One day in Sarajevo Itinerary: Best things to do in Sarajevo
Sarajevo brought my history classes into life. It is one of those underrated cities in Europe that deserves a place in your travel bucket list. We are sharing a fascinating one day in Sarajevo itinerary, to inspire you to visit and learn more about it.
Sarajevo is the capital city of the Balkan state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A city that ignited the start of the First World War, is recorded to have the world’s longest siege in modern history, and most importantly it is the meeting point of cultures – of the east and the west. Here are the finest things to do in Sarajevo in one day.
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One day in Sarajevo Itinerary: Best things to do in Sarajevo
“When you step into the old town of Sarajevo, a myriad of small shops welcome you – sprinkling the reminisces of the bygone Ottoman Empire. Once you leave the bazaar, a torn page of modern world history awaits you; and as you move further away a heart-wrenching saga of human spirit and perseverance will leave you teary-eyed and introspecting for more.
Is one day in Sarajevo enough
Sarajevo is a unique destination, and deserves a few visits to understand the city and its past. I have been learning about the city and the Balkans since 2006, and to see the books take shape into reality was intriguing.
We are sharing this well-curated itinerary for you to make the most of your trip. Because the city has very distinct areas, and not a lot of tourists, it is easy to explore the highlights in one day in Sarajevo.
We highly recommend a few tours that will be helpful in understanding the city’s past as well as explore them in a day.
History of Sarajevo and its significance in world history
efore we begin the one day Sarajevo itinerary, we like to share a little bit about the city’s history. Sarajevo is unlike any other European capital city. As you explore the city, you will find
- Turkish/Ottoman markets and culinary traditions – the years from 15-17th centuries
- Austro-Hungarian architecture and buildings like the City Hall – 18th- early 20th century (including the assissination of Archduke Ferdinand)
- Erstwhile Yugoslavian remains like the 1984 Winter Olympics complex
- Most importantly the scars and tears from the 1992-95 Siege and attack by its neighbours
It is okay not to remember the chronology (as a History graduate I am just used to it), but it is important to appreciate the city’s colorful and mixed past; it is truly a meeting point of cultures!
Breakfast at The Address Cafe – Old Town
Start your day bright and early in old town Sarajevo. Stop for breakfast at The Address – this restaurant is located at the entrance of the old town. There are many cafes in the same block for you to choose from.
We found a table near the window, with views of the tram and the iconic Sebilj fountain. Toast and omelet, with vegetables and cappuccino to warm up the belly. (You can swap up for Bosnian coffee if you like. We left it for the evening after some pastries :))
Admire the Sebilj brunnen – Iconic fountain
Sebilj Brunnen is the iconic landmark in Sarajevo. It sits pretty at the old town – in the centre of Baščaršija square, surrounded by cafes and shops, and lots of pigeons and people, hanging out in the vicinity.
The Sebilj is an Ottoman-style wooden fountain, built in the mid 18th century.
Sebilj or sebil word is of Arabic origin that means a place of rest and refresh water for travelers. There were many fountains in the compact city of Sarajevo. However, with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire, many of the Sebilj disappeared, only to be resurfaced and revived during the Yugoslavian period.
Explore Baščaršija – Historic City centre
From the Sebilj fountain, take some time to wander the historic city center. The old town or Baščaršija was built in the 15th century when the city was founded. Sarajevo was founded by Isa-Beg Ishaković, an Ottoman Bosnian general.
The word Baščaršija derives from the Turkish language, where “baš” means “head”, or “primary”, “capital” and “čaršija” means “bazaar” or “market.
No wonder the market place is stunning and a delight, especially in the morning when the shops and cafes are just opening up.
Inside the Baščaršija, there are mosques, madrasas, churches, Jewish synagogue, museums, and of course shops and cafes.
Find Sarajevo roses on the streets
While you are on the go, and exploring the old town look for red spots on the ground/streets. These red spots are called ‘Sarajevo roses’, and they were painted in red.
A Sarajevo Rose is a type of memorial in the city. During the siege of Sarajevo in 1992-95, the city was heavily bombed. The damage caused by the mortar shell’s explosion that was later filled with red paint.
