Sarajevo is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with an estimated population of over 411,161 people within its administrative limits. It is also the capital of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity, as well as the center of the Sarajevo Canton, which has a population of 578,757. Nestled within the greater Sarajevo valley of Bosnia, it is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans.
Sarajevo is the leading political, social and cultural center of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its region-wide influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts contribute to its status as Bosnia and Herzegovina's major economic centre.
During the Middle Ages Sarajevo was part of the Bosnian province of Vrhbosna near the traditional center of the kingdom. Though a city called Vrhbosna existed, the exact settlement of Sarajevo at this time is debated. Various documents of the high Middle Ages note a place called Tornik in the region. By all indications, Tornik was a very small marketplace surrounded by a proportionally small village, and was not considered very important by Ragusan merchants.
Under leaders such as the second governor Gazi Husrev-beg, Sarajevo grew at a rapid rate. Husrev-beg greatly shaped the physical city, as most of what is now the Old Town was built during his reign. Sarajevo became known for its large marketplace and numerous mosques, which by the middle of the 16th century numbered more than 100. At the peak of the empire, Sarajevo was the biggest and most important Ottoman city in the Balkans after Istanbul. By 1660, the population of Sarajevo was estimated to be over 80,000. By contrast, Belgrade in 1838 had 12,963 inhabitants, and Zagreb as late as 1851 had 14,000 people. As political conditions changed, Sarajevo became the site of warfare.
Numerous other fires weakened the city, as well. The city was later rebuilt, but never fully recovered from the destruction. By 1807, it had only some 60,000 residents.
In the 1830s, several battles of the Bosnian uprising had taken place around the city. These had been led by Husein Gradaščević. Today, a major city street is named Zmaj od Bosne (Dragon of Bosnia) in his honor. The rebellion failed and, for several more decades, the crumbling Ottoman state remained in control of Bosnia.
The Ottoman Empire made Sarajevo an important administrative centre by 1850.
The Austria-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 World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, along with his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 by a self-declared Yugoslav, Gavrilo Princip. In the ensuing war, however, most of the Balkan offensives occurred near Belgrade, and Sarajevo largely escaped damage and destruction.
During World War II the Kingdom of Yugoslavia put up an inadequate defense. Following a German bombing campaign, Sarajevo was captured on 15 April 1941 by the 16th Motorized infantry Division. The Axis powers created the Independent State of Croatia and included Sarajevo in its territory. On 12 October 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 a distinction between the Muslims who participated in such persecutions and the rest of the Muslim population, presented information about the persecutions of Muslims by Serbs, and requested security for all citizens of the country, regardless of their identity.
The city was bombed by the Allies from 1943 to 1944. The Yugoslav Partisan movement was represented in the city. Resistance was led by a NLA Partisan named "Walter" Perić. He died while leading the final liberation of the city on 6 April 1945. Many of the WWII shell casings that were used during the attacks have been carved and polished in Sarajevo tradition and are sold as art.
The crowning moment of Sarajevo’s time in Socialist Yugoslavia was the 1984 Winter Olympics. Sarajevo beat out Sapporo, Japan; and Falun/Göteborg, Sweden for the privilege. They were followed by an immense boom in tourism, making the 1980s one of the city's best decades in a long time.
During the siege, 11,541 people lost their lives, including over 1,500 children. An additional 56,000 people were wounded, including nearly 15,000 children. The 1991 census indicates that before the siege the city and its surrounding areas had a population of 525,980.
Today, Sarajevo is one of the fastest developing cities in the region. Various new modern buildings have been built, most significantly the Bosmal City Center, BBI Centar and the Avaz Twist Tower, which is the tallest skyscraper in the Balkans. A new highway was recently (2006–2011) completed between Sarajevo and the city of Kakanj. Due to growth in population, tourism and airport traffic the service sector in the city is developing fast and welcoming new investors from various businesses.
The near-future Sarajevo will have one the most developed commercial infrastructures in Southeastern Europe. The business enclave to be known collectively as the Sarajevo City Center will be one of the largest and most modern shopping and business centers in the region upon its completion in early 2013. Airport Center Sarajevo which will be connected directly to the new airport terminal will offer a great variety of brands, products and services.
- The Cathedral of Jesus' Heart commonly referred as the Sarajevo Cathedral is the largest cathedral in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the seat of the Vrhbosanski Archbishop, currently Cardinal Vinko Puljić, and centre of Catholic worship in the city. The Cathedral is located in the city's Old Town district. The Cathedral of Jesus' Heart was built in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an important Catholic concept. Architect Josip Vancaš modeled it after the Notre-Dame de Paris using the neo-Gothic style and elements of Romanesque architecture. Work began on August 25, 1884, and was completed in the same month in 1889. The Bishop of Dubrovnik was present for the opening.
- Latin Bridge is a historic Ottoman bridge over the River Miljacka. The northern end of the bridge was the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Gavrilo Princip in 1914, which became a factor in the start of World War I. Judging by its foundation, it is the oldest among the preserved bridges in the city. The census of the Sanjak of Bosnia from 1541 mentions the bridge on this spot, built by the leather-worker Hussein, son of Sirmerd. This first bridge seems to have been made of wood, because the court record from 1565 witness that the stone bridge was built here by eminent citizen of Sarajevo Ali-Ajni Beg. Terrible floods on November 15, 1791 badly damaged the bridge and its reconstruction was financed by the Sarajevo merchant Abdullah-aga Briga. Someone worked out that the year when it was rebuilt can be obtained from the numerical values in the word 'Briga' it is 1213 which by Islamic calendar equals the year of the reconstruction 1798/99.
- The Sebilj is a pseudo-Moorish style wooden fountain in the centre of Baščaršija square in Sarajevo built by Mehmed-pasha Kukavica in 1753. It was relocated by Czech architect Alexander Vitek in 1891. It is also frequently called “the pigeon square”. A multi-national collaborative public arts project created a life-size contemporary interpretation of the famous public fountain and landmark in Birmingham, utilising traditional Bosnian design and craft techniques and combined with modern digital technology.
- The Avaz Twist Tower is a 176 m tall skyscraper which is the headquarters for Dnevni avaz, a Bosnia and Herzegovina newspaper company. The tower is located in the Marijin Dvor district, Sarajevo's business district. Construction began in 2006 and was finished in 2008. The tower is specific for its twisted facade. German company Schüco has chosen it among the 10 most beautiful buildings in the world. At the height of 150m, there is a public viewpoint from which the rest of the city can be seen.
- The Emperor's Mosque is an important landmark in Sarajevo, being the first mosque to be built (1457) after the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia. It is the largest single-subdome mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina, built in the classical Ottoman style of the era. It was built by one Isaković-Hranušić who dedicated it to the Sultan, Muhammad al-Fatih, the conqueror of Constantinople. Considered one of the most beautiful mosques of the Ottoman period in the Balkans, the mosque features a roomy interior and high quality decorative details, such as the mihrab.