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Nov 04 2013

Discovering Sarajevo

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Sarajevo but it was a city I really wanted to visit.  The only thing I knew about it was from my memory of the media coverage during the conflict in the 1990s.  It was time to discover it for myself.

What I found out is that Sarajevo is a really interesting and historic city.  It is quirky because of all its previous influences from the Ottoman period and Austro-Hungarian times.  It’s one of those cities that you can easily walk around.  A number of companies offer city walking tours for tips at the end.  It’s definitely worth doing that because there is so much to this city that going on one with give you a much better understanding of the city, the people, and its history.  Here are just a few things I discovered about Sarajevo that might interest you.

1.  Bijela Tabija

Bijela Tabija, now a ruin, was a 16th century fortress that overlooked Sarajevo.   Because of its strategic location and the fact that.Sarajevo was built on a medieval settlement, historians believe that a medieval fortress once stood there.  From here, you get a great view of the city and the surrounding mountains.  Bijela Tabija is a protected monument but there is talk of rebuilding it and making use of the building although I think it is a long way off.

Bijela Tabija

2.  Tašlihan

The remains of one of the oldest inns in Sarajevo, built in the 16th century during a time of rapid expansion, is next to Hotel Europe.  In its day, guests could stay for free in this inn for up to 3 nights.  I think it was mainly for traders who came to the city to sell their wares.


3.  Bezistan

A Bezistan is a covered market, built during the Ottoman period, that sold mainly clothes and linen.  It was built next to Tašlihan.


This image, originally posted to Flickr by Jennifer Boyer , was reviewed on 1 March 2013 by the administrator or reviewer File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske), who confirmed that it was available on Flickr under the stated license on that date (

4.  The Old City

It’s definitely worth meandering through the narrow lanes of the old city.  I got a sense of being in Morocco or somewhere like that rather than Sarajevo because of all the one-storey shops selling their wares.  In addition to that are the cafes and restaurants that have small stools and cushions outside, some of which offer Shisha.  I loved this part of Sarajevo so, in my opinion, it’s worth taking some time to relax in one of the cafes or restaurants to soak up the atmosphere

The Old City, Sarajevo

5.  Ferhadija Street

You might dismiss this as just another street but it’s a particularly interesting one, so I found out.  If you stand with your back to the Bezistan on Ferhadija Street, you will notice a big difference in the style of buildings.  On the left are Austro-Hungarian buildings and on the right are Ottoman buildings in the old city.  This gives some insight into the city’s history.

Ferhadija Street

6.  Zelenih Beretki

This street, which is close to the Latin Bridge, holds the key to an important part of world history.  In 1914, after a bungled attempt, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia were assassinated.  They weren’t actually meant to go down this road but their driver had taken a wrong turning.  While reversing, he stalled the car.  Gavrilo Princip, one of a group of six Bosnian Serb assassins, happened to be there and fired two shots, which fatally wounded Franz Ferdinand and Sofia. This is of particular significance because it triggered the start of World War I shortly afterwards.

The spot where Franz Ferdinand was shot

7.  Eternal Flame

The Eternal flame is a memorial to those who died during the Second World War.  The flame has been burning almost continuously since 1946.  I say almost continuously because, in 2011, the flame was extinguished.  No one knows why that occurred but, as the story goes, a tourist spotted it and quickly reignited the flame.  It’s lucky that person had a lighter or matches handy!

Eternal flame

8.  Sarajevo Roses

As you walk around, look down and you may see what look like splatters of red paint.  These are unique patterns, ‘concrete scars’, created by mortar shell explosions.  These marks were later filled with red resin and have been called Sarajevo Roses to signify the place where an individual or individuals were killed by mortar explosions during the siege of the city.

Sarajevo Rose

9.  Markale Market

When you visit Markale Market today, it seems like an ordinary local market where you can buy fruit and veg and other nick nacks.  The thing is, this was the site of the Markale Massacres where two separate mortar attacks killed 68 people in 1994 and a further 38 in 1995.  If you look at the photograph below, you will see what looks like a large red wall.  It lists the names of all the people who died in the massacres.

Markale Market

10.  Memorial to the murdered children

I found this particularly upsetting.   Approximately 1,500 children lost their lives during the siege of the city.  There are two green glass sculptures which represent a mother trying to protect her child.  These sculptures are surrounded by a ring that was made out of bombshell cases and other weapons they found lying around.  Beside it are these cylinders which list the names of the children who died during the siege as well as the year of their birth and death.

Memorial to the murdered children

11.  Sarajevo War Tunnel/Tunnel of Hope

One of the entrance’s to the Tunnel of Hope was in this house.  It is now a museum but there is still a small section of the tunnel left that you can walk through.  Check out last week’s Foto Friday for more information.

The house with the Tunnel of Hope


I normally include a map with posts but it was too difficult to pinpoint the exact locations for these.  The best thing to do would be to get a map, wander around the city and hope you find them, or go on one of the walking tours for tips.  I would suggest the latter just for the amount of information you get as I mentioned earlier.

Have your say

What do you think about my list of things to discover in Sarajevo?  If you have been to Sarajevo already, what would you add to the list?

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About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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