Bullet holes and resin roses stand out against the vibrant life in Sarajevo — a juxtaposition which leaves many visitors speechless. Here, the tragic recent history of this Bosnian capital lies entangled with the city’s colorful present, creating a place not only to explore the riches it now offers today, but also it’s past.

Although the Bosnian War today is only in history books, visitors can still learn about it first-hand, thanks to the city’s preservation of the bombed and bullet-laden buildings, the memorials and the museums which remind people of its sad ties, but also inspire hope and a living note that these atrocities cannot happen again.

Simply wandering through the heart of the city, which presents travelers with a walking history lesson in and of itself (think Austro-Hungarian architecture followed by Turkish and beyond), there is more to be found under the surface.

Take a Walking Tour

Starting from a Sarajevo hotel, join a walking tour which takes you through the city, and provides a thorough locals perspective on the war. While not necessarily easy to stomach (I know I cried when I went and listened to the tales), these eye-opening stories give you a glimpse into what life was like when the city was under attack on all sides.

Visit the Tunnel Museum

Tunnel Museum in Sarajevo

Emerging from Sarajevo’s Tunnel Museum

Although a little outside of town, the Tunnel Museum puts you in the shoes of those trying to escape the city, and those trying desperately to fight for the people who lived there. Located nearby the airport, and a quick tram ride from town, the museum is also a historic site. Almost three decades ago, the Serbs controlled nearly all of the city — minus the airport, which was operated by the United Nations. If people could make it here, the other side of the airport marked freedom. Soldiers during this time worked to get supplies via this tunnel, which was a harrowing experience in and of itself. Here, you can learn about the war and what role the tunnel played in it, as well as actually walk through a portion of the tunnel and understand some of the challenges soldiers faced as they worked to save their people.

Located in a quiet area with only a few homes, the silence alone is shocking, not to mention the remnants of war found throughout the neighborhood.

Explore On Your Own

Olympic Stairs in Sarajevo

The Olympic Stairs, which once were filled with vendors, now look like this.

Nicknamed the City of Roses, Sarajevo’s memorials to those who were killed in mortar attacks can be found everywhere in town. Look up on buildings, look on the ancient streets. These small red roses (craters filled with red resin), Sarajevo Roses, mark where people were murdered. If you have time, head up the Olympic Stairs and on to the abandoned site of the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.

Well worth the trip, if only to explore the permanent “City Under Siege” exhibition, is the History Museum of Bosnia and Hercegovina. This exhibit provides jarring images and stories of life during the Bosnian War.

Shuttered following the war, recently the National Library was reopened in the city. Prior to the intense shelling and fire which closed its doors in 1992, the library housed rare historic books about the Ottoman Empire, along with nearly two million others. Today, this gorgeous landmark is worth a visit.

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of Hipmunk’s #CityLove campaign.

 

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