Mostar is a must-visit town for anyone traveling through the Balkans.
The historic city of Mostar is located in a picturesque river valley. If it wasn’t for the ruined buildings, you’d assume this was some Bosnian version of Rivendell.
Mostar has a tragic past. But it’s one of the best places I’ve visited.
Cruise ship crowds stole Mostar’s “hidden gem” status long ago. However, Mostar is still absolutely worth a visit. I’ve visited Mostar twice. Here are my must see things to do in Mostar, Bosnia.
Quick Facts About Mostar
- Mostar is part of the “Herzegovina” region of the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- The Ottomans took over Mostar in 1468, and they built a famous bridge over the river in 1566; that bridge stood for 427 years until being destroyed during the war in the 1990s.
- Since the late 1990s, Bosnia has undergone a reconstruction; they rebuilt the bridge, restored buildings in Old Town Mostar, and designated the Old Bridge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ushering in tourist dollars.
- You can visit Mostar in a day trip from popular coastal towns like Dubrovnik; however, I recommend spending a night or two in Mostar.
- Mostar is packed with local hostels and B&Bs, including the legendary Majdas Hostel and countless other popular options.
- You can jump off the bridge in Mostar, if you like; each year, Red Bull has a bridge jumping competition in Mostar where professionals jump off the ridiculously high bridge, competing to see how lands the best tricks.
Those are the basics of Mostar. Now, let’s dive into some of the best things to do and must see sights around Mostar, Bosnia.
1) Stroll Through Old Town
The number one thing to do in Mostar is to stroll through Old Town. Expect crowds in the summer, as cruise ship and tour bus people fill the Old Town area.
In the morning and at night, though, Mostar retains its genuine, historic charm. Even in the middle of summer, you can enjoy a peaceful beer or tea overlooking the Old Bridge.
The Old Town area of Mostar isn’t large. Without crowds, you can walk the entire Old Town area in 10 minutes, going back and forth up and down the cobblestoned streets.
If you’re taking your time, however, you’ll find plenty of reasons to spend an hour or two in Old Town Mostar, including cafes, souvenir shops, and surprisingly tasty local restaurants.
2) Walk Across and Around Stari Most (The Old Bridge)
Yes, there’s a very famous bridge in Mostar. Did you seriously not know that?
The surprisingly steep Stari Most of Mostar was originally built by the Ottomans in 1566. Apparently, it was considered one of the Ottoman Empire’s best bridges.
Humans, as they often do, ruined everything. In the 1990s, the bridge was destroyed during the Croatia-Bosnia conflict.
Fortunately, the bridge was rebuilt in the late 1990s. Today, you can walk across the new bridge version of the Old Bridge and pretend you’re an Ottoman merchant from the 16th century.
Oh, and did I mention you can jump off Stari Most? There’s nothing stopping you from jumping across it on your first trip across. However, you can jump across it more safely by signing up with a local tour company, who will arrange to have divers in the water to ensure your safety as you jump. You also get a couple practice jumps from the nearby cliffs. People can and do get seriously injured jumping off this bridge. It’s no joke.
3) Visit Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque
The second largest mosque in Mostar has a great location on the banks of the Neretva River.
If you want a perfect shot of Stari Most, then it’s tough to beat the minaret at this mosque.
Pay a few Bosnian Marks to climb the minaret and tour the mosque. It’s worth it for the photo.
4) Climb the Infamous Sniper Tower
Popular among backpackers, the infamous sniper tower of Mostar is a must-visit sight if you’re feeling adventurous.
Although it’s technically off limits and literally surrounded by fences, nobody really cares if you enter the building and climb to the top.
At the top of the sniper tower, you’re greeted with the view you expect: a perfect panorama of the Bosnian side of the Neretva River. Snipers used this building to pick off targets. You can still see the holes in the concrete walls from which the snipers shot. It’s surreal.
