Sarajevo might well be the most interesting and tourist-friendly cities in the Balkans, however, it sees only a fraction of the visitors that neighbouring Croatia or nearby Slovenia receive. This is a shame as Sarajevo is not only an incredibly historic city with an interesting and heartbreaking past, but it is also one of the most beautiful, eclectic, and vibrant capitals in the region making it an excellent place to spend a couple of days exploring. Planning a great Sarajevo itinerary is sure to give you a greater understanding of this fascinating city and its history — both past and recent.
Obviously, if you want to spend 3 days in Sarajevo, it will just allow you to build upon what you’ve already seen in days one and two. If you’re a history buff, you could easily spend more time in some of the city’s many museums. You could also go on a day trip to some nearby towns in order to get a good view of Bosnia & Herzegovina as a whole — especially if Sarajevo is going to be your only stop in the country.
Day 1 — Explore the Historic Centre
Day one will see you exploring the majority of the main things to see in Sarajevo, all located in the old town.
Gradski Trgnica & Plijaca Markale
Begin your day at the central marketplace, one of the best things to do in Sarajevo if you want to see what locals eat and how they shop. The Gradski Trgnica is a covered market hall selling things like locally made cheeses and meats. Nearby, you can also find the open-air Plijaca Markale where you can shop for delicious fresh fruits and vegetables.
During the Siege of Sarajevo, the Plijaca Markale was the sight of one of the worst massacres of the time when in 1995, around 40 people lost their lives. That is one of the events that prompted peace talks with NATO.
If you want a morning pick-me-up after browsing through the market, make a stop at Boutique Mercato Cafe for a delicious espresso drink in a cosy setting.
From the markets, you can walk a few hundred metres to the beautiful National Theatre. This Austro-Hungarian style building was built during the short period the empire occupied Bosnia & Herzegovina. Though the occupation only lasted from 1878 – 1918, the Austro-Hungarians left many remnants behind, including the National Theatre.
Austria-Hungary largely modernised Sarajevo’s infrastructure, introducing things like a tram network and new buildings in different architectural styles.
One of the most famous sights and places to visit in Sarajevo is undoubtedly the Latin Bridge, a small Ottoman-style bridge over the Miljacka River. The northern end of this bridge is the site where the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in 1914, an event that many historians cite as an inciting incident for the First World War.
Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb who was responsible for the assassination, wasn’t acting alone, however, and he also avoided a death sentence while his conspirators were not so lucky. The reason behind this is that Princip was only 19 years old at the time of the assassination, which was under the legal age to be put to death and illegal in the Austro-Hungarian empire.
If you want to learn more about the assassination, its motivations, and the implications and consequences because of it, there is a museum on the north end of the Latin Bridge that goes into detail about this momentous event.
Sarajevo Brewery & City Hall
Not far from the Latin Bridge, you can find the Sarajevo Brewery on the south bank of the Miljacka. This brewery is of historical significance as it was a major target for bombs during the Siege of Sarajevo. This is because, during the siege, the Serb forces cut off the water supply to Sarajevo, meaning residents didn’t have access to water in their own homes.
The brewery, however, is sat atop its own water source independent of the city water, meaning that is was where locals in the city had to go to collect it. This made it a prime target for Serb forces.
Across the river from the brewery lies the city hall, notable for its unique Moorish-revival style reminiscent of the many buildings one can see in Spain, particularly the Mezquita in Córdoba. This building, however, is not the original, as that one was completely destroyed by a bomb during the Siege of Sarajevo. The building was completely burned along with over 700 original manuscripts that can never be returned.
The building was completely redesigned and rebuilt to be an exact replica of the original and it opened its doors in 2014.
No Sarajevo itinerary is complete without including a visit to the vibrant and cool Bascarsija area, one of the most historic and popular areas for tourists in Sarajevo.
This area was once an Ottoman-era market and historically hasn’t held any private residences. At one time, it was much bigger than it was today, however, due to the fact that so much of the area was made of wood, it has been razed numerous times throughout history by destructive fires.
Today, you can find lots of things in this eclectic and interesting area. Closed to cars, the pedestrianised streets are lined with interesting shops, cafes, and restaurants where you can get anything from a tacky souvenir to an authentic Bosnian coffee or piece of Burek! There are also a number of mosques that are open to visit and other historic sites that really call to attention just how long this city was under Ottoman rule.
War Childhood Museum
After spending a good portion of your day walking around the old town of Sarajevo and sightseeing, it’s time to head to one of the city’s best and newest museums. The War Childhood Museum is heartbreaking to visit and an excellent place to understand the human impact that the Siege of Sarajevo had on residents of the city.
The museum consists of a collection of items that those who were children during the Siege donated. They can include anything from toys to candy wrappers to pencil cases to journals. Next to each item is an explanation from its original owner about what that item meant to him or her during the siege. It is an excellent insight into the way that war and violence can shape children, but also shows visitors how life can still go on even under the most dire of circumstances.
The museum doesn’t solely concentrate on memories of childhood wartime in Bosnia, however, and the curators of the museum have sourced a few objects in the exhibit from Syrian children in refugee camps in Lebanon. It is an incredibly impactful museum and one of the best places to visit in Sarajevo. Entry is 10 BAM per person with discounts available for students and families.
