Winter in Sarajevo, Bosnia: 14 Fun Off-season Activities

I love traveling when it’s not the busy season, but I wasn’t sure about going to Sarajevo in the cold winter.

The trip from Belgrade to Sarajevo can be quite rough, especially when crossing the Romanija mountain. The roads there can get icy and snowy, and you know, all that winter stuff.

But when my husband showed me the hotel reservation, I changed my mind. It’s hard to resist a done deal.

I’ve learned that every place has its own special charm in winter, so I got ready to see what Sarajevo had to offer. And it didn’t disappoint! The city has a rich history and a mix of cultures, and it felt extra special with the snow and quiet streets.

Sarajevo felt cozy and welcoming, with lots of things to see and do. I walked around, visited cafes, and enjoyed the city’s beauty and stories. Here are the best things I found to do in Sarajevo during winter, along with some helpful tips for anyone planning a visit.

How cold does it get in winter in Sarajevo?

Sarajevo gets pretty chilly in winter. Typically, the days are cold, usually just below freezing, and it gets even colder when the sun goes down. So, you’ll definitely want to pack a heavy jacket and some warm clothes!

Snow starts falling around late November and can last until March. It doesn’t pile up too much, but it sure makes the city look magical.

Now, the coldest month is January, with an average temperature of -1.3°C. It’s the only month where the average temperature dips below zero, so be ready for it to feel extra nippy then!

When I was there, the skies were sunny and clear – no major snow or rain, just that crisp winter air. Sarajevo isn’t too rainy in winter, which is a nice break because other times of the year can get pretty wet. February tends to be the driest month, so if you’re not a fan of rain, that’s a good time to go. 

You’ll still need to dress warmly, but you might get to enjoy some bright, sunny days while exploring the city.

1. Baščaršija

Where better to begin than at the heart of the city, the old center, or simply put – the soul of Sarajevo.

As you wander the cobbled streets, getting lost in the aroma of authentic Bosnian coffee served in traditional cups, it’s impossible not to feel the true spirit of this place. There are countless artisan shops, family businesses with traditions stretching back 10 generations, tea houses, and souvenir shops that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a small fairy tale within a grand city.

You should take a picture at the Sebilj, the most recognizable symbol of Sarajevo. The word “Sebilj” comes from Turkish and means “a building on the road with water.” 

Today, the Sebilj is a central spot in Baščaršija, marking both its beginning and end, and it’s definitely something you can’t and shouldn’t miss while you’re here.

2. Sahat Kula or The Only Public Lunar Clock in the World

Near the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, you’ll notice a tower standing about thirty meters tall. This is the Sahat Kula, which has traditionally displayed prayer times. 

It’s believed that Sarajevo’s clock tower was built in the 16th century around the same time as the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque. However, this clock tower is unique because it has the only public clock in the world that measures time lunarly, according to the moon.

By the lunar time, the clock on the tower shows 12 o’clock at the moment of the astronomical sunset. It also indicates 12 o’clock at sunrise in the early dawn. As the length of the day changes daily, the clock mechanism needs constant adjusting. 

The mechanism was sourced from London, and there are only two such mechanisms in the world: one in Big Ben in London and the other right here in the Sahat Kula in Sarajevo.

3. Western Part of Sarajevo

As you cross the “Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures” marker, you officially step into a part of Sarajevo dominated by Austro-Hungarian and Christian culture.

In one moment, you’re in the ‘Turkish’ part of the city, and the next, you’ve entered the ‘Viennese’ section. This sharp, almost surgically precise transition is something unique and adds to the charm I mentioned in the introduction to this travelogue.

The most striking building in this area is the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, a late 19th-century Roman Catholic cathedral. In front of it, you’ll find a monument to Pope John Paul II, who visited Sarajevo in the late 1990s. Nearby, one of the many ‘Sarajevo Roses’ – memorial marks created by filling mortar shell impacts with red resin – serves as a poignant reminder of the city’s past.

