Sarajevo: the city where World War I began, the city where the 1984 Winter Olympics were held, and the city under siege longer than any other capital city. Walking through the streets you can still see every piece of Sarajevo’s history.
What to see in Sarajevo
Sarajevo is a reasonably big city that feels quite small. There isn’t much to see, but it’s more than worth a visit. It’s not a city to pack your days full of sites, but to wander around with plenty of breaks to experience Bosnian cafe culture with a Bosnian coffee of some fresh squeezed pomegranate juice.
As with eternal flames across the world, this flame is dedicated to military and civilian casualties of World War II. It’s in one of Sarajevo’s main squares. Take a close look at the ground in this square for a Sarajevo rose. After the war ended, all the shell marks in the streets were filled with red resin, forming a floral pattern known as a Sarajevo rose. As the city further, these roses are replaced with pavement.
This Ottoman bridge is the oldest bridge in the city. It’s claim to fame is not its age, but its significance in World War I. It was on this bridge where Gavrilo Princip assassinated Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, air to the Austro-Hungarian thrown, triggering the first World War and the eventual end to both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.
This ottoman style wooden fountain stands in the center of the Old Bazaar. Walk by it, take a picture, then go treat yourself to a kebab in one of the many restaurants surrounding the fountain.
War Childhood Museum
The highlight of my time in Sarajevo, this museum chronicles the atrocities of war through the eyes of children. The stories are told through childhood toys, video, and audio excerpts. The project is the brainchild of Jasminko Halilovic. He asked young Bosnian’s several questions about growing up during the war via Twitter and complied their short form stories into a book. When interviewing these “war children” he found that many of them still had objects from that time in their childhood. He complied these objects into a collection of over 3,000 objects. Some of these objects are now on display at the museum next to the painful and hopeful stories of their significance. With a student discount, this museum was around 4 euro. It is more than worth it to see this unique and powerful museum.
Olympic Bobsled Track
Before the Siege of Sarajevo, Sarajevo was a modern and successful city, chosen to host the 1984 Winter Olympics. After the siege, many of the Olympic stadiums were destroyed. The track is just a short drive from the city and now stands abandoned, covered with graffiti and crumbling to pieces. It is an interesting place to spend the afternoon hiking and climbing on the abandoned track.
Getting there is a bit tricky. We found one direct bus that only leaves Sarajevo at 9:00 a.m. and returns at 5:00 p.m., which would have been too much time for us to spend at the track. The track is a little over a mile outside of the city center, so about an hour and a half walk to the base of the track, but much farther to the top. The walk is quite steep uphill so it’s tiring but certainly doable. We opted to take a taxi from the city center to the top and then walk down. It was about 10 dollars to get to the top which could have been too much, but at a little under 5 dollars a person for about a 25 minute ride it seemed fair.
Once at the top, we walked through some forest until we reached the track. The track splits off into two directions so make sure to check out both sides. After exploring the top part, we started making our way down the track. Stay on the track to get down close to the bottom of the mountain then follow the well marked path back to Sarajevo.
Where to drink in Sarajevo
This brewery produces Sarajevo’s “best beer in the world”, Sarajevsko. One thing I’ve noticed in my travels is that every single country happens to have the “best beer in the world.” Ask any local and they’ll tell you, the beer they make in their country is the best beer in the world. All of these beers happen to be light lagers, and they all happen to taste exactly the same to me. In Bosnia, the best beer in the world is Sarajevsko, brewed at the Sarajevo brewery. The large beer hall has food, music, dancing, smoking, and plenty of Sarajevsko to go around. Pick up a half liter for around 2.5 dollars.
If you’re looking for a more laid back atmosphere with more variety, try Gastropub Vucko. Here you can try Sarajevsko and as well as other local and Balkan brews. The menu features several traditional lagers as well as IPAs, sours, and more. This place is a little more touristy. The menu was in Bosnian and English and all of the waiters spoke flawless English. If you’re looking to drink with locals, head to Sarajevo Brewery, if you’re looking to try a variety of Balkan brews, head to Vucko.