10 Completely Free Things to Do in Sarajevo
The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a hidden gem of Europe. Sometimes referred to as the European Jerusalem, the city is a dream destination for anyone interested in religion or history.
Partly due to nearby countries like Greece and Croatia being overloaded wth tourists and not being as cheap as they were, Bosnia is now a really up and coming authentic destination which is gaining in popularity every year.
If you are planning a break to the capital of Bosnia there are lots of sights and places to check out. Jimmy Munk Larsen recently visited this city and has made a list of the best things to do in Sarajevo all of which are completely free...
When the Bosnian war broke out in 1992, Vijećnica came into center of the events, as it was one of the first targets of the Bosnian Serb army. Why? It housed the national library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. By shelling the building, putting it on fire and using snipers against firefighters and volunteers, the aggressor tried to burn down not only Vijećnica, but also the Bosnian identity.
Millions of documents and thousands of thousands of books were lost forever. In 2014, Vijećnica reopened. You can enter the impressive Austro-Hungarian building for free, walk around where Vedran Smailović – the Cellist of Sarajevo – played during the war, and see burned books put on display. There is also a museum about Sarajevo’s history in the basement.
2. See Where World War 1 Started
In the summer of 1914, members of the Serbian Black Hand secret society murdered Franz Ferdinand – the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – and his wife Sophie. The fatal shots fired by a young Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, started a chain reaction of events, which eventually led to the outbreak of World War 1.
The spot from which Princip fired has a small plate with a neutral text. Even today, Princip is dividing the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The majority of Serbs consider him a hero, while the majority of Croats see him as a terrorist. The Bosniaks – the Bosnian Muslims – are divided.
3. Emperor’s Mosque
The most famous of Sarajevo’s many mosques, are the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque in the center of the old town. It is not free to enter though. However, on the other side of the river – just across Vijećnica – is another impressive mosque – Emperor’s Mosque. This mosque is actually older than the Gazi Husrev-beg, being the first mosque built in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Ottoman conquest – and it’s free to enter.
The old quarter of Sarajevo is the heart of the city and its most charming district. Loaded with shops, restaurants and cafés, you can wander around for hours here – without getting lost. Baščaršija is not like a medina of North Africa, and you will have a real hard time getting lost here.
Make sure to take a stroll through the Kazandžiluk Street. This is the copper street, where the coppersmiths used to make their unique goods. There is still a few of the real coppersmiths left, and you will definitely hear the sound of their work from the back rooms. Compared to Morocco or India, it is very relaxing to wander around Baščaršija, and you will not face any intrusive sellers.
5. Lion’s Cemetery
If you feel like getting up close to the war and its consequences, you can visit Lion’s Cemetery. It used to be a football pitch, but was put into use as a cemetery during the siege, which killed more than 11.000 people. Many of the victims are buried here. One story that put Sarajevo on the lips of news reporters around the world is the one of Boško and Admira – Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo. They were a young couple shot by snipers while trying to escape Sarajevo. He was a Serb – she was a Muslim.
6. Challenge the Locals to a Game of Chess
No matter if, you like Chess or not, you’ll be a fan of the game, after turning up in the park of Trg Oslobođenja, to see the men play Šah – as they call it in Bosnian. It’s the perfect location for people watching or just relaxing with a burek or a beer. Surprisingly, the chess players actually doesn’t mind tourists taking photos. If you make it a habit during your stay in Sarajevo, to finish the day with a game of Chess, you’ll notice that after a few days, you’ll start recognizing the players around the city. Sarajevo is not that huge.
7. Crkva Svetog Ante Padovanskog
The Church of Saint Anthony of Padua is a Catholic monastery and church – and thereby Croatian. Nevertheless, Serbians are using the church for prayers on Tuesdays – and Muslims on Fridays. Located right next to Sarajevo Brewery, you owe yourself to take a look inside. The stained glass mosaics are beautiful! In the courtyard of the monastery, you’ll be able to hear a mix up of bell towers and call to prayer.
8. Sunset from The Yellow Fortress
Žuta Tabija is the yellow fortress, located on a hill with great view of Sarajevo. On top of the 18th century fortress, there’s a café, but you can bring your own picnic-food as well. During the holy month of Ramadan, one of the cannons of the fortress shoots to mark the sunset. Don’t be scared of the steep hike – the walk back to the city will be fast!
9. Free Walking Tour
Sarajevo has numerous free walking tours. The concept is the same as in any other city: At the end of the tour, you tip what you feel like tipping. If the tour wasn’t worth a penny, don’t tip a penny… But seriously… These tours are usually much better than prepaid tours. In that case - don’t be an asshole. Tip fair.
One of the things you will most likely learn on a free walking tour is the sad story about the Sarajevo Roses that you’ll notice when wandering around in Sarajevo. Personally, I’ll recommend Neno & Friends free walking tours. They operate every day from April 1st – October 31st at 10:30 from the National Theater.
10. Drink Water from the Sebilj
No need to buy water – tap water is drinkable in Sarajevo. Make sure to have a taste of the water from the Sebilj fountain in the central square of Baščaršija. It’s magic! A local legend says that if you drink it, you are doomed to return to Sarajevo!
By Jimmy Munk Larsen