The paint looks like ‘roses’ and are memories of those difficult years. There are around 200 “roses” in the entire city, and they are marked on locations where at least three persons have been killed during the siege of Sarajevo.
Take a free walking tour
Opt for a free walking tour of the historic city center. There many tour operators and agencies who take you around, share their story and of the city. It is a great way to get an introduction to Sarajevo.
Most tours start at 10 or 10:30, and last 1 to 2 hours, and are completed on foot. Almost of the city highlights are covered – Old Orthodox Church, Baščaršija Square – Sebilj Fountain, Oldest Street in Sarajevo, City Hall, Caravan Saray – Morića Han, Gazi Husrev-bey’s Mosque and Clock Tower, Meeting of Cultures Spot, Jewish Synagogue, Cathedral of Sacred Jesus’ Heart, Sarajevo Roses, Hotel Europe, Latin bridge and more.
Here are 2 walking trees we recommend, with two different start times, covering the same or similar itinerary stops
- 10:30 am: Click to view tour
- 12:00 pm: Click to view tour
Latin Bridge and museum
The spot that I was really looking forward to visit, the Latin Bridge. This is the very spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated, which ultimately led to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
The original Latin Bridge was made of wood, and was built in the 16th century. With floods ravaging through the city in the late 18th century, the Latin Bridge was designed in Ottoman style. The river Miljacka flows underneath the Latin Bridge.
The bridge today is like any other, no special signage or anything that screams “touristy”. There used to be a concrete memorial that marked the incident, but was later removed during the siege.
There is a musuem located near the bridge, that depicts the history of Sarajevo, and of the assassination.
Note: No swimming in the Miljacka river , city center.
Vijećnica – City Hall
The Sarajevo City Hall is called the Vijećnica, located in the city center. The decorative City Hall of Sarajevo was designed by a Czech architect in the 19th century. It served as a symbol of the meeting of world civilizations, during the Austro-Hungarian period.
The City Hall was home to a lot of literary treasures, most of which were destroyed during the 1992-95 Siege.
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Sarajevo Cathedral or the Sacred Heart Cathedral is the largest cathedral in the country. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Vrhbosna, and is the center of Catholic worship in the city. It was built in 1881, in neo-Gothic style.
The cathedral has 2 spires, and 6 bells with impressive interiors. It is free to enter, and just outside the cathedral you will find Sarajevo roses.
There’s a statue of Pope John Paul II at the entrance, who visited in 1997 after the war/ siege ended.
From the Cathedral, you will see the Eternal Flame. It is a monument dedicated to the military and civilians who lost their lives during the Second World War.
Tašlihan near Europe Hotel
Tašlihan is an inn, where travelers would stay and relax. Near the Hotel Europe in the old town, the remains of a large fort-like structure can be seen.
They were built on two levels and could accommodate an entire caravan, with all of the pack horses and merchants. It had one entrance, with an open courtyard area, for loading and unloading of goods.
Today it serves as the summer garden, as part of Sarajevo’s Europe Hotel (which was built on top of the remains of Tašlihan built between 1540 and 1543 by the Ottoman Governor, Gazi Husrev Bey).
Meeting of Cultures
“Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures” is the message marked on concrete on Ferhadija St., near Gazi Husrev Bey’s Bezistan. Sarajevo glows with richness – of cultures, intermixing of unique backgrounds. The spot where two dominant cultures merge is marked as a reminder to the locals and visitors to the city.
Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
The Gazi Husrev beg Mosque was built in the 16th century by Gazi Husrev – Sultan of the city. The mosque was built in a complex set up with multi-domed mosques, and madrasas, fountains on site; and it represents the Early Period of Classical Ottoman Architecture.
Gazi Husrev beg Mosque was the first mosque in the world to receive electricity and electric illumination in 1898 during the period of Austro-Hungarian Empire.
It is the largest historical mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the most representative Ottoman structures in the Balkans.
Break for lunch at Cevabdzinica Zeljo
You got to try cevapi in the Balkans. Ćevapi or ćevapčići (pronounced CHAE-vap or CHAE-vap-ee) is hand-shaped, caseless sausage, served with bread, onions, tomato paste, etc. It is popular in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and other countries in the Balkans region.
