Sarajevo – what a city! East meets west, tradition meets modernity. Sarajevo is a city of contrasts, an exciting mix of cultures, and in general: an absolute surprise!
We would never have expected such an oriental flair – and that just nine hours by car or flight from Vienna. In our eyes, Sarajevo is one of the most underrated travel destinations in Europe.
Whether you are planning a short city trip to Sarajevo or exploring the city on your Balkan road trip – in this blog article you will find everything you need to know for your trip. We will show you the most beautiful sights in Sarajevo and share our personal tips.
1. Sarajevo: First travel tips & FAQs at a glance
Exciting facts about Sarajevo at a glance
- Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- About 300,000 people live in Sarajevo . The historic center with the most important sights is still very manageable and easy to explore on foot.
- In 1984 the Winter Olympics took place in Sarajevo (and the surrounding area) . You can still discover relics of this major event today – more on that later.
- Sarajevo is known as the “Jerusalem of Europe”. Muslim, Christian and Jewish places of worship are right next to each other.
- During the Bosnian War , Sarajevo was besieged for three and a half years. Thousands lost their lives. The country’s history is harrowing and continues to shape Sarajevo.
What can I expect in Sarajevo?
- Oriental flair: the call of the muezzin, the smell of charcoal (burek & Ćevapi are being prepared here), the coffee served in a copper pot – no, we are not in Istanbul. Even if you might think so at first glance. Sarajevo’s old town, the Baščaršija, exudes a surprisingly authentic, oriental flair.
- Lively city: The energy of the city can hardly be described, Sarajevo literally pulsates. The streets of the old town fill up not only during the day, but especially in the evening after dark.
- History: Like it or not, the tragic history of Sarajevo (and Bosnia and Herzegovina in general) is omnipresent. Bullet holes in the facades of houses are still part of the cityscape. The so-called “roses” of Sarajevo at the sites of the grenade bullet holes commemorate the victims of that time. Anyone traveling to Sarajevo should not leave the city without visiting at least one of the memorial museums. You can’t understand what happened, but you learn from it.
How many days should I plan for Sarajevo?
The abundance of sights in Sarajevo is somewhat limited. By that we mean: In our eyes, it is the unique flair and the exciting mix of cultures that characterize Sarajevo.
In addition, Sarajevo’s old town is quite manageable in terms of area. In one day (depending on the arrival/departure time 1 to 2 nights) you can explore a lot of highlights in Sarajevo without having to stress yourself too much.
We personally would recommend 3 nights in Sarajevo. So you can explore the most important sights, but there is also some time for a relaxed stroll and drinking coffee (very important in Bosnia and Herzegovina).
2. Sights in Sarajevo: Our tips
Baščaršija & Sebilj-Brunnen
The oriental heart of Sarajevo is the Baščaršija. It is the former bazaar and includes the old town of Sarajevo, so to speak. With its very special flair, it is one of the absolute highlights in Sarajevo.
When you stroll through the streets of Baščaršija for the first time, you will immediately think of a bazaar : the low houses, the cobbled streets, the smell of charcoal – you feel like you are in another world!
On the central square in Baščaršija is one of the most important sights of Sarajevo: the Sebilj Fountain. You will immediately recognize this historic wooden fountain from the flocks of pigeons that gather here (thanks to feeding).
Our tip: It is definitely worth exploring the Baščaršija and the Sebilj Fountain at different times of the day . During the day it is quite cozy here, it only gets really full and lively in the evening hours.
One of the most important sights of Sarajevo, which is also located in the middle of the Baščaršija (the historic old town), is the Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque. It is one of the most important, largest and oldest mosques in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The mosque is already worth seeing from the outside, but we definitely recommend that you also take a look inside . The mosque is accessible to visitors at certain times for a small entrance fee.
You should appear appropriately dressed (shoulders and knees covered). Women must wear a headscarf inside. However, you can also hire cloths to put on on site.
Vijećnica: The former town hall
One of the most striking buildings in Sarajevo is the former town hall, called Vijećnica. It occupies a prominent position on the river and today houses the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
You may be wondering why the structure shines like it was recently built? The (sad) explanation: The building was badly damaged during the Bosnian War. Only in 2014 the reconstructed and rebuilt Vijećnica was opened.
Our tip: Be sure to visit the inside as well – very few people do that, but it’s definitely worth it! The special architecture in the so-called pseudo-Moorish style only really shows up inside. In addition to the imposing entrance hall, the staircase is also worth seeing. Exhibitions are housed on the upper floors.
