Once you are in Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, you will probably want to find out more about the place mainly popular for its rich history and turbulent episodes from the past. The best place to discover it are, for sure, Sarajevo museums.
Also, this article is not just a simple guide to museums, but also a bit deeper piece explaining more about historical events that shaped country and its people through different empires, two World Wars and most recently, dissolution of Yugoslavia and Bosnian war.
Additionally, we will here try to give you a glimpse on the multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism of the Bosnian capital that was challenged and endangered so many times, but somehow yet remained alive.
Living together for hundreds of years, Muslim Bosniaks, Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs, Jews, Roma and many other people in this city experienced a lot which left a significant mark on history, art, culture and architecture in Sarajevo.
So, we will here recommend some of the museums you should definitely check out.
The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina has several departments and permanent exhibitions. The four pavilions contain the departments of archaeology, ethnology, natural history and a small but beautiful botanical garden with a collection of unique medieval Bosnian tombstones called stećci.
These monumental tombstones are one of the most important remains from medieval Bosnia and are usually identified with the medieval Bosnian Church, Christian church that was independent of and considered heretical by both the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Bosnian Church is the subject of many disputes and tickling many historians and scientists to the day.
Most famous item in the National museum is the Sarajevo Haggadah, the illuminated Jewish codex discovered in Sarajevo in 1894. This book was originally made around 1350, in medieval Spain, most likely in Barcelona. It's a collection of religious rules and traditions of Sephardic Jews (who live in Sarajevo for centuries) and it has a turbulent history itself. Museum employees had to hide it and protect it several times through history, most notably during the occupation of Sarajevo by the German forces in 1941. According to several sources, it was hidden in a mosque in one of the Muslim villages on the mountain Bjelašnica, until the end of World War II.
Don't be surprised with a poor condition of some exhibitions and collections as museum is struggling with financing for years now, and it was even closed for several years, from 2012 to 2015. It is constantly in renovations, but it is still worthy of your time! Tickets are also quite cheap, only around 3 euros.
Museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm, and on weekends from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Adress: Zmaja od Bosne 3, 71000 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Find out more: http://www.zemaljskimuzej.ba/en
The Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was founded in November of 1945, just after the Second World War ended. In 1963, it was moved to current building, one of the city's showpieces of socialist architecture, and it is situated on just two minutes walking distance from the National museum.
Government changed its name several times through history of its existence, first it was Museum of National Liberation, then Museum of the Peoples’ Revolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and later Museum of the Revolution, before the final change of the name in 1993 in Historical Museum.
Probably in the worst shape of all museums in Sarajevo, Historical Museum also had to fight for the funding but it somehow survived and opened its doors to the public again in 2015.
It has several permanent exhibitions but most famous is the 'Sarajevo under Siege', story about the life of the citizens during the siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995. It tells the story about persistence of Sarajevans who lived under siege for 1.335 days without electricity, heating, running water and very often - food.
Siege of Sarajevo in the '90s was the longest siege of the capital city in the history of modern warfare and it's truly one of the saddest episodes in the history of Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thousands of civilians, many of whom children, were killed during the siege which remains an open wound even more than 20 years after Bosnian war ended.
Therefore, this exhibition attracts many tourists but also historians, journalists, political scientists and many other interested in once besieged city and its inhabitants.
Museum is open every day from 9.00 AM - 7.00 PM
Address: Zmaja od Bosne 5, Sarajevo 71000
More info here: http://muzej.ba/
Sarajevo Museum 1878–1918, also known as Museum of Assassination, it's a step back into Austro-Hungarian period in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It started as a new era for Bosnians and brought modernisation to the country after the Ottomans left, but newly formed domestic nationalist movements weren't happy with monarchy ruling the country. And as it usually happens in the Balkans, this era ended in blood, but this time, the blood wasn't of a 'regular man'.
Young Bosnian nationalist Gavrilo Princip in 1914 in the streets of Sarajevo shot dead Austrian heir and future king Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sophie during their visit to the Bosnian capital. This event, in history known as 'Sarajevo assassination', will be a direct cause to the chain of events the led to the First World War.
After the assassination, Sarajevo entered the world history books as ‘a city where the Great War started’ and became a symbol of resistance in this part of the Europe.
The Museum of Sarajevo 1878–1918 is located in the actual building outside which Archduke Ferdinand and his wife were killed. Its exhibition contains the footage of the assassination and its aftermath, weapons, clothes and other historical objects and documents related to this period and the event that will change the world forever.
Adress: Zelenih beretki 1, Sarajevo 71000
More info here: http://muzejsarajeva.ba/en/depadance/the-sarajevo-museum
Yet another war story turned to the museum exhibition, Tunnel of Hope serves both as a tourist attraction and a reminder of the only exit from the besieged city during the Bosnian war. It's was an underground passage that went underneath Sarajevo airport runway. The tunnel allowed food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to come into the city but allowing people to get in and out. During the war, it became a symbol of the city’s struggle.
