Sarajevo

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Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo is the country’s administrative, economic, cultural, education and sport center. The City of Sarajevo is divided into four municipalities: Stari Grad, Centar, Novo Sarajevo and Novi Grad.

Sarajevo is located in the Sarajevo Field, surrounded by the Olympic mountains: Bjelasnica, Igman, Jahorina and Trebevic. The average land elevation of the city is 500 m above sea level.

Most of the Sarajevo’s tourist attractions are located in the Old Town known as Bascarsija spreading towards the city centre easily reachable on foot and well connected to other parts of the city and to the surrounding mountains and other natural and cultural sites by public transportation.

Top sights in Sarajevo:

Baščaršija

Centred on what foreigners nickname Pigeon Sq, Baščaršija is the heart of old Sarajevo with pedestrians padding pale stone alleys and squares between lively (if tourist-centric) coppersmith alleys, grand Ottoma mosques, caravanserai-restaurants and lots of inviting little cafes and ćevapi serveries.

Tunnel Museum

The most visceral of Sarajevo's many 1990s war-experience 'attractions', this unmissable museum's centrepiece and raison d'être is a 25m section of the 1m wide, 1.6m high hand-dug tunnel under the airport runway. That acted as the city's lifeline to the outside world during the 1992–95 siege, when Sarajevo was virtually surrounded by hostile Serb forces. During the siege this area of Butmir was the last Bosniak-held part of the city still linked to the outside world. However, between Butmir and the rest of Sarajevo lies the airport runway. Although supposedly neutral and under tenuous UN control, crossing it would have been suicidal during the conflict. The solution, in extremis, was a 800m tunnel beneath the runway, eventually equipped with rails to transport food and arms. That proved just enough to keep Sarajevo supplied during nearly four years of siege. Walking through a short, restored section is the moving culmination to a visit that includes a 17-minute loop of archive video, a minefield garden and an engrossing museum within the shell-pounded house that hid the tunnel entrance. The in-house app can act as an audioguide saving you from reading the info boards.

Sarajevo City Hall

Storybook neo-Moorish facades make the 1898 Vijećnica 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 multiarched interior and stained-glass ceiling are superb. And the ticket also allows you to peruse the excellent Sarajevo 1914-1981 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 Princip. From 1949 the building became the National Library but in August 1992 it was deliberately hit by a Serb incendiary shell. Around 90% of its irreplaceable collection of manuscripts and Bosnian books was destroyed. Those which survived might one day return but for now the building is used as the city chamber, for weddings and occasionally concerts.

Svrzo House

An oasis of white-washed walls, cobbled courtyards and partly vine-draped dark timbers, this 18th-century house-museum is brilliantly restored and appropriately furnished, helping visitors imagine Sarajevo life in eras past.

Vratnik

Built in the 1720s and reinforced in 1816, Vratnik Citadel once enclosed a whole area of the upper city. Patchy remnants of wall fragments, military ruins and gatehouses remain. The urban area is appealingly untouristed with many mosques and tile-roofed houses, and several superb viewpoints. Start with a 3KM taxi hop up to the graffiti-daubed Bijela Tabija fortress-ruin viewpoint (or take buses 52 or 55 to Višegradski Kapija gatehouse), then walk back.To descend on foot from the Višegradski Kapija, walk five minutes down Carina, turn left beside the fire station on Džanin Sokak, right by the attractive reconstructed 'White Mosque', then first left down cobbled Bijela Džamija lane. This takes you past the overgrown ruins of the once-impressive Jajce Barracks with brilliant views from near its locked gates, at nearby Caffe Kamarija and atop Žuta Tabija. To return to the city centre walk past a new but traditionally designed Tekija (Sufi house) and follow the edge of a movingly dense graveyard, taking pedestrianised Kovaći past quaint workshop-boutiques to return to Pigeon Sq.

History Museum of BiH

Somewhat misleadingly named, this small but engrossing museum has three exhibition rooms. Two feature changing themes, but while these are often fascinating (recently on German 1980s subcultures), the main attraction is the third hall's permanent Surrounded Sarajevo exhibition. This charts the Sarajevo people's life-and-death battle for survival between 1992 and 1995. Personal effects include self-made lamps, examples of food aid, stacks of Monopoly-style 1990s dinars and a makeshift siege-time 'home'. The exhibition's maudlin effect is emphasised by the museum building's miserable and still partly war-damaged 1970s architecture. Before you exit notice Jim Marshall's collection of 1996–2011 before-and-after Sarajevo photos in the hallway. And directly behind the building, the amusingly tongue-in-cheek Tito Cafe is a museum in its own right with lots of Tito-abilia and garden seating surrounded by mid-20th-century artillery pieces, including an armoured train.