If you’re a privileged, idiotic, western tourist like me, then the sniper tower is a great place to have a beer and watch the sun set over Mostar. Watch for needles and broken glass on the lower floors.
5) Travel to Kravice Falls for Beautiful Waterfalls
Maybe you’ve heard of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Kravice Falls is the Bosnian version.
Located a 30 minute drive from downtown Mostar, Kravice Falls is worth a visit if you’re in town and looking for an excuse to visit a beautiful grotto.
I’ve visited Kravice Falls twice. Once, in the summer, it was packed with locals looking to cool off. Second, in the fall, it was freezing cold and were among the few people there. Both times, Kravice Falls was absolutely beautiful.
6) Visit Blagaj Tekija for an Incredibly Cool Monastery
Many Mostar tours visit Blagaj Tekija, an old Dervish monastery built at the base of a cliff on the Buna River.
When I say “built at the base of a cliff,” I mean it: you’re literally walking to the edge of a massive cliff, and they build a monastery where the river disappears beneath the cliff. It’s another Lord of the Rings-esque site in a very Middle Earth-esque part of the world.
7) Drink Bosnian Coffee, Visit a Restaurant or Café, and Chill
Bosnian food is fantastic – as long as you’re not vegan or vegetarian.
Bosnian coffee is also great (locals might not like this, but it’s pretty similar to Turkish coffee).
You can find plenty of Bosnian coffee and Bosnian food in cafes and restaurants across Mostar. In most tourist towns, the tourist Old Town area has the worst restaurants.
In Mostar, all of the Old Town restaurants I’ve been to have been fine. I’m sure locals have better recommendations for 1/4 the price, but you can’t go wrong with any of the well-rated restaurants in Old Town Mostar.
You can also find plenty of sheesha bars across Mostar, if that’s your thing. Fortunately for a Wandering Boozebag like me, most of the sheesha bars happily serve beer.
Other Things to Know About Mostar
The train ride from Sarajevo to Mostar is one of the most beautiful train rides in Europe. It’s ridiculous. You go through multiple river valleys, climb up and down a mountain pass, and see some authentic Bosnian countryside.
- Bus service is great from Mostar to Dubrovnik and other major tourist cities nearby.
- Stay at a local hostel and try to book a local tour. There’s legendary options like Majdas Hostel, where you can get Bata’s famous Mostar and area tour. However, many hostels have long seen Bata’s success and launched their own local tour options.
- If you jump from Stari Most and survive, you get a certificate and an entry in the town’s official book.
- Mostar, like Sarajevo, is the historic home to people of multiple ethnicities, and you can find mosques, churches, and synagogues across the city.
- You can hike the hills around Mostar for great views of the city, but landmines are a real threat; walk on well-marked trails or hire a local guide to avoid losing a foot.
- Don’t bug locals about the war unless prompted. People my age (born in 1990) have horrific stories from the war when they were kids, and people one generation older either fought in the war or fled from it. As a privileged western tourist, just shut up and listen. It’s a complicated topic, to say the least.
- People have died jumping from the bridge in Mostar. It’s 24m (80 feet) high. If you’re serious about jumping, you need to sign up with the local divers club. They’ll teach you how to jump from the bridge without killing yourself.
- Tito, legendary ruler of Yugoslavia, had a summer palace in Mostar. You can still see the palace today when looking upriver from the right bridge.
Mostar, Bosnia is a must-visit sight if you’re traveling through the Balkans. It’s safe, accessible, and well-trodden by tourists.
I had never visited a sniper tower until visiting Mostar. When I was 6, I was playing in the woods behind my house in Fruitvale, British Columbia. When local Mostar residents were 6, they were getting targeted by snipers in that tower.
It’s surreal and ridiculous for my privileged brain to process as I’m taking a beer with a view shot from that same sniper’s tower in my mid-20s.
Visit Mostar and spend a night or two. Mostar is worth more than a cruise ship day trip.