A short walk from the cathedral takes you to the charming Liberation Square, dominated by Francesco Perilli’s sculpture of the Multicultural Man. Below the sculpture, a plaque reads, “The Multicultural Man will build the world.” 

On one side of the square stands the grand Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God, one of the largest and most important Orthodox churches in the country. On the other side of Liberation Square, you’ll come across the bustling city market. 

Behind it lies the Eternal Flame, a monument to the liberators of Sarajevo in World War II, erected shortly after the war’s end in 1946.

4. Take a Ride on the Trebević Cable Car

If you ask an older local about the Trebević cable car, you’ll likely be met with a smile and a nostalgic look back to days gone by when they joyfully rode the then-called “funicular” from Bistrik to Trebević. 

The cable car was officially opened on May 3, 1959, with a large gathering of citizens at the original station in Avdage Šahinagića Street, near the Vijećnica.

Back then, the cable car was a symbol of not just Sarajevo but all of Yugoslavia. It was one of the few that could whisk you away from the bustling city center to a natural oasis in just 12 minutes, offering a restaurant and an incredible city view from the lookout.

Today, the cable car has 33 cabins with 10 seats each, capable of transporting 1200 passengers per hour. Instead of the former 15 minutes, it now takes just 7 and a half minutes to reach Trebević.

Unfortunately, there’s a fee for this experience. A round-trip ticket costs 30 KM (about 15 euros or $17), while a one-way ticket is 20 KM (around 10 euros or just under $12). It’s a small price for the sweeping views and the swift journey to the serenity of Trebević.

5. Bobsleigh Track

When you take the cable car up to Trebević, one thing you can’t miss is a visit to the bobsleigh track, built for the 1984 Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo. This event marked Yugoslavia as the first communist state to host the Olympics.

Walking along the track is like stepping back in time, reminding visitors of one of the city’s most significant and costly investments during that period.

Not only was the construction expensive, but it was also challenging, entrusted to Professor Gorazd Bučar and a team of architects who created what is now considered a masterpiece. 

6. The Museum of the Sarajevo Assassination and Latin Bridge

On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at the corner of today’s Obala Kulina bana and Zelenih beretki, sparking the start of World War I. 

In response, a monument to the Archduke and his wife was erected on the Latin Bridge opposite the assassination site, later removed after the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

The site now houses the “Sarajevo 1878-1918” Museum, detailing the history of Austro-Hungarian rule, including cultural and architectural changes in the city.

The Latin Bridge, constructed in 1565 by Ali Ajni-bey, was named after the nearby Latinluk quarter. Originally featuring five arches, it’s a historic structure representing the change and continuity of Sarajevo’s storied past.

7. Visit the Tunnel of Hope

The Tunnel of Hope is a must-see in Sarajevo, especially when you’re touching on the city’s tough times, like the siege in the early ’90s.

This tunnel was a lifeline during the war, helping to get food, supplies, and people in and out of the city.

Today, you can walk through part of it and see for yourself how this underground passage played a huge role in Sarajevo’s history.

8. Take a Walk Along the Miljacka

Although the Miljacka might seem more like a concrete channel than a river, it’s lined with some of Sarajevo’s most beautiful and interesting buildings. 

Start your walk along Radićeva street from Veliki Park and soon you’ll come across the Academy of Fine Arts. 

Originally intended to be an Evangelical church, most Evangelists left Sarajevo after World War I, so by the 1980s, it was converted into the Academy. Not only is the building striking, but it’s also known for the Festina lente bridge in front, a structure embodying the “hurry slowly” philosophy.

As you continue, you’ll see more beautiful buildings, some well-kept and others showing signs of wear. Keep an eye out for the whimsical ‘Bicyclist on the Wire’ sculpture, seemingly floating above the Miljacka!

Then you’ll reach the most famous bridge over the Miljacka – the Latin or Princip Bridge. It’s here that Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, sparking World War I. 

Nearby is the majestic Emperor’s Mosque, Sarajevo’s oldest mosque likely built in the 15th century in honor of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror and later refurbished by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.

