Sarajevo, like it’s smaller counterpart Mostar, is a fantastic backpacking destination. The reasons for this are pretty simple, Sarajevo just ticks all the boxes. The perfect combination of history, architecture, friendly locals, lots of good food and drink, and heaps of quality hostels full of interesting travellers to meet.
The owner, a young chap named Haris, also owns a tourism agency right near the pigeon square at Kovaci 1 and can take you on tours around the city, annotated with his own personal experiences from the war. Although you must walk uphill for about ten minutes from the main square to get there, it is worth the walk for the beautiful view and hospitable, warm atmosphere. Haris is very friendly and great fun if you invite him out for a drink.
A nice themed hostel. Unique by design, based on Sarajevo’s most famous story – the beginning of WWI. It offers en suites, privates and dorms. Here you can find travellers from all over the world, happy, relaxed and satisfied. They offer free breakfast, good wifi and is very clean.
Sights and Highlights
For 3 years, 10 months, 3 weeks and 3 days there was no way in or out of Sarajevo, save for a makeshift tunnel built under the airport that was used to ferry critical supplies into the city. The Siege of Sarajevo is the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The main street was temporarily renamed to ‘Sniper Alley’. The various sites used during the 1984 Olympics, staged only 8 years prior, became important military defensive structures. These sites and many more can be visited while in Sarajevo and you can hear from the people themselves as you learn about the Bosnian war and the breakup of Yugoslavia. The two most well know tour companies offering this service are Insider and Funky Tours. If you are staying at the Haris Youth Hostel, Haris himself also offers a similar tour for a similar price.
The free walking tours in Sarajevo cover a lot of interesting history found in and around the old town area of Sarajevo. Among other things you can see the place where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, thereby kicking of a chain of events that resulted in World War One. Both Insider and Funky Tours run free walking tours.
In my opinion, Bosnia does Ćevapčići (Ćevapi, Qebap) better than anyone. The preferred method of serving the food here is simple and consistent. Seasoned minced meat cooking in the shape of small sausages served inside half a flatbread with diced onion and sometimes with a sour cream or yoghurt on the side. Cevabdzinica Zeljo is my recommendation for Ćevapčići in Sarajevo.
The other traditional food in this part of the world that is a must have, is Burek. Sarajevo is one of the best places in all the Balkans to sample traditional Balkan cuisine. The restaurants are laid back, frequented by both locals and tourists, and cheap. This place is one such excellent example. If you like Burek, go here. If you haven’t yet had Burek, for gods sake, go here.
Also knows as ‘Sarajevo Brewery’, Pivnica is the place to be in Sarajevo if you would like to try some tasty locally made beer.
Another pretty obvious choice. High quality beer, particular useful if you are a little bit over the mass produced brands that are very common in this region of the world.
The center of Sarajevo is served by a spinal tram network which makes a counter clockwise loop around the central district. This tram network opened in the mid-1870s and was the first in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Tickets should be purchased in advance from kiosks labeled tisak on the street or from the driver, where they cost slightly more (around 1.80KM). Tickets should be validated upon boarding the vehicle and are valid for a one way trip only. Changing tram or bus means validating a new ticket. A day card valid for unlimited travel on all local public transport in Zone A is available for about 5KM. Please note that inspectors board public transport very frequently: if you can’t reach the validator machine because the tram is too crowded, then don’t board the tram.
Getting In and Out
You can get to and from Sarajevo from Mostar in the south by both train and bus. The train is the preferred choice if the schedule suites you, simply because its a beautiful journey to take by train. From Mostar you can then catch transport easily down to Dubrovnik or Kotor There is also a train that runs from Zagreb to Sarajevo during the day and then back to Zagreb as a night train. It takes about 9 hours. However my preference would be make a stopover for a day or two in Jajce instead. Its a beautiful little town that can be used as a nice stopping point if you are going to or from Zagreb. Sarajevo to Jajce is about 5 hours.