End your day of sightseeing in Sarajevo at the Yellow Fortress, one of the best places in the Old Town for a beautiful view of the city. Constructed in the 18th century, this fortress is located on the outskirts of the Bascarsija area and, though it is a bit of a hike up here, it provides some of the most picturesque views of the city.
On the walk up, you will pass a large cemetery that will also put into perspective the absolute human toll that the Siege of Sarajevo had on the city.
Walking back down, you can stop at Teahouse Džirlo for a unique tea or at Ministry of Cejf for some speciality coffee!
Day 2 – Historical Sites and Museums
Day two of this Sarajevo itinerary sees you heading a little further away from the old town and learning more about Sarajevo’s fraught recent history. If you want to dig deeper and learn a little bit more, you will find that some of the best things to do in Sarajevo lie a bit outside of the city centre.
War Tunnel Museum
Located close to the Sarajevo Airport, the War Tunnel Museum offers a fascinating insight into how the city was able to survive and receive provisions and aid during the siege. The museum is at the sight of an 800-metre tunnel that ran from the Serbian occupied areas to the free Bosnian areas of the city outside of sniper detection. The construction and location of the tunnel, close to the airport, was crucial in Sarajevo’s survival during the siege.
The tunnel was built in a family home and while the house was later returned to the family after the war, they decided to open it up as a museum rather than move back in. Much of the family still work in the museum today.
You can walk a small portion of the tunnel here, along with learning about the logistics of building the tunnel and some overall effects of the war. Entry is 10 BAM per person.
Sarajevo Bobsled Track
North of the city on one of the surrounding hills lies one of the top attractions in Sarajevo, the abandoned bobsled track. This massive bobsled track was originally built for the 1984 Winter Olympics but has since fallen to disrepair and has become a popular place for graffiti artists and urban explorers. You can walk a portion of the track and admire the architecture and the artwork that now adorns it.
You can reach the bobsled track by taking the Trebevic Cable Car (which begins close to the Sarajevo Brewery) up to the mountain. It is then about a 10-minute walk down to the track and about an hour more back into the city centre. For tourists, the cable car tickets cost 15 BAM one-way and 20 BAM for a return trip. It is also possible to reach the bobsled track by taxi.
After seeing these sites, it’s time to head to yet another museum. The 11/07/95 Gallery located in the city centre is another one of Sarajevo’s best museums and can give visitors some incredible and heartbreaking insight into the Srebrenica Massacre in 1995.
This museum is a collection of photographs from the massacre and its aftermath that really deeply convey the devastation of this horrific act of ethnic cleansing. There are no descriptions to any of the photos so it is highly recommended that you pay the extra entry fee in order to get the audio guide. Plan to spend about two hours in the gallery to fully get through all of the photos and watch the films that are also on display.
Entry without the audio guide is 12 BAM and with the audio guide, entry is 15 BAM.
After a fairly grim day of learning about Sarajevo’s tortured past, take the time to see an incredible view of the city and enjoy one of its modern marvels: the Twist Tower.
This skyscraper located close to the central bus and train station in Sarajevo is the tallest building in the Balkans at 172 metres at its tallest point and you can access the viewing platform at the top for incredible vistas of the city below. Take the lift to the 35th floor and pay the 2 BAM at the turnstile to access the panoramic viewing platform. Keep in mind that the turnstile only accepts .50, 1, and 2 BAM coins.
You can also enjoy a drink or coffee from the cafe on the 35th floor.
Sarajevo Restaurants & Cafes
There is a pretty good restaurant and cafe scene in Sarajevo and there are numerous places to eat and drink in the city. Whether you’re looking for a hip sit-down restaurant serving up international favourites or a traditional hole-in-the-wall churning out Bosnian specialities, Sarajevo has got what you’re looking for! If you’re wondering where to eat in Sarajevo, have a look through our top recommendations:
Restaurants in Sarajevo
Dveri — A great Bosnian restaurant located in the Bascarsija area, they have both local specialities and some vegetarian options. The service is friendly and helpful and they also a great wine list with locally-produced wines. It does get busy, so it is advised either to arrive early or book in advance.
Barhana — Another great dinner option in Bascarsija, they have a range of both Bosnian and international specialities including pasta dished and pizzas. Service is friendly, prices are affordable, and portions are large.
Blind Tiger — Located in the city centre, this burger-cum-cocktail bar is an excellent place to grab a hearty bite to eat while enjoying a speciality cocktail or local craft beer. They have vegetarian options and also have a great happy hour deal.
Fast Food in Sarajevo
Ćevabdžinica Željo — An excellent cevapi place in Bascarsija, they have a simple menu and very affordable prices. This is an excellent place if you’re looking for a quick, cheap, and filling lunch of local favourites.
Buregdžinica Bosna — An excellent place to get Bosnian pies and burek (it is only called burek in Bosnia if it is filled with meat), the prices here are incredibly affordable and they charge by weight. Some of the best burek in the city!
Cafes in Sarajevo
Teahouse Džirlo — If you’re on the hunt for a place to chill out after a long day of sightseeing, then this is the place to do it. Run by an incredibly friendly owner, he has a range of teas and speciality drinks in a comfortable setting. If the weather is fine, aim to get a seat outside.