Good morning, Sarajevo. Sorry it’s taken so long for you to get here. After the Bosnian War, it didn’t exactly seem like a good destination for tourists. But so much has changed in the last two decades. The city has been rebuilt. The historic center has been restored. The tramway continues to be modernized. While the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is now one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe. It’s time to explore this Balkan gem.
Sarajevo sits at the foothills of the Dinaric Alps. It’s been considered the crossroads of the East and the West for centuries. Though the area has been inhabited since Neolithic times, the current city wasn’t founded by the Ottomans until the mid-15th century. But peace didn’t last. The assassination of the Archduke of Austria in the city sparked the beginning of World War I in 1914, and the country became part of Yugoslavia after the war. The later war, the Bosnian War, didn’t help either. By the time that war ended in 1996, rubble and bullet holes filled the small city. Today, Sarajevo is once again brimming with green parks, red-roofed houses, little cafés, and welcoming people.
You have plenty of time to formulate a plan for the day over breakfast at the Hotel Colors Inn. The hotel sits on Koševo Street in the center of the city. It’s impossible to miss this brightly colored hotel, even with a late arrival the night before. Black-and-white photos fill the walls in the lobby. Minimal rooms have blue, green, and yellow color themes. Strong Turkish coffee and sweet baklava are served in the light-filled breakfast room. Plus the staff is eager help with ideas and suggestions around the city.
Pass through Veliki Park (Great Park), the largest green space in Sarajevo, as you head toward the river and the center of the city. The Old Town has cobbled streets, lots of coffee shops, and a Turkish feel. Baščaršija, the old bazaar, is the heart of the city. Mosques stand close to Catholic churches, Orthodox churches, and synagogues. The call to prayer briefly interrupts shoppers a few times each day. Bakeries sell cheese-stuffed sirnicas and sausage-filled cevapis. Stone bridges cross the slow-moving river. While the Eternal flame, a World War II memorial, stands on the other side of it.
Visit Bosnia and Herzegovina’s largest places of worship while you’re in the Old Town. The Sarajevo Cathedral, built in 1889, is the country’s largest cathedral, while the even older Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, from the 16th century, is the largest mosque. Cross the Latin Bridge, where the course of history changed after the 1914 assassination across the street. View the difficult yet moving displays at the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Get a bird’s-eye of the city from the 36th-floor observation deck of the modern Avaz Twist Tower. Continue to the Yellow Bastion for an even better—panoramic—view of the city. Then ride the cable car to Mount Trebević, a key landmark during the 1984 Winter Olympics, to watch the sun set over the Golden Valley. Sarajevo is brightly shining now.