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Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is nestled in a valley, mainly within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but with parts in the Republika Srpska entity.
Sarajevo is one of the most historically interesting and varied cities in Europe. It is a place where the Western & Eastern Roman Empire split; where the people of the Roman Catholic west, Eastern Orthodox east and the Ottoman south, met, lived and warred. It has been both an example of historical turbulence and the clash of civilizations, as well as a beacon of hope for peace and tolerance through multi-cultural integration.
Four distinct seasons with warm or hot summers and cold winters. Sarajevo is basically on the mountain so winters can be slightly colder here than in other capital cities in the region. You should not be surprised if you see some snow in mid October, but also sometimes in May, although it rarely occurs and stays on the ground for a very short period. Autumn can be cool, but during that period Sarajevo is very foggy and gray with little bit of sunshine.
If you are not staying at a hotel (i.e. a private residence), you must register with the local police within 24 hours of arrival. Failure to register may result in a fine or possible removal.
Sarajevo Airport (SJJ) is located 6.1km southwest of the railway station, in the suburb of Butmir.
The only international train to Bosnia operates from Croatia. The journey is quite picturesque, and the journey time is comparable to the bus.
There is one daily train between Sarajevo and Zagreb, in each direction.
Roads in Bosnia are often only a single lane in either direction, and due to the mountainous topography tend to be very windy and speed limits are lower (mostly 80 kmh). Beware of trucks and people dangerously overtaking on any road. There are many tunnels, and you must always drive with your lights ON (day or night). However, in recent years significant modernization has taken place.
Driving in Sarajevo can be very difficult in neighborhoods around the city centre, specially in Old Town where many street are one way. City is normally very busy so pay attention as in any other urban area.
There are two bus stations in Sarajevo.
On all intercity buses you pay a fee for luggage. This fee of €1 per piece of luggage is paid to the driver upon boarding. Some drivers are rather picky about being paid in exact change in the correct currency (sometimes a local currency, at other instances requesting to be paid in Euros) and sometimes also refuse to be paid in too small coins. So keep some change ready.
From Mostar, hitching a ride through the beautiful mountains up the M-17 road to Sarajevo is quite easy. Make sure you have a sign though and a Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language phrasebook would be useful. If you have trouble getting out of Mostar, change the sign to Jablanica where traffic will branch of NW to Banja Luka and then hitch on to Sarajevo from Jablanica. Sarajevo is a long thin city so try to get a lift into the centre. If not, get one at least to the tram tracks that go there from the west of the city limits.
An excellent map of Sarajevo is available at bookstores, all of which are located downtown and not open early or late or on holidays. Maps aren't sold in gas stations or other stores. Alternatively, the kiosk next to the Latin Bridge. Lastly, asking Sarajevans for directions is an exercise in futility. People don't know the names of streets a block from the building they've lived in all their lives. However, they won't tell you this, and as a rule will point you in some direction, usually not the right direction.
Central area is very compact so it is great to explore it on foot. Have in mind that Sarajevo is surrounded by hills and mountains and many neighborhoods (even some in central area) might be demanding for walk, specially if weather is too hot or too cold. Building numbers are more or less consecutive but don't follow the "hundreds" styles of the United States, e.g., 23 Bjestiva street may be blocks from 27 Bjestiva street, specially in the neighborhoods on the hills around.
By public transport
There are some new, but also some very old trams in Sarajevo. This is the most popular form of public transport in the city and trams are very often overcrowded.
The center of Sarajevo is served by a spinal tram network which makes a counter clockwise loop around the central district. This tram network opened in the mid-1870s and was the first in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Tickets should be purchased in advance from kiosks labeled tisak on the street or from the driver.
Be careful when taking taxis from the main railway or bus station and the airport. Firstly, drivers are known to charge far more to tourists who have just arrived and do not know the area, so you can easily end up paying at least double of normal price. It is advisable to get an idea of the maximum cost of taxi before you arrive (ask your hostel/hotel) and negotiating the price with the driver in advance.
Sarajevo has a brand new bike path from Ilidža to Hrasno neighborhood. Bike lovers will be able to drive along the main avenue from Hrasnica (western suburb) to Skenderija (central area). Bike path (when completed) will run on both sides of the main avenue (along the tram line).
Be careful when using the current built bike path: some pedestrians are not familiar with these new red paths and they still do not understand this is built only for bike riders. Also, this bike path is one way path on both sides of the main avenue, but some bikers do not pay attention and they use wrong side. Path is well marked, but locals will need little bit of time to understand the purpose of red paths.
What to see in Sarajevo
There are several free walking tours that that give visitors the chance to see the city from a local's perspective.
Old Town. The cobbled streets, mosques and Oriental style shops at the heart the city are a world away from Europe, and when the call-to-prayer starts, one could be forgiven for thinking that they were actually in the Middle East. You could actually be walking by a Catholic church, Orthodox church and a Synagogue and hear the Islamic call to prayer at the same time.
The Academy of Fine Arts Obala Maka Dizdara 3 - The building was originally intended to serve as an Evangelical Church, it houses since 1981 the Academy of Fine Arts and a Exhibition Hall. One of the loveliest buildings in Sarajevo.
Views from Surrounding Hills. Sarajevo's surrounding hills offer fantastic views over the city, but some landmines from the war still exist on some of the hills. To be safe, stick to paved roads and sidewalks and do not walk into fields, grass, or wooded areas. Also be alert for stray (and possibly rabid) dogs when venturing out of the city. The hills also offer a taste of suburban Bosnian life, including some of the surviving wooden mosques from before the war.
Yellow Fortress. The small fortress provides a great view of the city. Walk through the war cemetery at the eastern end of the old town. Another way is to follow the river upstream. Where the road forks, take the right fork (the left fork goes into a short tunnel). Follow it past Hotel Sara and up to the fortress.
Cemeteries. With white marble grave stones for those who gave their lives at their 20s during the war, these cemeteries are a reminder of the tragedy that the city went through less than two decades ago.
Markale Market Place, (It is a big yellow building). Marked the start of NATO intervention and thereby end of the war after a bombing which took the life of some 40 people.
Vrelo Bosne. The beginning of the river Bosna where the water is pure and ice cold. In less than 20 minutes on foot from the city centre, you are out in the countryside, with no suburbs in between: unique for a large city. Here you can walk in a beautiful park, picnic and spend the whole day without ever getting bored. May 01 festival is held here.
Vijecnica (City Hall), Obala Kulina Bana.
Morica Han (Morica Inn), Saraci (Old town). The only preserved Ottoman Inn in Sarajevo. The first floor used to contain 43 rooms for travellers, mostly traders, houses nowadays a carpet shop and a traditional restaurant with engravings of Rubaiyat of Umer Khayam, the famous 12th century Persian poet.