Few places in Europe are defined by their modern history quite like Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even though the conflict in the country ended over twenty years ago, it’s only in recent years that places like the country’s capital city, Sarajevo, have started to really see tourists return. Those that do visit Sarajevo are in for a real treat, as this city is not only historic, but also culturally interesting and at times quite beautiful. If the idea of spending 2 days in Sarajevo has tapped into your wanderlust, then you’re going to want to read our Sarajevo itinerary full of all the best things to do in Sarajevo.
Best Time to Visit Sarajevo
Unlike some other European destinations, the best time to visit Sarajevo is rather obvious. That’s because there’s not a whole lot of complexity in the city’s weather. For the best sightseeing weather, it’s best to visit Sarajevo between May and September. When planning your trip you’ll also want to take into account the best times to visit other stops in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or elsewhere in the Balkans.
Because its surrounded by mountains, Sarajevo can get seriously cold and experiences long winters. From November through April, expect the city to be pretty chilly. Even in the summer the city doesn’t get obscenely hot either.
Sarajevo is not yet a city heaving under the weight of mass tourism, so there’s no real need to avoid it during summer. If you’re really worried about crowds, focus on the shoulder months of May and September.
How to Get Around Sarajevo
The city of Sarajevo closely follows the Miljacka River, meaning its shape is long and drawn out as it follows the valley. From the town’s Old Town, newer parts of Sarajevo stretch westward for kilometers, all the way to the airport. With only the odd exception, most places you’ll want to visit in Sarajevo are located within walking distance of the city’s Old Town.
When visiting Sarajevo, you’ll likely be arriving either by plane, bus, or train. Other than taking a taxi, you’re best option for getting from the airport is to take the airport bus for the price of 5.00KM into the city.
Sarajevo only has train connections with other major cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the southern city of Mostar. For all other overland transport, you’ll be coming by bus into the bus station just down from the train station. Both are several kilometers from the city center.
For most of your 48 hours in Sarajevo, you’ll be walking down and around the city’s historic center. Should you need to, you can get around the wider city on Sarajevo’s trams, buses, and trolley-buses. Single trip tickets for each can be bought at kiosks or on board from the driver for 1.60KM and 1.80KM respectively. There are also multi-trip ticket options available for the city’s trams.
Accommodation in Sarajevo
There aren’t too many challenges when it comes to figuring out where to stay in Sarajevo. Because of the city’s layout and centrally located attractions, the best part of the city to stay in is quite clear. Ideally, you want to find a place in or near the city’s Ottoman Old Town, as that’s where you’ll be spending much of your time.
Don’t ignore the far bank of the river though, as crossing the river is easy and could make for a nice start to your day. Best of all, accommodation in Sarajevo is much cheaper than in other European capital cities, allowing you to either save money or treat yourself to something nicer than usual.
One of the best places to stay in Sarajevo is Hotel Europe, a five star hotel that is both traditional and luxurious. Sitting right in the city’s old town, this hotel offers nice big rooms and features a wellness center with Turkish bath, saunas, and other personal treatments.
Thanks to the affordability of Sarajevo, even a hotel as nice as Hotel VIP is a great mid-range option for your visit. With big rooms, plenty of amenities, and a tasty free breakfast, this hotel is fantastic value given the price.
Sarajevo is ideal for backpackers or those on a budget with places like Balkan Han Hostel. Helpful staff and a handy location, plus a lovely garden which doubles as an outdoor cinema, make this an easy choice for those on a shoestring budget. If you need more hostel ideas for Sarajevo, be sure to check out our guide to Sarajevo’s best hostels.
For more accommodation options in Sarajevo check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 2-Day Sarajevo Itinerary
Even though Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a fairly large European city, you don’t need too long to see it. You should find that you can comfortably explore the best places to visit in Sarajevo in only a matter of days. To see the best of Sarajevo, we’re first going to take you through all the sights of the city’s Ottoman Old Town. From there, it’s about digging into Sarajevo’s tragic history, but also finding the city’s most curious and beautiful spots along the way.
However, before we get to our Sarajevo itinerary we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
Now that you’re covered should the worst happen, let’s get to the fun part of our Sarajevo travel itinerary. With it, working out what to do in Sarajevo in 2 days should be a breeze.
