Mostar offers the kind of scenery that makes you do a double-take in disbelief the first time you lay eyes on it… The stunning imagery of the Stari Most bridge suspended over the brilliant jade-green Neretva river is something straight out of a fairytale. No matter how modern the surrounding restaurants and ice cream stalls look in photos; it is easy to think Mostar is otherworldly.
Indeed, a photo I posted of Mostar’s beautiful Neretva river is my most liked photo on Instagram and it resulted in a ton of inbox questions about how people could go and see it for themselves.
There’s no denying it, Mostar has an other-worldly charm. It was a city I’ve longed to see ever since I first set eyes on the bridge many many years ago, naturally, I knew it had to be a stop during our Bosnia-Croatia road trip.
We arrived in Mostar after a hot and sweaty 3-hour bus journey from Sarajevo. The train connecting the two cities (often credited as being one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world) was out of service meaning the coach was our next best option. Though slightly uncomfortable in the early summer heat, it still offered breath-taking views like these (that’s the train track by the way!):
After dumping our bags at the hotel, we ventured into the old town to catch the sunset. Crowds of tourists in the city for a day trip were slowly making their way back to their coaches. We climbed the slippery pebble stones and made our way to the centre of the bridge to take in the view. The sun was sinking slowly in the distance, back-lighting the minaret of the mosque and bouncing off the jade-green waters below.
It was breathtaking, and without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and serene sights I’ve ever seen.
As the sun slipped away we headed for dinner at a local restaurant, then made our way up and down the two main touristy streets of the city. The later it got in the evening, the quieter it became. With all the day trip tours departed, locals descended on the old town, filling restaurants and brandishing ice creams for a late night treat. The street cats emerged for a spot of petting and the old town was quiet.
We only spent two nights in Mostar, and looking back, I think we could have even done it in a single night. There simply isn’t very much to do in Mostar. The old town is tiny, just two small main roads to wander through surrounded by residential homes. There aren’t many Museums or attractions to see either. The newer parts of the town (which we ventured to for dinner one evening) are just as you imagine any other Balkan city to be.
Whilst Mostar did suffer considerable damage during the war, it wasn’t as visible as it seemed to be in Sarajevo. You’ll find the odd bullet-ridden wall here and there, damaged empty buildings line the backstreets of the old town, but Mostar has been largely restored a lot better than Sarajevo has. It has an entirely different vibe about it.
If you’re visiting Mostar I highly recommend watching this BBC documentary for some context on what this city lived through just 20 something years ago. The Stari Most was entirely destroyed by Croat military forces in 93, and what we see today is a restoration completed as recent as 2004.
For the remainder of our trip, we wandered around the old town mostly, but there was very little to do, we ventured into the newer parts of Mostar for curiosities sake. On our second day in Mostar we made a quick trip to Blagaj Tekke, a Sufi Monastery a 20-minute drive away from Mostar – a very welcome escape from the crowds in the city!
Would I visit Mostar again?
Maybe. It was the city I was most excited to see during our road trip; but it was just a lot smaller and busier than I imagined it to be, with a lot less to do. Mostar is a very popular destination for tourists visiting Croatia and Montenegro – given the short drive, it makes a perfect day trip for these travellers – many of whom are travelling aboard cruise ships. This means the city gets extremely busy during the afternoon hours and can feel a bit unbearable at times, particularly considering the terrain of the old town is largely very slippery pebbles (meaning it takes everyone longer to get around!) and the majority of tourists seemed to be elderly.
We visited in May before the start of the high-season for cruise ships in Croatia and by 11 am the old town was packed with tour groups. The evenings are definitely a lot quieter and more bearable. This can easily be remedied by exploring Blagaj Tekke during the morning or afternoon and heading back to Mostar later in the day.
Don’t let my feelings put you off. Mostar is one of the places you need to see, and I’m glad I did. Ask me about Sarajevo though, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.
How To Get There
From Sarajevo: You can get to Mostar by train, coach or by driving.If you had to choose between the coach or train, don’t pass up the train journey. With tracks running above water, the views on the train journey are breathtaking. Find out the train schedules here.
To get there by coach, you can either purchase your tickets online at Get By Bus or buy them in person at the Sarajevo Coach Terminal. We found some of the times advertised as “Sold Out” online were, in fact, available for purchase at the bus terminal. We paid 41 marks for two coach tickets (and a euro per piece of luggage stored), the journey takes an average of 2.5 hours. The views on the journey are beautiful so keep your camera at hand. Sit on the left-hand side of the coach for the best views!
You can also hire a private driver to drive you to Mostar for the day. Rates vary but you can find plenty of recommendations on the TripAdvisor travel forums.
If you’re visiting Mostar from Croatia you can get there by coach from Dubrovnik in 3 hours, don’t forget to bring your passport for cross-border entry!
Where To Stay
There are plenty of small B&B’s and hotels dotted about in the centre of the old town. We stayed at the Shangri-La Mansion hotel, a basic but clean hotel a 5-minute walk away from the Stari Most. It was close enough to wander in and out of town and quiet for a restful sleep. Just bear in mind this hotel is at the top of a very steep hill so not at all ideal if you have mobility problems or if you are travelling with young children/a pushchair.
Where To Eat
Mostar’s old town is tiny compared to the one in Sarajevo so food options are limited. We didn’t find any bakeries in the old town, most of the restaurants seemed to be rather overpriced & focused on day-trip tourists (odd opening times).
On our first night we ate at Cevabdzinica Tima, the food was average but the host was wonderful and super friendly. Cevapi is served differently in Mostar with a side of yummy red pepper dip, Ajvar. For brunches, we opted for omelettes at Urban Grill – and we ended up returning for burgers when we got sick of Cevapi.
On our final night in Mostar, we decided to venture out of the old town towards newer parts of the city. We walked to a mall in about half an hour and I’m glad we did, it was great to see Mostar’s city side outside of the fairytale bubble of the old town. In the mall, we found all the shops you’d expect to find in Europe, and McDonald’s (halal too!)
Bosnia has some of the best ice-cream I’ve ever eaten so don’t visit without sampling it!
Local supermarkets can be found a 15-20 min walk outside the old town.
The Best Views
The most famous location for the iconic views of the Stari Most nestled above the Neretva river come from the minaret of the tiny little Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque opposite. Tourists are welcome to visit the mosque and climb the minaret to take photos from the balcony, you may need to pay a small fee to do this. The minaret is super tight (it’s almost impossible for two people to pass each other on it!) so it might be best to make a little noise to warn people you’re coming up!
Another great place to take pictures of the bridge is actually from one of the restaurants nestled along the riverfront. The Urban Grill restaurant looks a little casual and run down, but it’s home to a beautiful outdoor dining area offering breathtaking views of the river and bridge. We ended up eating here twice during our visit and couldn’t get enough of the view.
This place gets completely packed in the mornings and throughout the day when all the tour groups are in town (you may find yourself turned away due to a lack of space), but it quietens down towards the evenings. We enjoyed visiting for tea and pancakes and watching the sunset in the distance (bonus points for being empty!)
One last thing…
This is important if you want to make the most of your time in Mostar – Wear comfortable shoes with a good grip!
Leave those pretty sandals at home unless you want aching feet ruining your day! The pebble-stones that line the streets of the old-town are very uncomfortable under-foot so you’ll appreciate all the cushioning you can get. The Stari Most itself is incredibly slippery when dry and even worse in the rain – trainers will be your best friend!
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