Bosnia and Herzegovina

Alternative Sarajevo guide

Sarajevo Olympics
(Last Updated On: 26/02/2019)

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!

alternative Sarajevo guide

Sarajevo street art

So Sarajevo doesn’t have a big street art scene, yet. But I’m sure a 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 street art

Sarajevo street art

Sarajevo street art

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 the 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 pubs

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!

Kino Bosna

Kino Bosna

Kino Bosna

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 taken 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. Now, with the cable car going up to Mount Trebevic it’s easy to visit the place. You can walk over 1 km long concrete tube located in the middle of the forest, thinking how great it must have been back in 1984.

Sarajevo Olympics

Sarajevo Olympics

Sarajevo bobsled track

Ciglane neighbourhood

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 the better time but it is still operating, although you need to be lucky to catch the ride (out of my 3 visits in Ciglane I managed to ride the funicular only once).

The place is also full of street art, mostly with random graffiti but also some better pieces and one Mr. Chat can be found here. Few steps away from the blocks and the funicular 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 Ciglane

Sarajevo Ciglane

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. I’ve been returning there ever since.

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.

Visiting this place is always among my favorite things to do in Sarajevo.

Jewish Sarajevo

Jewish Sarajevo

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 much 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.

Sarajevo train station

Sarajevo train station

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. You can get your copy here!

Sarajevo

Logavina street in Sarajevo

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 its 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!

Sarajevo post office

Sarajevo post office


PLAN YOUR TRIP TO SARAJEVO

With over 15 years of independent traveling I’ve learned which websites and services are the best when planning a trip. I always use and trust the following websites:

Flights – I search for the best deals on either Momondo or SkyScanner. Both search numerous sites to find the best offers. I also really like the “everywhere” option when searching for the flights as it often gives me the inspiration, if not for this trip then for the next time.

Accommodation – I always book my accommodation through Booking.com. They have really good deals (especially with their “Genius” program that you become a member of after few reservations) and in most of the cases, if your plans change, you can cancel the reservation without any extra costs. I also value them for a really good customer service that I had to use a few times. I wrote the whole post focusing on where to stay in Sarajevo – click here to read Sarajevo accommodation guide!

Insurance – I never travel without the insurance as you never know what might happen on the road (I’ve learnt my lesson). I can recommend World Nomads that offer the insurance dedicated to travelers just like you and me. Check the insurance options for your trip here!

Guide books – I do like reading a guide book before and during the trip. Depending on the destination I usually buy either Lonely Planet or Bradt. For Bosnia and Herzegovina I definitely recommend Bradt guide – get your copy here!

Day tours in Sarajevo – I do go for a day trips when I travel as often they are the most convenient way to see the place that save you time and money. Click here to see and book the best day tours in Sarajevo!


For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:

  • Would you like to travel to Central/Eastern Europe or the Balkans? Let me help you with travel planning! Click here for more details!
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  • Join my Facebook group about Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former USSR and connect with fellow travellers and enthusiasts of these regions – just click here!
  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. If you like what you are reading and seeing here and would like to support me and my blog please consider using those links. It would be like getting me a virtual drink that you don’t have to pay for! Thanks!

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Marcin - NRWTrip
    26/08/2015 at 19:24

    Sarajevo is a very destroyed city. Not so long ago there was a war there. For the avid tourist can be a real gem!

    • Reply
      kami
      07/09/2015 at 20:15

      yes, the siege remnants are still very visible there, I wrote a separate post about it. That’s one of the reasons why Sarajevo is so fascinating

  • Reply
    Iza Zawadzka
    26/08/2015 at 18:49

    Kiedyś… Zegar na budynku dworca jest identyczny jak ten w Skopje. Oby nigdy nie zatrzymał się w podobnych okolicznościach. Widzę, że oprócz motywu Pana Kota na murach są jeszcze dość charakterystyczne róże… Musisz kiedyś zrobić wpis na temat samej postaci Pana Kota w różnych miastach. W Belgradzie go nie znalazłam :-(

  • Reply
    Darek | Przedeptane.pl
    26/08/2015 at 20:11

    I love that street art. Something very different from the things we see in western metropolises.

    • Reply
      kami
      07/09/2015 at 20:15

      well, the cat is present in many cities, recently I’ve found it in Lisbon. But the street art scene in the Balkans really has a lot of potential!

  • Reply
    Dee
    26/08/2015 at 20:52

    Olimpic gamet 1984 are the first I ever remember so seeing those photos made me really emotional and sad. I remember this mascot! I’ve never been to Sarajevo, but I really want to, and after reading your text, especially about cafés and pubs I know I will go there sooner then later!

