Last Updated February, 2021
Are you wondering what are the best places to visit in Sarajevo for two or three days? I would like to share my version of where to go and what to see in order to understand this city. If you’ve been there and would love to add something, please do!
I had mixed feelings about a possible trip to Sarajevo and Bosnia in general.
On the one hand, I was curious about the country. It is less-visited and known among tourists what in turn makes this destination even more mysterious. On the other side, all the stories I heard during my childhood about the war and genocide kept bouncing in my head and discouraging from visiting.
Still, at the beginning of this month, when leaving Montenegro, we had to decide where to go next. A desire to explore every country in former Yugoslavia (and until this time seeing only Montenegro) pushed us to pack our bags and go on the next adventure.
Surprisingly, when choosing our next destination, we learned that getting to Sarajevo from Budva (where we lived for two months) was way easier and faster than to any city in Serbia, Kosovo, or Macedonia.
So, we packed and left, not knowing much about life in Sarajevo and how much it had to offer.
And wow, how much it surprised us. So much that we settled on a plan of renting a flat and spending an entire two weeks in this mysterious city.
There are truly a lot of things to do and places to visit in Sarajevo. For the best experience, I recommend spending at least 3 days. But if you have less time, it will still give you an idea of what Sarajevo is all about.
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WALK, WALK AND WALK SOME MORE AS ONE OF THE MAIN THINGS TO DO IN SARAJEVO
Sarajevo is a city for slow walks, dreamy talks, and consumption of liters of coffee. In fact, coffee is so good here that you really want to drink a few cups of this drink each day.
Once you get here, you notice right away how relaxed locals are and how slow, as for the capital, the pace of life is. The city is lounging along the Milyacki river with the hills embracing it. Sarajevo is so compact and comfortable that you can easily discover it on foot.
Walking from one quarter to another gave us an impression that we were passing through different epochs – from the old Ottoman quarter through Austro-Hungarian architectural treasures and fragments of socialist Yugoslavia to modern business quarters.
I do recommend taking some time and walking around the city.
Check out Aškenaška synagogue in the pseudo-Moorish style with a richly decorated interior in the best Austro-Hungarian traditions. Today it is a museum that demonstrates the life of Jews in the city in different eras, their contribution to science and art. Or walk to Mejtaš and Koševo districts, where you can find battered by time luxurious mansions and other ruins of former times, quiet alleys and courtyards.
Walk famous Ferhadija Pedestrian Street all the way to Bascarsija.
Since Sarajevo is conveniently located along the river, you can find remarkable bridges from different eras if you walk along it. The Latin Bridge, where Franz Ferdinand was killed is difficult to miss and must-visit.
Sarajevo is an incredibly walkable city. No matter where you want to go, you can easily reach it on foot.
VISIT SOME OF THE MOST INTERESTING MUSEUMS
Sarajevo has a lot of museums on various subjects. Some of them talk about history, others about art, war, or jews. It really depends on your interestest. But we loved a Museum of History with a permanent exhibition “besieged Sarajevo”, consisting of items of military life.
The Museum of Sarajevo holds a collection of photographs and exhibits about Sarajevo’s past, from prehistoric settlements to modern times. At this museum, you also get to learn about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that led to WWI.
Museum of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide was one of the most emotional places we visited. A trip to this place was definitely very informative, but difficult to watch and read. Exhibits about Bosnia’s wartime history show every detail about those hard times the country went through at the end of the 20th century.
Museum of the Olympics. Did you know that the Winter Olympics in 1984 was held in Sarajevo? This museum is a great place for fans of the Olympic movement and also those who are eager to learn about the Balkan conflict. The original museum was burnt down though. This current one is a representation of what used to be.
PLACES TO VISIT IN SARAJEVO – SEE THE CITY FROM ABOVE
There are multiple ways how to see Sarajevo from above.
Since hills are surrounding the city, it’s easy to walk to the top of one of them to enjoy the view.
We really enjoyed a walk to Yellow Bastion, part of an old fortress that protected the city in the past during the Ottoman Empire. This place is up on the hill, feels very romantic, and offers stunning views of the city.
White Fortress is another place with a breathtaking view of the city. Nowadays it looks more like a ruin but you are guaranteed to get a view of a river, hills, colorful roofs and minarets. Also, at sunset, you can observe how the sun slowly sinks into the city and the first lights are lit.
If you love visiting old cemeteries, a great view opens from the Jewish cemetery. Away from the tourist routes, you can immerse in complete silence and visit an ancient chapel.
Another attraction is Sarajevo Cable Car. It brings you to the top of the mountain Trebevic and offers a beautiful panorama of Sarajevo. You probably get the best view of the entire city there. This funicular was completely destroyed during the war in the 90s but after a full reconstruction, it opened again in April of this year. There are also a few hiking trails in the area that lead to remnants of Olympic bobsled track and old observatory.
