Mostar is probably the only part of Bosnia and Herzegovina most tourists see. They arrive on a big tour bus for a daytrip from Dubrovnik or Split, wander the narrow streets of the old town, take a lot of pictures of the famous bridge, eat an ice cream cone, then head back to the seaside. Mostar is a really cool town, and is definitely worth the effort to explore for a day or two.
The Old Town
This is what people come for. Narrow, winding streets filled with cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. While we explored, at times it even felt like we were in Turkey given the plethora of Turkish restaurants, Turkish coffee and tea in cafes, and shisha bars.
We were impressed with Mostar. The town is beautiful, there is plenty of history, prices are reasonable for accommodation and food, and you can find some amazing restaurants. After spending 2.5 weeks in Croatia where costs are fairly high and the food is surprisingly mediocre, Mostar’s food scene almost brought tears to our eyes. We highly recommend TimaIrma in the Old Town!
The pedestrian-only street in Old Town, Onescukova, leads you from the west (traditionally Croat/Catholic) side over the famous Stari Most (Old Bridge) to Kujundziluk (also called Coppersmith Street) on the east (traditionally Bozniak/Muslim) side. There are plenty of craft and artist shops to satisfy souvenir hunters, lots of ice cream stands if it’s hot, and several patios to grab a bite or a drink. Exploring off this thoroughfare you can find even more little restaurants tucked away from the tourist drag, and providing better views of the river and bridge.
Stari Most (Old Bridge)
Stari Most is what Mostar is most famous for. Although what you see now is a reconstruction, the original bridge having been destroyed during the Yugoslav Wars in November 1993, it was rebuilt to the original plans. Everyone comes to see the famous bridge jumpers. Periodically throughout the day, you’ll see a local man in a tiny bathing suit climb over the railing and start posing at the top of the bridge. Tourists will start lining the bridge, the riverfront below, and any other vantage point, waiting to get a picture as the diver jumps into the freezing water below.
You’ll have to be patient. Take a look at the swimmer’s swimsuit…if it’s not a skimpy tight speedo, he’s not really a jumper – just a teaser. They’ll stand and pose. They’ll stretch. Then they’ll ask for money. The real jumper doesn’t come out until they’ve raised at least €30 from the crowd. They also seem to be timed with the tour groups who will congregate on the rocks below (where the best view is) a few minutes before the actual jump. The actual jumper will be wearing a tiny, skimpy speedo-type swimsuit.
The jump itself is over quickly because, you know, gravity and all. Looking up at the diver, you realize just how high the jump is (24m). It’s illegal (or highly discouraged) for anyone but professional bridge jumpers to attempt the dive, however if you want to be one of the few, you can take a course to certify yourself to take the big leap. The water is a very inviting shade of greenish blue, but before you go in for a dip, note it’s also very cold (it can remain around 7C even in summer), so there is a risk of going into shock if you’re not prepared.
The rest of Mostar
What you may miss if you only do a quick visit as a daytrip is the rest of Mostar. The Old Town is a jammed with tourists, even in the shoulder season. What makes Mostar such an interesting destination is the history, and you can only experience that by exploring away from the Old Bridge.
Much of the city was destroyed during the war. Since the war ended, rebuilding has been a long, slow process. Many buildings throughout the city remain just shells, slowly disintegrating. Buildings, both abandoned and currently in use, show shrapnel and bullet damage, reminding visitors of the violent history. Take a walk along Bulevar to see some of these buildings, including the infamous Sniper Tower (formerly Ljubljanska Banka Tower), which has great street art and which you can explore.
From the Sniper Tower, head over the small bridge back onto the Bozniak side of the city, and check out the remains of the old Neretva Hotel, nicknamed Tito’s Palace.
For a look on the lighter side, walk through the Spanish Square and Park Zrinjevac, where you’ll find a life-sized statue of Bruce Lee, which was supposedly installed in the park as a symbol of peace. The bombed-out buildings bordering one side of the park and the sniper tower across the street provide a stark contrast to the symbolism of the statue!
- Buses depart from Dubrovnik, and take 3-4 hours, costing HKN102 – HKN112, depending on whether you get the online discount. Luggage in the hold of the bus costs and extra €1/HKN8 per piece, payable in cash to the driver
- While the bus will have a toilet, don’t expect it to work. There will be a long stop at the Bosnian border where you can access washrooms and snacks, then another 10 minute stop just after you cross the border, again with washrooms. Apparently many buses in the Balkans have washrooms but keep them permanently locked to avoid having to clean and empty them. Makes sense 😉
- The main bus stop in Mostar is approximately a 20 minute walk north of the Old Town. From the bus stop, turn left on the main street (Marsala Tita) and just keep walking
- We stayed in Apartment Mana, which we were very happy with. There are three apartments, but try to stay in the 1-bedroom apartment instead of one of the studios. The apartment is large with a doorway into a shared garden. The cost was 54 Bosnian Marks (€27) per night
- The biggest tour company in town seems to be Fortuna. They can book city tours as well as day trips around Bosnia. We tried to book a wine tour in Herzegovina, but they only offered a private tour that didn’t seem like a good deal
- We cannot recommend TimaIrma enough. It’s right on the tourist strip, on the west side of the bridge. But the food is amazing. We tried both the chicken fillet plate, the mixed veal/beef plate, and a salad. It was so good we went for dinner both nights. The place gets busy, so show up early if you want to sit outdoors
- If Mostar is your first stop in Bosnia and you want to pick up a local pay-as-you-go SIM card, we recommend BH Telecom, a 5 minute walk from the bus station on the corner of Braci Frejica and Mostarskog bataljona. When we were there, they had a tourist promotion for 5GB of data over 15 days for 10KM (Bosnian Marks)