The beautiful town of Mostar is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most popular destinations, and makes for the perfect getaway from Dubrovnik. With its cobblestone streets, old buildings, and perhaps the most picturesque bridge in the world, this town looks like somewhat of a fairy tale. Mostar attracts thousands of visitors a year with the Old Bridge (Stari Most) being its top attraction.
In my opinion, Mostar deserves more than just a day trip, which appears to be the majority of tourists these days. Nevertheless, a day trip is better than nothing and is the perfect way to get out of the craziness of Dubrovnik.
History of Mostar
Mostar is located in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It started off as a small town on a trading route between the Adriatic Coast and central Bosnia.
In 1468 the region came under control of Ottoman rule. In 1566, under the orders of Suleiman the Magnificent (the same man who transformed Constantinople into Istanbul), the wooden bridge was rebuilt in stone, and this famous bridge stood for 427 years. This stone bridge was a masterpiece when it was built and it is said to be one of the most important structures built during the Ottoman era.
Austria-Hungary took control of the area in 1878 and ruled until 1918, when Bosnia & Herzegovina became part of Yugoslavia. In 1992, Bosnia & Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia. In 1994, Stari Most was destroyed during the Croat-Bosniak conflict.
During the late 1990’s the bridge was rebuilt and the Old Town was renovated. Stari Most was reopened in 2004 and in 2005, the Old Bridge was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to get to Mostar
Tours from Dubrovnik and Sarajevo
Mostar and Kotor, Montenegro are the most popular day tours from Dubrovnik. Everyone all over Dubrovnik sells this tour and it costs 300 kunas for the day. The tour departs Dubrovnik at 7:30am and the drive to Bosnia takes roughly 2 hours. Most tours will stop at the Kravice waterfalls, a mini version of Iguazu waterfalls for a quick visit before heading to Mostar. The tours typically spend the afternoons in Mostar with about 3-4 hours to explore the city before departing Mostar at 4pm.
Bus from Dubrovnik or Sarajevo
Buses are an easy way to get between Dubrovnik/Sarajevo to Mostar. From Dubrovnik, buses take around 3 hours and cost 100-120 kunas one way. This makes it almost the same price as the day tour. You won’t get to a stop at the Kravice waterfalls however.
Train from Sarajevo
The journey from Sarajevo to Mostar (and vice versa) is one of the most Scenic rides in all of Europe. A taxi is about 50-70 euros one way and while the roads are great, the train journey is even better. Similar to the train ride from Belgrade, Serbia to Bar, Montenegro, it’s incredibly scenic the entire way. Dramatic granite mountains, and beautiful lakes dot the landscapes along the way.
What to do in Mostar
Stari Most – The Old Bridge
Without a doubt, The Old Bridge, or Stari Most in Bosnian, is the biggest attraction of Mostar. It’s one of the most picturesque bridges in the world, and is only 30 meters long. It’s also a beloved landmark for the locals with an extensive history.
Built in the 16th century by the Ottoman Empire, this bridge connected two halves of Mostar separated by the Neretva River. It stood for over 400 years before it was destroyed in 1993 during the Yugoslavian war by Croatian forces. It was reconstructed in the image of the original bridge in 2004.
The bridge is famous for its natural arch, and for its construction with rocks from the nearby mountains. It’s 24m high, 30m long and 4 meters wide and be careful when walking the bridge because the rocks are crazy slippery!
During the day, there are people (mainly locals) that will jump off the bridge and into the river below. They usually solicit “donations” and when they reach 25 euros, they will jump. They seemed to do it quite often so I reckon these bridge jumpers make quite a good living by Bosnian standards.
The Old Town
There is far to Mostar than the old bridge. The Old town is almost as charming as the Stari Most it surrounds. The same cobblestone as the old bridge make up the narrow streets of the old town. Souvenir shops, ice cream vendors, and numerous restaurants highlight the old town. It takes no more than 20 minutes to walk the old town so walk slowly.
The Crooked Bridge (Kriva Cuprija) is a smaller bridge located a few minutes from Stari Most within the old town. It was the “test” bridge before the actual construction of the larger and more grandiose Stari Most. Also, very few people visit this bridge making it a great photo opportunity.
Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque
Completed in 1618, this is the second largest mosque in Mostar. Like Stari Most, this mosque was almost completely destroyed in the Croat-Bosniak conflict but has since been rebuilt. For a small fee, you can tour the mosque and climb up the minaret for some of the best views of Stari Most. The cost of entry is 12 Bosnian Marks.
Best views and best photo opportunities of Mostar
I also think the Mosque houses the best views in all of Mostar. Not only does it look directly onto the bridge, but is also filled with the mountain backdrop. The view from the top of the minaret is stunning but I actually prefer the views of the bridge from the Mosque’s garden area on the ground level. There was also no one else here so it’s the perfect place to take photos and enjoy the sunset. I would say bring some of your drinks but not sure how the people here would feel about that given it’s a Mosque (although Bosnian Muslims seemed to have zero problems with drinking).
Post war remnants of Mostar
The Yugoslavian war involved all former members of the failed state: Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, it’s clear that the worst of the war happened in Bosnia. The war is incredibly complicated but in the simplest of explanations, Bosnia is the most diverse (split between Muslim, Orthodox and Christian) of the Yugoslavian nations which led to the most racially charged and worst atrocities of the war.
Unlike Dubrovnik where the city received much donations and funding from UNESCO to fix its old town, much of Mostar remains damaged from the war. Just walking around the town, there are still entire buildings riddled with bullet holes. Some buildings have been completely abandoned with no plans to rebuild anything in its place. It was a bit eery walking around town as I could literally feel the bullet holes that caused so much destruction two decades ago.
What to eat in Mostar
I’m a big fan of Balkan cuisine and the best is definitely in Bosnia. I ate cevapcici like there was no tomorrow and I am here to say it was the best cevapcici I’ve had after visiting Serbia, Montenegro, and Croatia.
Cevabdzinica Tima – Irma
This restaurant is without a doubt my favorite restaurant in all of Mostar. It’s rated #1 on TripAdvisor and for good reason. Even my Airbnb host spoke so highly of the place, and claimed it was the best place to get grilled meats in all the Balkans and. I absolutely agree, it’s simply amazing. The meats were cooked perfectly and the portion sizes were huge as I came to pretty much expect from all my restaurant experiences in the Balkans. People like their meats here and they don’t mess around.
The owner was this nice lady who took over the family business started by her mom. She was super nice and even gave me more food on the house (which was completely unnecessary) after I said this was my favorite restaurant in all my Balkans travel. There’s outdoor and indoor seating. It does fill up for dinner because of its popularity but the wait is not bad.
Total cost for one cevapcici, one Sis Cevap, and half bottle of wine was 30 Bosnian Marks.
Another solid option next to Tima Irma and very close to the Stari Most is Šadrvan restaurant. The restaurant here is completely outdoors and serves delicious local delicacies including dishes I hadn’t tried before like Dolma and Japrak which are essentially minced meat and rice stuffed in various vegetables like eggplants, pepper, and zuchini. I tried these and although tasty, I still prefer grilled meat the old fashioned way. Their cevapcici is nevertheless cheap and delicious.
This restaurant is without a doubt touristy as it is in the heart of the old town and right next to the Old Bridge but the food is still authentic and filling.
Urban Grill – Best place to have a drink with views of the bridge
At the recommendation of our hotel, we had an early afternoon drinks at this place. From the street level, it appears like your normal restaurant but walk downstairs and it just happens to have outstanding views of the bridge from the deck of the restaurant. It’s literally the perfect place to have a Balkan beer, relax, and enjoy views of this amazing town. The food looks very good as well but was way too stuffed from my cevapcici lunch.
Where to stay in Mostar
For those coming from Dubrovnik, Mostar will seem shockingly cheap. The hotels and guesthouses are very affordable. Unless you have expensive tastes, there’s no reason you should spend more than €50 per night for a solid room in a guesthouse or hotel. We stayed at Goa Mostar, a big house turned into hotel by the family that owns it. It’s located very near the old town and the master bedroom (which is more expensive) has a private balcony with unobstructed views of the old bridge.
We paid only 30 USD a night for this room which included a king bed and A/C, more than enough for my needs. The owners were also very nice and cooked an amazing breakfast. I stayed up late to talk with them about all sorts of things from the war, to the current political environment of Bosnia, and even how to be more profitable on Airbnb! Lovely owners and highly recommended.