GLXY Travel Guide - Exploring the LGBT Scene in Sarajevo, Bosnia

12 Aug, 2017
In this article you can find out why and when to visit Bosnia & Herzegovina and Sarajevo, how friendly is this city for LGBT persons, where to go for gay-friendly dinner options, bars, clubs and other venues, what are the most important LGBT events of the year not to be missed; how to meet locals; and other interesting and important practical details.

About Bosnia & Herzegovina and Sarajevo

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country of 3,5 million of citizens. It is a country located in Balkans, as it borders with Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro. The capital of the country is Sarajevo, and the name Sarajevo, when translated, immediately says a lot about the city. The name comes from Turkish word Saraj, which means a city that has warmth for everybody. Sarajevo is one of the smallest capitals, counting only 300 000 citizens. Also, it is important to mention a thing or two about the political situation in the country, since it is quite interesting. Multiethnicity is what Bosnia and Herzegovina would always be the first to proudly stand up when called upon the name. Bosnia and Herzegovina is constituted by 3 parts, Republic of Srpska, Federation and Brčko district. This Constitution created a very slow legislative administrative structure and procedures. Sarajevo lies on a river Miljacka that kind of cuts the city to two, however, there is a promise that, if you know this, you can never get lost. Also, it is full of natural beauties, circled by mountains, looking from above, because of big number of green color it could seem like a sleeping valley. But that would only happen if you are that distant. Coming closer to the ground, one would notice the magnificent layers of architectural objects, dated from Roman empire till today. The city is very beautiful, because if you go to the Old Town, the aura of Orient breezes and one may not feel like in Europe whatsoever. Then you have Austro-Hungarian style of building and that period is also well known for drastic development of the city.

LGBT situation

Bosnia and Herzegovina was the last country in Balkans to decriminalise homosexuality, in 1998. Since then, not a lot has changed when it comes to public opinion on LGBT. LGBT people are closeted and not prone to come out. In 2008, there has been an attempt to organize the first Queer Sarajevo festival, by the organization Q. At the opening of the festival, the LGBT's, their families and supporters were brutally attacked and after that a couple of organizers flew away and seeked asylum in a country that is more open. The biggest organization that works on the issue of LGBTI people is Sarajevo Open Center. this year it is 10 years since it was founded and in those 10 years they did a great job. It takes courage to go against such a corrupt and slow moving system. Sarajevo Open Center, in 2013, organized Merlinka Film Festival -all about queer movies and gaining visibility and creating a tradition. After the tragedy of 2008, the organizations and LGBT people were quite cautious going publicly, aka, to call it out, almost nobody was publicly out. Today, there is a couple of public personas supporting the battle with the system. Bosnia and Herzegovina, initiated by Sarajevo Open Center, accepted the amendment to Anti-discrimination law, and since 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina became first in Balkans not just to work for freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity but also the law includes protection of intersex people. Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn't have a pride parade yet, but they organize a march for human rights, in December, acknowledging the date of Human Rights Day, that in the end turns out to be all rainbow flags, and a couple of trans*.

Other organizations that exist in Bosnia and Herzegovina are: Okvir, Banjaluka organization of queer activist, Tuzla Open Centre, LibertaMo from Mostar. Bosnian queers have a web page You can certainly find more information about queer hangouts on the page, or get in contact with local organizations.

If you are passing by or staying in Sarajevo LGBT and LGBT friendly bars/restaurants/places to see are:

1. There is only one openly LGBT place and that is Art Kino Kriterion. It is located in the center of the city, in Skenderija, and is also bike friendly, pet friendly, art projects friendly, laptop work friendly. The best thing is that it is also a cinema, and a part of Kriterion Amsterdam, hiring only students that need jobs while studying.
2. Galerija Boris Smoje is a cafe gallery that is one of the most popular places to go out in the city. It is LGBT friendly and a lot of queers can be seen there.
3. Meeting Point is a bar and a cinema, quite big, located behind the marvellous building of Academy of Fine Arts. It is friendly and a lot of amazing movies, and parties, and people. The music is modern.
4. The only place where you can dance all night to electro music is called Silver & Smoke. It is friendly, but not a lot of queers go there.