HOP ON OLD TRAM TO EXPLORE MORE OF THE CITY
Yes, trams in Sarajevo serve not only as public transportation. Some of them provide a great opportunity to get to know the city.
During our stay, we lived on the Western side and had to take a tram to get to Old Town. At that time we learned from our host that tram #3 would provide us with a great opportunity to see the entire city. This tram makes a look and rides through old Ottoman quarters of Bascarchia, then modern part of a city, suburbs and all the way to the town of Ilidza.
It will take around an hour to have this tram style excursion. This time is enough to get another perspective on Sarajevo.
If you end up going to the town of Ilidza, there is the largest thermal complex in all former Yugoslavia Ilidza Thermal Riviera. This unique property has indoor and outdoor pools, lazy rivers, whirlpools, slides, massagers, and more. It’s like a water park but at the same time as a thermal spa. The price is incredibly cheap, you pay 6 or 7 euros for the entire day.
Not far from the town center there is a beautiful park Vrelo Bosne. A crystal clear river flows there and beautiful waterfalls catch your eye. It is a pleasure to walk around the park and stop for a cup of Bosnian coffee in a local cafe.
QUIRKY THINGS TO SEE IN SARAJEVO – VISIT BREWERY AND BEER PUBS
For beer lovers, I recommend visiting the Sarajevo Brewery with a museum and tavern. The museum is rather small but provides lots of details on beer production and consumption during different periods of time. Such as the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the Socialist period, and times following the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The building itself is really nice, built in a very interesting architectural style.
A Sarajevski pub, on Brewery’s premises, serves all sorts of beer along with some fish and meat dishes.
At the end of the street on the left side of the main entrance, there is a small shop. It sells different types of beer and some non-alcoholic beverages. Their carbonated apple juice is absolutely delicious and a must-try. We have never tasted anything similar and even returned twice to buy it again. As much as we were looking around, we were not able to find the same juice in grocery stores.
For those who would love to transfer in time and learn about Yugoslavia times, I recommend checking out TITO bar. Its location is right in the backyard of the Museum of History. The menu offers coffee, tea, and other drinks but their selection of beer is enormous. In the evenings you can hit a party with live music.
WANDER TO ONE OF THE FAMOUS LOCAL MARKETS
Oh, markets. If you question yourself what things to see in Sarajevo, markets should be definitely added to your list. There are quite a few of them around the city. We personally love checking out markets because they help to get to know any destination better.
The most famous and visited one is Bashcharshiya market that operates in the center. It consists of shopping arcades full of clothes, jewelry, antiques, and tableware. It is such a pleasure to walk through this market even if you don’t want to buy anything. If you do, don’t forget to bargain and bargain some more.
In search of local products, explore covered Markale Market and its open rows near Mula Mustafe Bašeskije 4a. There you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, and delicious homemade cheeses.
Franz & Sophie is not a market, but I would still love to give it a shot. It’s a tea store selling a huge assortment of teas that you can taste before purchase.
Klub Knjige Connectum is another store that sells books and coffee. It reminded me about Barnes & Noble in the States when you can order tea or coffee and, while sitting in comfortable sofas, enjoy reading.
WHAT TO SEE IN SARAJEVO – MILITARY SITES FOR SURE!
Sarajevo was the first city during all our travels when we felt excited and sad at the same time. Walking the streets of a modern city somehow made us feel the pain of the past.
Sarajevo survived the longest siege in modern history. Traces of war are still on the walls of houses where people live until this day, in multiple cemeteries on the hills around the city, and on sidewalks in the form of “Sarajevo roses“.
A trip to the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot go without a visit to some of the military sites. Through them we gain an understanding of what Sarajevo went through, learn about human wrongdoing, and get to see this city in a completely different light.
One of those sites is Sarajevo Tunnel, not far from the airport. During the war, this tunnel was a place of hope for locals and the only connection with the outside world. Today only a small part of the tunnel is open to the visitors but it still provides a lot of information. Also, in the basement of a house where the tunnel begins is a museum with photographs, military exhibits, and a movie.
One of the other informative places to visit in Sarajevo is the War Childhood Museum. People, who were kids during the war, until this day convey their personal belongings, photos, letters, and even videos to the museum. It is definitely an interesting place to pay a visit to.
If you are having more time in Sarajevo, check the following post from our fellow blogger Ellis from Backpack Adventures. She included many more cool ideas on what to do in the capital of Bosnia.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SARAJEVO
Winters are quite cold in the northern and middle parts of the country, including Sarajevo, and they last two to three months. Spring is short but rather warm. Starting in April the temperature is already very comfortable and it gets warmer and warmer each day. Summers are very pleasant too, although there are heat waves sometimes.
In our experience, the best time to visit Sarajevo is from the beginning of April to the end of October.
Winter is one of the worst seasons to visit Sarajevo. The reason for that is frequent intense fogs. In fact, the fog often can last days or even weeks and is so bad that it gets difficult to see anything around you, not to mention to get a view of the city. During the winter tourists mainly shop, go to museums, hang out in cafes, or go to nearby mountains.