National Museum

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 but there's much more to see. Highlights include Illyrian and Roman carvings, Frankish-style medieval swords, beautifully preserved 19th-century room interiors and meteorites among the extensive cabinets full of geological samples. Many explanatory panels have English translations.

Ars Aevi

Many of the works in this thought-provoking contemporary-art gallery were collected as donations for Bosnia after the 1990s conflict. They're displayed in a factory-esque interior of metal ducts and polished chipboard within the lumpy Skenderija Centar. A forbidding chain and padlock across the entry door are part of the art and do not necessarily mean the gallery is closed.

Museum in Sarajevo (Despića Kuća)

The Despića Kuća is one of the oldest surviving residential buildings in central Sarajevo, though you'd never guess so from the ho-hum facade. Inside, it's a house within a house, the original 1780 section retaining even the prison-style bars on stone window frames. Wrapped around the three oldest rooms are several much later additions filled with late-19th- and early-20th-century fittings. One of these, the mural-ceilinged 'Velika Soba' sitting room, hosted what are thought to have been some of Sarajevo's first local theatre productions. The house belonged to an Orthodox Christian merchant family whose scion, Makso Despić, left a curious will in 1921. It's displayed on the front inner wall – sarcastic item 11 is especially humorous.

Museum in Sarajevo (Gazi-Husrevbey Museum)

The 1537 Kuršumlija Madrasa building is distinctive for its row of chimneys and is named for its lead roofing. Although built as a religious school, it now hosts a small exhibition about the colourful life and numerous creative works of Ottoman Governor Gazi-Husrevbey. There's little in the way of artefacts but the video is well worth watching. Within the same courtyard is a strikingly modern library. Hidden behind the museum lies the pretty, colonnaded Haniqah. Originally built as a Naqshbandi Sufi philosophical school, it is now an exhibition space.

Park in Sarajevo (Vrelo Bosne)

Ever-popular with local families, the focus of this extensive park is a patchwork of lush mini-islands at the cliff-mouth source of the Bosna River. It's probably not worth a special trip from central Sarajevo, but if you're staying in Ilidža the park makes a pleasant low-key outing. The classic way to get there is by horse-carriage along an elegantly tree-lined 3km stroll-avenue starting near Ilidža's Hotel Aleja.

Church in Sarajevo (Old Orthodox Church)

Within this outwardly austere little 1740 stone church is a superb gilded iconostasis fronted by a pair of 3m-high candlesticks. Some icons date to the 17th century. Many more are displayed in a cloister museum which also shows old manuscripts, vestments and church paraphernalia.

Viewpoint in Sarajevo (Žuta Tabija)

To gaze out across Sarajevo's red-roofed cityscape, one of the most appealing yet accessible viewpoints is from this chunk of old rampart-bastion, now sprouting mature trees and a popular place for picnickers and canoodling lovers. It takes its name from the golden-yellow hue of its stonework that dates from an 1809 rebuild. By tradition, the end of Ramadan fast is formally announced by a canon shot from here. It's halfway between Kovaći Cemetery and upper Vratnik.

Synagogue in Sarajevo (Jewish Museum)

More religiously open-minded than most of Western Europe in its day, the 15th-century Ottoman Empire offered refuge to the Sephardic Jews who had been evicted en masse from Spain in 1492. While conditions varied, Bosnian Jews mostly prospered until WWII. However, during that war most of the 14,000-strong community fled or were murdered by Nazis. The community's story is well told in this 1581 Sephardic synagogue that still sees active worship during Jewish New Year.

Mosque in Sarajevo (Gazi-Husrevbey Mosque)

Bosnia's second Ottoman governor, Gazi-Husrevbey, funded a series of splendid 16th-century buildings of which this 1531 mosque, with its 45m minaret, forms the greatest centrepiece. The interior is beautifully proportioned and even if you can't look inside, it's worth walking through the courtyard with its lovely fountain and the tomb tower of Gazi-Husrevbey off to one side.

Square in Sarajevo (Pigeon Square)

Nicknamed Pigeon Sq for all the birds, Baščaršija's central open space centres on the Sebilj, an ornate 1891 drinking fountain. It leads past the lively (if tourist-centric) coppersmith alley, Kazandžiluk, and down to the garden-wrapped 16th-century mosque, Baščaršija Džamija.

Fortress in Sarajevo (Bijela Tabija)

High up within what was once the Vratnik Citadel, Bijela Tabija was a major subfortress in Austro-Hungarian times that surveys the whole city. Not just a historical monument, it was refortified during the 1990s conflict and its relatively recent use combined with the off-putting veneer of thick graffiti make visiting the site a little unsettling.

