Its idyllic mountain setting and diverse heritage makes Sarajevo one of Europe’s most intriguing cities. Yet it is its indomitable spirit that makes it truly special. Although Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a name which might seem inextricably linked to war and tragedy, the passing of 20 years has done much to heal this remarkable and resilient city, and tourism is now sharply on the rise. The reason is obvious. Sarajevo is beautiful. The city is tucked inside a long, thin valley and surrounded on all sides by forested mountains, and almost every crossroads and street corner provides at least a glimpse of an idyllic picture-postcard backdrop.
During the worst moments in the city’s history, when its inhabitants were targeted by snipers, this dramatic geography proved to be a terrifying drawback but, thankfully, the spectacular natural beauty of Sarajevo can again be admired and enjoyed. The best way to do this is to find the highest vantage point possible, and with the recent reopening of Sarajevo’s iconic cable car, a trip up the mountainside has, once again, been made easy. A short walk from Baščaršija brings you to the shiny new cable car station in the foothills of Mount Trebević, one of the peaks which played host to events in the 1984 Winter Olympics. For a return fee of 20 Bosnian marks (approximately £10), this must-do cable car lifts you more than 1,100m in seven minutes, providing breathtaking views every second of the way. At the top, the perspective shifts and changes like a kaleidoscope. It’s a view which defies comparison with most other European cities. Mosques and minarets decorate the skyline along with the Romanesque towers of Catholic churches and the onion-shaped domes of Orthodox ones. And that is another thing which makes this city so fascinating: it’s a place where east and west meet. On the main pedestrian thoroughfare, Ferhadija, this cultural equator is marked for posterity on the pavement and a sign encourages visitors to take a photo looking first one way up the street and then the other. The contrast is stark. Austro-Hungarian architecture and a mosaic of western shop signs can be seen in one direction, while, with a simple turn of the head, the outlook abruptly transforms into a Turkish bazaar. On one side of this line, people sit and drink beer at tables on the street, while on the other, there isn’t a drop of alcohol to be found. Instead, you’ll find open-fronted cafes offering strong Bosnian coffee and also, perhaps, a puff on a hookah pipe.