WELCOME TO SARAJEVO
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Sarajevo is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a population of 555,210 inhabitants. Sarajevo is the political, social, sports and cultural center of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a prominent center of culture in the Balkans, with its region-wide influence in sports, entertainment, media, fashion, and the arts.
Due to its long and rich history of religious and cultural diversity, Sarajevo is sometimes called the “Jerusalem of Europe”. It is one of only a few major European cities which have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue within the same neighborhood. Although settlement in the area stretches back to prehistoric times, the modern city arose as an Ottoman stronghold in the 15th century. Sarajevo has attracted international attention several times throughout its history. In 1885, Sarajevo was the first city in Europe and the second city in the world to have a full-time electric tram network running through the city, following San Francisco. In 1914, it was the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Gavrilo Princip sparked World War I.
After World War II, the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Second Yugoslavia led to a massive expansion of Sarajevo, the constituent republic’s capital, which culminated with the hosting of the 1984 Winter Olympics marking a prosperous era for the city. However, after the start of the Yugoslav Wars, for 1,425 days, from April 1992 to February 1996, the city suffered the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, during the Bosnian War and the breakup of Yugoslavia. But after the bad years always comes the sun and progress.
Sarajevo City Hall
Top choice architecture in Sarajevo
A storybook neo-Moorish striped facade makes the triangular Vijećnica (1896) Sarajevo’s most beautiful Austro-Hungarian–era building. Seriously damaged during the 1990s siege, it finally reopened in 2014 after laborious reconstruction. Its colourfully restored interior and stained-glass ceiling are superb. Your ticket also allows you to peruse the excellent Sarajevo 1914–2014 exhibition in the octagonal basement. This gives well-explained potted histories of the city’s various 20th-century periods, insights into fashion and music subcultures, and revelations about Franz Ferdinand’s love life.
In 1914, Franz Ferdinand and his much frowned-upon wife Sophie (his mother’s former lady-in-waiting) had been on their way back from this very building when they were shot by Gavrilo Princip. From 1949 the building became the National Library but in August 1992 it was deliberately hit by a Serbian incendiary shell. Around two million irreplaceable manuscripts, books and documents were destroyed. Those which survived might one day return but for now the building is used as the council chamber, for weddings and occasionally for concerts.
Various exhibitions are staged in the upper level and, in 2018, an ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) information centre opened on the ground floor, including the contents of the original courtroom which was shifted here from the Hague.
Area in Sarajevo
Centred on what foreigners nickname Pigeon Square, with its ornate gazebo-like Sebilj drinking fountain (built in 1891), Baščaršija is the very heart of old Sarajevo. The name is derived from the Turkish for ‘main market’ and it’s still lined with stalls, lively (if tourist-centric) coppersmiths’ alleys, grand Ottoman mosques, caravanserai (inn) restaurants and lots of inviting little cafes.
The powerful waft of grilled čevapi is a sure sign that you’re about to enter Baščaršija, whose pedestrianized streets are a delight to wander around, filled to the brim with cafés, snack stands and trinket stalls. It’s most logical to approach this district from the east, where you’ll find the once-glorious National Library. In 1992, a single day’s shelling destroyed over three million books, but reconstruction of this pink-and-yellow cream cake of faded beauty is now almost complete. A little way along is the central square, home to Sebilj, a small kiosk-like fountain, and Baščaršija Mosque. Far more beautiful is the Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque just down the way, which is worth a peep inside. Further west, you’ll come across the Bezistan, an Ottoman-era bazaar now sadly filled with all manner of fake goods unsuited to such an elegant structure.
Baščaršija is also home to the six buildings that make up the Museum of Sarajevo – by far the largest is located inside the old Bursa Bezistan bazaar, just off the main square, which features a whole host of historical relics, all beautifully presented.
Sarajevo Cable Car
Top choice cable car in Sarajevo
Reopened in 2018 after being destroyed during the war, Sarajevo’s cable car once again shuttles people on a nine-minute ride, climbing 500m to a viewpoint 1164m up on Mt Trebević. From here it’s a short walk to the wreck of the Olympic bobsled track, seemingly held together by layers of graffiti.
Trebević is one of the top tourist attractions in the Sarajevo Canton and one of the favorite picnic spots among locals. It is famed as the lungs of the city so Sarajevans do not miss any opportunity they get to spend a wonderful time taking a walk in the mountain whose highest point is at 1627 meters above sea level. Apart from the beauty of nature and a mountain ambience suitable for waking and cycling, this is a place where you can find hotels, mountain lodges, an amusement park…
Since the Trebević Cable Car was reconstructed and became operational on 6th April 2018, people going to Trebević from the city reach it in a little more than seven minutes.
The Trebević Cable Car has 33 glass cabins enabling broad views of Sarajevo, and its departure station is located in Hrvatin Street.
On Mondays and Tuesdays it operates from 10 am to 8 pm, and from 9 am to 8 pm on other days. For BiH citizens, a one-way ticket costs BAM 3 while a roundtrip ticket costs BAM 6, and for foreign nationals a one-way ticket costs BAM 15, while a roundtrip ticket costs BAM 20. There is an extra charge for bicycles and pets – a one-way extra charge is BAM 4.
History Museum of BiH
Museum in Sarajevo
Somewhat misleadingly named, this small yet engrossing museum occupies a striking, still partly war-damaged 1960s socialist-modernist building originally dubbed the Museum of the Revolution. It regularly hosts high-profile international exhibitions but the main attraction is the permanent Surrounded Sarajevo display, which charts local people’s life-and-death battles for survival between 1992 and 1995. Alongside some heartbreaking photographs are personal effects such as self-made lamps, examples of food aid, stacks of Monopoly-style 1990s dinars and a makeshift siege-time ‘home’.
Also interesting is the collection of 1996–2011 before-and-after Sarajevo images in the hallway. Directly behind the building, the tongue-in-cheek Tito bar is a museum in its own right.
National Museum of BiH
Museum in Sarajevo
Bosnia’s biggest and best-endowed museum of ancient and natural history is housed in an impressive, purpose-built quadrangle of neoclassical 1913 buildings. It’s best known for housing the priceless Sarajevo Haggadah illuminated manuscript, but there’s much more to see. Along with the Haggadah, the main building houses extraordinary Greek pottery and Roman mosaics. Behind this, the central courtyard has a pretty little botanical garden and an exceptional collection of medieval stećci (stone funerary monuments).
Off to one side of the courtyard is the ethnographic wing, where elaborate carved-wood interiors of old Ottoman houses have been reassembled and peopled with manikins in traditional garb. The pinned insects and howling stuffed wolf of the natural history building at the rear of the courtyard won’t appeal to all tastes but it’s very well presented. Many more examples of stećci sit outside the museum’s roadside frontage, visible for free even when the building is closed.