Welcome to Mostar! A beautiful and history-rich city located in the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the canyon of the Neretva River.
With this post, we will show you how to explore a city that is divided and connected by the same river. Two coasts, two different cultures, two nations, two religions, all in the same city, still partly in ruins from the Bosnian war.
Did you know that the “National Geographic” magazine listed Mostar as one of the top destinations to visit in 2020? So this is what I’m here for… to persuade you – with very good reasons – to visit Mostar!
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Where to Stay in Mostar
We have written a very convenient guide to the best accommodation in Mostar, that includes all of our most favorite hotels in the city. However, if you’re in a rush and have no time to check the accommodation guide, these are some fast suggestions that can come in very handy!
Budget: If you want a gorgeous place to take your Instagram coffee photos while on a super-budget, you can’t do much better than the lovely riverside table on some of the balconies at Villa Park. Check availability and rates here.
Mid-range: If you want to be in the heart of the Old Town with gorgeous views of the bridge never far from your camera’s reach (especially great if you want to roll out of bed for some sunrise Instagrams!), don’t miss staying in the beautiful Kriva Cuprija. Check availability and rates here.
Luxury: For style seekers, City Hotel is the place to go if you want modern, sleek décor not far from the center of Mostar. It’s a bit outside the city center, about 1 kilometer, so keep that in mind when booking. Check availability and rates here.
Everything you Need to Know about Mostar
Mostar is situated on the margin of the Neretva River and is the fifth-largest city in the country. The city received its name after the bridge keepers (known as mostari) who during the Middle Ages were in charge of guarding the Stari Most, or Old Bridge over the Neretva.
This iconic bridge dates to the 16th century and was built by the Ottomans. It is one of the country’s most visited spots, attracting visitors all year round as it is an exemplary piece of Islamic architecture in the whole Balkan region.
The city, which is divided into two distinctive areas, has a west side mostly inhabited by Croats who profess the Roman Catholic religion, while the eastern side is inhabited by Bosnians, most of whom are Muslims.
The city has 65 000 residents and 22 000 students attending two state universities and a couple of private ones, along with United World College Mostar, the first UWC in the Balkans.
How to Visit Mostar?
Mostar has a small and quite limited airport, mostly handling charter flights and some, but not really many, international flights as well.
You can also plan to travel to Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is only 129 Kilometres away by car. Dubrovnik (Croatia) is 131 Kilometres away and Split (Croatia) is just 169 Kilometres away.
The whole Balkan region is greatly connected with buses and taxi rides. A train ride from the south to the north of Bosnia and Herzegovina is guaranteed to be one of the best travel experiences in your life!
When to Travel to Mostar
Any time of the year is a great time to visit Mostar. If you are a summer type, Mostar has a mild Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cold winters. The temperatures in Mostar go up to 45 degrees Celsius, so always bring a refillable bottle of water with you.
You can always seek your refreshment by swimming in Neretva, Buna, or in one of the many smaller rivers nearby. And the Adriatic sea is just a couple of hours away.
If you like a touch of winter, Mostar is surrounded by two mountains, Prenj and Velež, with winter houses, lots of snow, and almost untouched wildlife. The winters in Mostar, however, are famous for the “bura”, a strong and extremely cold Northern wind.
Why Should You Visit Mostar
Where to start? There are countless reasons to visit Mostar. Unique historical sites, stunning nature, cohabitation of various religions and nations… I will name you the most convincing ones.
Check These Things to Do in Mostar
In no particular order, these are some of the things you should see and do in Mostar…
The Old Bridge
The name “Mostar” literary means “bridge keeper”. And the Old Bridge is worth keeping for, trust me.
The pearl of the Neretva river and the trademark of the city was made from a local stone called tenelija. The construction started in 1557. by the order of Suleiman, the Magnificent, and was finished in 1566-1557.
Mimar Hayruddin undertook the honor and responsibility to build it and would have been immediately charged with the death penalty had he failed. Hayruddin started a task that seemed so impossible that he prepared for his own funeral. But the result was astonishing. Hump-backed, 4 meters wide, 30 meters long, and 24 meters high, the bridge is secured with two fortified towers.
Halebija tower on the north-east and Tara tower on the south-west became “the bridge keepers”. When finished, it was the widest man-made arch in the world, at that time.
The Old Bridge was destroyed in 1993. during the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the war, the World Bank, UNESCO, and many others formed a coalition to restore the Old Bridge to its former glory. The Bridge was restored between 2001 and 2004, and it became part of the UNESCO world heritage, as well as the old town located near the bridge.