Museum in Sarajevo (Galerija 11-07-95)

This new gallery uses stirring visual imagery and video footage to create a powerful memorial to more than 8000 victims of the Srebrenica massacre, one of the most infamous events of the Bosnian civil war. You'll need well over an hour to make the most of a visit, and it's worth paying the extra for the guide to get more insight.

Mosque in Sarajevo (Baščaršija Džamija)

Although it's fairly large and right at the very heart of the old city, it's easy to overlook this classic stone mosque, partly masked by mature trees at the end of Baščaršija. Octagonal with a triple-arched portal, the original mosque on this site dates from before 1528.

Mosque in Sarajevo (Emperor's Mosque)

Across the river from the old city, the large Careva Džamija was built in 1565 on the site of Sarajevo's very first wooden mosque. Major works in 2014–15 have also led to the reconstruction of the 1462 Isa-Bey Hamam next door, now incorporating an original 15-room hotel.

Museum in Sarajevo (War Childhood Museum)

A fascinating new museum focusing on the experiences of children who grew up during the 1990s conflict. Poignantly personal items donated by former war children, such as diaries, drawings and ballet slippers, are displayed alongside written and video testimonies.

Architecture in Sarajevo (Academy of Arts)

Originally built in 1899 as an evangelical church, the Gothic Revival–style Academy of Arts has a fine facade looking like a mini version of Budapest's magnificent national parliament building. Inside, the small Alu Gallery hosts occasional exhibitions.

Church in Sarajevo (Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Mother)

Built in Byzantine-Serb style, the 1872 Orthodox cathedral has a soaring interior space, a vast gilded iconostasis and two rows of stained glass figure-windows. At night the building is artfully lit.

Historic site in Sarajevo (Franz Ferdinand's Assassination Spot)

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg throne of Austro-Hungary, was shot dead by 18-year-old Gavrilo Princip. This assassination, which would ultimately be the fuse that detonated WWI, happened by an odd series of coincidences on a street corner outside what is now the small Sarajevo 1878–1918 museum. During the Yugoslav era, Princip and his band of conspirators were seen as anti-imperialist heroes and the spot was marked with a pair of shoe prints set in concrete. The concrete print-slab was later removed but there's now a replica in the museum entrance-hall.

Church in Sarajevo (Catholic Cathedral)

Fronted with twin-spired clock towers and rose windows above the relatively plain stone portal, this neo-Gothic 1889 cathedral has a colourful interior and three fine stained-glass windows above the finely carved altarpiece. A 2014 statue of Pope John Paul II outside commemorates the mass he served here during a 1997 visit. In the middle of the square at the entrance is a red splatter-pattern in the pavement. After the 1990s conflict, many grenade craters, including this one, were filled with red concrete as reminder of the horrors past. While some such 'Sarajevo Roses' have faded, this one remains vivid.

Museum in Sarajevo (Sarajevo 1878–1918)

This one-room exhibition gives a cursory examination of the city's Austro-Hungarian–era history and the infamous 1914 assassination of Franz Ferdinand that happened right outside, ultimately setting off WWI. There's not much to it and the assassin's gun displayed is a replica, the real one being in a Vienna museum. However a series of relevant sepia photos cycle round on a video display and a computer touchscreen allows you to access a wealth of additional information.

Historical street in Sarajevo (Obala Kulina Bana)

Parallel to the canal, Obala Kulina Bana is a major thoroughfare flanked with buildings that are a mixture of the beautiful and the banal. The best Austro-Hungarian–era structures include the University Rectorate, the lesser rear end of the National Theatre and the post office, which is guarded by eagles-rampant and well worth looking inside.

Bridge in Sarajevo (Latin Bridge)

Of all the city-centre crossings of the Miljacka River, this pale-stone triple-arched bridge is much the most celebrated. It was known throughout the Yugoslav era as Principov Most in honour of the assassin who in 1914 shot Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sophie on a spot just opposite. After the demise of Yugoslavia, Princip lost his public aura as heroic revolutionary and the bridge reverted to its original name, Latinski Most.

Castle in Sarajevo (Višegradski Kapija), Ruins in Sarajevo (Jajce Barracks), Seminary in Sarajevo (Vrhbosanska Bogoslovija), National Gallery of BiH, Museum in Sarajevo (Bursa Bezistan), Ashkenazi Synagogue, Church in Sarajevo (St Anthony's), National Bank Building, University Rectorate Building, Bridge in Sarajevo (Festina Lente), Tower in Sarajevo (Sahat Kula), Fountain in Sarajevo (Sebilj), Kula Širokac Tower, and many more...

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