As the free walking tour came to a finish our guide, Merima, asked us for a favour. To spread the word about the cool things to do in Sarajevo and to encourage people to visit.
Apparently Sarajevo has a bit of a bad image because of the stuff in the 90’s. That seems silly to me, as it was two decades ago (I wonder if in two decades time we might say the same about Syria?). While many of the locals have horrific images that will stay with them for life, they haven’t stopped living.
After the 2.5-hour tour, it was clear the city functions like, well, a normal city. A continued boost in tourism on top of the growth in the last 10 years wouldn’t go astray as the unemployment rate remains high.
With a combo of history, waterfalls, sunset views, abandoned sites, and budget-friendly prices, Sarajevo has all the ingredients of a great tourist city.
So this is me acknowledging the favour asked, and encouraging you to visit Sarajevo.
I spent 10 days in Sarajevo in late-September 2017. Much longer than expected, but I was so comfortable here and couldn’t help waking up to extend my stay ‘one more night’.
These are some ideas of what to do in Sarajevo based on my stay, as well as some ideas on where to stay and eat. If this gets your imagination going at all, definitely go visit.
- 1 1. Explore The Abandoned Bob Sled Track
- 2 2. Watch The Sunset At The White Fortress (or Yellow)
- 3 3. Day Hike To Saravec Waterfall
- 4 4. Take One Of The Free Walking Tours
- 5 5. Play With The Cats
- 6 6. Visit The Sarajevo Brewery
- 7 7. Watch A Premier League Football Match
- 8 8. Visit The ‘Oldest Pyramids’ In The World
- 9 9. Visit Some Of The Museums
- 10 10. Explore The City, Get Amongst The Cafe Culture & See Some Of The Memorials
- 11 Where To Stay In Sarajevo?
- 12 Where To Eat In Sarajevo?
- 13 Overall Thoughts On Sarajevo?
1. Explore The Abandoned Bob Sled Track
This is ‘the thing to do’ now it seems. It feels like everyone in my circles mention the former bobsled track. I liked it and visited twice. Some people will recommend taking a tour, but both times I hiked from the city. It’s not a complicated walk and didn’t feel dodgy whatsoever.
The 1984 Winter Olympics feels like a lifetime ago, but this is quite a cool remnant even though it was used as a defense barrier in the war. You can get some cool as views of the city from up here too.
READ THE FULL POST: HIKING TO THE ABANDONED SARAJEVO BOBSLED TRACK.
2. Watch The Sunset At The White Fortress (or Yellow)
I didn’t get too many sunny days in the city where sunset views are infinite given the landscape around the city. Nevertheless, I went for a stroll up to the White Fortress one evening, apparently the goto sunset spot with views in all directions.
It’s no more than a 30-minute walk from the Old Town but unfortunately I chose a drizzly day to venture up there. Though, you can still see from the photos the views are awesome. Imagine them on a clear sunny day.
On the way back down I stopped off at the Yellow Fortress. If you’re short on time, this is worth a look. You don’t get quite as many views but with the cemetery in the foreground, mountains in the distance and red top houses, it is a very ‘Sarajevo’ view.
Another epic view can be seen from the 36th floor of the tallest skyscraper in the Former Yugoslavia. I was told by a couple on my last night that the Twist Tower elevator takes you to the top floor for 1 KM and you can then visit the cafe on the 35th floor for a cheap meal. With a view.
3. Day Hike To Saravec Waterfall
The 98-metre high Saravec Waterfall is located north of the city and can make for a nice half/full day trip. You’ve got a few options to get there, with a hike from the city even possible.
It’s not the most jaw-dropping waterfall you’ll ever see but the cafe on the way is apparently really good (didn’t get a chance to stop in) so if that is something that interests you it could tip the scales.
READ THE FULL POST: HIKING TO SKAKAVAC WATERFALL
4. Take One Of The Free Walking Tours
The classic European tourist activity. There’s a few on offer in Sarajevo. I chose the Neno & friends War Scars tourthat started at 3.30pm based on a friends recommendation. Our guide Merima took the 20 of us around the city too spots I hadn’t seen even though I’d been there for a few days.
I liked the way she presented the tour. She was living during the war as a 7-10-year-old child so offers her personal experience during the war and the period after. She then discusses the various views of the public backed by facts. You’d be surprised how often you laugh during the 2 – 2.5 hours as well.
If she doesn’t bring it up during the tour, be sure to ask her what the countries flag means 😉
5. Play With The Cats
The mixed religions of the city are visible with the Cathedral along the main walking Boulevard standing out. You can then see minarets throughout the city from any viewpoint.
The sizeable Muslim population here means one thing. Cats! I’m not sure of the details, but going to places where there is a large Muslim population makes me happy for this one reason.
If you want to find the friendliest cats, you need to spend your time wandering the streets on the hills between the city center and the mountains for your best chances. It was never too long in between cats. And they are super friendly, rarely running away.
There’s no cat cafe in Sarajevo, so you’ll have to settle for this option.
RELATED POST: IF YOU TAKE A TWO WEEK BALKAN ROAD TRIP ITINERARY LIKE THIS YOU’LL MEET SO MANY CATS
6. Visit The Sarajevo Brewery
We might not be in the beer crazy countries of Prague, Germany or Belgium, but the Sarajevo Brewery is a cool spot to go for a beverage. I only went for drunks here, but here is a museum and a brewery tour which you can see their website for details.