After the war, The Sarajevo Tunnel Museum was founded in the private house whose cellar served as the entrance to the Sarajevo Tunnel. Visitors today can still walk down a small length of the tunnel, maybe around 20 meters of it. The exhibit archival materials include an 18-minute-long movie, war photographs, military equipment, flags and uniforms from the war period.
Getting here with a public transport can be complicated and you could lose some valuable time on it, so the best thing is to take a taxi, especially if you're with a group of people.
Opening hours: Every day from 9.00 am-5.00 pm, (last entry 4.30pm - Apr-Oct, 3.30pm Nov-Mar)
Adress: Tuneli bb, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Hercegovina
More info here: http://tunelspasa.ba/
Museum of the Jews of Bosnia and Herzegovina was founded in 1966, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Jewish arrival to Sarajevo. It is situated in the Old Temple, oldest synagogue in Bosnia and Herzegovina, built in 1581.
History of Jews in Bosnia and Herzegovina goes all the way to the Ottoman Empire, during which Bosnia was one of the few territories in Europe that welcomed Sephardic Jews after their expulsion from Spain and Portugal. At one point in history, just before Second World War, Jews comprised 20 per cent population of Sarajevo, but unfortunately many of them were taken to the concentracion camps and later murdered. Also during the Bosnian war, supported by Jewish organisations, thousands of Bosnian Jews were evacuated to Israel so today number of Jews in Bosnia and Herzegovina is lower than ever. Still, Jewish community remained active in social and cultural life of the city.
Museum of the Jews of Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a big museum, but its permanent exhibition of ritual objects, documents, photographs, paintings and maps, clothes and objects of glass, metal and wood is a very valuable display of history and achievements of Jewish people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Museum is open Mon-Fri from 10.00am-6.00 pm and on weekends from 10.00am-3.00pm
Adress: Velika avlija bb, 71000 Sarajevo, Bosna i Hercegovina
More info here: http://muzejsarajeva.ba/en/depadance/the-jewish-museum
Another branch of the Museum of Sarajevo, the Despic House in Sarajevo was built in 1881 by the wealthy and prominent family Despic.
The house was home of first modern theater performances in Sarajevo and serves as the most accurate display of lifestyle of a wealthy families in the 19th century Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Entering the house, one has the feeling of being lost in time as everything inside is exactly as it was back in days when house was full of guests looking for an entertainment.
Interior of the Despic house represents yet another mixture of culture and influences from East and West, where you can spot oriental carpets and pottery but also, in that time more luxurious, 19th century’s Western furniture.
Last owner of the house and also last male descendant of the family Despić bequeathed the house to the Museum of Sarajevo in 1969, along with another family residence now housing the Sarajevo Museum of Literature and the Performing Arts.
Adress: Despićeva 2, 71000 Sarajevo, Bosna i Hercegovina
More info here: http://muzejsarajeva.ba/en/depadance/the-despic-house
Svrzo's House, also a branch of the Museum of Sarajevo, represents a typical Bosnian house from 18th century Bosnia and Herzegovina, built during the late period of Ottoman ruling in this country.
Same as Despic House, Svrzo’s House is very well preserved and therefore serves as a great example of oriental architecture in Sarajevo, but also depicts a culture of living of wealthy Muslim families in that time.
Its uniqueness makes the house one of the favorite tourist spots in the city.
It is a big wooden house traditionally divided in several parts, selamluk – public quarters for welcoming guests, haremluk – private quarters with sleeping rooms and quarters for servants. House was renovated and refurbished few times but kept its original look to the days.
Adress: Glođina 8, 71000 Sarajevo, Bosna i Hercegovina
More info here: http://muzejsarajeva.ba/en/depadance/svrzo-s-house
This museum opened in January 2017 and its collection contains a number of personal items, stories, photos, letters, drawings and other documents telling the stories of the children who grew up during the Bosnian war in the ‘90s.
Museum was founded after great success of book ‘Childhood During the War: Sarajevo 1992-1995’, and its collection reflects the touching memories of children caught up in the events that forever changed their lives and childhood itself. Book was so far translated in several languages.
Interesting fact is that every item displayed in the War Childhood Museum is accompanied by a personal story of its owner, making it much more powerful than any other museum exhibition we are used to see.
Along with collecting wartime items, War Childhood Museum is collecting and displaying audio and video testimonies of touching and remarkable stories of people who were children during the difficult times.
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 11:00 - 19:00
Adress: Logavina 32, 71000 Sarajevo
More info here: http://museum.warchildhood.com/
If you are staying in Sarajevo for more than a few days, you should also visit the Sevdah Art House, house of traditional Bosnian folk music - sevdah, the Brusa Bezistan with its permanent exhibition on Bosnian history and culture, already mentioned Sarajevo Museum of Literature and the Performing Arts, Sarajevo Brewery Museum and last but not the least, National Gallery of BiH.
Photos: Lejla Mujic