23 years after the war that destroyed most of the city, Mostar is a popular day trip destination with tour buses dropping off their groups for a few hours to walk across the restored Old Bridge, wander the narrow streets and shop in the colorful shops. You can enjoy the beauty of Mostar in a short time, but for a truly memorable visit give it at least 2 nights to be in the lovely town after the crowds have vanished. And take a War Tour for an unforgettable experience beyond the pretty images of Mostar.
Mostar Self-Guided Walking Tour
Our first day in Mostar started with on again off again rain and a do-it-ourselves walking tour, our guided War Tour was set for the next day. We were staying on the west side of the Neretva River, the Croat side, just steps from the river rock cobblestone pathway that leads to the old town.
The Crooked Bridge (Kriva Ćuprija)
Looking down onto the lovely stone bridge over the rushing Radobolja stream channeled between stone walled banks, with stone buildings topped by stone shingles rising right next to the stream, the scene was perfectly charming. That was it! I didn’t need any convincing to understand why people were enamored with Mostar.
The original Crooked Bridge was built some time before 1558, supposedly as practice for the Old Bridge, but over the years it was repaired so poorly by local masons that almost no part of it was straight and earned the name Crooked Bridge. Destroyed in a flood in 1999 it was reconstructed to the original shape and despite being straight as can be, it’s still called the Crooked Bridge.
Great Eats: Konobo Taurus has excellent traditional food and a delightful covered stone terrace. The restaurant is in a beautiful building next to the Crooked Bridge.
Pedestrian Street on the West side of the Old Bridge
Passing by colorful shops and restaurants on the way to the old bridge, with the medieval round Halebija Tower looming above the West bank of the Neretva River.
The Halebija Tower was named after Captain Halebija Bišćević who covered the medieval Ottoman tower with a roof in 1695.
The Old Bridge (Stari Most)
If you know anything about Mostar, it’s probably from seeing images of the beautiful Old Bridge. The bridge you see today was painstakingly recreated to duplicate the much beloved bridge that was destroyed in the war. The iconic view of the bridge is from high up in the minaret of the Koski Mehmet-Pasha Mosque or on the opposite side of the bridge on a strip of land across from the Radobolja stream. But we were on our own walking tour first, those views would come later.
Crossing the Old Bridge you enter the side of the Neretva River that was under siege. Bullet ridden and bombed out buildings are just a stone’s throw away from the UNESCO Heritage Site that is around the reconstructed Old Bridge.
Colorful and interesting shops line beautifully cobbled and touristy Coppersmith’s Street, many selling hammered copper souvenirs and some displaying more recent souvenirs – decorated empty shell casings of all sizes from the war.
New Muslim Cemetery
Our self guided walking tour took us up to the New Muslim Cemetery, a block off Coppersmith’s Street. This poignant cemetery used to be a park before the war. Always targets of sniper fire from across the river, the people had to bury their loved ones at night when the dark offered some protection. Most of the tombstones here show the year 1993 and 1994.
Many of the tombstones are in the shape of the fleur-de-lis, a patriotic symbol for the nation of Bosnia. We would learn more about the people who were buried here on the war tour the next day, but for now we left the tragedy of war behind to visit a traditional Turkish house on the river.
Bišćević Turkish House
Stepping into the Bišćević Turkish House is a step into a different world, and an interesting trip back in time to the inner sanctum of an old Ottoman family. This Turkish house is easy to get to, right off the main street, and has fascinating details. The first thing you see is a beautiful cobbled inner courtyard surrounded by high walls and a two story open living space. Required to wear a veil in public, the women could enjoy the freedom the privacy of the walls provided and dispense with the veil.
This traditional Turkish style home dates from 1635 and is complete with original furnishings.
Tip: Take your shoes off in the tiled living space below before climbing the stairs to the carpeted living rooms above.
The main gathering room is a beautiful space at the back of the house overlooking the tree lined banks of the river.
Well worth the €2 each to get a glimpse into lifestyle that you may have only seen from a movie set! In fact, you too can play act by doning a Fez or other piece of clothing to get into the part (or for a perfect selfie!)
Evenings in Mostar
If you don’t have time to spend at least one night in Mostar, you’re missing the best part of the day – walking the cobbled streets without the crowds and watching the lights come up in the historic core, illuminating the beautiful stone Old Bridge and old town.
More Mostar Sights
War Photo Exhibition in the Halebija Tower
This moving exhibition in two rooms in the tower on the west side of the Old Bridge has about 50 photos of war in Mostar. Photojournalist Wade Goddard lived with a family in the besieged Muslim east of the Neretva River for weeks. The collection shows scenes of the destruction and the men, women, and children who were trying to survive the deadly days in the narrow enclave parallel to the front line in sniper range.
Koski Mehmet-Pasha Mosque
A traditional mosque is a place for prayer, not tourists – this one is obviously non-traditional and is your chance to visit a mosque and climb the Minaret tower for fabulous views over Mostar.
Time out for some delicious and strong Bosnian coffee! Ritually served on a round tray with a glass of water, a little handle-less cup, sugar cubes, and poured from a copper pot called a dzezva. All on a delightful perch on little stools at a little table a couple of feet above the main street leading to the Old Bridge, plenty of fun people watching as the waves of tour groups flowed by.
Next: Compelling and Ravaged Mostar – the War Tour