Enchantment, adrenaline and a hint of melancholy: the emotions that a trip to Mostar will give you are inversely proportional to the tiny size of this town that stands on both banks of the Neretva River in the heart of Herzegovina.
The emblem of the city is its magnificent medieval arched bridge that joins the two banks of the river and ideally two communities, the Croatian and Christian on one side and the Bosnian and Muslim on the other.
Today a symbol of peace and a springboard for thrilling dives, Mostar’s Old Bridge was, in the recent and still painful past, the protagonist of one of the most infamous episodes of the war that shook the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Those still unhealed wounds surface here and there in the city, in museums, engraved stones, memorial cemeteries, but Mostar today is a lively city, attracting more and more visitors with its romantic views, cheap prices and fascinating mix of East and West.
The centre of Mostar is a real gem, small but enchanting: it is easy to get around on foot, with all the attractions concentrated within a few hundred metres. The atmosphere becomes magical when the sun goes down, the tourists leave and the city is lit up by the lanterns of bars and restaurants, creating an evocative play of light and shadow with the cobbled streets of the centre.
Perfect for a spring break or an autumn holiday, when temperatures are mild (on the contrary, summer and winter reach extremes of hot and cold), Mostar is a still little-known destination capable of providing the curious traveller with surprises and indelible memories.
Mostar is a very pleasant city to visit, surprisingly rich in emblematic sights and interesting attractions. Here are the attractions not to be missed.
The Old Bridge (Stari Most) is the symbolic monument of Mostar, a bit like the Eiffel Tower for Paris or the Statue of Liberty for New York. It was built in 1566 at the behest of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in place of an earlier suspension bridge and was already considered an architectural marvel at the time.
It is a picture-postcard image that you will surely have already seen in countless travel sites and magazines: a magnificent hump-backed stone bridge with a single arch structure that joins the two banks of a river with waters between turquoise and emerald green.
It is only 30 metres long, much less than other famous bridges in Europe, and 4 metres wide. What is impressive is its height (24 metres), which makes it both a beautiful vantage point from which to view the centre of Mostar and a springboard from which the city’s most daring jump into the river below. In the summer it is also the venue for an international competition of professional divers.
Apart from being beautiful, the bridge also has an important symbolic value: destroyed by Bosnian-Croat artillery during the 1990s war in former Yugoslavia, it was rebuilt faithfully respecting its original structure and reopened to the public in 2004. Today, the Old Bridge of Mostar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On either side of the bridge are twin towers called ‘mostari’ by the locals, which in the local language means ‘guardians of the bridge’.
On either side of the Old Bridge are two identical stones that have become one of the most photographed subjects in Mostar. There is nothing decorative about them, but they are powerful in their meaning: both stones are engraved with the words ‘Don’t Forget‘, a reminder not to forget the tragedy of war.
After the white and green of the stone bridges and the trees that surround them, get ready to get your fill of colours in the kaleidoscope Kujundziluk, the Muslim quarter in the centre of Mostar.
It is a small area with an oriental atmosphere – in fact a single cobbled street along the left bank of the river, known as the ‘street of gold’ – that will make you believe you have been magically transported to an Istanbul bazaar.
The craft shops of Mostar’s ‘souk’ are crammed with colourful merchandise: pashminas, lamps with coloured glass tesserae, leather bags, belly dance costumes, jewellery, brassware, textiles, coffee or tea services, spices and, of course, the inevitable souvenirs.
Another must-see attraction in Mostar is the Koshi Mehmed Paša Mosque, a magnificent white stone building topped by a sky-blue dome. Built in 1617, the mosque was rebuilt several times but still retains the original wall paintings and decorations.
The interior is sober compared to that of the famous mosques in Istanbul or other big cities, but it is equally fascinating thanks to the beautiful oriental carpets, the stained glass windows and the botanical paintings on the dome.
The entrance is through a lovely courtyard; from the back of the mosque one can enjoy a beautiful view of the Old Bridge and the centre of Mostar. An even more beautiful view can be enjoyed from the top of the minaret, which is accessed via a steep spiral staircase.
Bišćevića Ćošak is a delightful Ottoman mansion built in 1635 and perfectly restored to its original appearance. Located in the eastern part of the city, it is a quiet place, perfect for escaping the crowds of tourists in the old town.