Photography is only permitted with smartphones. If you also want to take photos with your camera, a permit for this costs 82 KM (approx. 40 euros!). Then the entry for up to five people is already included.
Admission: 10 KM (about 5 euros)
Not overly spectacular, but all the more relevant to world history is the Latin Bridge. In June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated at the northern end of the Ottoman stone arch bridge, triggering the First World War.
Today only an inconspicuous information board and a few photos in the display of the neighboring museum remind us of the event of that time. All in all, the bridge didn’t make a very well-kept impression on us and we had expected a little more.
Gelbe Bastion (Yellow Bastion)
Probably the most famous view of Sarajevo can be enjoyed from the Yellow Bastion, called Žuta tabija. It is a (renovated) remnant of the former fortifications from the 18th century. Don’t expect to be a sight in the traditional sense here – the view is what the Yellow Bastion is known for.
From the old town of Sarajevo (Baščaršija) you can walk to the Yellow Bastion in about 15 minutes. The ascent is definitely worth it, because from up here you can see Sarajevo’s extraordinary valley location, surrounded by numerous hills and mountains, particularly well.
The best and most popular time to visit is at sunset. (Best not to be late, because thanks to the hills, the sun is gone sooner than you think.)
The atmosphere up here is very cozy and informal. There is a small café, which is not open all year round. If you want to be on the safe side, simply take something to drink with you from the old town and enjoy the sunset.
On the southern outskirts of Sarajevo rises the Trebević, one of the city’s local mountains. It was one of the venues for the 1984 Winter Olympics and is now a popular local recreation destination.
Since 2018 you can take the cable car up Trebević again. It starts at the valley station, which is only a short walk (and uphill!) from the center.
From the valley station, the cable car climbs around 600 meters in just under 8 minutes. Arrived at 1,160 meters above sea level , it is usually much cooler than down in the center. So take something to wear with you if you need to.
The classic excursion program on Trebević is usually limited to a leisurely walk. There are some vantage points or photo points – some of which you can already see from the gondola.
One of Sarajevo’s most unusual sights is also near the mountain station: the abandoned bobsleigh track from the 1984 Winter Olympics, now covered in graffiti. You can also walk along the bob run. Admittedly, we found that a bit spooky even on such a sunny day.
Fußgängerzone Ferhadija & moderner Teil Sarajevos
East meets west! If you head west in the oriental old town (Baščaršija), you will end up in the well-known promenade Ferhadija.
A symbol on the floor (“Meeting of Cultures”) indicates that you are now entering the modern part of Sarajevo. But that wouldn’t be necessary: The flair is so different that you think you’ve just changed cities. Gründerzeit houses instead of a bazaar atmosphere – strange!
We recommend a detour to the Ferhadija Mosque, which is well worth seeing , and of course to the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral. At the end of the western promenade you will reach the so-called eternal flame, a memorial for the victims of World War II.
If you want to delve a little into the turbulent and tragic history of Bosnia and Herzegovina (and we would definitely recommend it), then we can recommend a visit to the Galerija 11/07/95 museum.
Museum is actually the wrong expression, memorial or memorial gallery is much more appropriate. A kind of photo exhibition about the genocide of Srebrenica awaits you. You will receive information about the exhibited photos via the audio guide.
A short, very moving film will also be shown. All in all, the visit is definitely very exciting. We then needed something to collect ourselves again.
Admission: 12 KM (Audio guide: 4 KM)
More sights for more time
Avaz Twist Tower: This modern office tower is located just outside the old town near the train station. From the viewing platform on the 36th floor you can enjoy a great view over Sarajevo. We personally preferred to enjoy the flair in the streets of Sarajevo, so we didn’t visit the tower.
Tunnels of Sarajevo: Another museum that deals with the eventful, tragic history of the country is the Tunnel Museum. As the name suggests, this is where you enter the former escape tunnel from the siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian War. The museum is close to the airport and therefore a bit outside of Sarajevo.
Ashkenazi Synagogue: The most important synagogue in Sarajevo, which is worth seeing with Moorish-style architecture inside. Attention: Restricted opening times – so it’s best to check in advance.
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3. Eating & Drinking in Sarajevo: Specialties & Restaurants
The cuisine in Sarajevo (and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in general) is one thing above all: hearty! And it contains an incredible amount of meat. Eating vegetarian is possible, but often quite one-sided. In Sarajevo in particular, however, the selection is okay.