Diving from the Old Bridge is a tradition and a test of manhood. Every year, at the end of July, young men from the city gather to test their strength, courage, and skills by jumping to the cold clinch of Neretva. The bridge is high, the Neretva is cold and quick, so it requires experience and bravery to conquer it. Since 2015, the Old Bridge has been part of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series Tour.
The Old Bazaar – Kujundžiluk
When you cross the Old Bridge, you will feel like you have traveled back in time. The cobblestone streets of the town’s oldest quarter, “Kujundžiluk” dating back to the middle of the 16th century, hide a maze of small artisan craft shops, tiny galleries, and souvenir stalls.
In past times, this area was the pulsing heart of the business world in the whole of the region, with more than 500 workshops during the years of the Ottoman era. Together with the Old Bridge, the Old Bazaar adds a touch of nostalgia to the place, which mixes with the crowds of tourist groups in a provoking contrast.
In local slang, “Kujundžiluk” is a term for a place where all languages are understood – and Mostar’s Old Bazaar is one such place. Stop by and have a taste of strong Turkish coffee and sweeten it with baklava or Turkish delight, maybe.
Rujište is a nature park, located on the Prenj mountain. It has an altitude of 1703 meters and is just 18 kilometers from the center of Mostar. The untouched nature and the fresh, clean air scented with endemic aromatic herbs and trees, are the reasons to visit this oasis of peace.
In the summer, the usual temperature is 11 degrees lower than in Mostar, so locals and tourists seeking refreshment come here to hike, ride bicycles, and climb the mountains, or just to relax and enjoy the day. I
n the winter, Rujište becomes an ice kingdom. The layers of untouched snow attract skiers and snowboarders from every corner. The residents in this small weekend settlement enjoy the winter magic with their families.
To combat the cold temperatures, small motels offer homemade strong liquors, wine, and traditional homemade meals. Every January, locals, and teams all around the Balkans gather to compete in “grahijada”, a traditional bean cooking contest. Truly an undiscovered gem, this magnetic place is just a half-hour ride from Mostar.
Blagaj – Tekija
Blagaj is a small settlement, located 12.5 kilometers southeast of Mostar. Its name means “mild place” and it was named after its mild microclimate. Blagaj was built in the spring of the Buna river, the biggest karts spring in Europe, and it has a priceless historical value.
Tekija is a term for a Dervish monastery by the river built around 1520. Ottoman and Mediterranean architecture styles intertwine in this beautiful national monument, built for Dervish cults, and now a place of religious tourism.
On the hill above is Blagaj fort, the former seat of the Grand Duke of Bosnia, Stjepan Vukčić, and the birthplace of Bosnian queen, Katarina Kosača – Kotromanić.
The river Buna held seven watermills and four stone bridges at that time. An Orthodox Church was built in 1893, and a Roman Catholic Church in 1908, embracing multiculturalism.
Blagaj has 11 Cultural Heritage monuments and it is best to visit in spring or summer when you can enjoy a tasty meal in one of the many restaurants located on the sides of the Buna river. We recommend fresh fish, caught from the river, homegrown fruits and vegetables, and a traditional fig cake as a dessert.
Partisan Memorial Cemetery
The Partisan Memorial Cemetery is located on the west part of Mostar. It was built in 1965 as a monument to honor the fallen antifascists and partisans as well as the freedom fighters who gave their life defending Yugoslavia against the Nazis in World War 2.
World-famous architect Bogdan Bogdanović designed this beautiful park memorial on 5000 square meters and 6 terraces. In 1965, 20 years after the end of World War 2, the park was opened by Josip Broz Tito in a great ceremony. During the Bosnian war, the cemetery was badly damaged and never fully restored to its former glory.
In 2005. it was reconstructed and reopened and in 2006, it was proclaimed a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sadly enough, since then, the cemetery is in utter decay because of the negligence of the local and state authorities. However, it still is a great experience to visit it, just to admire this beautiful example of colossal socialistic architecture.
Festivals you Should Attend in Mostar
Festivals are a time when the people of this city forget all the disagreements or differences from the past and just enjoy the present. They are a perfect opportunity to get to know the legendary hospitality of Mostar. Let’s name some of the most interesting ones that you can attend:
It takes place every December, and during this festival, the center of the Mostar becomes a fairy-tale village. The ice rink is set in Zrinjevac, the biggest city park.
And around the rink, lots of small, portable wooden houses sell mulled wine, sausages, Christmas cookies, and almost everything you desire. On New Year’s Eve, there is a big concert with fireworks and good vibes to greet the arrival of the new year.
Mostar Blues and Rock Festival
This fest started back in 2003, the official “Year of the Blues”. The initial enthusiasm of a few music-lovers began to grow and turned this festival into a respectable manifestation putting Mostar on the map of famous European Festival Cities.
