When I arrived in Sarajevo, the only thing I knew about the city was that Franz Ferdinand was shot here, triggering WWI. Beyond that, nada.
Sarajevo quickly stole my heart, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you spend as much time in this magical city as you can. This three-day itinerary is the bare minimum, in my opinion, plus there’s tons of day trips around Bosnia to take too. Let’s start with Day 1:
Morning: Free Walking Tour
You’re probably saying “Sabina, we get it, you love free walking tours.” I almost always recommend you start with a free walking tour to get oriented and learn some foundational history for each city. Sarajevo has a few different companies that offer free walking tours, but I did the one with Meet Bosnia. The guide was interesting, informative, and engaging, including giving a brief description of the city’s connection to WWI, an overview of the Bosnian War, and explaining Sarajevo’s east-meets-west culture.
Lunchtime: Baščaršija and President’s Grave
The area around Baščaršija is full of restaurants that serve both locals and tourists alike. You can grab čevapi (sausage in bread) or burek (sausage in phyllo dough) if you want something authentic, fast, and vaguely greasy or opt for falafel, pizza, sandwiches, or any variety of other options. I even found a Mexican-ish restaurant, which was a welcome break from sausage.
Once you’re nice and full, walk off your lunch a bit by climbing up the hilly Kovači street behind the Baščaršija tram stop. On your right you’ll see a Muslim cemetery where you can wander through rows and rows of pointed grave markers until you get to the small domed section where the first Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović is buried.
Note that this is indeed a Muslim cemetery, which means that you should cover your shoulders and knees to both show respect and to avoid getting kicked out (like I did…whoops).
Afternoon: Jewish Museum
Although the Jewish population of Bosnia is relatively tiny, Sarajevo has an important connection to Judaism because of its world-famous illuminated manuscript of the Haggadah. The Haggadah is a Jewish text read during a Passover Seder, and the one in Sarajevo dates back to roughly 1350.
This timeline sets the stage for three of the reasons the Sarajevo Haggadah is revolutionary: 1) it displays the Earth as round multiple times, a rare concept in 14th century illustrations and in religion alike. 2) A few images show a black servant drinking alongside the Seder guests while a white Jew serves the meal. 3) Almost all of the country’s books were burned in the Bosnian War, but the Haggadah is very well-preserved despite its centuries-old wine stains.
The Jewish Museum does a great job of explaining the history of the small Bosnian Jewish population and the Sarajevo Haggadah, so it’s definitely worth a quick post-lunch visit.
Early evening: Sacred Heart Cathedral
As you walk from the Jewish Museum to your next stop, take a moment (or a few) to pop into the Sacred Heart Cathedral. After checking out the religious imagery inside, walk along the left side of the cathedral’s exterior and look down at the sidewalk to see one of the classic Sarajevo Roses.
These concrete indentations came from intense shelling of the city during the Siege of Sarajevo, but they’ve since been painted red to turn war damage into floral-like art pieces. You can find Sarajevo Roses all over the city–once you notice the first one, you’ll start seeing them everywhere.
Evening: Museum of Crimes Against Humanity & Genocide and Veliki Park
I’ve mentioned the Bosnian War and Siege of Sarajevo in this post, but it’s likely you don’t know much about this conflict. The War was before my time (1992-1995–I was born in 1996) but even older travelers I met admitted to not knowing the full extent of the situation.
That’s why a visit to the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity & Genocide is a must while in Sarajevo. It explains the entire conflict both in Bosnia & Herzegovina and in its neighboring countries, including photos, videos, interview quotes, artifacts, and statistics. Take your time in this exhibit–it’s a lot to process, but the museum helps to make it digestible, interesting, and personal.
After walking through the museum, continue down Ferhadija street to Veliki Park where there is a memorial to the children who died during the war. The fountain represents a mother shielding her child from the bombing and shelling of Sarajevo, and the adjacent cylinders honor the names of the youth who lost their lives.
You’re likely to be feeling a bit heavy-hearted and also foot-weary, so head back to your accommodation to do some reflecting and turn in early. Day 2 also has a lot in store, so you’ll need your rest!