Strong, stronger, Bosnian coffee. One thing is certain: it takes a little time to get used to the bitter taste of Bosnian coffee. If you are now thinking of Turkish coffee, you are not wrong. However, there are small but subtle differences.
Bosnian coffee is served in a copper pot and then (after the coffee grounds have sunk!) poured into small mocha cups. It is traditionally served with a lump of sugar and Lokum, an oriental sweet.
Coffee drinking is really celebrated in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At almost any time of the day you will see locals sitting in the cafés with their friends in front of the copper jugs.
It can be found in almost all bakeries (“pekara”): burek. This puff pastry dish is filled with various ingredients, often rolled into a kind of snail and then baked.
Good to know: Strictly speaking, only the meat-filled variant is called “burek” in Bosnia – all others are called pita. Here the name of each filling is used, eg “Sirnica” for cheese.
Restaurants specializing in the preparation of burek are called “buregdžinica”. There are a lot of them in the old town of Sarajevo. The Buregdžinica Sač is very popular and well-known.
All those who eat meat cannot avoid one thing in Sarajevo: Ćevapi. Funnily enough, the term “Ćevapčići” has prevailed in German-speaking countries, a trivialization of the actual name.
Either way: what is meant is the same thing, namely grilled meat rolls. In Sarajevo they are served on every corner, preferably in the city’s so-called “Ćevabdžinicas” .
Our tip: Food tour through Sarajevo
Would you like to get a deeper insight into Sarajevo’s cuisine and the history of the country? Then we can recommend this food tour. The tours are organized by a friendly German-Bosnian couple.
You can find more information here: Food Tour Sarajevo
Tips for cafes & restaurants in Sarajevo
Buregdžinica Sač : Simple, cheap and always busy restaurant in the old town of Sarajevo, serving delicious burek. It is worth looking inside as well to see how the burek is baked on the charcoal here.
Ministry of Ćejf: Very popular café with tourists in a very charming alley. In addition to Bosnian coffee, there are also international coffee specialties (e.g. flat white) and plant-based milk. In addition to cakes, the menu also includes snacks such as burgers and salads.
Čajdžinica Džirlo: Ćejf’s slightly more authentic neighboring café with extremely friendly staff. Here the Bosnian coffee culture was explained to us in detail. Highly recommended!
Fabrika Coffee: We had the best cappuccino in all of Sarajevo in this fairly modern coffee shop on a street corner in Sarajevo’s Old Town.
Karuzo: Traditional restaurant that only uses plant-based products. Perfect for those who want to try Bosnian cuisine and eat vegan/vegetarian.
Kibe Mahala: One of the higher priced restaurants in Sarajevo with a great view of the city. Bosnian cuisine is served with a strong focus on meat dishes.
Zlatna Ribica: A quaint bar in Sarajevo’s old town with a rather whimsical decor. If you want to have a drink in the evening, this is the place to be.
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4. Stay overnight: Our hotel tip for Sarajevo
Are you still looking for a hotel for your trip to Sarajevo? We stayed at the very nice Hotel Sana . A comfortable city hotel in an extremely central location awaits you here .
The rooms in Hotel Sana are quite small but cosy. The bed is fine and you have at least everything you need. You shouldn’t expect luxury, but we felt very comfortable.
The location couldn’t be better: once you step out of the hotel, you can walk to Baščaršija in two minutes. Almost all of Sarajevo’s sights can be easily reached on foot from the hotel.
For example, we took a leisurely break in the hotel in the afternoon – very practical. The only downside: the passing tram can be heard in some rooms. That didn’t bother us personally.
Incidentally, there are very few parking spaces in front of the hotel. (We were lucky!) However, if you wish, the car can be conveniently parked by the staff in a nearby, secure parking lot. Our conclusion: A great city hotel with extremely courteous and helpful employees.
You can book the hotel here: Hotel Sana
5. More travel tips: security, currency & Co.
Safety: personal experiences
Although Bosnia and Herzegovina is still associated with war, we can reassure you: a safe travel destination awaits you. For a professional, up-to-date assessment of the security situation, we are happy to recommend the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Austria) or the Federal Foreign Office (Germany).
A special feature in Bosnia are landmine fields that have not been cleared and can actually be life-threatening. So if you leave Sarajevo and explore other parts of the country, please keep that in mind if you take any breaks on country roads!