Although each Balkan state has a different version of the cevapi – do try it in the heart of Sarajevo.Choose Cevabdzinica Zeljo for a full meal (or share with your loved one, as you half day of sightseeing to go).
Follow up with a cup of Bosnian Coffee and pastry! Yum!
Sarajevo Tunnel – Afternoon tour
Visiting the Sarajevo Tunnel was on my bucket list (along with the Latin Bridge, of course). And it is one of the best things to do in Sarajevo.
We booked an online tour of 4 hours that included return transportation from the city center, history guide to the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum, Sarajevo Olympic Bobsleigh and Luge Track, and the Yellow fortress.
You can choose a morning or afternoon tour. We chose the afternoon tour at 02:00 pm so that we could capture sunset from the fortress.
Sarajevo Tunnel was a tunnel built during the Siege of Sarajevo, in the Bosnian War. It was built by the Bosnian Army to connect parts of the city in the war zone. The city of Sarajevo was completely cut off by Serbian forces, and the Sarajevo Airport was controlled by the United Nations.
Something to think about, the war hardships existed while the United Nations was present inside the country, which sometimes negates their value/authority.
The war tunnel, also known as Tunel spasa and Tunnel of Hope, linked the Sarajevo neighborhoods of Dobrinja and Butmir. It was an 800m-long, 1m-wide, 1.6m-high tunnel between two houses on opposite sides of the airport runway. And this allowed food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to come into the city.
Bonsians men mostly would walk through the tunnel to get food and medicines for the family. As the tunnel is not very high, many had to stoop and cover the entire distance bending their backs.
After the war, the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum was built onto the historic private house whose cellar served as the entrance to the Sarajevo Tunnel – northern entrance. We were able to walk down a small length of the tunnel (approximately 20 meters).
The “house” museum exhibits archival materials including an 18-minute-long movie, war photographs, military equipment, flags, military uniforms, etc. We highly recommended watching the movie to get a sense of what happened at that time.
It’s very intriguing, I mean, its modern history, the siege happened not too long ago.
When we visited the museum and the site with our guide, he mentioned that even the locals today find it hard to understand and make sense of what happened – the city had Croats, Serbs, Muslims, and Christians for a long time, and then the war happened – for them, it was like a brother against each other.
Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina present a unique political situation with 3 Presidents and two jurisdictions within the capital city of Sarajevo. Taxi number plates are different, school syllabus is different, dialect slightly changes yea, a very unique place.
Abandoned Olympic Bobsleigh
Said to be one of the off-beat attractions in Sarajevo and the Balkans in general is the abandoned 1984 Olympics complex. The graffiti on the bobsleigh track invites explorers and photographers alike.
To be honest with you, the place is really eerie, as colorful as it might look from the photos, it looks haunted. Haunted by the ghosts of past victories of the non-aligned countries, of erstwhile Yugoslavia and struggles from within.
Let’s start with Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was a country in the 20th century. It came into existence after World War I in 1918. It was formed by merging the current states/countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia & Montenegro. Their capital was Belgrade, capital of today’s Serbia.
Sarajevo hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, and it was the first for a Socialist – non-aligned country to do so. And many were looking at a brighter future.
Which only a decade later, was completely destroyed, the city including the bobsleigh and luge tracks were turned into war and artillery zones, ultimately leading to the deaths of thousands of civilians.
The next winter Olympics were hosted in Calgary Canada, which is home, and we can’t imagine the site to look like the one in Sarajevo, totally abandoned, filled with mosses and bullet holes, really breaks my heart thinking about it. The city had gone through a lot in recent years.
OId Jewish Cemetery and the Sniper Alley
The OId Jewish Cemetery in Sarajevo is a 500 year old cemetery, located on the slopes of Trebević mountain (Kovačići-Debelo Brdo area, in the south-western part of the city).
It is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in South-East Europe, and was in use from the beginning of the 16th to 1966, and is currently closed.
During the Bosnian/Siege of Sarajevo war, the cemetery was used as an artillery position by Bosnian Serbs. There is a look-out area/point from the Cemetery to the city, which was the deadly Sniper Alley.
In the Cemetery itself, you will notice severe damage caused by bullets and explosions.
