For anyone travelling in Bosnia and Herzegovina or road tripping through the Balkans, a stop in the enchanting, historic city of Mostar is a must. The old town is absolutely captivating: think cobblestone streets that wind through a bazaar that seems untouched by the hands of time, the curved minarets of impressive mosques jutting into the sky, and pastel facades of cafes and storefronts that create a kaleidoscope of hues best seen from the banks of the Neretva River. The city’s crown jewel is Stari Most, a grand stone bridge which sweeps across the water, making it the most photographed landmark in the entire country for good reason.
While a visit here is worthy of at least a couple of nights, it is possible to do a Mostar day trip from the capital Sarajevo, or as one of the tours from Dubrovnik or Split, Croatia. From the best things to do in Mostar to where to eat and sleep, here’s a quick guide to making the most of your time in this storied city.
What to do in Mostar
While more than a generation has passed since the Bosnian War, the scars still remain. Walls of apartment buildings and storefronts have gouges where they were riddled by sniper fire, blood-red graffiti scrawls out important dates related to the brutal conflict, and the Museum Of War And Genocide Victims details the history of the war alongside displays of the personal belongings of victims and items pulled from mass graves.
Architecturally speaking, the most noticeable impact of the war was on Stari Most: originally built in 1566, the beautiful bridge was tragically destroyed by shelling in November 1993, collapsing into the Neretva. It took more than a decade of painstaking work to rebuild, eventually reopening in 2004 and earning a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the Mostar bridge is considered a symbol of the city, and is even the site of a Red Bull cliff diving competition where thrill-seekers jump off of it into the freezing water below.
Aside from wandering across Stari Most and taking photos of it from every possible angle as most visitors do, here’s what to see in Mostar:
- The Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque: Head up the minaret of this mosque for dazzling views of the old town, river and bridge sweeping out below. Built in 1617 on the rocky river banks of the Neretva, its tan-stone blocks and domes are a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture.
- Muslibegovic House: Also Ottoman-influenced, this national monument dates back to the 18th century and was once home to the Muslibegovic family who were a part of a noble lineage in Herzegovina, even serving as governors for centuries. Today it serves as a museum and hotel.
- The Museum of War and Genocide Victims: This aforementioned exhibit is located close to the bridge, and provides great insight into Bosnia’s darkest days and the impacts of the war. There’s also a War Photo Exhibition nearby.
- The Hamam Museum: This stone, Turkish bath house was built in the 16th century in the Old Town near the bazaar, and details hammam culture and the customs with a video and exhibits.
Shopping in Mostar
The most authentic place for shopping in Mostar is at the Old Bazar Kujundziluk, which winds through the old town. Overlooking the left bank of the Neretva River, its cobbled streets date back to the 16th century and are lined with traditional handicraft shops selling the likes of original paintings, silver jewelry and long scarves, as well as common souvenirs like t-shirts and mugs. There are also one-of-a-kind housewares like colourful hanging lamps, copper pots, gorgeous glassware, and ornate coffee and tea sets.
Best restaurants in Mostar
You’re sure to work up an appetite during your Mostar tour, so fuel up at one of the great restaurants or cafes in the old town. Restoran Sadrvan is one of the area’s most popular eateries, thanks to its ambiance and great location near the riverbank. This traditional restaurant serves up local dishes like cevapcici which is a traditional Balkan style mixed meat sausage, a Bosnian-style chicken and okra soup called begova, and Balkan style kebabs and skewers. Portion sizes are huge, which makes this spot an incredible value.
Other good restaurant options are Restoran Kaldrma which serves locally-inspired dishes and has great views of the Old Town; Lagero, which is right by the Mostar bridge and has a great wine selection; and Hindin Han, another restaurant serving typical Bosnian dishes, perfect for an evening when you want to get a bit further out from the very centre of Mostar.
For an afternoon pick-me-up, be sure to try a cup of famously-strong Bosnian coffee. Similar to Turkish coffee, the magic of Bosnian coffee is in how you drink it: by sipping slowly, perhaps during a long conversation with good company on an outdoor patio, savouring a break from the day.
How to get to Mostar
While Mostar does have an international airport, the connections are limited to cities like Beirut, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart and Zagreb. Therefore, most tourists who visit Mostar arrive from Sarajevo by driving, taking the two-hour train ride, or hopping on a bus which is half an hour longer.
From Montenegro it’s a bit of a road trip, taking about three hours to drive from Kotor to Mostar, not including wait times at the border crossing. It’s a bit quicker from the Croatia side, with the trip from Dubrovnik to Mostar taking about two-and-a-half hours, or Split which is two hours away.
Don’t have your own wheels? No problem: Mostar day trips are common from Croatia, and ones like this even include visits to the gorgeous Kravice Falls, pilgrim town of Medjugorje and ancient Pocitelj.
Check out these Mostar tours:
Where to stay in Mostar
Villa Anri Mostar: Located close to the Old Town, this Mostar hotel offers fabulous views of Stari Most and the Neretva River. Decor inside the rooms is simple and cozy, and many come with a terrace or balcony. There’s also a buffet restaurant where you can sample traditional Bosnian specialties for breakfast. Click to book
Bosnian National Monument Muslibegovic House Hotel: This is an adorable four-star hybrid of a hotel and museum, surrounded by a gorgeous garden. Rooms are decorated in typical Bosnian Ottoman style, and since it’s also a museum there are several artifacts on show. Click to book
City Apartment One: For more modern Mostar accommodation, check out the budget-friendly City Apartment One which has bright, light decor. Located near the Old Town, guests can make use of the complimentary bicycles, or enjoy a drink at the on-site bar. Click to book
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