Mostar is my favorite place to visit in Bosnia, partly because of the astonishing scenery. The city is stunning in its own beauty and can easily be compared to a fairy tale setting. I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 things to do and see in Old Town, Mostar. I have been to all of these places and have enjoyed them immensely. Another thing about this charming city is that there is always something new and exciting to see and amazing people to meet.
Mostar: To See
1. The Old Bridge (Stari Most)
The Old Bridge (Stari Most) is one of the country’s most recognizable landmarks and a fantastic piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkan region. Sadly many memories of this Ottoman bridge stem from November 1993 when the Croatian forces bombarded the bridge. The bridge collapsed into the river. Thanks to the UN, the World Bank, UNESCO and several European countries including Croatia and Turkey, the bridge was rebuilt to its former glory.
The original Stari Most was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557 to replace the older wooden suspension bridge. It took nine years to complete. At that time, the bridge had the widest manmade arch in the world. The bridge stood for 427 years until it was destroyed on the 9th of November 1993. Apparently more than 60 shells hit the bridge before it fell.
The rebuilt Stari Most opened on July 23rd, 2004. It was rebuilt using the same technology and materials used during its original construction. The craftsmen followed the same imperfections the original designer created. Teneila stone from local quarries was used as well as original stones discovered by the Hungarian army divers from the river below.
The bridge itself is 28 meters long and 24 meters high. In addition to its beauty and historic significance, the bridge hosts a number of annual events. The most popular event is the annual diving competition held on the last weekend in July. Divers from several countries take part in plunging some 24 meters from the Old Bridge.
2. The Neretva River
The Neretva, emerald green in color, is the largest river in the eastern part of the Adriatic basin with a total length of 225km. It is one of the coldest rivers in the world often as low as 7 degrees celsius during the summer months. The locals often say “It’s as cold as the Neretva”.
During the summer months, many locals swim and sunbathe along the Neretva River. If you are an avid swimmer, I recommend taking a dip as it is very refreshing on a hot day and will leave you feeling invigorated. Be sure to splash the water on your body first so the cold water is not a big shock to your body. Even the bridge jumpers shower in cold water first to bring their body temperature down. My favorite activity is to sit by the Neretva River at one of the many cafes to enjoy the beautiful views.
3. Koski Mehmed Pasa Mosque
Visiting the Koski Mehmed Pasa Mosque is part of my top five things to do and see in Mostar because of the spectacular views from the minaret (mosque tower). It gives you a 360 degree view of the old city, the Neretva River, and the Old Bridge (Stari Most). Entry to the mosque itself is 4 KM. Entry to the minaret (mosque tower) and a fenced courtyard is 8 KM. This is a great value considering the breathtaking views.
The Koski Mosque was built in 1617-1619 and is the only one in Mostar where the original colours, ornaments and wall decorations have been preserved. Although under the protection of UNESCO, the mosque was heavily damaged in the war in 1993 with its minaret destroyed and roof dome heavily damaged.
4. Old Bridge Museum & The War Photo Exhibition
The Old Bridge Museum and the War Photo Exhibition are both located on the entrance of the Old Bridge (please see the photo above). If you have a desire to learn more about the history of the old bridge, Mostar’s identity, and its cultural heritage, I strongly recommend you visit the Old Bridge Museum.
The museum is split up in three sections:
- The Tara Tower
- Showcases the history of the bridge
- Views of the base of the bridge from the ancient times. This was only discovered after the collapse, during the rebuilding process.
- Video Viewing
- Footage of the bridge; its collapse and reconstruction during and after the war.
Entry to the Old Bridge Museum is only 2 KM.
The War Photo Exhibition has a collection of photos taken by the New Zealand native, Wade Goddard. In 1992, while in his early 20’s, Wade traveled to Bosnia to start his journey in photojournalism. Over the next several years, he photographed the rather disturbing events in Mostar both during and post war. His photography shows images of people’s emotions and struggles of everyday life in a war zone. Wade Goddard also has a photo exhibition in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
5. Carsija ( Market/Bazaar)
Carsija (Market/Bazaar) in Mostar lies on both riverbanks connected by the Old Bridge and stretch out from the bridge in both directions. Carsija in Mostar is very oriental and has a feel as though you are in Turkey. It comes by no surprise as Bosnia & Hercegovina has been heavily influenced by the Ottoman Empire.
Shop owners can be seen standing by their shops chatting with other shop owners. Most of them speak English enough to hold a conversation with tourists from around the world. The old town is always buzzing with people walking around, streets are decorated with traditional Bosnian rugs, Turkish style glass lamps, snow globes of the bridge, traditional pipe flutes, embroidered tablecloths, copper work, handmade jewellery, colourful paintings, mini Aladdin lamps, and Persian style decorated plates.
Mostar: Must Eats
Before I give my recommendations on where to dine in Mostar, Bosnia & Hercegovina, I must first inform you that in Bosnia, people do not focus on exceptional and fast service. Their intention is not to be rude.
1. Restaurant Teatar
We went to Restaurant Teatar for dessert before we called it a night. A picture of our view that evening is below. I recommend this restaurant because of the large variety of entrees on their menu. There must be something for everyone on that menu! Even though we did not have dinner there, I was able to hear great comments of other diners around us. I highly recommend a table on their outside patio. The views are simply breathtaking!
2. Wine & More
We stopped by this hidden gem of a wine shop. Unfortunately, they do not serve food but we couldn’t resist the phenomenal list of different types of wine available. I recommend the second floor lounge. The ceiling is decorated with bottles of wine. We hung out there for over an hour going through the books and enjoying the atmosphere.
3. Restaurant Sadrvan
I did not take any pictures while we dined at restaurant Sadrvan. I ordered an entrée that came with potatoes, fried beef, and a side salad. The portion was huge! I recommend this restaurant because the view is beautiful with seating under a huge grapevine. It was the most romantic dinner I had.
Nearby: Kravice Falls
Kravice Falls is a true hidden gem of Bosnia. It is only 50 km away from Mostar, which is about an hour’s drive. The waterfall was created by the Trebizat River with its tuff deposits. It has been declared a natural landmark which is under state protection. Tuff (calcareous sinter) is typical for rivers rich in calcium carbonate. Grass, moss and lichen grow on the tuff deposits. They do have a café there, but we did not check it out. It is a beautiful place to go and swim next to the waterfalls and to enjoy the scenery.
I hope you get a chance to visit these wonderful destinations and discover more hidden gems in Bosnia & Hercegovina.
For related articles, visit the TRAVEL page.
Author: Jasna Bilalic
Featured Photo: Clark and Kim Kays (flickr/touncertaintyandbeyond)