Sarajevo, Bosnia’s capital, enthrals itself in history from the legacy of almost five centuries of Ottoman rule to the bullet-riddled apartment blocks from the recent war. Joining one of the tours in Sarajevo allows you to appreciate what you’re seeing rather than just snapping a photograph. Here are the best tours to give you that depth of understanding the sophisticated traveller craves.
Neno and Friends Free Sarajevo Walking Tours
Savvy backpackers and budget travellers around the world have started to take advantage of free walking tours. Most major cities have tip-based excursions where tourists just turn up at a meeting point. Knowledgeable local guides show tourists the best sites and attractions with a running commentary on their background and significance. Then you give as much or as little as you can afford.
Neno and Friends run two free city tours in Sarajevo: East Meets West and War Scars and New Times. The first begins in the morning and lasts approximately two and a half hours. A guide shows Sarajevo’s historical layers including Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslavian and the Bosnian War (1992-1995). Visitors see and learn about Bascarsija Old Bazaar, the opulent Sarajevo City Hall built by the Austro-Hungarians, and the city’s best bars, cafés and nightclubs. You’ll also understand how Sarajevo’s Brewery helped people survive the almost four-year siege.
The War Scars and New Times in the afternoon covers the Bosnian War in depth. You’ll see war damage and the places of significance while listening to first-hand accounts of daily life in war-torn Sarajevo. The guide shows the bullet holes covering apartment blocks, explains the city’s ubiquitous Sarajevo Rose (a damaged shell with red dye to mark the spot people died), and what the future holds for Bosnia.
If you like their free tours in Sarajevo, Neno and Friends have two private (paid) ones for a more personal experience. The Food and Culture Walking Tour takes visitors around Sarajevo, sampling the best traditional food. The other is a private tour around the city.
The Tunnel Tour
The Sarajevo war tunnel connected besieged neighbourhood Dobrinja to unoccupied Butmir. The Tunnel of Hope as it later became known, stretched 800 metres (0.5 miles) underneath the airport. Supplies, ammunition, and refugees could pass in and out. A small section remains open to the public along with a minefield garden and archive footage.
The Tunnel Tour in Sarajevo at €15 ($17.60) per person is a bargain since the price includes the €5 ($6) admission fee. A guide collects you in the city centre and gives a detailed account of events that once took place in the surroundings. Tourists get the overall package learning about life during war, recovery, and the future.
The Jewish Tour
Walking around Sarajevo today, visitors would be forgiven for not giving Judaism a second thought. Mosque minarets dominate the skyline with the call to prayer echoing around the streets. Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, are present, too. But people often forget about Sarajevo’s once thriving Jewish community.
The Ottomans welcomed both Sephardim and Ashkenazim Jews into their empire, where they later started businesses and contributed to society’s development. The Holocaust destroyed everything. Sarajevo’s Jewish Tour gives an insight into their life, religion, customs, food and traditions as well as showing you the city’s most important synagogues. Tours last for four hours and costs €25 ($29.40) per person, including admission into the Museum of Jews in BH.
Islam You Didn’t Know About
Sarajevo has a large Muslim population. Bosnian Muslims, or Bosniaks, live a European lifestyle while retaining their religious beliefs. Some are secular; others attend mosque to pray multiple times each day.
Unfortunately, in the modern world, Islam has a lot of negative stereotypes that just aren’t true. And Sarajevo’s Islam You Didn’t Know About aims to break those misconceptions. Tours last for two hours at €15 ($17.60) per person. The guide takes you to some of Sarajevo’s most important mosques and inside the Bey’s Museum.
Sarajevo, the European Jerusalem
Sarajevo Funky Tours have a walking tour around the city’s old and modern parts. Tourists see the major attractions in Sarajevo including the Bascarsija, Copper Alley, and the famous Sebilj Fountain on Pigeon Square. You’ll also see the Yellow and White Bastion, the spot of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination on Latin Bridge, mosques, churches, the Jewish Museum, as well any many other must-see attractions in Sarajevo.
Sarajevo, the European Jerusalem provides more one-on-one time with the guide. Smaller groups mean more dialogue compared to the larger crowds on the Free Walking Tour. Guides explain the best spots to sample Sarajevo food and offer tips and suggestions on other parts of travel such as LGBT tourism. Tours cost €20 each person and last three hours.
The Best Tours in Sarajevo
Lots of tours in Sarajevo take visitors through the rich and complicated history of Bosnia’s capital. Joining a tour not only shows you the best attractions, but gives you context, a profound cultural understanding and a more in-depth appreciation for the city, making your trip more meaningful and memorable. Travel, after all, is about new experiences and seeing the world from a different perspective.