Sarajevo is the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Known for its rich history and cultural diversity, Sarajevo is the country’s largest city and serves as its administrative, economic, and cultural center.
Sarajevo has a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences due to its historical ties with the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. This is reflected in its architecture, food, and lifestyle, making the city a fascinating melting pot of cultures.
Where is Sarajevo?
Sarajevo lies in the Sarajevo Valley, which is nestled between the Dinaric Alps and along the Miljacka River. The city is approximately in the central part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, making it an essential hub for national road and rail networks.
The geographical coordinates of Sarajevo are approximately 43.85 degrees North (latitude) and 18.38 degrees East (longitude). The city’s diverse topography and surrounding hills and mountains add to its scenic beauty.
History of Sarajevo
Sarajevo has a rich and complex history that spans several centuries.
Here are some critical periods and events that have shaped the city:
The Ottomans founded the city in the 15th century, and it quickly became an important administrative center. During this period, many of Sarajevo’s most famous buildings were constructed, including the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque.
Sarajevo was occupied by Austro-Hungarian forces in 1878 and formally annexed in 1908. This period saw significant modernization and Westernization efforts. During this time, in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination took place in Sarajevo, a critical event that led to the start of World War I.
After World War I, Sarajevo became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia). During this period, Sarajevo grew significantly in size and importance.
The breakup of Yugoslavia led to the devastating Bosnian War. Sarajevo was besieged for nearly four years, the most prolonged siege of a capital city in modern history. This profoundly impacted the city and its inhabitants, causing significant destruction and loss of life.
Sarajevo officially became the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the country’s declaration of independence from Yugoslavia on March 3, 1992. Efforts have been made to rebuild the city and heal the wounds of the past, but the legacy of the War remains evident.
Features of Sarajevo
Renowned for its historical depth and cultural plurality, Sarajevo thrives as a dynamic city. Its unique blend of diverse cultures, traditions, and religions, embodied in its numerous mosques, churches, and synagogues, has rightfully bestowed upon it the title of Jerusalem of Europe.
Geography and Climate
Located in the Sarajevo Valley in southeastern Europe, Sarajevo is enveloped by the Dinaric Alps and bisected by the Miljacka River. The city’s mountainous geography endows it with a moderate continental climate characterized by the distinct transition of four seasons.
Summers are warm, with average high temperatures around 25 °C (77 °F), while winters are cold, often with snow, and average highs around 5 °C (41 °F).
The population of Sarajevo in 2021 was 275,524 composed mainly of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and smaller communities of Croats, Serbs, and others. Sarajevo is often noted for its cultural diversity and religious tolerance, with numerous religious and cultural sites coexisting in the city.
Sarajevo is the economic hub of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Key industries in the city include manufacturing, IT, telecommunications, and retail. The city has a growing tourism industry, as well, due to its historical significance and cultural attractions.
However, economic development has been slow since the Bosnian War, with high unemployment rates posing challenges. The city, however, continues to make strides in economic recovery and growth, attracting foreign investment and undergoing various infrastructure development projects.
Things to Do and Places to See in Sarajevo
Sarajevo hoards many captivating activities and landmarks. Let’s delve into some of the city’s most popular and highly recommended attractions and destinations:
Baščaršija is Sarajevo’s old bazaar and the historical and cultural heart of the city. Established by the Ottomans in the 15th century, it is home to numerous shops, cafés, and historic sites, including mosques and a clock tower. Interestingly, “Baščaršija” translates to “main market” in Turkish.
2. Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
Constructed in the 16th century, this is the most significant historical mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the most representative Ottoman structures in the Balkans. It’s named after Gazi Husrev-beg, the governor of the Province of Bosnia, who commissioned it.
3. The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Established in 1888, this is the oldest of the modern cultural and scientific institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It houses numerous exhibits related to archaeology, art, and natural history, including the famous Sarajevo Haggadah.
The manuscript originated in Spain and was brought to Bosnia following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, and it survived World War II thanks to the Museum’s chief librarian, who hid it from the Nazis.
4. Yellow Fortress (Žuta Tabija)
This is one of the fortifications that made up the defensive wall of the old Vratnik City, built during Ottoman times. It was built during the 18th century to protect the town from potential invasions.
Traditionally, a cannon shot is fired from the Yellow Fortress at sunset during the month of Ramadan to signal the end of the daily fast. This tradition has been preserved for centuries
5. Sarajevo Tunnel (Tunnel of Hope)
Built during the Bosnian War in 1993, the Sarajevo Tunnel served as a lifeline for the city, which was under siege by Serbian forces. The tunnel connected the besieged city to the free zones beyond the airport.
Today, a portion of the tunnel has been preserved and converted into the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum. Visitors can walk through a part of the tunnel and learn about its history and the Siege of Sarajevo.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Sarajevo known for?
Sarajevo is known for its rich and complex history and cultural diversity, and is the place where the East meets the West. The city is well-known for its mixture of architectural styles, with Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and socialist influences all apparent in the cityscape.
It’s also known for the Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War in the 1990s and for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, which sparked World War I.
What is the currency used in Sarajevo?
The official currency of Sarajevo, like the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the Bosnian Convertible Marka (BAM).
What is the food like in Sarajevo?
Sarajevo’s cuisine reflects its diverse cultural history, influenced by Ottoman, Central European, and Mediterranean cuisines. Local specialties include:
• Cevapi (small grilled sausages of minced meat).
• Burek (flaky pastry filled with meat, cheese, or spinach).
• Baklava (a sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey).
Coffee culture is also a significant part of Sarajevan’s lifestyle, with a tradition that dates back to Ottoman times.
How is the safety and crime rate in Sarajevo?
Sarajevo is generally considered safe for tourists. Like any city, it has its share of crime, but violent crime, especially towards tourists, is relatively rare. Petty crimes like pickpocketing can occur, particularly in crowded areas. It’s always important to remain alert, secure your belongings, and follow local advice and news updates.
How can I get around in Sarajevo?
Sarajevo has several options for getting around the city. Public transportation includes trams, buses, and trolleybuses, which are efficient and affordable. Taxis are also widely available and reasonably priced. Many of the city’s key attractions, especially in the Old Town, are close together and can be easily explored on foot. Renting a car is also an option, though considering that driving and finding parking in the city center can be challenging.
Sarajevo a vibrant arts scene with numerous museums, galleries, and events such as the Sarajevo Film Festival and the people of Sarajevo are known for their warmth and hospitality, often eager to share their stories and make visitors feel welcome.
Compared to many European cities, Sarajevo offers good value for money with affordable accommodation, dining, and attractions.