Now the capital city of an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo is an old city that has seen its fair share of historic events. It saw to the defining moment that sparked the outbreak of the First World War, years of communist rule as part of former Yugoslavia, and its own bloody civil war in the early 1990's. It is known as a city tolerant of diversity, and celebrates the peaceful coexistence of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Check out our list of the top things to see and do in Sarajevo.
Sacred Heart Cathedral Sarajevo
One of Sarajevo’s most recognizable landmarks is its main cathedral, which is also the largest cathedral in the country. Construction of the cathedral finished in 1889, and it's in the Neo-Gothic style common to eastern Europe. The interior features delicate patterned arches and wood carvings, as well as typical Catholic paintings of saints and other important Catholic figures.
The rood screen in particular features a numbers of paintings, surrounded by wood painted gold. The cathedral is in the old town area of the city, making it a central feature of the main tourist district, and it is open to look around for free
Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel Sarajevo
One of Sarajevo’s oldest churches, still in its near-original condition, is this Orthodox church dating from the early 16th century. It is less extravagant than many Orthodox churches, which gives it a unique charm. It features the usual Orthodox church tower, but apart from that it is almost unrecognizable as an Orthodox church. It has grey stone walls, a tiled roof, and a humble entrance.
Inside, the décor is slightly more luxurious but is still clearly much more historic than many other Orthodox churches in the country. The ceiling is painted simply, and there is minimal gold detailing. Around the church is a lovely courtyard, which is made shady thanks to climbing plants and hanging flowers. The church is open to visitors, and is conveniently in the old town quarter.
Sarajevo Town Hall
Easily one of the most stunning examples of architecture from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Sarajevo is the town hall. Known locally at the Vjećnica, it was built in 1898 but underwent much recent refurbishment as it was a target for the Serbs during the war. During refurbishment each detail was copied from the exact original specification. Inside are intricate carvings and painted patterns, beautiful stained glass, as well as archways, windows and staircases featuring exquisite geometric detailing. The building is open to look around, and includes exhibitions about the war and a photo and art gallery.
Emperor’s Mosque Sarajevo
The first mosque to be built after the Ottoman invasion in the mid-1400's was the Emperor’s Mosque in Sarajevo. It was constructed in 1457, which makes it the oldest mosque in the city, and is still in regular use today. Originally dedicated by its architect to the Ottoman conqueror of Constantinople, it's the largest single dome mosque in the country.
It features a small central courtyard surrounded by traditional covered walkways, while the interior is fairly large. Inside there are usual features of mosques, such as intricate rugs, walls decorations and domed ceilings. It is open to look around, but, since it is still in use, tourists cannot enter during services and must wear appropriate clothing.
Latin Bridge Sarajevo
One of the most well-known events that took place in Sarajevo was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event that sparked the outbreak of the First World War. The assassination took place just by the Latin Bridge, one of the oldest Ottoman bridges in the city that is thought to have been built sometime in the mid-16th century.
The bridge itself is small, with three archways and a pointed peak at the center. At the northern end of the bridge, where the assassination took place, is a plaque marking the event, which is rather understated; during the Yugoslavia era, however, the plaque was almost celebrated the event, due to the Serb elite’s support for the actions of the Bosnian-Serb assassin, Gavrilo Princip.
Ashkenazi Synagogue Sarajevo
Sarajevo’s main synagogue is Ashkenazi Synagogue, constructed in 1902. An older synagogue is next door, which now houses the Jewish Museum, while the Ashkenazi Synagogue still functions today as a place of worship. Sarajevo has historically been a place that welcomes the Jewish community, although after the Second World War and the more recent civil war there is not a large Jewish community still living in the city.
The synagogue itself is in a neo-Moorish style, featuring an amazing painted ceiling inside as well as ornate stone carvings on the exterior. The synagogue and adjoining museum are good places to learn more about Sarajevo’s historic Jewish community.
Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
Built in 1532, the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque in Sarajevo’s old town is the largest historical mosque in the country, and is the center of the city’s Islamic community. It is exemplary of the Ottoman architecture for which the city is well-known, and is open for tourists to look around. Outside is a beautiful open courtyard with a fountain for ceremonial washing, and intricate Islamic designs and patterns decorate the main entrance.
It has a number of domes, which are a typical feature of Ottoman mosques and not Middle-Eastern architectural designs. Although much of it was damaged during the civil war, in 1996 the reconstruction of the mosque began as a high priority, given its centrality to the culture of the city.
Ali Paša Mosque Sarajevo
Constructed in the 1560's for an important local governor, this mosque is one of the oldest in Sarajevo. It was built by the Ottomans, and is in a style typical of Turkish mosques at the time.
It's relatively small, but also features a pretty graveyard garden. It sustained significant damage during the civil war, especially to the dome, but has since been restored and declared a protected national monument due to its importance as a symbol of Bosnia’s Ottoman heritage.