If you’re planning a visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s scarred but surviving capital city, I highly recommend taking a tour. More than any other city in the Balkans, I believe you’ll find Sarajevo tours to be an essential insight into the city’s heartbreaking past, difficult present, and hopeful future.
The main reason for that is that the most important aspects of Sarajevo’s history are relatively new, events that occurred during my childhood and therefore a part of the lived story of many of its citizens. Looking around at people in the city, a good portion of the Sarajevo residents over the age of 30 spent nearly four years of their lives hiding from mortar fire and sniper attacks. Sarajevans are survivors; they have stories to tell.
Since the Siege of Sarajevo was so recent and such a crucial moment in world history, what better way to learn about it than through the mouths of locals who lived through it?
But war tours of Sarajevo are not the only way to appreciate this city. There are Sarajevo walking tours and city tours that explore the beauty of the city while also explaining its past — not just the tumultuous 1990s, but the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian years and the challenges and successes those brought.
Cultural tours of Sarajevo are another fascinating insight into the makeup of modern-day Sarajevo, exploring the history of the city through the textures of food, religion, and architecture.
Whatever your passion or curiosity is, you’ll surely find yourself intrigued by the variety of Sarajevo tours. I personally took two Sarajevo day tours while in the city – a free Sarajevo walking tour and a war history tour – and found both to be incredibly useful at providing context and nuance to my understanding of this beautifully complex city.
Without further ado, here are our top recommended Sarajevo tours.
Sarajevo Free Walking Tour
If you are traveling on the cheap, free walking tours are a fantastic way to get to know a city on a limited budget. I’ve done many free walking tours all around Europe and I found the free Sarajevo walking tour to be one of the most compelling, personal, and detailed (my other favorites have been the Sofia tour and the Tirana tour).
However, please do keep in mind that these tours are not truly free. They are tip-based, and you should tip your guide a living wage that values their time. I recommend an absolute minimum of the equivalent of 10 convertible marks / 5 euros per person and better yet, about 20 marks / 10 euros if you can. If you can afford to travel, you can afford to tip your free tour guide.
This is the free walking tour that I took. It lasts 2.5 hours and covers 500 years of Sarajevo’s history, from the Ottoman era, the Austro-Hungarian era, the Yugoslav years, the Siege of Sarajevo, and its recovery. It covers the majority of the must-do things to do in Sarajevo such as see the bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, the rebuilt city hall, and the bazaar district of Baščaršija.
They have another route as well, a “War Scars and New Times” that focuses on the last three decades or so of Sarajevo, skipping over the rest of its history. I recommend doing this as an accompaniment to a Sarajevo city tour but not in lieu of it, as it’s well worth getting an idea of Sarajevo’s many layers of history, not just
Also note that while this Sarajevo war tour covers many important sights like Sniper Alley, Sarajevo Roses, and some memorials (including the strange Canned Beef memorial), it does not cover other important but out-of-town sights like the Sarajevo bobsled track where Bosnian Serb Army snipers stored their artillery or the Tunnel of Hope, which was the lifeline of Sarajevo’s resistance movement. Both are a bit tricky to get to independently, and that’s why I generally recommend paying for a guided tour instead.
Sarajevo Islam Tour
After Istanbul of course, Sarajevo is the most important centers of Islam in Europe. Whether you’re Muslim or simply curious about the world’s second largest religion (nearly 1 in every 4 people in the world identifies as Muslim), the Sarajevo Islam tour is a fantastic look into the city’s Ottoman roots and the ongoing important role of Islam in Sarajevo’s day-to-day life.
This Islam tour is led by a Sarajevo insider and breaks down the religion’s customs, traditions, and different displays of piety. If you’re unfamiliar with Islam, your Sarajevo tour guide will give you a brief overview of the religion, its roots, and its evolution. Despite what recent politicians may have you believe, Islam is and has been a largely peaceful religion.
While the Ottomans were still an occupying force and therefore inflicted colonialism and violence on the places they occupied, the Ottoman empire was largely tolerant of other religions and allowed multiculturality to flourish throughout the empire. Many Ottoman subjects converted to Islam – whether out of piety or for perks – but many maintained their faith without much disturbance throughout centuries of Ottoman rule.
