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Sarajevo Travel Guide: A City at the Crossroads of East, West, and 3 Major Religions


Sarajevo Travel Guide
The Miljacka River, which runs through the center of Sarajevo

History


Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, holds a unique position at the crossroads of Eastern and Western civilizations, with a rich history spanning the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslav periods. Famously known as the location of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, which sparked World War I, Sarajevo has been a focal point of significant global events. Later in the 20th century, it hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics and endured the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare during the 1990s.


Transportation


Trams, trolleybuses, and buses provide reliable public transportation in Sarajevo. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks or from drivers directly. Taxis are also widely available and are relatively affordable.


Safety


Sarajevo is generally safe for travelers. Like any city, it's advised to remain aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Remember that unexploded mines remain in some rural areas around Bosnia, so always stick to marked paths.


Neighborhood Guide


  • Baščaršija: The old bazaar and historical center, rich in Ottoman architecture and bustling markets.

  • Marijin Dvor: A business and residential area showcasing Austro-Hungarian influence.

  • Vijećnica: The area around the iconic City Hall and National Library, beautifully reconstructed after the war.


Latin Bridge: The historic site where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914. Sarajevo Travel Guide
Latin Bridge: The historic site where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914.


Must-see Places


These sights further enrich the historical and cultural tapestry of Sarajevo, offering visitors a deeper understanding of the city's multifaceted heritage.


Sarajevo Travel Guide - Gavrillo Princip Assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand on this spot

Cuisine


Sarajevo, nestled at the crossroads of East and West, boasts a culinary heritage that's both diverse and delectable. Here's what you shouldn't miss:


  • Ćevapi: These small, oblong-shaped grilled minced meat sausages, usually made from a mix of beef and lamb, are the city's most iconic dish. They are typically served with somun (a type of fluffy pita bread), chopped onions, and red pepper-based condiment.

  • Burek: A savory pastry filled with minced meat, cheese, or spinach, wrapped in thin layers of dough. Perfect as a breakfast item or a quick snack. Check out our recipe to make your own!

  • Pita: Similar to burek but with various fillings like pumpkin, cheese, or apple, it's a versatile dish that can be both savory and sweet.

  • Sogan-dolma: Peppers or onions stuffed with a tasty mixture of minced meat and rice, then simmered in a tomato sauce.

  • Tufahija: A delightful dessert made from walnuts and sugar-stuffed apples boiled in water with sugar. This dish has its roots in the Ottoman era.

  • Begova čorba: A rich chicken and okra soup, named after the Bosnian word for 'Bey'. It's hearty and perfect for cold days.

  • Grilled fish: Owing to its proximity to the river, fresh fish dishes are quite popular in Sarajevo, especially trout.

  • Rakija: A strong fruit brandy, commonly made from plums or grapes, often served as an aperitif or after a hearty meal.

  • Bosanska kahva: Bosnian coffee, similar to Turkish coffee, is a ritual in itself. It’s usually served in a džezva (special coffee pot) with sugar cubes and rahat lokum (Bosnian Turkish delight).

The diverse culinary scene in Sarajevo is a testament to its rich history, with influences from the Ottoman Turks, Austro-Hungarians, and native Slavic traditions. Every meal in this city is an opportunity to journey through centuries of culture and tradition.


Nearby Attractions:


  • Jahorina Mountain: Just a short drive southeast of Sarajevo, Jahorina is one of the most famous ski resorts in the Balkans. The site of the women's alpine skiing events during the 1984 Winter Olympics, Jahorina offers great slopes for skiing and snowboarding during the winter months and hiking trails in the warmer months.

  • Vrelo Bosne: This spring of the River Bosna, situated at the foothills of Mount Igman, offers a serene escape from the urban hustle. There are beautiful parks, small ponds, and streams. You can even take a horse-carriage ride through the park.

  • Skakavac Waterfall: Approximately 12 km north of Sarajevo, the Skakavac Waterfall is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s natural treasures. At 98 meters in height, it's a majestic sight and a great starting point for hikes through the pristine surroundings.