Lots of great musicians perform on the small Mostar stage: Dr. Feelgood, Deborah Coleman, Tito & Tarantula, Sugar Blue, and many, many others.
Mostar Summer Fest
Although young at heart, this fest already outgrew the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and gathers the biggest regional musicians. Since 2012, the middle of the summer is marked by three days of urban music genres.
Rock, pop, hip-hop, rap, reggae, funk, you name it …we got it! The fun part is that the festival takes place in the industrial region of Mostar, precisely in the place of the former Yugoslavian combat aircraft factory (SOKO). See you there on June 25-27th.
Red Bull Cliff Diving Tour
What to say? The eyes of the whole world watch the world’s greatest cliff divers as they jump from the Old Bridge in September.
One championship that includes 8 beautiful locations: Indonesia, France, USA, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Australia, and Mostar. An authentic acknowledgment of the beauty of the Old Bridge.
How Much is Mostar Gonna Cost?
Not as much as you expect. Bosnia and Herzegovina is not yet part of the European Union and the prices are more than acceptable for tourists. Just remember – the prices are a bit higher on tourist hotspots. So check this info so you don’t overpay anything or get scammed.
The currency used in Bosnia and Herzegovina is called “konvertibilna marka” (BAM) or (KM). 1 KM is worth about €0.50. Average prices are more or less as follows:
Espresso: 1.00 – 2.00 KM
A pint of draft beer: 3.00 – 6.00 KM
Soda or juice: 2.00 – 4.00 KM
Pack of cigarettes: 5.00 – 7.00 KM
Medium-sized pizza: 9.00 – 12.00 KM
Beefsteak: 25.00 – 30.00 KM
Taxi ride: 1 KM per kilometer
Overnight stay: 20+ KM (this is variable, private accommodation is quite cheap while a 5-star hotel is not!)
What if I Get Bored in Mostar?
There is zero chance for that to happen. The city is full of life, every minute of every day, every time of the year. But, if you have spare time and an adventurous spirit, there are places nearby Mostar well worthy of a visit:
28 Kilometres from Mostar. A small village and a popular site of Catholic pilgrimage due to an (alleged) series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to local children that last since 1981. Authorized by the Vatican from 2019.
Yearly visited by about a million tourists. If you don’t feel like traveling to Medugorje on your own, then we suggest you join this gastronomic day tour to the area.
29 Kilometres from Mostar. A historic village from the 14th century and an open-air museum. Back in 1996, Worlds Monument Watch named it one of the world’s most endangered cultural sites.
Visit the “Kula”, a military silo-shaped fort built on the top of the hill to overlook the settlement, and the “Sahat Kula”, a bell tower located close to the river. If you’re staying in neighboring Dubrovnik, we suggest you visit Mostar and Počitelj with this tour.
Stolac 40 Kilometres from Mostar. Visit the site of the city of Daorson, a more than 2300 years old Illyrian settlement. Then proceed to Radimlja, a large “stećak” tombstone necropolis from the 15th century.
The whole area is dominated by a magnificent 15th century Ottoman fort.
A visit to Mostar offers a great opportunity to learn about and enjoy the local hospitality. There is more to Mostar than meets the eye, more than just past times. The scars from the last war still hurt a bit, but we are walking together to a brighter future.
What to Bring with You to Mostar
If you’re planning a trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more inspiration to plan your trip, check out our 10 most instagrammable spots in Mostar. In the meantime, pack these:
– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We recommend the Lonely Planet Western Balkans which includes Bosnia & Herzegovina but also Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Serbia. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.
– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in touristy cities is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.
– Motion sickness pills. Bus rides can be hot and cause motion sickness! If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.
– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans on trains and buses tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.
– Travel safety items. We think Bosnia & Herzegovina is very safe to travel to, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Allison nor I use these.
Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.
More Bosnia Travel Resources
If you’re planning a trip to Bosnia, we have a ton of resources with you! First of all, check out our guide to the most beautiful places in Bosnia so you can start planning your itinerary.
Since you’re definitely visiting Mostar, be sure to also check out the best Instagram spots here.
If you’re planning to visit Sarajevo also, we have even more for you. We have a guide on all the best things to do in Sarajevo, the best Sarajevo tours, a guide on where to stay in Sarajevo, and finally a Sarajevo Instagram guide.
Finally, Don’t Go to Bosnia without Travel Insurance!
Make sure you always travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While Bosnia & Herzegovina is safe, accidents can happen anywhere. If you experience an accident or theft, travel insurance will help you recover your costs and enjoy the rest of your trip.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.