Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina and should be number one on your Bulkan Bucket List!
The city is situated in the north of the country along the Miljacka river and nestled in the Dinaric Alps. During the early 90s conflict broke out within Bosnia which was then under the control of communist Yugoslavia (comprised of seven countries; Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Bosnia). When the Yugoslav state began to break down in the 1980s political and civil unrest became rife in Bosnia, eventually breaking out into war during the early 90s. During this time in Sarajevo the Bosnian people endured the longest siege of any capital city in the history of modern warfare, approx.1,425 days.
Walking through the city today you will find evidence everywhere of the conflict which took place a mere two decades ago. As you explore the old parts of the city you will probably not find a single building which does not show signs of bullet or shrapnel holes. You will also most likely come across some strange looking red splashes of paint on the ground in various locations across the city; these are Sarajevo’s ‘Red Roses’. The roses are commemorative sites in which red resin has been placed in the bullet and mortar holes in a location where a person was killed during the war years. The Roses are very curious and quite eerie to look at, knowing that someone had lost their life in the spot next to where you stand can be a sobering experience. The most visited roses and the easiest to find are located at the front of Katedrala Srca Isusova (The Sacred Heart Church) located in the old town.
With evidence of the war everywhere it’s hard for tourists and locals alike to forget the past, however times of war are long gone and the city now enjoys much happier times with a thriving growing cultural city of Western European and Arabian influences. And there is so much more to the city than it’s dark recent history…
What to see:
Abandoned bobsled track;
One of the coolest things you can do in Sarajevo if you like graffiti art, abandoned buildings and good nature walks. Situated an hours walk from the historical center at the top of a hill on the south-eastern side of the city. The bobsled track used during the winter Olympics in 1984 is well worth the steep walk, alternatively you can get a taxi or a bus (note that the bus will not however take you all the way to the top). Not only will you be treated with an awesome view of the city on the way but you also get to walk through local neighbourhoods and see what life in the city is really like for the people who live here.
Once at the track follow the tar road all the way to the top, that way you can enter the track at the start line and walk it all the way to the bottom. Make sure you have your camera ready as there is some brilliant street art/grafitti all the way to the finish.
Copper and coffee;
Bosnians take their coffee very seriously and everywhere you go you will see people either drinking it or selling things to make it with. Within the historical center head towards Kazandziluk Street where you will find copper smiths hard at work in their shops producing beautiful silver and copper coffee sets and serving plates, even if you’re not in the mood for buying (a small coffee set will set you back around 25EUR) it’s great to just have a browse and watch the smiths at work. While in the area and if you’re feeling those coffee vibes head to Bascarsija, an outdoor market built in the 15th century for a cup of local brew (about 1EUR a cup) and enjoy coffee like a local.
If you are a history buff or if the cold war and break down of Yugoslavia interests you, then there are a host of different museums you can visit to get your history fill, the most popular of which are the War Childhood and the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the latest conflict still so fresh in the minds of many, the locals can give you a wonderful insight into what it was like to live here during these difficult days so don’t be afraid to have a chat when you can.
Site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand;
This now infamous spot is the trigger point of what would eventually become WWI. The spot itself is situated on a street corner next to The Latin Bridge, next to the old town and while the bridge is stunning in its own right it was not here the assassination took place as erroneously circulated. The corner of the assassination is actually quite unremarkable aside from a small memorial plaque on the wall of the neighbouring building. While there is not much to see, it is just one of those things you do to be in the presence of an event which changed so many lives and the course of history.
Food and drink;
Perhaps one of the most interesting and quirkiest cafes/bars I have ever been to; Zlatna Ribica is situated just around the corner from the WWII eternal flame in Kaptol street. Upon entering the establishment you are immediately hit with a feeling of stepping back in time and into Granny’s house. Zlatna is filled from floor to ceiling with miss matched paraphernalia from the very early to late 20th century. It’s perhaps the strangest bar I have ever been to and probably one of my favourites, a must visit even if it’s for just one drink.
While in Bosnia make sure you try cevapcici; little skinless sausages served in pita bread with raw onion. I know this dish sounds quite strange especially with the raw onion but it’s actually quite good. The best we found was at a place called Cevabdzinica Zeljo but be prepared if you are going around lunch time you may not find anywhere to sit as they do get very busy.
Just down the road from Zeljo’s are a number of restaurants which serve Burek. While Burek isn’t singularly Bosnian, it’s kind of like a Eastern European sausage roll you can find in every Balkan country, it’s delicious! Many places in Sarajevo claim to have the ‘best burek’ however the quality is so good everywhere that it doesn’t really matter where you get it as long as it’s fresh. This is also a good one for any vegetarians out there as Burek comes in a number of vegetarian options.
Best time to visit:
This will depend on what you want to do in the city, if you want to explore its history, nightlife and culture then the summer months are for you. With an average temperature in July of 19 degrees celsius, summers are very mild and nice to walk around in unless like us you are unfortunate enough to be visiting during a heatwave with temperatures getting to well above 30 degrees celsius (not a common occurrence). However if skiing and winter sports are more your thing then Sarajevo, which as previously mentioned was home to the 1984 winter olympic games, offers a great amount of skiing destinations at a fraction of the price you would pay in France, Switzerland and Austria.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina Convertible Mark is the country’s currency, it is best to withdraw cash when you get into Bosnia as a lot of places will not have EFTPOS facilities, here cash is king, this can be said for most of the Balkan nations though and is not just isolated to Bosnia.
Where to stay:
The best place to stay is as close to the historical center as possible, this is where all the major tourist attractions, restaurants and nightlife are situated. While in the city we stayed at a newly opened hostel owned by some locals called Hostel Kucha. It was lovely, we were really made to feel at home and as far as hostels go it was one of the cleanest and most modern we have stayed in (around 15EUR per night in a 4 bed dorm). If hostels aren’t your thing there are many 3-5 star hotels for anywhere between 40 – 100EUR per night). The hostel we stayed at was slightly out of the main tourist spots, about a 10-15 minute walk and even though we walked into town each day Sarajevo has a pretty decent public transport system of trams and buses (it has the second oldest electrical tram system in the world) and taxis are really cheap and abundant so don’t be worried about getting around. The best site we found with good prices and available locations was booking.com, click the following link to find some upcoming deals in Sarajevo.
There is no hot water in Sarajevo from about 11pm to 4am. This is due to water restrictions imposed on the city in an attempt to conserve the city’s water reserves. Just check with people at your accommodation what time the water usually switches off and plan your showers around it, we were caught out on our first night and cold showers are not ideal.
What to wear:
Guys; During the winter it gets cold, super cold, so you will need a nice parka jacket like the Wantdo Winter Coat will keep the cold at bay. Warm boots like the Timberland boots have a good grip and will also be a handy asset during the colder months.
Girls; While there is a large Muslim population here in Sarajevo it is not necessary to dress extremely conservatively. Walking around town if you happen to see women dressed in black burka they are usually not locals but tourists from Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries. However so as to not draw too much attention to yourself try to avoid any short skirts or low revealing tops, in summer a simple pair of Levis skinny black jeans, or callot pants and a White button down shirt
is perfect, and is what you will see the more trendy locals wearing.