Day 1 in Sarajevo
To start your weekend in Sarajevo off right, your first day is all about exploring Sarajevo’s wonderful Old Town. Through it, you’ll get a sense of the deep history and captivating culture that both Sarajevo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole, have to share.
Of Sarajevo’s many attractions and landmarks, it’s interesting that the city’s most iconic one is the Sarajevo Sebilj. This wooden fountain sits proudly in the marketplace of the Old Town’s bazaar and is probably one of the city’s most photographed landmarks. Built in 1753, the fountain has an ornate Ottoman design and provides a real sense of place, sitting amongst the historic Ottoman buildings of the Old Town.
Old Town Bazaar
From the Sebilj, it only makes sense that you move on to explore the surrounding Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s Ottoman bazaar. Dating from the Middle Ages, the streets of this marketplace have long been a place for craftsmen to trade their wares. Even walking about today, you’ll find stores selling metalwork, jewelry, and clothes, among the restaurants and cafes that also call the bazaar home.
Apart from the stores and cafes, there are a number of other major historic landmarks to be found in the bazaar. First there’s the Baščaršija Mosque, the minaret of which can usually be seen poking above the rooftops of the bazaar. Built sometime before the 16th century, the mosque is home to a stunning courtyard, and is considered a national monument. Another historic building worth your time is the Morića Han, an inn, or caravanserai, which you can visit, with history that stretches back to the 16th century.
Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
Perhaps the most impressive landmark found within Sarajevo’s Old Town is the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, built in 1532. Not only a major tourist site, it is actually the largest mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina and an important center for the country’s Islamic community. What brings tourists though to this mosque is its elegant Ottoman architecture and impressive presence within the city. While you are welcome to visit inside, please be sure to dress respectfully as it is a house of worship.
Old Bezistan Covered Market
In the old Ottoman bazaar, not all of the market’s stores and stalls were on the city streets. Instead, some were and still are found within the covered market known as the Old Bezistan. While metalworkers and jewelers operated outdoors, those who made and sold textiles called this indoor market home for centuries. On a visit, you can walk through this great stone structure, and see all sorts of souvenir stores along the way.
Off along the outside of the Bezistan Covered Market, you’ll find the open air ruins of the Tašlihan. Like the Morića Han, this was an Ottoman caravanserai from the 16th century, although only foundations of the building now remain.
Miljacka Riverfront and Latin Bridge
Back outside again, it’s time to stroll along the scenic riverfront of the Miljacka River which runs through the city. Even with the sound of old trams clacking along in the background, this can be quite a relaxing walk. Thanks to the many bridges that link the two sides of the river, you can easily cross back and forth as you go, continuously seeking out the best river views.
Besides its scenery, there are some major city landmarks to be found on the banks of the Miljacka river. Along the way there are impressive and stately buildings like the Sarajevo Fine Arts Academy, the Vijećnica, and the Inat Kuća traditional Ottoman house.
However, the spot that most travelers to Sarajevo make sure they visit is the Latin Bridge. It may not look like anything special, but it was by this bridge that the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, starting the events that would spark the First World War. On the northern end of the bridge you’ll find a plaque to mark the spot along with a museum on the period of Austrian rule.
Bosnian Coffee and Baklava
The food of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be quite similar to cuisine of other Balkan nations. But two things that are very strongly tied to the country are coffee and baklava. Both Bosnian coffee and the local baklava are similar to the styles found in Turkey, but that doesn’t make them any less firmly a part of life here.
So if you’re in need of a break from sightseeing, this is what you should be eating. While there are umpteen different choices of where to get them in the Old Town, a good convenient pick is Aksaraj, which can be found opposite the Baščaršijska Mosque.
Kovači Martyr’s Cemetery
Visiting a cemetery as a tourist isn’t for everyone, as some people see it as a sign of disrespect to those who are buried there along with their families. But as with Kovači Cemetery, these places can be beautiful and also important reminders of history.
This cemetery with its sea of white pillar-shaped headstones is dedicated to those who died during the Bosnian War. It’s a stark reminder of how deadly this conflict was and even more tragic to see how young so many of the people were when they were killed. Be sure to pay your respects as you make your way through the cemetery to the top of the hill for the view back down over the cemetery and out to the city.