This tour focuses on Sarajevo’s Old Town, Baščaršija, which was founded by the Ottoman ruler of the sanjak (administrative region) of Bosnia, Isa-Beg Isaković in the second half of the 1400s. He descended from Bosnian royalty, but was captured by the Ottomans during their conquest, and later became an important Ottoman general.
You’ll also have the opportunity to visit the Gazi Husrev-
All entrance fees are included and the tour takes approximately two hours. Departures are possible between 8 AM and 4 PM, but you’ll have to inquire when booking.
Sarajevo Siege Tour
If you have to pick just one Sarajevo tour, this is the one I recommend. It covers several important and spread out sights like the Tunnel of Hope Museum, Trebević Mountain and the bobsled track that snipers used during the Siege, the 2nd-largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, and the
The half-day tour starts with a Sarajevo tunnel tour. The Tunnel of Hope Museum (also called the War Tunnel Museum) is located about a
You’ll spend approximately one hour learning about the conditions which led up to the Siege of Sarajevo and how the breakup of Yugoslavia led to wars all around the Balkan peninsula. You’ll learn why the war was so particularly brutal in Bosnia and Herzegovina and how the early days of the Siege started — and of course, all about how Sarajevans defied the odds and survived, all with the help of one nifty little 800-meter-long tunnel that was, quite literally, a lifeline to the outside world.
The tour then contributes to Mount Trebević, the site of several Olympic events during Sarajevo’s turn as host of the 1984 Olympics, a few years before the nasty breakup of Yugoslavia.
The area around Mount Trebević is interesting as you’ll cross in and out of land that is technically part of Republika Srpska, the other semi-autonomous entity that makes up Bosnia & Herzegovina as a country (the other is the Federation of BiH, which Sarajevo and Mostar are part of).
The Bosnian Serb Army used the bobsled track area as a storage for their artillery fire. Visiting Trebević and the bobsled area – now covered graffiti and reclaimed bit by bit by nature – is crucial to understanding how the Bosnian Serb Army was able to maintain their siege on Sarajevo for
After visiting Trebević and its bobsled track, you’ll find the Jewish cemetery, the second largest in Europe to be precise. The tombstones have a unique shape and seem to be influenced by the medieval tombstones that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stećak/stećci, which can only be found in the Balkans (specifically, BiH, Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro).
Finally, the tour covers both the White Bastion and the Yellow Fortress, which offer two of the most impressive views over Sarajevo, before finally ending at the Martyrs (
The Sarajevo war tour lasts four hours and has two departures daily, one at 9 AM and one at 2 PM. A driver/guide, transportation, and a bottle of water are included. Pick up service, meals, and admission fees are not. The meeting place is the Bosnia Tourist Information Center in the center of town.
Sarajevo Walking Tour + Snacks!
If you’re looking for a walking tour that covers the basics of Sarajevo but isn’t as crowded as a free walking tour, which sometimes can number 20+ people in peak season, I recommend this tour from Info Bosnia Tours. Bonus points for including snacks (why don’t more tours this? signed, an often hangry traveler).
This tour covers fifteen of the most important sites in the Old Town of Sarajevo in the span of three hours, exploring Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Orthodox architecture all within walking distance from each other – hence Sarajevo’s nickname as the “Jerusalem of Europe” for its religious diversity. This is one of few cities in the world where you can hear the call to prayer one moment and then a Catholic church bell ringing the next, and it’s truly special for that reason.
In addition to covering the basics of Sarajevo, this tour also includes some traditional Bosnian foods, particularly the smoked meat products and dairy for which the country is so known. Bosnian cheeses are tasty and definitely worth trying. You won’t be able to find them outside of Bosnia due to EU restrictions and Bosnia’s insistence on doing things the old-fashioned, not ultra-high-pasteurized (read: more delicious) way.
Keep in mind it’s more of a snack tour than a full-on food tour, so don’t go totally starving! It starts at 2 PM, so I recommend going after a not-too-heavy lunch (good luck with that in Bosnia) as you’ll be walking quite a bit. It lasts 3 hours, ending in time to give you time for dinner and exploring Sarajevo’s nightlife scene after or even catching a sunset if you’re feeling ambitious!
