Sarajevo is one of the most awesome cities I ever seen in Europe. Despite its small area in comparison with other capital cities I’ve got lots of things to do. Having recovered from the war, Bosnia has a tourism splash now and Sarajevo has a lot to offer – cheap hotels, excellent food and restaurants, amazing scenery suggesting lots of opportunities to take pictures and nightlife every day of the week. But first of all, to touch the question almost all of my friends asked me when I told them I was going to visit Bosnia:Is it safe?
Yes, Bosnia is safe. Its capital is one of the safest cities in Europe with low levels of crime (except perhaps pickpocketing which is a problem everywhere else). The war officially ended in 1995 and since Bosnia has moved fast to rebuild and move forward. But you can still see the war damage on some of the buildings if you look carefully. That’s it.
The only thing you have to remember is there may still be several undiscovered mines in the hills surrounding Sarajevo. It’s rare for one to be found today but to be safe stick to footpaths and avoid walking in the woods. Within the city center it’s absolutely safe.
Baščaršijalies in the heart of Sarajevo Old Town. Historically Sarajevo was the frontier between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires and Ottoman Empire to the south. As the result an Islamic, Catholic and Orthodox culture mixed up, the elements of which are visible even today.
Nowadays some of the charm has been modified to attract the tourists. Visit the old craft stores and see some of the crafts of old that live on. You can also stop at one of the numerous restaurants in Old Town and eat burek (a filo pastry wrapped around meat, cheese, potatoes or spinach – 1.5 Euro each) or ćevapi (a kebab with minced meat – around 1.5-5 Euros).
Latin Bridge is situated just outside the Old Town. It was the site of the infamous assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event that started World War I. The exact site is marked with a little plague attached to a building which has recently opened as the Sarajevo City Museum. It’s small but has an interesting collection of pictures and artefacts giving and overview of Austro-Hungarian control of Sarajevo. The price is 1.5 Euro.
Investigate the war cemeteries and enjoy the view of the city from Yellow Fortress
There’re a few cemeteries in the city. One of the most interesting is Sehidska Cemetery placed in just east of the Old Town. White tomb stones signify those who died during the war. If you put attention at the dates you’ll see lots of them were in their 20s and 30s when they died, an entire generation lost to war. Yellow Fortress is up on the hill, a little fortress with nice views over the Old Town, the rest of the city and the awesome hills that surround it. An excellent place to enjoy the sunset!
The war tunnels in Sarajevo are situated to the southwest of the city near the airport. During the Siege of Sarajevo they were a crucial lifeline out of the ring of Serbian control and made it possible to supply into the city as well as give a chance for journalists, civilians and soldiers the possibility to enter and leave the city without problems.
Nowadays a little private museum is open inside the residential house that used to hide the entrance to the tunnel. Its price 5 Euro and it’s open every day from 9 to 17, posters explain more about the tunnel and there’re lots of artefacts on display and the opportunity to walk down a small section of the tunnel. To reach the Sarajevo war tunnels get into the tram #3 from the center of the city to the end of the line then take a taxi to the museum itself. Or you can book Sarajevo Funky Tour of the tunnels museum with all transport included for 12 Euro.
Sarajevo can boast of a vibrant nightlife and according to the Bosnians I met up with through Couchsurfing, locals can go out any day of the week and find interesting places to spend time in. For those who visit Sarajevo for the first time, there’re lots of hookah cafes, in the Old Town, bars and nightclubs off the pedestrian shopping street. I spent all three nights in town and hit up both areas. Beer in a bar usually costs 1 or 2 Euro while the majority of nightclubs provide a cover charge for 2.5 Euro with beer costing practically the same as in a bar.
The lesbian and gay scene is rather discreet in Sarajevo according to the Muslim culture; nevertheless, it’s definitely not hidden. One night with a group of Couchsurfers we spent at a dance bar called Pussy Galore, right round the corner from a mosque in Old Town, which shows itself as lesbian friendly.
The Film Festival in Sarajevo is one of the premiere film festivals in Europe and one of the biggest in southeastern part of Europe. You can buy tickets online or by SMS for 1 Euro for a midweek film in a low tier venue right up to 7 Euro for a ticket to the opening or closing movie. With exception to the banner screenings you can also get the tickets for most movies at the door.
On the downside expect the entire city to get much busier during the week of the festival. You’ll get trouble finding space at the bars and you can expect drink prices get higher by about 1 Euro. But the atmosphere is excellent, so just enjoy it!