Sarajevo has an incredible history, and that’s only one of many reasons why you should visit this fascinating city. It is a city known for its contrasts, its where the Western & Eastern Roman Empire split; where the Roman Catholic West, Orthodox East and the Ottoman South collides and where Islam, Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Judaism all combine to create an amazing religiously diverse city. It one of the few countries in Europe which truly feels foreign, and when I first arrived, it was everything I wanted from the former Yugoslavia.
Go on a Walking Tour:
To get the most out of your trip to Sarajevo, whether you are on a budget or have cash to splash, you should go on one of the free walking tours offered by ‘Neno and friends’. Neno runs three types of walking tour, ‘East Meets West’, ‘War Scars and New Times’ and ‘Food and Culture’. They run most days and are a fantastic way to learn about the city, its culture and its history. Neno, who lived in the city during the war, has so many amazing stories about the war. Ask him for the story about his mother and her high heels, it's hilarious.
Below is a picture of a Sarajevo Rose, one of the ways that the Bosnians have memorialised the war. A Sarajevo Rose is the crater of a motor shell which has been filled in with a red resin. You will see these scattered all over the city, they are a powerful reminder of the struggle and suffering the people here have been through.
Sarajevo is a small city, so if you are staying for a few days I would recommend doing the tour on your first day, so that you don't end up revisiting places. Although they are free, I would recommend giving Neno a tip at the end of it, how much is obviously your choice. To book onto a tour, or organise a private one, or just for more information, click here.
Try the Best Food Bosnia has to Offer:
What I hadn’t realised before going to Bosnia and Herzegovina is that the food is mouth-wateringly good. I love food, and being in Sarajevo for such a short time made it difficult to try everything that I wanted to. But there were a few things I tired that you have to eat.
Cevapi - which is a Bosnian Kebab.
Sac - any meat that comes under sac you have to try! It’s a traditional way of cooking meat, where hot coals and ashes are heaped on top of meat inside a metal, ceramic or earthenware lid.
Pita - Flakey pastry with different fillings, usually rolled into a spiral and cut into sections. If you are British, the meat one kind of tastes like a posh Cornish Pasty.
Filovane paprike or Punjena paprika – fried bell peppers stuffed with minced meat.
Baklava - although I am not a massive fan of Baklava, I know so many people that are so in love with this desert that it just had to make the list. Baklava is a flaky pastry with layers of nuts drenched in honey.
Urban Exploration: Abandoned Bobsleigh Track
Today, Sarajevo appears to have physically recovered from the Yugoslav Wars, other than the Sarajevo roses that you will be able to spot around town. If you are interested in urban exploration and want to get a real understanding of the devastation of the war, you need to visit the abandoned bobsleigh track. If you like graffiti, then you will love the track which is covered head to toe in graffiti.
Yugoslavia hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics was held in Sarajevo, and during the Yugoslav wars, it was used as an artillery base by the Serb forces. The Serbs used the track as a defensive position to bomb the city below. As you walk down the track, you will notice holes that have been drilled into the side; these were used as sniper positions throughout the war. From Olympic glory to war zone, this bobsleigh track has so many stories to tell, and it will be the highlight of your trip.
Make sure you walk up to the start of the track and then walk all the way down to the bottom. At the bottom of the track, if you walk on a bit you should be able to find the abandoned Astronomical Observatory, click here for google maps.
Urban Exploration: Čolina Kapa Astronomical Observatory
Čolina Kapa Astronomical Observatory was originally an Austro-Hungarian military fortress during World War II. It was used as a key military observation point, and it is obvious to see why. The observatory has stunning views of the city below. After World War II the fortress was transformed into an astronomical observatory. During the Yugoslav Wars, like the city, it was destroyed by mortar shells. If you decide to go inside just be careful because a lot of the floor and walls are missing.
How to get there:
It is possible to hike to both the bobsleigh track and the observatory from the city. It is a steep hike and takes around two hours, but if a hike is what you are looking for then here is some advice. You should download the app Maps.me and then download the Bosna Map. What’s great about this app is that the maps that you download will work when you are offline and will track your position as you walk. The track is featured on the map, so it’s simple to find the best route up the track.
If you use Google Maps, the coordinates for the bobsleigh track are: 43.842503, 18.4424723 or click here.
And the coordinates of the observatory are: 43.851529, 18.439969 or click here.
I would suggest getting a taxi up to the top, it's really cheap and makes life a lot easier. But if you still want a hike then the walk down is much easier, and you get to see some beautiful views.
Even if you decide to take a taxi there and back, you should still wear sensible shoes to walk down the track and definitely if you decide to go inside the buildings.
We didn’t have any issues walking down from the track back into the city, but we had been warned that tourists sometimes get mugged on that route, and there are also packs of wild dogs to look out for.
When you are hiking, either up the mountain or back down, stay on the path. This used to be an active war zone, and there are still landmines dotted around.
When I went travelling my dad packed me off with a tourniquet, which I thought was ridiculous. But, I was grateful to have it when we were doing a little urban exploring, especially because neither of our phones worked. You might think a tourniquet is a bit far, but at least have a working phone in case something goes wrong.
Now you've got all the info to tackle Sarajevo like a Boss, go have an amazing time, and don't forget to pack a toothbrush!