tools such as shovels and picks, the construction kept ongoing around the clock until completion. The result is a tunnel reaching up to 960 meters in length.
The tunnel entrance was hidden in a house cellar, which now operates as a museum. Those who visit the Tunnel of Hope can watch an 18-minute movie about the war. Additionally, visitors can take a tour of photographs, military equipment, and more to get the full experience.
Basking in nature at Trebević
Trebević, also known as “the lungs of Sarajevo,” is a mountain located southeast of Sarajevo and borders the Jahorina mountain.
Standing tall at 1,627 meeters, Trebević is the second shortest mountain range in Sarajevo. Back in the day, the mountain was the location for Olympic events such as bobsledding. You can still see and walk along the sled tracks today with impressive graffiti art.
Trebević serves as a popular tourist destination and is accessible by cable car from the neighborhood of Bistrik and Old Town. You can also go on foot or a 20-minute car ride that takes you on a scenic route. The hike up can take approximately 2 hours through pine and forest with stunning views if you follow the trail.
I went on a tour covering the tunnel, Trebevic, and other locations like the White Fortress and Jewish Cemetery.
Visoko and Bosnian Pyramid Of The Sun
The Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, also known as Viscocica Hill, sits at 720 feet and faces the north. Sam Osmanagić, a Bosnian American businessman, claims this hill is one of two of Earth’s most giant man-made pyramids.
Despite scientists rebutting his pyramid claims, Sam’s methodology reveals the direction of the hill supports ancient human cosmology.
Since its initial discovery in 2005, over 400,000 people have visited the renowned hill. From vantage points you can get a good overview of Visoko.
A visit to the hills of Visoko are just a great outdoor activity and one of the many adventurous things to do in Sarajevo.
While Sarajevo is most notable for its war history, it still serves a thriving nightlife that sheds light on the darkness. This is not my main goal for visiting Sarajevo.
However, for a fun-filled nightly adventure, Ferhadija, the main pedestrian lane to Old Town is a great place to start. There’s no shortage of places to explore in Sarajevo Nightlife with plenty to see in Old Town.
Sarajevo to Mostar Bus/Train
Situated along the Neretva River and on the Sarejvo-Ploče rail line, Mostar is the fifth-largest city in the country. The small town is famous for its old Turkish houses and The Old Bridge, also known as Stari Most. It was initially named after the bridge keepers during medieval times who protected the Old Bridge.
This is a common next stop for travelers visiting Sarajevo. Here is a guide on what to see in Mostar!
Sarajevo to Mostar Bus
There are up to 8 bus departures from Sarajevo to Mostar, with the earliest starting at 6 am, and arrival to Mostar at 8:35 am. The latest route leaves at 18:00 and arrives around 20:35. Tickets range from 5 € to 11 €.
Sarajevo to Mostar Train
A train ride between the Bosnian Talgo trains is available for morning and late afternoon departures for the most scenic route. A train ticket costs 1.90 BAM with 2nd class and requires a reservation. Additionally, there is a 2.2 BAM seat reservation fee and a 20% discount for round-trip tickets. The train is super comfortable.
Another popular option is to take a day tour that brings you to Mostar and the surrounding attractions around the region.
Sarajevo to Belgrade
Belgrade, also known as the “White City,” is the capital of Serbia. Traveling to Belgrade from Sarajevo is available by bus, car, or plane only. Unfortunately, there are no train routes between Sarajevo and Belgrade.
I have not made this trip before as I came from the other direction when visiting Sarajevo. You should double-check the schedule as these can change as time passes by.
The first bus checks out at 6:00 and arrives in Belgrade at 13:10. The bus ride can take up to 8 hours with a distance of around 215 miles.
Traveling by car cuts the time in half by approximately 4 hours. If you are traveling by plane, the expense is more costly, ranging from $102 to $400 but is significantly faster.