Continuing your walk, the imposing City Hall (Vijećnica) is next, with the Inat House right beside it, a building with a story as intriguing as any. When the Austro-Hungarians decided to construct the City Hall on the river’s right bank, several houses had to be relocated. One stubborn owner refused to leave his home despite a lucrative offer. 

Eventually, they reached a compromise: his house was moved brick by brick to the other side of the river, and he was compensated with a hefty sum. Thus, the Inat House got its name, which means ‘Stubborn House,’. Today the house is a traditional restaurant.

9. Take a Picture at the Eternal Flame

Located where Maršala Tita, Ferhadija, and Mula Mustafe Bešeskije streets meet, you’ll find the Eternal Flame, a well-known symbol in Sarajevo. This flame is always lit, honoring those who were lost in the war from 1992-95. 

It’s there to make sure we don’t forget the tough times the city went through and to remind everyone about the importance of peace.

You can’t miss it if you walk down the main street of Ferhadija from Baščaršija towards Maršala Tita Street.

10. White and Yellow Forts for the Best Coffee View

The White (Bijela) and Yellow (Žuta) Forts are the go-to spots for amazing views over Sarajevo.

The White Fort is an old-timer, dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, and it’s been built up over the years.

The Yellow Fort is known for the yellowish stone it’s made from and was part of the old town’s defense back in the day.

Nowadays, the Yellow Fort has a cool café with an outdoor area where you can grab a coffee and soak in the city sights.

It’s especially cool during Ramadan when they fire a cannon from here to mark the end of fasting for the day.

11. Bjelašnica and Igman

Just 25 kilometers from Sarajevo lie the natural reserves of the Bjelašnica and Igman mountains, which hosted most of the alpine, Nordic, and ski jumping events of the 14th Winter Olympics.

Known for its weather that can seemingly cycle through all four seasons in a day, Bjelašnica is also home to a meteorological observatory built in 1894 at its peak.

With over 200 snowy days a year, a thick snow cover of 135 cm, and well-maintained trails stretching over 25 kilometers, Bjelašnica and Igman are perfect for an active winter holiday, complete with good hotel and other amenities.

The ski slopes run from the top of Bjelašnica (2067 m) down to Babin Do (1266 m), the finish line of the Olympic downhill.

Igman’s unique feature is the Mrazište, a site of thermal inversion, and it recorded its lowest temperature of -43.5 °C in January 1963. For the Olympics, two ski jumps of 70 and 90 meters were built at Malo Polje on Igman, which is connected to Babin Do by a cycling path. 

12. Skiing at Jahorina

If you’re into skiing, you’ve got to check out Jahorina, only about 40 km from Sarajevo. It’s one of the hottest ski spots in the whole Balkans.

Compared to other European ski resorts, the prices here are pretty affordable. A day’s ski pass, which is the priciest ticket you’ll need, will run you between 37 and 44 euros, depending on when you go.

13. Lukomir Village

Way up at almost 1500 meters on the Bjelašnica mountain, you’ll find Lukomir, the highest and most remote village in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s about 42 kilometers or an hour and a half drive from Sarajevo. 

Lukomir is pretty unique with its stone houses that have roofs made of cherry tree wood shingles. Because it sits up high in the mountains, the place gets pretty cut off with the first snows in December. You can’t get there except by skiing or hiking until the snow melts in April, and sometimes even later.

Lukomir is also known for its traditional clothing. Women there still wear knitted garments like they did centuries ago. The village is famous for its colorful wool crafts, like gloves and socks, all handmade. The folks here stick to herding and mountain farming.

14. Vrelo Bosne

Vrelo Bosne might not be the top pick in winter, but if you’re in Sarajevo, I’d say it’s still worth a visit. Sure, you might not get to ride in a carriage or have a picnic on the grass in the middle of the forest when it’s chilly out. But even in the cooler months, the park has its own quiet beauty. 

The streams and springs that make up the source of the Bosna River are pretty year-round, and the frost on the trees can turn the place into a winter wonderland.