Žuta Tabija the Yellow Fortress in the evening
There are 2 fortresses overlooking the historic city of Sarajevo. We visited the Yellow Fortress – Zuta Tabija as it offered better views of the city (the white fortress was also under construction. It is a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina).
The Yellow Fortress is a cannon fortress, built in the 18th century at the entrance of the “Walled City of Vratnik”. It served as one of the defense points against the Austro-Hungarian troops in the 19th century.
The views of the city and the sunset over the mosques, church towers, and thousands of glittering lights just makes my heart melt.
With it, you will also find many graves scattered in and around the city, reflecting the hardships and sacrifices of those who left us. It is a surreal feeling, just take you to a different world altogether!
Entry is free!
Dinner: More cevapi and potato pie
After an eventful sightseeing and learning day, head to the old town for dinner. Try another round of cevapi and add potato pie to the mix.
Super fine “krompirusa” (or potato pie) is made of thin dough, filled with chopped potatoes and a small amount of chopped onions.
Recommended restaurants: Caffe “Kamarija-Point of view”; Buregdžinica Bosna.
If this one day in Sarajevo itinerary is fast for you, then you can split it into 2 days – heading to the Tunnel Musume the next day. But remember the city is quite compact and can be explored easily in one full day.
Sleep: Hotels in Sarajevo
We stayed in Sarajevo for a few days and used the time to relax and take day trips. Our hotel in the city was located near the cusp of the old town and the tram lines. We stayed at the Hotel Plaza.
- Hotel Plaza: Mid-range hotel, in an apartment-style building with access to balcony and hill views. The old town just steps away. Book your stay here.
- Hotel Europe: Fine hotel with cozy rooms with a gym, an indoor pool & a spa with saunas. It is located in the heart of the old town. Reviews for the hotel are very positive, click to find out more
- Courtyard by Marriott Sarajevo: A 4-star hotel, with a mid-range price tag, the Courtyard by Marriott Sarajevo offers free breakfast and wifi, with a contemporary vibe. Click to view more about the hotel
Day trips from Sarajevo
Have more than one day in Sarajevo? Choose a day trip from the city to make the most of your vacation
- Mountain Trebević – If you are visiting Sarajevo in winter or off-season, utilize the Sarajevo cable car to mountain Trebević, and you can spend an entire day there, hang out in one of the newly built resorts and check out the various landmarks.
- Mostar – Mostar is probably the most popular day trip from Sarajevo. Mostar is located in the southern part of the country, in the warmer regions of Herzegovina. Enjoy a road trip to the old town, admire the Stari Most, and learn about its history (which suffered a similar fate like Sarajevo), roam the Turkish bazaar, and collect souvenirs.
Sarajevo Travel Tips
Sarajevo is the capital city of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is located in the southeastern/ Balkan peninsula region. It is not a part of the European Union, nor the Schengen zone.
Visa for Bosnia & Herzegovina
Many countries are allowed visa-free entry to the country. You do need a passport valid for at least three months past your planned date of departure.
U.S.and Canadian citizens do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days total within a period of six months from the date of first entry.
Bosnia & Herzegovina use Bosnian Convertible Marka (BAM). The use of credit cards in small shops in the old town are very rar
Official language is Bosnian
Packing for Sarajevo
Sarajevo experiences 4 seasons in a year, so expect chilly cold weather in winters and warmer temperatures during summer.
Sarajevo’s compact city centre is completely walkable, but there are also trams, trolleybuses, and buses for getting around the city. Taxi and tram tickets are very cheap/affordable, as compared to many other capital cities in Europe.
I think a lot about cities. And part of that interest arises due to my educational background in history. Sarajevo and Bosnia Herzegovina sounded intriguing and interesting even before I visited. I was prepared and was looking forward to exploring this unique young country, with centuries-old traditions.
We arrived in Sarajevo late evening, and it was a cold spring day, the streets were empty, but lights were still glowing in tall buildings, a mosque, a church, bridges and a unique looking tower that greeted us at the bus station.
More welcoming were the people, and the brightly shining moonlight!
Oh, Sarajevo, you are stunning; just as I dreamed of you!
We hope you enjoyed our one day in Sarajevo itinerary. We were fortunate to be able to explore all of the finest things to do in Sarajevo, and curated this list for you.