    • Reply
      kami
      07/09/2015 at 20:20

      Sarajevo is one of my top 3 cities so I can only say you should go there as soon as possible, I’m sure you’d love it! It’s so sad yet so fascinating to visit

  • Reply
    antonette - we12travel
    26/08/2015 at 21:07

    Great post – I haven’t heard of many people traveling to Sarajevo and I’m sure this place deserves a lot more travellers than it gets. You made an important step by writing this guide!

    • Reply
      kami
      07/09/2015 at 20:21

      you’re right, Sarajevo still feels kind of underrated and off the path yet I find it one of the more fascinating (if not the most) cities in Europe! So much history there, so many cultures colliding!

  • Reply
    Darek Jedzok
    27/08/2015 at 06:20

    Chociaż nigdy nie ciągnęło mnie na Bałkany, to Sarajevo zdecydowanie byłoby na pierwszym miastem, do którego bym się wybrał – właśnie z powodu tej nieoczywistości i wszystkiego tego, przez co musiało przejść…

  • Reply
    Evi Mielczarek
    27/08/2015 at 09:18

    Sounds like a really interesting city! Totally unknown to me, but now I know little bit more ;)

    • Reply
      kami
      07/09/2015 at 20:22

      it is extremely interesting! definitely a must visit place in Europe!

  • Reply
    Meg Jerrard
    27/08/2015 at 12:21

    Thanks for this guide to Sarajevo Kami – I visited in 2007 when it was still recovering from the civil war also; though we were only there for a day and on a very tight schedule as I was traveling through Europe on a contiki tour. Fabulous way to see a lot of Europe all in one go, but because we were moving at such a fast pace we really missed quality time to explore fully. I would love to get back and visit the sites you’ve recommended.

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      kami
      07/09/2015 at 20:31

      I always believe that if we truly liked one place, even if during a very short visit, we will come back there eventually. and I really hope you will get to see Sarajevo properly as it really is a fascinating city with so much to offer!

  • Reply
    Michał Qmoh
    27/08/2015 at 14:55

    Ów wilczek na tym muralu to zda się maskotka Olimpiady.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEbL3i-AC80

  • Reply
    Marta
    27/08/2015 at 21:13

    Wow! Amazing place. Sometimes it looks scary, but I would like to visit this city :)

    • Reply
      kami
      07/09/2015 at 20:31

      it might look slightly scary as it’s still recovering from the civil war but it is perfectly safe! Hope you will go there one day!

  • Reply
    Kinga Bielejec
    28/08/2015 at 06:51

    Uwielbiam to miasto!

  • Reply
    Ibazela | Love Traveling
    28/08/2015 at 11:04

    Oh gosh, Kami. I feel that you saved my day. I’m reading different blogs all morning and this is the first post which is not about kangaroos on drugs or how to run through 4000 pieces of art on 45000 square meters in just 2 hours. Finally I can sit and relax. I’m sure you didn’t run from one place to another just to check Sarajevo on your “where I’ve been” map. You know what I like about your blog? That you can show not-very-beautiful-places (not to say a little ugly… Sorry, Sarajevo, I’m so sorry!!!) in such a interesting way, that everyone says “Wow! Great! I need to see this! When is the next flight?” ;) And I really thank you for that! :D

    • Reply
      kami
      07/09/2015 at 20:33

      Thank you from your lovely comment Ibazela! And I can ensure you I gave Sarajevo plenty of time, it’s a pure pleasure to be there, it’s been my second visit and I’m already thinking of returning :)

  • Reply
    Paweł Jakubowski
    30/08/2015 at 04:41

    Nigdy nie byłem… jakoś nie po drodze… może czas to zmienić?

    • Reply
      Olka Zagórska-Chabros
      30/08/2015 at 08:03

      Sarajevo po prostu trzeba odwiedzić. To miasto na swój sposób uzależnia i wciąga.

  • Reply
    Zofia Bałdyga
    30/08/2015 at 09:40

    I’ll be there in two weeks. Can’t wait.

  • Reply
    Field trip to Sarajevo | unitd2015
    04/11/2015 at 19:13

    […] were often accompanied by Mr. Chat, ‘a smiling cat created by the French artist Thoma Vuille (https://www.mywanderlust.pl/alternative-sarajevo-guide/). We tried to find images of Mr. Chat as many as we could during our […]

  • Reply
    Bitchin' Balkans 2.0: Activate! - concrete and kitsch - offbeat destinations from an offbeat traveler
    24/12/2015 at 16:50

    […] decision…).  In Sarajevo, we have no concrete plans, but I’m using Kami’s Guide to Alternative Sarajevo as a guide of things to see.  We’ll also be joining a local running group for a 12k run […]

  • Reply
    Alessandro
    20/10/2016 at 21:05

    Well, I thought I saw a lot in Sarajevo, but your post showed me I’m wrong! I can’t wait to be back there and visit those places. Thanks for this contribution :-)

    • Reply
      kami
      24/10/2016 at 22:06

      I hope you will be back in Sarajevo soon, this city never gets boring!

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