Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina | C.1894

Photo Credit: Iman Korenic

Our story begins on a summer morning in Sarajevo, as Archduke Franz Ferdinand left City Hall. The year was 1914, and, well… you know the rest. Ferdinand’s assassination was the spark that ignited the fire of World War I and led to a chain of events that changed the world forever. Today we bring you to the site of this origin story, Vijećnica, Sarajevo’s famed City Hall.

The grand, pseudo-Moorish Hall has stood for more than a century, and over the years became known for much more than playing host to a most notorious murder. Instead, the chieftains of these chambers turned their attention to books. Resident librarians filled the confines with an incredible collection of literature, consisting of 1.5 million volumes and 150,000+ rare books and manuscripts.

Tragically, though, the library became a casualty of another war that swept through the region in the 1990s. Hit by heavy artillery, the hall was set ablaze — but that didn’t stop the people of Sarajevo from trying to save the priceless collection. A few heroic citizens and librarians braved the blaze and retrieved some books, though much of the library was lost.

For decades, the hall remained in disrepair as several attempts to rebuild it proved futile. Fortunately, its fate took a turn when it was placed on the World Monuments Watch in 2008. Several European countries rallied around the historic structure, providing the funding for a full restoration back to its former glory.

In 2014, just in time for the centennial of the First World War, Sarajevo’s City Hall was reopened. And while there may be a few books still missing from the collection, Adventurers who visit this heralded hall will find no shortage of history all around them — no reading required.

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