the whole world in one city

Sarajevo is the world in one city

The history of Sarajevo, as well as its presence, make it one of the most outstanding cities in the world. There have been a lot events in the history of the Bosnian capiatal that could be referred to as the most important ones. Here we are happy to present some of them. Enjoy!

The history of Sarajevo, as well as its presence, make it one of the most outstanding cities in the world. There have been a lot events in the history of the Bosnian capiatal that could be referred to as the most important ones. The resources available argue that during the neolithic era Sarajevo was home to the Butmir Culture famous for its works of ceramics. The discoveries made in the 19th century proved the Culture to have been creative and prolific. The excavated material can be found in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Butmir Culture disappeared around 2400 BC, probably conquered by the next prominent inhabitants of Sarajevo; the Illyrians. They lived mostly around the river Miljacka and Sarajevo valley. The most prominent of these was Debelo Brdo (Literally "Fat Hill") in today’s Old Town, where an Illyrian fortification stood during the later Iron Age. The Illyrians in the Sarajevo region belonged to the tribe Daesitates, a war-like group who were the last to resist Roman occupation. Their last revolt occurred in 9 AD, and was crushed by the emperor Tiberius, marking the start of Roman rule in the region. During Roman rule, Sarajevo was part of the province of Dalmatia. A major Roman road ran through the Miljacka river valley connecting the rich coastal cities of Dalmatia and the Adriatic coast with Pannonia to the North.

The Slavs came to Bosnia in the 7th century, but details of their movement and settlement through the country remain a mystery. Some Slavic artifacts remain from the time however, and it is fairly certain that they settled in the Sarajevo valley, replacing the Illyrians.The first mentions of Bosnia describe a small region, which was basically the Bosna river valley, stretching from modern-day Zenica to Sarajevo.In the 12th century, when Bosnia became a vassal of Hungary, the population consisted primarily of members of the Bosnian Church. The area of present-day Sarajevo was part of the Bosnian province of Vrhbosna, near the traditional center of the kingdom. Though a settlement called Vrhbosna existed, the exact settlement of Sarajevo at this time is debated. During the High Middle Ages, various documents make note of a place called 'Tornik' in the region. By all indications, 'Tornik' was a very small marketplace surrounded by a proportionally small village, not considered very important by Ragusan merchants. Even the local fortress of Hodidjed was defended by a mere two dozen men when it fell to the Turks.

Sarajevo as we know it today was founded by the Ottoman Empire in the 1450s upon conquering the region, with 1461 typically used as the city’s founding date. The first known Ottoman governor of Bosnia, Isa-Beg Ishaković, chose the tiny local village of Brodac as a good space for a new city. He exchanged land with its residents, giving them today's Hrasnica neighborhood in Ilidža), and soon began building his provincial capital as he envisioned it. He quickly built a number of key objects, including a mosque, a closed marketplace, a public bath, a bridge, a hostel, and the governor’s castle ("Saray") which gave the city its present name. The mosque was named "Carova Džamija" (the Emperor’s Mosque; the Imperial Mosque) in honor of the Sultan Mehmed II.

With the improvements Sarajevo quickly grew into the largest city in the region. Many Christians converted to Islam at this time, as Ottoman reports from the period often tell of residents with Muslim names but of Christian named fathers, such as "Mehmed, son of Ivan." Meanwhile, an Orthodox population first appeared in Sarajevo at this time, as the Orthodox Church was built. A colony of Ragusan merchants also appeared in Sarajevo at this time. Soon after, in the early 16th century, the Sarajevo Haggadah came to Sarajevo along with Jewish refugees from Andalusia. For the first time in its history, Sarajevo was the city of four religions. The Jewish population made note of this, naming the city "The European Jerusalem."

Under the leadership of Gazi Husrev-beg, a major donor who was also responsible for most of what is now the Old Town, Sarajevo grew at a rapid rate. Sarajevo became known for its large marketplace and numerous mosques, which by the middle of the 16th century numbered over a hundred. Numerous other buildings appeared, including religious schools, such as the school of Sufi philosophy. Gazi Husrev-Beg himself established a number of buildings named in his honor, such as the Sarajevo library which, in its prime, was in the same category as the Madrassa of Beyazid II.