  • Bijambare Cave: Located northeast of Sarajevo, Bijambare is famous for its beautiful caves, dense conifer forest, meadows, and clear mountain streams. A perfect destination for speleologists and nature lovers.

  • Trebević Mountain: Once devastated during the Siege of Sarajevo, this mountain has been reborn as a favorite destination for both locals and tourists. Easily accessible by the Trebević cable car, the mountain provides panoramic views of the city and has several adventure parks, bobsleigh tracks, and walking paths.

  • Tunnel of Hope (Tunel spasa): Located just outside of the city, this tunnel was built during the Siege of Sarajevo and was the city's lifeline to the outside world. A museum now stands at the site, which provides a powerful reminder of the city's recent history.

  • Visočica Hill: About a 30-minute drive from Sarajevo, some claim this hill holds the ancient pyramids of Bosnia. Although these claims are controversial, the area is a fascinating place to explore with intriguing old tunnels and panoramic views.


Venturing just outside Sarajevo allows travelers to deeply immerse themselves in the diverse landscapes and rich history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, making the experience in the region more fulfilling.


Sarajevo Film Festival:


Celebrated as one of the premier film festivals in Southeast Europe, the Sarajevo Film Festival is a testament to the city's enduring spirit and its love for the arts. Initiated in 1995, during the last days of the Siege of Sarajevo, this event was more than just a festival; it was a symbol of defiance, resilience, and the power of creativity. Today, the festival attracts film enthusiasts, celebrities, and cinephiles from all over the world. A visit during the festival season, typically held in August, offers travelers a unique blend of Bosnian culture, riveting cinema, and the chance to engage in thoughtful dialogue amidst the historic backdrop of Sarajevo.

Language:


The official language of Sarajevo, as well as the broader Bosnia and Herzegovina, is Bosnian. However, due to the nation's complex history and multi-ethnic makeup, Croatian and Serbian are also spoken and understood widely, especially given the similarities between the three languages. All three are South Slavic languages and share a high degree of mutual intelligibility.


When you're walking the streets of Sarajevo, you might come across signs in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. While Bosnian predominantly uses the Latin script, you'll occasionally see Cyrillic, especially in Orthodox Christian areas, as Serbian traditionally uses Cyrillic.


For travelers, here are some basic phrases that might come in handy:


  • Hello: Dobar dan (DOH-bahr dahn)

  • Thank you: Hvala (HVAH-lah)

  • Yes: Da (Dah)

  • No: Ne (Neh)

  • Please: Molim (MOH-leem)

  • Excuse me/Sorry: Izvinite (eez-VEE-nee-teh)

  • How much?: Koliko košta? (KOH-lee-koh KOSH-tah?)

  • I don't understand: Ne razumijem (neh rah-ZOO-mee-yem)

  • Goodbye: Doviđenja (doh-VEE-jen-ya)


It's also worth noting that many young people and those working in tourism and hospitality sectors in Sarajevo speak English, so communicating in the city is relatively easy for most travelers. Nevertheless, locals appreciate it when visitors make an effort to use a few basic phrases in Bosnian. It's a sign of respect and can lead to more meaningful interactions.


Tipping Customs


It's customary to tip around 10% in restaurants if you're satisfied with the service. Tipping in bars and cafes is appreciated but not obligatory.


Currency


The official currency is the Bosnian Convertible Mark (BAM). ATMs are widespread, and major credit cards are usually accepted in restaurants and hotels.


Is the Water Safe to Drink?


Tap water in Sarajevo is generally safe to drink and of high quality.


Number of Days Needed to Explore the City


To fully immerse yourself in Sarajevo's rich history and culture, a 3 to 4-day visit is recommended.


Average Cost of a Hotel Room


A mid-range hotel room typically costs between 60 to 100 BAM per night.


Average Cost of a Beer


Expect to pay around 2-4 BAM for a domestic draft beer in a local bar.


Explore, enjoy, and immerse yourself in the rich tapestry that is Sarajevo. From its Ottoman-era markets to the echoes of a turbulent recent past, the city offers a journey like no other.

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