If you follow me for a while you probably know very well that Sarajevo is one of my top 3 cities (together with Prague and Yerevan). There’re numerous reasons for that: the recent tragic history that plays with my mind way too much, its fascinating multiculturalism or just the overall vibe… All of these together make me fall in love and enjoy Sarajevo more and more each day I spent there (actually as I’m writing this my mind already is looking for options to return there). But what about the alternative side of the city, the one I try to find in all the places I visit? Well, since Sarajevo is still somehow recovering after the siege and civil war of 90s it wasn’t the greatest choice for some quirky explorations. But I surely found some cool spots! Here’s my alternative Sarajevo guide!
Sarajevo street art
So Sarajevo doesn’t have a big street art scene, yet. But I’m sure few more years and I will be such a hub as nearby Zagreb or Belgrade. There’re no big murals around but the city was taken over by Mr. Chat, a smiling cat created by the French artist Thoma Vuille. I’ve managed to find 12 of them and each time when I’ve spotted one I was grinning as much as the cat itself! There were few random graffiti around as well but still Sarajevo is waiting for some better street art times!
Read more about Sarajevo street art (including map with locations)
Sarajevo cafe culture
I expected to find many great cafes in Sarajevo and I wasn’t disappointed. After all the city has an Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman past and cafes play an important role in both cultures. And so Sarajevo is full of all kind of places: fancy cafes, cafes with crazy interior, new hip spots or small, cozy places – everyone will find something for their taste! My personal faves were: Zlatna Ribica, Meeting Point, Kriterion and Caffe Gallery Boris Smoje.
Sarajevo has some great pubs too, like Tito (where the whole interior is themed after the ex-Yugoslavia leader and it’s a nostalgic place for many) or Kino Bosna. I visited the further one twice: during the evening when it was packed with people and around noon when it was still closed but the guard saw me taking pictures around and let me in to take a look. This former cinema – Kino Bosna – became useless after the war and eventually was turned into the major party spot for locals. Yet the interior still remained the same, with the big stage, rows of chairs and old cinema posters on the walls. Definitely a must place to check!
Sarajevo Olympics remnants
In 1984 Sarajevo hosted Winter Olympic Games, 10 years later it was under the siege and most of the infrastructure was destroyed, the Olympic stadium served as the cemetery for the victims. These days you still can find many symbols reminding of the greatest event that has ever took place in Sarajevo. Next to the train and bus station there’s an old sign with Vucko (the Olympic mascot), the (in)famous Holiday Inn hotel has an Olympic symbol on the wall, so has the pavement in Ferhadija (the main pedestrian street in the center of Sarajevo). The Olympic stadium in Kosevo has lots of faded stencils with Vucko and winter disciplines. But the biggest attraction is the bobsleigh track, located in the hills above the city. Sadly I haven’t made it there (it was still pretty tricky to get up to the hills in February when I visited) but after reading about it on Silvia’s and Nate’s blogs I know I have to return to Sarajevo and climb up there!
Built in the middle of the 20th century it used to be a better neighborhood of Sarajevo, now it’s just another working-class district that looks like an architect’s nightmare. It’s located on the steep hill (one of many in the city) and the buildings are squeezed, creating some sort of wedding cake alike structure. The area is mostly known for the lift that takes the inhabitants to the higher parts of the neighborhood so they don’t have to climb 401 stairs to the top. The machine definitely remembers better time but it looks it’s still operating (sadly it wasn’t when I visited on Sunday morning). The place is also full of street art, mostly with random graffiti but also some better pieces and one Mr. Chat can be found there. Few steps away from the blocks and the lift there’s an outdoor market with just about everything! The area can be visited on the way to Kosevo stadium that is a little bit further.
Sarajevo Jewish cemetery
For the reason I cannot even explain I really enjoy visiting Jewish cemeteries. And the one in Sarajevo is among the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen. It might have been the winter time or the beautiful location and the stunning views of the city (used by the snipers during the siege) but I really loved the place. It’s second largest Jewish cemetery in Europe and such a serene place, during my visit there was no one around. It is often included in the siege tours but it’s much better to go there on your own, wander around the graveyards and feel the history of the city, also the most recent one.
Sarajevo train station
I’m a railways geek and I always try to visit the train station, no matter where I am. And so I did in Sarajevo. The building looks pretty impressive, both inside and outside, even if it feels really empty and somehow neglected. Sadly I couldn’t find many information about it online but it definitely looks like it’s modernism from the socialist times (I’d guess around 1960s-1970s). If you’re in the area (i.e. to visit Avaz Twist Tower or the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina) you definitely should take a look at the train station to.
random streets up from Bascarsija
Most visitors in Sarajevo hang out in the area of Bascarsija, where East meets West and four religions’ sanctuaries stand next to each other. But you should definitely wander around some random streets up from there, cross Mula Mustafe Baseskije or Marsala Tita street and get lost in the maze of lanes there. The life goes slower, you don’t feel like you’re in the big city anymore and the architecture can surprise you too, it’s a mix of random regular houses, some modern blocks and grand buildings remembering times of Austria-Hungary. Also, if you’re interested in the siege you should walk up Logavina street, with Barbara Demick’s book in your hand.
main post office building
The grand building, located at Obala Kulina bana street, next to Cobanija bridge, looks incredible from the outside. But inside it’s even more stunning and will make your jaw drop the moment you step inside. It was the first building destroyed during the siege and it restoration played an important role in regaining inhabitants’ morale. The building shines just like before and even if you don’t need to send out postcards you definitely should visit it and be amazed by its beauty!
Franz Ferdinand Hostel
I can’t think of a better place to stay in Sarajevo! Franz Ferdinand Hostel is located just a street away from the Catholic Cathedral, few steps from Ferhadija – the main pedestrian lane in the city. But the perfect location isn’t the best thing about the hostel! You probably know that the archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo and that was the reason behind the First World War. And that’s the theme of the hostel. Every room is named after the person or the event that played a big role back then, I stayed in „Sophie and Franz” with big picture of the couple and random trivia about their lives and death on the wall. At first I found it really weird but shortly after I was amused and really enjoyed my room (not to mention the comfy bed!). The atmosphere in the hostel is also pretty great, with fellow travelers chatting and exchanging stories about their Balkans travels (that’s usually done during really decent breakfast). I also spent way too much time in the kitchen/common room, just staring at the huge map of Central Europe and planning my future trips. Definitely the best place to stay in Sarajevo!
In Sarajevo I can definitely recommend you staying at Hostel Franz Ferdinand, the place itself is really cool and the location is unbeatable! You can book the place in the hostel here. And if hostels are not your thing here you can find other accommodation options in Sarajevo.
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If you think of visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
Note: my trip to Sarajevo was in partnership with Franz Ferdinand hostel but all opinions remain 100% my own, as always!
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