Gazi Husrev-Beg also built the city's clock tower (Sahat Kula). Sarajevo became one of the most advanced cities in Europe. It had its own water system, clock tower, bathhouses, and schools. In a time when education was merely for the wealthy, and most Europeans considered baths to be unhealthy, Sarayliyas (Sa-ray-lee-yas, residents of Sarajevo) were among the cleanest and most culturally advanced commoners on the continent. A famous Sarajevan poet of the time[who?] wrote, "There it seems to man that he can live for a long time, for in a thousand places in Sarajevo flows water from the well of longevity."

At its height, Sarajevo was the biggest and most important Ottoman city in the Balkans after Istanbul itself. By 1660, the population of Sarajevo was estimated to be over 80,000. Comparatively, Belgrade in 1838 had a mere 12,963 inhabitants, and Zagreb as late as 1851 had only 14,000 people.

This period of early Ottoman rule will be long remembered as Sarajevo's golden age. The 16th century was its peak, when nearly the whole city area (that would last until the late 19th century) was built. During the 17th century, Sarajevo didn't expand, although its population continued to grow. Its residents lived luxuriously, and Sarajevo was the richest city in the West Balkans after Dubrovnik. However the 17th century also brought the start of the decline of the Ottoman Empire. With the defeats at Vienna, the empire grew weaker, and along with the empire as a whole did its various regions. Although Sarajevo would remain prosperous until the very end of the 17th century, the latter half of it proved to be the beginning of the end.

The late Ottoman era, from 1697 to 1878, saw the decline of the empire, the city, and a number of disasters.

It is no coincidence that the beginning of the late Ottoman era in Sarajevo's history begins with the end of the Austro-Ottoman War. Following the failure at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the western reaches of the empire were subject to numerous raids. It was the raid of 1697 by Prince Eugene of Savoy that would have the biggest impact. Brushing aside weak and unorganized defenses, Eugene was able to enter Sarajevo with ease, subsequently raiding and torching it.

Sarajevo was desolated by this attack. Very few structures survived the flames, and these were only ones built out of stone or subject to rare circumstance. The citizens of Sarajevo at that point had to start rebuilding their city from square one, not just structurally, but culturally and politically as well. By then, the seat of Bosnian government had already been transferred to Travnik, and the fire made the situation no better. For ten years between 1747 and 1757, the city even experienced anarchy.

If the city was no longer what it used to be structure wise, its intellectualism didn't suffer the slightest. In fact, the 18th century held many of Sarajevo's great thinkers, such as Mehmed Mejlija Guranij and Mula Mustafa Bašeskija. Significant libraries, schools, and mosques were built, as well as significant new fortifications.

The late 18th century however were not very good times. In 1788 another fire raged through Sarajevo, and this came only 5 years after an outbreak of plague. By the early 19th century, things did not get much better as Serbia gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire, creating a wedge between Sarajevo and Istanbul. This would all lead to the revolt of Bosniak national hero, Husein Gradaščević.

Demanding Bosnian independence from the Turks, Husein-Kapetan Gradaščević fought several battles around Bosnia. The last and ultimately most significant was the Battle of Sarajevo Field of 1832 where Husein-Kapetan Gradašćević was betrayed by a fellow Bosniak and lost a hard fought battle. There he uttered his famous words "This is the last day of our freedom". For the next several decades no major developments occurred, as Sarajevo withered away in the "sick man of Europe".

In 1878, Bosnia was occupied by Austria-Hungary. Architects and engineers who endeavored to rebuild Sarajevo as a modern European capital rushed to the city. They were unexpectedly aided by a fire that burned down a large part of the central city area (čaršija). This has resulted in a unique blend of the remaining Ottoman city market and contemporary western architecture. Sarajevo hosts some shiny examples of Secession and Pseudo-Moorish styles that date from this period.

The Austro-Hungarian period was one of great development for the city as the Western power brought its new acquisition up to the standards of the Victorian age. Various factories and other buildings were built at this time, and a large number of institutions were both Westernized and modernized. For the first time in history, Sarajevo’s population began writing in Latin script.

In the event that triggered the World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 by Bosnian Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip.