As everywhere else in the world, it is of course advisable in Sarajevo to pay particular attention to valuables in frequented places and to stow them away safely. (But that should be a matter of course when traveling anyway.)
We really didn’t have a single negative experience on our trip through Bosnia and Herzegovina – quite the opposite! We would travel there again at any time with a good feeling.
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Currency & Payment in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Convertible Mark (abbreviated KM or BAM). 1 convertible is in turn divided into 100 fenings .
The exchange rate of the convertible mark was once linked to the German mark and is currently linked to the euro. 1 euro corresponds to 1.96 convertible marks. This makes the conversion on site relatively simple, because you only have to divide the price by two and you know the euro amount.
Speaking of euros: occasionally euros are also accepted as a means of payment, but we would recommend that you also get convertible marks. With your debit card (EC card) you can easily withdraw convertible marks at any ATM .
Important note: When withdrawing, charges or fees may be due. In Bosnia, the fee for withdrawing from us was about 3 euros. An alternative to withdrawing money is changing money. We would always do that on site – not in your home country, because you usually get a much worse exchange rate there.
Price level in Sarajevo
Bosnia and Herzegovina is still a very cheap travel destination. (We would even go so far as to claim that it is the cheapest travel destination we have ever visited in Europe.)
The price level in the capital Sarajevo is generally a bit higher than in other parts of the country, although you can still travel quite cheaply. Here some examples:
- Overnight stay in a pretty double room: approx. 100 euros per night (ie approx. 50 euros per person)
- Main course in a nice restaurant: 10 to 20 KM (about 5-10 euros)
- Burek (large piece): 4 to 6 KM (about 2 to 3 euros)
- Bosnian coffee: 3 to 4 KM (about 1.5 to 2 euros)
- Ticket cable car Trebević ascent and descent: 20 KM (approx. 10 Euro) per person
- Entry Museum Galerija 11/07/95: 12 KM (about 6 euros) per person
Internet in Sarajevo
Bosnia and Herzegovina is not part of the EU, so data roaming in Sarajevo is not free. Quite the opposite: it can cost a lot of money if you forget it and switch on the mobile data for a moment.
One way to stay mobile locally is to buy a roaming package for Bosnia in advance from your home network provider. However, this is usually quite expensive and is only worthwhile if you are only staying in the country for a short time.
The cheaper alternative is a local SIM card , which you can get in many shops (e.g. kiosk, supermarket). The tourist SIM card from haloo is recommended. Note that this option is only available if your smartphone is open to all networks.
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6. Arrival & local transport
Arrival: How to get to Sarajevo
Sarajevo can be reached by car from German-speaking countries . However, the journey takes a long time: from Vienna it is about 9 hours, from Munich 11 hours.
We ourselves drove the route with our own car in one go and would definitely plan a stopover next time – for example in Zagreb.
On the way you cross several national borders. Sometimes tolls are due. For Slovenia, for example, you need a vignette (you can buy it directly at the border in the form of an e-vignette). In Croatia, the toll is paid directly when exiting the motorway.
Important note: Bosnia and Herzegovina is not part of the EU. You therefore need the so-called “green insurance card” for your car when entering the country . (This is not always checked, but if it is and you don’t have it with you, you may have to take out insurance on site.)
Personally, we would only come with your own car if you are going on a longer road trip through Bosnia (and possibly neighboring countries). In Sarajevo, the car won’t do you any good – quite the opposite.
Sarajevo has an international airport. There are direct flights to several destinations in German-speaking countries, including Vienna, Munich and Cologne. The airport is only about 10 kilometers from the city center and can be reached by bus or taxi.
You can check for cheap flights here: Skyscanner
The cheapest option to travel to Sarajevo is clearly the long-distance bus. There are various providers such as Flixbus. The journey takes much longer than by car. From Vienna it is about 12 to 13 hours.
Local transportation: Getting from A to B
Sarajevo’s old town, where the main sights are located, is not too extensive. You can easily reach the highlights on foot . A gondola ride is only necessary to get to Trebević (the local mountain).
If you still want to head for a destination that is a little further away (e.g. the tunnel museum), then you can use the tram or the O-bus .
7. Interactive map: All sights & tips at a glance
To make it easier for you to find your way around Sarajevo, we have drawn a map with all the sights and our tips for you. A little tip: If you click on the rectangle at the top right, you can save the map in the Google Maps app on your smartphone.
Transparency: Affiliate links
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!