Spring comes early and is simply gorgeous. Everything starts to bloom, the city gets covered with flowers and plants. The weather is usually warm, the sky is clear, there is no trace of the winter fog.
Summertime is another wonderful season for visiting Sarajevo. Additionally to clear skies and pleasant temperatures there are a lot of cultural events around the city. The disadvantage is crowds and too many tourists.
Visiting Sarajevo in September and October is a nice choice too. The flow of tourists is decreasing, prices drop but the weather still stays warm. November already starts seeing occasional fog and rain. We were staying in Sarajevo in November. The first ten days felt just like summer and the weather was gorgeous. But then the fog and rain came in and we didn’t feel like being outdoors at all.
DAY TRIPS FROM SARAJEVO
Many people, when visiting Sarajevo, try to squeeze many other trips into their itinerary. They choose to go to Mostar, Blagaj or Kravice waterfalls as those places are among the most popular points of interest in Bosnia. Do not do that. I know, it may be tempting to buy a tour that offers you to see more of the country. But any trip that takes more time on getting places than on actual sightseeing will not be productive.
One day is never enough if you plan to visit sights that take more than 1 hour 30 minutes to get to them. For that, it is advisable to add a few more days to your Sarajevo itinerary and go explore more of the country at a slower pace.
If you are planning to spend only let’s say 2 days or a weekend in Sarajevo, do not do any day trips, concentrate better on a city. In case you are having more time, devote one day to a trip to nearby Travnik for Ottoman fortresses or Konjic which is famous for nature, Tito’s nuclear bunker, and monastery. In the summer, you can spend a day in nature, such as going to the nearby Olympic mountains. Mount Bjelasnica, Jahorina, Trebevic, and Igman offer gorgeous hikes and walks in the wilderness. They are located less than an hour away from Sarajevo and can surprise you with the scenery.
Biyambare caves, located one hour north of the city, also is a great idea for a day trip from Sarajevo.
In winter you can go skiing in Igman or Yakhorin.
IS SARAJEVO SAFE
Sarajevo is very safe at any time during the day but as in many cities around the world, I recommend keeping an eye on your bag when walking in a touristy Bascharchia neighborhood. It just gets too crowded there.
On many occasions, Mark and I have been walking at night from downtown back home which was located outside the city center, and felt very safe and comfortable. People were always friendly and helpful. In fact, among all the countries we visited in Europe, we felt that Bosnian people were the friendliest. Also, they were very receptive of tourists.
The outskirts of the western and eastern parts of the city look a bit shady but I think it is related to some old buildings that have a depressing look. You won’t be hanging out there anyway, so don’t overthink it.
Other than that, keep in mind, there still may be some mines in the vicinity of the city, left after the time of the Bosnian war. If you go for a walk on the hills, do not get off the tracks and trails.
LIFEHACKS AND GENERAL INFO ON SARAJEVO
In many restaurants, pubs, and bars you would need to reserve a table in advance to make sure you have a seat. Locals love spending their evenings in these types of places, so they are often packed. Take a look at our post on where to eat in Sarajevo. I’ve included lots of interesting places.
If you are using a tram, make sure to not only buy a ticket from a driver but stamp it through the machine. Controllers hop on a tram many times during the day, if your ticket is not stamped you’ll get a fine. We didn’t know we had to stamp ours and ended up paying 30 euros for both of us.
Learn a few basic words to make locals feel special. They appreciate it a lot.
If you are looking to get a tour of nearby mountains, caves, and lakes check out Sarajevofunkytours.
For city walks and city tours, look into Sarajevowalkingtours.com or take this tour. For any other country, I would suggest taking a free tour but in my opinion, in Sarajevo, it’s better to pay for one. A free tour usually lasts an hour but for this city, which holds so much history, one hour is not enough. Besides that, Sarajevo is very cheap. The price you pay for the tour may cost the same as what you pay at home for a few cups of coffee. Paid tours are more informative and cover more sites.
Do not skip a tour and leave Sarajevo without going on at least a short excursion. It’s going to change the way you see this city.
To learn what life was like during the war I recommend taking Dark History Private Tour or Times of Misfortune Tour. They slightly differ from each other, but offer incredible detail on the war history of Sarajevo. I advise you to book it in advance because there may be no availability. When we were in Sarajevo and wanted to book for the same day, they all were gone except this one. A tour about the war is very, very interesting and informative. If you take it, it’s going to be a highlight of your trip.
Mark and I absolutely loved our time in Sarajevo. In fact, we loved it so much that hope to return one day.
If you are in any way doubting either to go or not, I want to encourage you not to think for too long and go. This city is not what you think it is and I know you’ll love it.
I can say with confidence that Sarajevo is the most surprising city in the Balkans.
Do you have any questions about things to see and places to visit in Sarajevo? Drop us a comment below!
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