Day 1 introduced you to Sarajevo and Day 2 went in-depth about Bosnia’s history, so let’s slow things down a bit for Day 3. There’s still lots to do, but today’s agenda allows time for sleeping in, having a longer meal or afternoon coffee, hitting souvenir shops, or catching up on any of the activities you missed from the first two jam-packed days.
Morning: Miljacka River and City Hall
Spend your early hours wandering the banks of the Miljacka River on the southern end of Sarajevo’s old town. Don’t miss the Latin Bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated–there are plenty of signs to mark it. If you want bonus points, cross the river and explore an area that most tourists don’t get to or continue about a mile past city hall and continue to the Old Bridge. There’s great street art along both sides too.
While there’s great architecture to enjoy the whole way, the shining star is the Moorish-style City Hall building that comes from Ottoman influence. The existing structure is a replica of the original that was used as a library and got destroyed by the Serbs in 1992 during the Siege of Sarajevo. Over 90% of its books were burned to silence the voices of Bosnians and eliminate their perspectives, as most of those books were their only editions. The current building opened in 2014 on the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI as a gesture to start 100 years of peace after 100 years of war and tension throughout the region.
The City Hall now functions as a local government building and meeting space as well as a home for temporary art exhibits. I got to see the work of Bosnian painter Mersad Berber, which was gorgeous, but the building itself is also a true work of art. The kaleidoscopic ceiling shines light upon detailed awe-inspiring Moorish carvings. This is my third absolute must-do in Sarajevo (after the War Crimes Museum and 11/07/95 Gallery) simply because of its ornate beauty. I’ll never forget how stunning it was.
Early Afternoon: Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque and Library Museum
When you come to Sarajevo, you’ll see Gazi Husrev-Beg’s name everywhere, from his city museum to his bezistan (shopping mall) to his medresa (Islamic high school) and more. Gazi Husrev-Beg was a 16th century governor of sorts who developed the city through the charitable construction efforts of his vakuf/waqf. You could spend a whole day just following his properties around the city, but we’ll focus on his mosque and library museum.
The library “museum” is really two rooms in the basement of the library, but entrance is free and it has a few interesting Islamic artifacts that highlight Arabic calligraphy, hajj pilgrimages, time measurement and astronomy discoveries, and everyday goods of the Bosniak people. My favorite part, however, was their screening of the BBC’s “The Love of Books – A Sarajevo Story.” The movie shows the efforts of librarians and scholars of Sarajevo during the siege who joined together to save the city’s remaining books from destruction. It was incredibly moving, and I actually started crying in the exhibit.
After a quick stop at the library museum, make sure you head over to the mosque across the street. No need to go inside, simply enjoy the courtyard’s quiet energy and gorgeous architecture, fill your water bottle at the fountain, or peek into the small cemetery and Gazi Husrev-Beg’s türbe (tomb/mausoleum) along the mosque’s left side. If you happen to stop by around prayer time, make sure you’re extra respectful by covering up and staying quiet and out of the way of those praying.
Late Afternoon: War Childhood Museum
This museum only opened earlier this year, so it’s still new, but it’s definitely worth a visit. The collection showcases the prized childhood possessions of Bosnians who grew up during the War. From tattered teddy bears to home-sewn dresses to the food packaging from humanitarian aid supplies, the museum displays the War through child eyes. It’s a relatively quick collection to pass through, but I especially loved the videos where survivors describe their childhood memories of the conflict. They talk about universal experiences, like sibling rivalry, but with a backdrop of tragedy. It’s fascinating.
Evening: Sunset at Yellow Fortress
Sarajevo is a city surrounded by hills, so make sure you catch the sunset from above. One of the best places to see the sun go down is from Yellow Fortress, which is just behind the cemetery near Baščaršija (if you’re following this itinerary, you’ve already explored this cemetery on Day 1). You can either walk on the street along the right side of the cemetery or enter the gate and continue up the stony steps on the left side. Yellow Fortress has a cafe, so feel free to grab a table and a drink, or just sit on the edge and enjoy the view. It’s a beautiful end to a great few days in Sarajevo, and–like me–you may find yourself already itching to return to the city.