Start the night off with a shot of rakia (because it’s the Balkans) then work your way through the brews they have. I had the unfiltered, dark beer and a lager of some description. Though my memory may be a bit hazy.
7. Watch A Premier League Football Match
Bosnia & Herzegovina aren’t exactly well known for their football prowess, but you know me, connecting with the local culture via sports is something I believe in.
I attended two games while in Sarajevo. Getting to see the two top Sarajevo teams FK Zeljeznicar & FK Sarajevo play at their home stadium.
I noticed more girls in the stadiums here compared to the Red Star FC and Partizan FC games in Belgrade. The football isn’t the highest quality, and the lack of crowds, especially at the Sarajevo FC match was a bit disappointing.
If you haven’t attended a football match in Europe yet, definitely head along. Depending on where you’re from, it’s likely very different. No beer sold inside the stadium, ultras are seated in the stands behind the posts, tickets are less than 5 euro, and there’s a heavy riot police presence.
Click here for the Bosnian Premier League schedule.
READ THE FULL POST: WATCHING THE MOST POPULAR SPORT IN BOSNIA
8. Visit The ‘Oldest Pyramids’ In The World
The green pyramids near Visoko are known for two things.
- the oldest pyramids in the world
- home to some of the highest quality concrete in the world.
That’s what the signs say anyway. The locals know they are bluffing everyone and don’t hide the fact. If you mention you’re going there, there’s a good chance they’ll start laughing.
While it’s an entertaining half day trip from Sarajevo, some people do take this seriously. When we were at the top minding our own business, we were joined by 10 or so ‘spiritual people’ looking to maximise their wellness with a bunch of meditation, group talks, and some other bizarre spiritual things. Each to their own. We let them be. I should have meditated up there in hindsight.
9. Visit Some Of The Museums
There’s a bunch of museums in the city with many as you’d expect relating to the war. Honestly, the war stuff doesn’t interest me so didn’t visit the war-related ones.
I made it to the Olympic Museum. The original building was destroyed in the war, but they did manage to save lots of the stuff. The museum is very casual, free to enter, with really friendly staff. It’s small, so only pop by if you’re in the area. There is no real story to be told, but I was a fan still :).
10. Explore The City, Get Amongst The Cafe Culture & See Some Of The Memorials
Unfortunately the unemployment rate in Bosnia & Herzegovina is crazy high. For those who have just finished University (free to study), getting a job isn’t a guarantee. What this does mean is a lot of time at cafes. The best place to people watch. The two I visited were very cheap (50 cents green tea?).
The city itself is long and skinny, essentially following the river for 10km or so. The Old Town area is small, but the whole city itself is very walkable. It’s not until you start venturing into the residential areas when you start hitting the hills (which are worth a look because cats). I really liked the river area, crisscrossing the bridges. But the city keeps you honest, there are graveyards within the cityscape and a number of memorials throughout the city. Just walk, you never know what you’ll find (never would have found the markets below otherwise).
Where To Stay In Sarajevo?
I travel on a budget of 20 euro a day roughly, so cheap hostels are my style. I stay at two places in Sarajevo.
Tufna Hostel: Located along the main walk boulevard, you can’t ask for a better location. There are only two dorm rooms here, making the place feel very much like home. The rooms are large too, and if you’re lucky you might get the double bed.
Hostel City Rest: Quiet area a 5-minute walk from the city center. Small dorms but really comfy beds with locks underneath. A nice kitchen and friendly atmosphere, though not big on socialising.
Where To Eat In Sarajevo?
I actually ate at the hostel most of the time as I found myself a nice little routine. And they vegan options at most restaurants are pretty poor. But here are some tips I witnessed firsthand.
Fresh Fruit & Veg Markets: I found two and loved getting my usual Balkan market breakfast. One punnet of raspberries, two bananas and 100 grams of walnuts. I’m not sure of the names, but the locations on Google Maps are Produce Market and This Place.
Two Vegan Friendly Spots: 1. I loved the falafel at the shop across the road from here. I can’t remember the name and it isn’t officially on Maps.me or Google. If you mention you’re vegan, they’ll make adjustments as necessary.
2. Falafel. Can’t get much more of a vegan-friendly name than that can you? I was a big fan of the falafel and chips here (yes, falafel is one of my favs). Went at least five times while staying here. Check out the whole menu though, there are some creative dishes. Fruit cocktail anyone? Good value for money.
Two More Restaurants Friends Enjoyed: 1. Bosno. You really do have to try burek in town. Bosno is popular with both locals and tourists who are looking for cheap burek. Don’t let the menu prices freak you out as they are priced by weight. For 2-3 marks, you’ll have had more than enough burek to keep you going.
2. Chipas. If you need a hearty meal for 5KM (2.5 euro) or less, this is your place. Located right next to the main cathedral, the restaurant is short for Chips and Pasta. There are more than those two options though. At worst take a look at the menu when you inevitably walk past. Pivo is 3 KM.
Overall Thoughts On Sarajevo?
IMO, both Sarajevo, and Bosnia are on the rise as tourist destinations, make them both a priority when you plan a trip this part of the world. They’re incredibly cheap, no fancy budget hacks required. I was spending around 18 euro a day including accommodation.
READ THE FULL POST: IS SARAJEVO WORTH VISITING?.