Top 5 things to see and do in Sarajevo

Author: | Last Updated: 8 Jul 2019

Sarajevo. A city almost totally decimated by war only 25 years ago, but with a spirit that you can’t fail to notice. Of all the hundreds of cities I’ve been to in my lifetime, this was one that really surprised me and has left a permanent impression. This is a city that was seiged and bombed relentlessly for 4 continuous years in the early nineties, with thousands of people tortured and killed, and mass graves are still being discovered. You will want to visit some of the museums to understand this history better, but it is the people here that are the real reason you need to visit. These people, who have every reason to be hateful and angry, seem to be making it their business to do the opposite. They are welcoming of all religions and backgrounds, and determined that this stain in their past will not blight their future. Their spirit of tolerance, and their love of the arts, music and culture is evident everywhere. I think this city is an inspiration.

Best time of the year to visit Sarajevo

August is definitely the time to go if you can. Summer temperatures can get up to 30 degrees, but if you can handle the heat, it is a time when the city really comes alive. The Sarajevo film festival is on every year at this time, drawing crowds from all over Europe, and creating an atmosphere of excitement that you can’t escape, and a local sense of pride that is really touching in the context of the war that these people refused to let crush them.

Things to See and Do in Sarajevo

There are a multitude of things to see and do in Sarajevo, including many that are free … or next to nothing anyway. Here are some of my favourite ideas to get the Sarajevo vibe and not break the bank doing it:


1. Get walking and do a free walking tour

This is hands down the best way to get oriented in this city. As is the case with many European cities, these tours are run by trained volunteers working for tips. However with the atrocities of the Yugoslav war still well within living memory of the residents here you will get a truly unique and personal perspective on this period of time. You will see the sights of course, including the Latin Bridge where the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was famously shot and killed in 1914 starting the first world war. However, you will also come away with a sense of the human suffering, determination and resilience that makes these people who they are.


2. See a film at the Sarajevo Film Festival

If you are lucky enough to visit while this festival is on in August, make sure you go along to see at least one film. Every year there are dozens of films previewed here, and it’s a great opportunity to see a random new film in the national theatre, or in one of the temporarily created open-air cinemas set in local squares with locals watching on from their living room windows. Regardless of the film you see, the atmosphere will make it worthwhile. And with bars open late, live music in the streets and a town full of people ready to party, you’re bound to have yourself a great night.


3. Eat Burek at Buregdzinica Sac

Actually you can eat delicious Burek anywhere in this city, but this place buried in a little side street in the old town, still uses the traditional method of slow cooking it in a circular pan buried in the coals of the fire and was my personal favourite. The Bosnian’s love their meat so Burek is mostly made of minced beef with secret herbs and spices, wrapped in delicate homemade flaky filo pastry and then twisted like a sausage into a circular snail shape. You can also get a potato, spinach, or even a pumpkin version in some places which are less traditional, but delicious. Try it with the yoghurt dressing, and enjoy this delicious (if not exactly healthy) meal for just a few dollars and roll yourself away to digest.


4. Buy a piece of Sarajevo’s Turkish history in Bascarsija

Nestled in a few bustling streets in the old town, the Bascarsija is an old Turkish bazaar left over from the 15th century albeit much smaller now than it was then. Complete with all the traditional Turkish teapots, copper plates, lanterns and colourful carpets, and many still made with pride by the stall owners you will meet there. The perfect place to pick a souvenir to decorate your home with.


 

5. Explore the ruins of the Olympic Bobsled Track

For some more light-hearted entertainment, take the funicular up the hill and walk through the remains of the bobsled track. Leftover from the 1984 winter Olympics, the track is now littered with bullet holes from the war in the 90s. While the track has definitely seen better days, it is home now to some cool graffiti and is a truly unique piece of history. Don’t forget to take a few pics of the incredible view while you’re up there – you can see the whole of Sarajevo spilling out across the valley in front of you! Once you’re done exploring, you can take the funicular back down and reward yourself with an ice cold favourite local beer, Sarajevski.


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