Signs of the past still remain, but the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina embraces life and looks to the future.
Sarajevo may be most famous for the fateful day in 1914 when the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in an open car next to the Latin Bridge set off a chain of events that led to World War I. With a palpable spirit from facing dark chapters in the past, city residents today look hopefully toward the future.
The heart of the city revolves around bustling 15th-century historic quarter Baščaršija, the bazaar for trade during the Ottoman Empire’s lengthy rule. A maze of narrow stone streets allows for a stroll past restaurants, hookah cafés, and souvenir shops overflowing with intricately hammered metal.
Copper plates, džezvas (traditional coffee pots), and other objects are crafted using special techniques passed down through generations. Kitschy souvenirs in Baščaršija made from bullets are popular with tourists curious about the country’s war history.
BUREK FOR BREAKFAST
Each former Ottoman country has its own style of burek pastry, stuffed with meat, cheese, spinach, and other fillings. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, burek is often rolled into spirals and served with a homemade yogurt sauce.
GAZI HUSREV BEY MOSQUE
Considered the most significant Islamic structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the multi-domed 16th-century Gazi Husrev Bey Mosque houses religious, funerary, and educational space. The mosque represents the city’s largest religion, but the country has always been comprised of a multicultural mix of Muslim, Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic, and Jewish communities.
SARAJEVO WAR THEATER
The Sarajevo War Theatre was founded in 1992 as a form of cultural resistance during the siege, with thousands of performances lifting local spirits during the war. The award-winning theater remains active and successful today.
Good Bosnian coffee is more than a drink—it’s a ritual, as many cafés host conversations over strong Turkish-like traditional brew. Sarajevo also has its share of hip, European-style coffee houses, like the eccentric Zlatna Ribica (meaning goldfish), where vintage lights illuminate vested staff and drink menus are hidden away in old books dangling by phone cords.
Yugoslavia hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics in the mountains ringing Sarajevo, an event symbolic of coexistence prior to the country’s dissolution during the 1990s. This bobsled and luge track is on an overlook on Trebević mountain.
Sarajevo’s main cemetery sits on a hill in Kovači and provides a final resting place for victims of the Bosnian War (April 1992–December 1995), when Yugoslavia disintegrated. A memorial also stands for Alija Izetbegović, the first president of the new republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The oldest Sephardic Jewish document in the world, the Sarajevo Haggadah illuminated manuscript, resides here among other artistic and historical treasures. Although it survived times of war, the museum closed due to financial struggles in recent years. It reopened to the public in September 2015.
No trip would be complete without trying grilled ćevapčići—kebabs mixed from beef and lamb, served with somun bread (a more substantial, yeasty pita), raw onions, and kaymak (salty clotted cream), then washed down with a tart, kefir-like yogurt. Named after the local professional soccer team, the restaurant Ćevabžinica Željo in Baščaršija draws a fan base of its own.
Baščaršija revolves around the Ottoman-style fountain decorated with a mesmerizing pattern cut into the wood. Historically these fountains stood at crossroads so weary travelers could have access to drinking water, as well as to purify before prayer.
The Festina lente pedestrian bridge—leading to a former Austro-Hungarian Church that houses the Academy of Fine Arts—crosses the shallow Miljacka River that bisects Sarajevo. A curious loop in the middle encourages those passing to stop and enjoy the view.