Sarajevo Jewish Tour
While Sarajevo’s Islamic attractions such as its mosque, the bazaar district, and the Sebilj fountain often feature front and center and most people’s Sarajevo itineraries, the city is rife with history from several different religions and Judaism is no exception.
Sarajevo’s Jewish population began to balloon after Granada fell in 1492 and Jews began to be persecuted in greater numbers in the Iberian Peninsula. As a result, Sephardic Jews began to immigrate eastward, many of them settling in Sarajevo in the 16th century.
Many of them settled into the Sijavus Pasha’s Quarter, living peacefully amongst Muslim and Christian neighbors. Here, Jewish culture thrived, from song to food to language, as they spoke a unique language called Ladino or Judeo-Spanish, which is still recognized as a minority language in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
You’ll learn all this and more throughout this tour, which explains the history of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews and how these two groups found themselves both settling in Sarajevo. Of course, the story of Jewish people in Europe is generally not a happy one, and you’ll learn about the persecution and struggle for survival of Sarajevan Jews during the various occupations, the Holocaust, and subsequent Yugoslav wars. Today, a small but vibrant Jewish community thrives in Sarajevo, and you’ll get to visit the local Jewish community center as well as the Jewish Museum.
The tour departs once daily (except Saturdays) at 10 AM and lasts 4 hours. It does not include food or drink, so eat a hearty breakfast and be prepared for a late lunch. Admission fees and a guide are included.
Sarajevo “Eat, Pray, Love” Tour
Despite the silly name of the tour which makes me think of endless Julia Roberts wannabes, I love what it stands for: Sarajevo is a place where people of all faiths can eat, pray, and love together.
Food is one of the best vehicles to understanding a culture, and a food tour of Sarajevo is a great way to see the mish-mash of influences that created Bosnian cuisine, one of the 12 distinct Balkan cuisines.
This food and walking tour of Sarajevo takes you to places such as the House of Spite – now a restaurant – and through the mix of Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman architecture that makes Sarajevo so unique. You’ll get a chance to try one of the most famous Bosnian dishes in Baščaršija, burek, a flaky, fatty phyllo dough pie with a variety of fillings, as well as other pies that are commonly eaten in Bosnia.
You’ll get to experience four unique places of worship in Sarajevo as well, fully understanding through experience why it is considered a European Jerusalem. And of course, it can’t be a Bosnian food tour without a cup of coffee served the traditional Bosnian way with a džezva (traditional copper coffee maker) and a dessert!
The food tour is described as a “light lunch” so I wouldn’t come starving – it focuses equally on food, religion, and history, so it’s really a hybrid tour – perfect for a hybrid city like Sarajevo! It includes all entrance fees to religious monuments, a guide, some snacks, coffee, and dessert. The tour lasts 4 hours and departs somewhere around 10 AM – check with your guide for specifics.
Sarajevo Olympics Tour
If you’re interested in Olympics history, then Sarajevo is an incredible city for you. The 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo
While the Sarajevo bobsled track is now more known for its graffiti artists and morbid usage as an artillery storage facility, it once was the site of a huge Yugoslav success story. This tour starts with the brighter days of the Olympic years, taking you to where the Opening Ceremony occurred and walking you through the city’s preparations.
The tour continues to three mountains and explores the ruins of the structures that were built, explaining the history that befell them, as well as the Olympic Facility in Zetra. Finally, the tour culminates at the Olympic Museum, where the successes of one of the 20th century’s most anticipated events are forever celebrated.
Tours include a guide, transport, and entry fees, but no meals. Tours depart daily at 10 AM and last 4 hours.
Sarajevo Assassination and WWI Tour
If you’re curious to delve deep into the match that lit the tinderbox of World War I, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and its aftermath, this is the Sarajevo tour for you. While most tours of Sarajevo will cover this briefly, a few minutes of exposition, this tour goes into depth for two hours exploring all the events that led up to the assassination, the botched first assassination attempt, and of course – all the messy aftermath.
