A respectable British newspaper The Independent re-promotes Sarajevo as a desirable tourist destination. In a reportage on the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the British newspaper lists historical facts and important events from the past that took place in Sarajevo as places worth of visiting to make the tourist experience complete.
-Twenty five years after the war, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is undergoing radical transformation and now there are large glass shopping centers, colorful hotels and a magical old city. All this gives you the atmosphere as if you are going through time – the journalist of The Independent, Kristin Amico, described.
This previously war-torn city suffered the longest siege in modern history during the 1990s conflict, but today there’s much more to Sarajevo than battle scars. Nearly 25 years on, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is undergoing a radical transformation and boasts modern glass shopping centres, boutique hotels and a magical old town that feels like you’ve travelled through time.
An afternoon spent strolling Turkish-style alleys and boulevards dotted with Austro-Hungarian pastel facades is reason enough to spend a weekend in Sarajevo. There’s also a café culture rivalling Italy or France and a surprisingly vibrant nightlife. And the best part? It all comes at an incredibly reasonable price.
Known as Baščaršija, the cobblestone alleys of the old town date back to Ottoman rule in the 15th century. Listen to the clang of metal smiths crafting copper coffee sets and household items in small workshops. The area is also full of restaurants, gift shops and cafés; sit and people watch while enjoying a cup of traditional Bosnian coffee and piece of sweet Baklava or grab a photo with the flock of pigeons in front of the old fountain (Sebilj).
Take the cable car up Mount Trebević
Unveiled in 1959 then destroyed during the war, the cable cars connecting the old town to the Olympic mountains began operating again in April 2018. At the top, explore the graffitied bobsled track or go for a scenic hike among the leafy green trees. Don’t forget to look down for sweeping views of the city.
Visit the Tunnel Museum
The War Tunnel Museum provides an intimate glimpse into the nearly four years of conflict where citizens used the crudely built tunnel under the Serbian-controlled areas of the city to avoid sniper fire while accessing food and medical supplies. Visitors to the solemn landmark have the opportunity to explore a short portion of the remaining tunnel.
Stand where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated
The edge of the Latin bridge over the Miljacka River is the site of the Archduke’s assassination, an event that was a catalyst for the start of WWI. There’s a small plaque on the Ottoman-style bridge indicating the bold role it played in history.
Party like it’s 1979
Kino Bosna is an abandoned theatre turned Monday night hotspot where pensioners, millennials and in-the-know tourists go to sip Bosnian brandy while serenaded by folk musicians. The bar swirls with cigarette smoke and home-brew rakija flows from recycled soda bottles. It feels like being at the best wedding ever.
Where to drink
In Sarajevo, coffee is the most important ritual of the day and is meant to be slowly savoured with friends. Learn how to properly drink the strong Bosnian brew at the Ministry of Ćejf!. The cheery shop on the edge of the Baščaršija also offers espresso, cappuccino and Australian flat whites. If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, try salep. Originally from Turkey, it’s made of hot milk flavoured with ground orchids and cinnamon.
Craft beer is just getting going in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Sarajevo’s The Brew Pub is leading the way with experimental and classic varieties. Grab a seat at the bar for a boisterous night chatting with locals or getting to know more about each brew – the bartender is more than happy to explain the process.
Where to shop
In the old town, find sparkling gold and filigree jewellery along the centuries’ old Husrev Bey’s Street. Just around the corner, Ćurčiluk Street is full of shops overflowing with hand-made carpets and traditional Bosnian wares. For international brands, the gleaming Sarajevo City Centre and Alta Mall in the Marijin Dvor neighbourhood are the best bets.
City Hall (Vijećnica) is a candy-colour gem that looks like the backdrop in a Wes Anderson film. Originally constructed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was destroyed by Serbian forces in 1992. The restored pseudo-Moorish marvel functions as a government building, museum and event space.