After World War I Sarajevo became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Though it held some political importance, as the center of first the Bosnian region and then the Drinska Banovina, it was not treated with the same attention or considered as significant as it was in the past. Outside of today's national bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina, virtually no significant contributions to the city were made during this period.

During World War II the Kingdom of Yugoslavia put up a very inadequate defense. Following a German bombing campaign, Sarajevo was conquered by the Ustase Croatian fascist Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of Nazi Germany. On October 12, 1941 a group of 108 notable Muslim citizens of Sarajevo signed the Resolution of Sarajevo Muslims by which they condemned the persecution of Serbs organized by Ustaše, made distinction between Muslims who participated in such persecutions and whole Muslim population, presented informations about the persecutions of Muslims by Serbs and requested security for all citizens of the country, regardless of their identity.[3] Many of the city's Serbs, Romani, and Jews were taken at this time and killed in the Holocaust bringing a sad end to the prominence of Sarajevo's Jewish community. In 1941, the atrocities committed by the Ustase were strongly condemned by groups of Sarajevo's citizens.

The Sarajevo resistance was led by a NLA Partisan named "Walter" Perić. Legend has it that when a new German officer came to Sarajevo and was assigned to find Walter, he asked his subordinate to show him Walter. The man took the officer to the top of a hill overlooking the city and said "See this city?", "Das Ist Valter". Walter was killed in the fighting on the day of Sarajevo's liberation, April 6, 1945. He has since become something of a city icon.

Following the liberation, Sarajevo was the capital of the republic of Bosnia within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The communists invested heavily in Sarajevo, building many new residential blocks in Novi Grad Municipality and Novo Sarajevo Municipality, while simultaneously developing the city's industry and transforming Sarajevo once again into one of the Balkans' chief cities. From a post-war population of 115,000, by the end of Yugoslavia Sarajevo had 429,672 people.

The crowning moment of Sarajevo’s time in Socialist Yugoslavia was the 1984 Winter Olympics. Sarajevo beat out Sapporo, Japan; and Falun/Gothenburg, Sweden for the privilege. They are widely regarded as among the most successful winter Olympic Games in history. They were followed by an immense boom in tourism, making the 1980s one of the city's best decades in a long time.

Places to see in Sarajevo

Sarajevo offers a lot of places of interest for all types of travellers. One can enjoy the beauty of the city's history strolling around the old town (Baščaršija) or visit numerous museums and galleries. Fun and night life lovers get a chance to choose from the plentiful clubs, restaurants, cafes or cool themselves in a thermal aquapark. Being a city with quite a congested architecture, Sarajevo offers park space (Ilidża) perfect for an afternoon picnic or an evening walk. Here we are only suggestting only a few landmarks.


The historic city center whose beginnings fate back to the 15ty century. At that time Bosnia and Herzegovina were under Ottoman rule. In around 1460, Isa Bey Ishaković laid the foundations for Sarajevo, and this trading center on the right bank of the Miljacka River would grow to become a bazaar.

Vijećnica (City Hall)

Vijećnica is the most extravagant building constructed in Sarajevo during Austro-Hungarian occupation and serves as a symbol of the meeting of world civilizations.

Emperor's mosque

The Emperor’s Mosque is Sarajevo’s oldest mosque and one of the oldest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is presumed that Isa Bey Ishaković, the founder of Sarajevo, had this place of worship built soon after the city’s founding in 1462 in honor of Sultan Mehmed II “the Conqueror”.

Gazi Husrev Bey's Mosque

Gazi Husrev Bey’s Mosque, or Bey’s Mosque, as it is known locally, was built in the center of Baščaršija in 1530. Bey’s Mosque was designed by Adžem Esir Ali, a Persian from Tabriz, who was the chief architect in the Ottoman Empire at that time.

The Cathedral of
Jesus’ Sacred Heart

The Cathedral of Jesus’ Sacred Heart was built in 1889 in the Neo-Gothic style and is the seat of the Archdiocese of Vrhbosna. 

Rimski Most

The Bridge in Plandište, or Roman Bridge, is located at the western entrance to Sarajevo, about two kilometers downstream from the source of the Bosna River.




Hasana Kamije 9
Sarajevo 71000

Mobile: + 387 61 21 79 97
Home:  + 387 70 48 67 50


Get monthly updates and free resources.