The tour includes a stroll through Sarajevo’s streets, discussing the Austro-Hungarian empire and how it came to control the city of Sarajevo. You’ll get to explore the Museum of the Austro-Hungarian Period (from 1878 to 1918) and learn how this one seemingly small assassination led to such global messy consequences. You’ll also see other important Sarajevo sights such as the Sacred Heart Cathedral and the Army Hall.
Beyond just the events of 1914 and its aftermath, you’ll learn about how the assassination is perceived today in Bosnia and Herzegovina and all the ripple effects which occurred from the actions of a few young men and a handful of bullets and changed the course of world history.
Where to Stay in Sarajevo
I’ve written a more comprehensive guide to where to stay in Sarajevo here, but if you just want our top pick per budget category, here’s a quick cheat sheet:
$ – BUDGET – HOSTEL FOR ME
An affordable Sarajevo hostel, Hostel For Me is also located in the vibrant Baščaršija quarter in the heart of downtown, near traditional restaurants and all the main sights of the city. The dorm rooms are well appointed and each has its own assigned locker. There are four bathrooms available, each with their own shower and hairdryer and free toiletries – music to a frequent
Previous guests particularly love the staff’s friendliness and approachability and the free walking tour only for hostel guests that goes every day at 5 PM. The rooms are bright and colorful with a homey vibe, with a common lounge area, and a working area with power outlets and desks – great for digital nomads passing through.
$$ – MID-RANGE – ISA BEGOV HAMAM HOTEL
If you want to feel like Ottoman royalty while in Sarajevo, head to Isa Begov Hamam Hotel, a beautiful and unique boutique hotel in Sarajevo. This hotel is converted from an actual hammam that is a cultural heritage site. Its current structure dates back to 1890 but its original structure dates back to the early days of Sarajevo, when it was built as part of a complex with the next-door Careva (Sultan’s) Mosque. It’s located in the heart of Baščaršija and you’ll feel like you’ve transported back in time staying in this unique hotel in Sarajevo.
With free use of the hammam, two steam rooms, and small indoor pool, this is a fantastic hotel for those looking to relax while in Sarajevo. Free coffee and tea in the lobby as well as a free Turkish breakfast is included… and Turkish breakfast is one of the best meals in the world, loaded with delicious jams, cheeses, meats, and other treats. The hotel features vintage furniture, hand-carved with Ottoman details, handmade carpets, and wooden floors – a must for any design enthusiast.
$$$ – LUXURY – HOTEL STORY
A beautiful 4 star hotel recently redesigned with a modern twist, Hotel Story is one of the finer luxury hotels in Sarajevo. The location is right in the heart of the Old Town, with most of Sarajevo’s best sights easily accessible on foot. The whole hotel has been recently renovated and has a lot of cute design elements that really personalize it and make it unique. The rooms are bright, spacious, and designed with aesthetics in mind. Little touches like towel warmers in the bathroom and shelves and seating areas in many of the rooms add a luxe touch.
Most of the rooms are on the huge side – perfect if you want to spread out and take up your space when you travel without feeling cramped in your room. The rooms have a few different kinds of bed configurations suiting a variety of travelers. Many of the rooms feature interesting draping curtains, offering privacy while still allowing in plenty of light. It offers free parking and a free shuttle as well.
More Bosnia Travel Resources
If you’re planning a trip to Bosnia, we have a ton of resources with you! First of all, check out our guide to the most beautiful places in Bosnia so you can start planning your itinerary. We also have a Bosnian souvenir guide, so you can plan the perfect gifts to bring home from your trip.
If you’re planning to visit Sarajevo, we have even more for you. We have a guide on all the best things to do in Sarajevo, the best Sarajevo tours, a guide on where to stay in Sarajevo, and finally a Sarajevo Instagram guide.
Planning a Trip to Bosnia? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Make sure you always travel with a valid travel insurance policy. Travel here includes outdoor activities and travel to highly touristed sites. You need to be covered in case you have an accident or fall victim to theft. Travel insurance will help you recover your expenses and continue to enjoy your trip.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads.I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.