Despite being one of the most unknown and undiscovered capitals of Europe, Sarajevo is definitely one of the most charismatic and fascinating. This is not a capital like any other in in the world; there is a high energy level here that makes you get attached to this place after the first stroll in town. This is a capital city that has a soul, a heart beating at every corner, a story to tell, scars to show, dreams to fulfill.
During its centuries of history, Sarajevo has been called “the door”; the connecting link between West and East, between two worlds, two cultures, two religions that for centuries have been peacefully living together among its stunning mountains.
In the 90’s the Balkan war destroyed not only the town but this dream of peace that had been the highlight of its history. But, just like what happened to Sarajevo under the Siege, when the town managed to resist to more than 1425 days of bombings by the Serbians, the same happened to this dream.
The war ended and Sarajevo was rebuilt, and together with it the spirit of peace and tolerance. Today, Sarajevo is slowly coming back to the splendour of the past. There are scars in every corner of the city and in the heart of its people, but the town itself is alive and blooming again with the same old spirit that has lead its history since for centuries.
A visit to Sarajevo is a must and it will be a pleasant discover of one of the most alternative and lively capitals of Europe. Whether you love history, urban sights or nature, you will find everything in Sarajevo.
Here is a list of the top sites not to be missed when you are in town:
The bridge that started the 20th century
Do you remember being told in school about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria? He and his wife Sophie, heirs to the Austro-Hungarian throne were murdered by a member of the Black Hand secret society on the 28th June 1914 on Sarajevo bridge, leading directly to the beginning of WWI. Today, you can stand on the exact corner that changed the course of history and the world as we know it. For a small fee, head into the little museum on the same corner to watch a short reenactment video of the incident and see some historical artifacts.
The “Tunnel of Life”, the place that ended the 20th century
At the peak of the Balkan War, the Serbian troops put their eyes on Sarajevo and tried to conquer it as their army was much larger and better equipped than the Bosnian army. But Serbians highly underestimated the spirit of Sarajevo. The Bosnian capital managed to resist the attack for the next 1425 days, remaining under siege without falling; more than 3 years of isolation in which more than 11000 people died struggling to resist the fatal war attack. Sarajevo would have fallen if it hadn’t been for the secret 800 meter long “Tunnel of Life” that was dug under the UN-controlled airport that separated the besieged part of the city and the free zone, allowing the passage of essential goods. The tunnel was dug in the backyard of a local family outside Sarajevo, by hands, by volunteers and it literally kept the people in town and the town itself alive. It has been estimated that more than a million people have passed through it during the Siege. Today, when you speak with people in Sarajevo, literally everyone has a story linked to that place. A must, not to be missed.
In Sarajevo, just after the war, a number of craters left by fatal mortar strikes were filled with red resin to remember those lost during the Siege of Sarajevo. Those open wounds left in the streets are still visible today as blood-like stains and known as “Sarajevo Roses”, they are literally everywhere in town, you just need to open your eyes and your heart and they will become visible along the streets you’ll walk everyday.
Bašcaršija, The Old Town
In Sarajevo, you will find yourself crossing the tiny narrow streets of the Old Town hundreds times every day and, despite this, you will always find a new corner to discover. The old town is full of cafes and narghile bars where you can drink the traditional Bosnian coffee and eat baklavas and traditional pastries, and traditional copper shops selling old copper objects coming from the traditions.
City view from the Adecco Hotel
Located right in the city center, with the entrance next to the Eternal Flame, the Adecco Hotel and its stunning view from the cafe on the 9th floor are a must when in Sarajevo. Head up there at sunrise and you can see how the beautiful hilled landscape gradually changes colour from all corners of town.
The Town Hall
Sarajevo’s Town Hall is one of the most impressive displays of Austro-Hungarian architecture you’ll find. The building was bombed and destroyed by the Serbian army during the siege of Sarajevo. At that time, the building hosted one of the biggest libraries of the Balkans. All the books went destroyed under the bombing. At the end of the war, the Bosnians decided to rebuild the building according to how it was before. Today the Town Hall is a museum, its shiny colours are back to life again and it has been completely redecorated by hand as it was in the past. A celebration to the coming back to life of this town and its resilient people.
The Lunar Clock
Right next to the Gazi Husrev Bey’s Mosque, the clock tower may look bizarre at a first glance as the time doesn’t match the one you can see on your watch. No, the clock is not out of order, it simply shows you lunar time. The “midnight” or beginning of a new day is at sunset. In the past, the lunar clocks were very common in the Muslim world and were always placed next to the mosques. They were used to let Muslim residents know when it was time to pray – which happened to be the time of sunset during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. As the length of the day is never the same, the clock time is adjusted weekly by the muvekit (the official timekeeper) to take into account the position of the sun.