However, for the best view and a great sunset spot, you need to keep going up. From the top of the cemetery, follow the hill a little more before coming to the imposing walls of Yellow Fortress (Žuta Tabija). Overlooking the entire city, this 18th century fortress simply looks like a bunch of trees sitting atop high stone walls. Not very large or interesting on its own, you’ll want to find a spot amongst the locals perched on the walls and watch the sun set on your first day in Sarajevo.
Day 2 in Sarajevo
For the second day, it’s time that we turn our attention to sites of Sarajevo’s recent past. However, since there’s so much to see here, we’ll also make a brief return to the Ottoman Old Town.
Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum
To get a better sense of the events that occurred in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, start your day with a visit out to the Sarajevo War Tunnel. This small museum out past the airport sits on the sight of one end of a crucial tunnel constructed during the war. Also known as the Tunnel of Hope, this tunnel was the only access the besieged city of Sarajevo had to the rest of the world from 1993 to 1996.
Visiting this private museum, you’ll find exhibits on the tunnels construction and why it was so necessary during the siege. On a guided tour, you’ll also learn about life during the siege, as well as visit a section of the meter-wide tunnel itself.
Recommendation: If you want to learn more Sarajevo’s destruction and salvation, we highly recommend the Times of Misfortune tour. The tour is 4 hours long and takes you to all of Sarajevo’s key sites including Sniper alley, War Tunnel Museum, Trebevic mountain, Jewish cemetery, Yellow and White bastion.
The City’s Scars of War
After learning more about this period in Sarajevo’s history, it’s a good idea to walk around the city to really allow the information to fully sink in. Simply look up at the buildings around the city and sooner or later you’re sure to spy bullet holes in the sides of buildings.
There are still many building facades that have yet to be restored, most commonly on buildings like the apartment tenements outside of the Old Town area. While you’re wandering, also look for the “Sarajevo Roses”, patches of concrete where scars from mortar damage have been filled in with red resin.
All of this a grave reminder of how fresh the wounds are, but also how much Sarajevo has worked to move on from its past. If you’re looking for a more direct approach to find the painful reminders of the past, consider taking a themed walking tour. Not only will the tour help you see these spots, but it will also provide some context along with stories from this difficult period in time.
Avaz Twist Tower
As a city with so much history, you might be wondering whether there’s anything new and modern about Sarajevo. That question is answered with the Avaz Twist Tower, a tall glass skyscraper built in 2008. Out near the newer parts of the city and the business district, the 176 meter high twisted tower is a terrific contrast to some of the concrete Brutalist architecture nearby. On the 36th floor of the tower, there’s an observation deck and cafe from which you can take in the Sarajevo cityscape.
With so much focus on Sarajevo’s Ottoman period and the events of the 1990s, it’s important to remember that there’s much more to the city’s history. One spot that makes for a good reminder of this is the Eternal Flame memorial. Dedicated to those who died during WWII, it honors those who fought and suffered when the entire country of Yugoslavia was invaded by the Nazis and Axis powers. It is a simple, yet touching memorial.
Churches of Sarajevo
While we’ve visited a few of the city’s mosques, it’s vital to remember that Sarajevo is culturally and religiously complex. The city is home to people of many different religions, whether it be Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, or Orthodox Christianity. It is this meeting of faiths and cultures that earned the city the nickname “Jerusalem of the Balkans”.
So since we’ve seen several of Sarajevo’s mosques, let’s go find some churches too. First, there’s the catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral, the Gothic architecture of which certainly makes it stand out. Also hard to miss in the city center is the orthodox Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos and its exquisite interior. In the streets to the north of the Ottoman old town, you’ll find many more churches of various denominations.
Although you likely saw it as you walked along the riverfront your first day, it’s time to pay the Vijećnica the attention it deserves. Once a city hall, it became a monumental library after WWII, full of rare books and documents. Sadly, it suffered extensive and deliberate damage during the Bosnian War and since then, a lot of effort has gone into restoring this gem of neo-Moorish architecture.
While the building has a striking exterior that is hard to miss, it pays to venture inside as well. For 5.00MK, you’ll find an elegantly painted interior and above it a splendid stained glass ceiling that you wouldn’t expect.
And so closes our guide to exploring Sarajevo in 2 days. We do hope you now have a much better idea of how to go about sightseeing in Sarajevo and come away from your visit wondering why it took you so long to get there. For other destination ideas for Bosnia and Herzegovina, check out our itinerary to Mostar.