Climbing a narrow wooden staircase, you enter the part of the house open to visitors and can admire beautiful inlaid furniture, oriental carpets and other original everyday objects.
The house is small and can be visited quickly, but you can stop in the pretty Moorish-style cobbled courtyard for tea or coffee or just sit on the low sofas and enjoy some relaxation.
Bridge Diving Club (Klub skakača u vodu Mostari), Mostar’s most famous association, brings together the daredevils who jump into the icy waters of the Neretva River from the Old Bridge.
The ritual of the plunge has become one of Mostar’s most famous attractions: the young divers request a free offer from tourists and only jump after reaching the 50 KM mark (higher in winter).
If you’re a thrill-seeker, you too can try this adrenaline-pumping experience: you have to join the Bridge Diving Club, train with experienced divers from a lower bridge, pass a skill test and then take the courage in both hands and throw yourself off the Old Bridge. If you enjoyed it, you are allowed to do it again for a whole year: for many, however, once was enough.
Another Ottoman house open to visitors is the Muslibegovic House-Museum, built in the 18th century and extensively modified in 1872 in the style of Istanbul’s monumental buildings.
Larger and more elegant than the Bišćevića Ćošak House, this residential residence belonged to the wealthy Muslibegovics, a family of noble origins. Part of the house is now home to a boutique hotel.
A few metres from the famous Old Bridge is another equally beautiful but much less photographed one: the Ponte Storto (Kriva Ćuprija), another single-arch structure erected in the mid-16th century. Although it is a short distance from the more famous bridge, it is located in a more secluded and quiet area close to the old town centre, which can be reached via a charming little stone alleyway.
Surrounded by greenery, it joins two banks of a small stream: a perfect peaceful spot for resting, contemplating, photographing and sipping coffee.
A little-known attraction in Mostar but definitely interesting is the Hammam Museum, housed inside the only preserved hammam in Mostar, built at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries.
The ritual of Turkish bathing was once a local custom, with many hammams open to men and women of all religions. This small museum will introduce you to the tradition and rituals of body care and wellness in Ottoman culture.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
The city of Mostar is an excellent base for exploring some of the most interesting sights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
If you travel a few kilometres south, you can visit the Zitomislici Monastery, located along the left bank of the Neretva River. Built in 1566, it is one of the most important Orthodox monasteries in the country.
For an excursion into the green, head to the Kravice waterfalls, where you can admire the beautiful landscape, relax in the cool air and bathe in a natural pool.
Only 25 kilometres from Mostar is the third most visited place in Bosnia and Herzegovina (after Sarajevo and Mostar), the town of Medjugorje, a religious tourism destination whose importance is comparable to that of Lourdes and Fatima.
The amount of accommodation for tourists in Mostar is truly impressive considering the tiny size of the city.
Almost all the accommodation is of good quality, clean and equipped with all the necessary facilities, with options to suit all budgets: they range from inexpensive hostels and guesthouses to 4- and 5-star hotels and flats, some of which have a swimming pool.
Prices are considerably lower than the average in European cities so you can treat yourself to a very comfortable hotel without spending a fortune. Don’t expect princely luxury hotels, but Mostar’s finest hotels are spacious, modern, tastefully furnished and run by professional staff ready to accommodate your every need.
Mostar has an international airport. The easiest way to get to Mostar is therefore to take a cheap flight or ferry to Dubrovnik or Split and from there continue by car or bus. If you are travelling in a rented car, make sure you are allowed to cross the border.
If you are already in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you can reach Mostar by bus from the most important places, including Sarajevo and Medjugorje.
The most fascinating way to get to Mostar from Sarajevo, however, is by train. The journey takes only two hours and the view from the window is spectacular. The train tracks run along mountain slopes making steep ascents and descents, climb dark tunnels and run alongside lakes and rivers surrounded by greenery.
What's the weather at Mostar? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Mostar for the next few days.
Mostar is located in the southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, about 50 km from the border with Croatia.
It is about 130 km from the capital Sarajevo and about 25 km from Medjugorje, a popular pilgrimage destination; the Croatian cities of Split and Dubrovnik are about the same distance (160 km, the former to the north, the latter to the south).