The city of Mostar is split in half by the Neretva River and is most famous for the picturesque bridge that joins the two parts of the old city together, which is one of the top highlights of any Balkan holiday. The Mostar bridge is called Stari Most, which simply translates to Old Bridge. It reminded us of amazing Lake Bled in the way it is one of those rare famous tourist attractions that somehow manage to be even more impressive than you expected. It is absolutely worth coming to Mostar for the Old Bridge alone, and every visitor should take the time to see it from every viewpoint. We spent almost 24 hours doing exactly that.
History of the Mostar bridge
During the period of Ottoman rule from 1482 to 1878, the town became very important and many impressive Islamic monuments were built including the Mostar bridge, considered a classic example of Ottoman design.
It was built in 1566 by Turkish engineer Mimar Hayruddin after number of failed attempts that resulted in collapsed bridges. The bridge stood for 429 years through Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian rule and two World Wars until it met a temporary end in 1993.
Why was the Mostar Bridge destroyed?
The bridge was destroyed on 9 November 1993 by Croat paramilitary artillery shells from the hilltop above the city during the Bosnian war.
When was the Mostar Bridge rebuilt?
The reconstructed bridge was reopened in 2004. They tried to use the same materials (recovering stones from the river) and technology by using Ottoman construction techniques as much as possible. UNESCO added the bridge to their World Heritage list in 2005. The reconstruction was funded by the World Bank, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund. These organizations formed a coalition to oversee the reconstruction of the Stari Most and the historic city centre of Mostar.
How high is the Mostar bridge?
The exact height of the Old Bridge in Mostar can vary with the height of the water at different times of year but the bridge is usually about 20 metres above the river.
Can you jump off the Mostar Bridge?
You can jump off the Mostar Old Bridge with permission of the Dive Club to the right of the bridge. Ask one of the bridge jumpers if you can’t find it and they will show you. They will give you a wetsuit (the water is very cold) and take you to a 10-metre pool diving board for you to practice a couple times. Then it’s time to jump off the Stari Most. It costs €10 for the practice jump and €20 for the real Mostar Bridge jump. Be prepared to have a lot of people watching and cheering, and after your bridge jump you will get a certificate. Just make sure you have someone to take pictures of this impressive feat of bravery.
Best Views of the Old Bridge
We spent most of our time searching out all the best places to get great views of the Old Bridge from different angles and locations. Here is a basic map of the different photo spots:
Our Favourite Viewpoint
Our personal favourite was the spot down by the river on the east side. You have to cross the bridge, head up to the main street and walk south until you find some stairs heading down, then follow what’s left of a path to a metal ladder that will take you right down to the water. The views are great and there was only one other couple the first time we went, then we were alone at 8 the next morning. Grab a beer from the kiosk up from the east side of the bridge to enjoy the sunset.
The Most Popular Viewpoint
You turn off the main tourist road, Onešćukova, on the west side of the river and go across the ‘Crooked Bridge’. From there follow the walking road toward the river and down the steps and you will find a flat area below the bridge. This viewpoint is very popular with tour groups so you are unlikely to have it to yourself but it offers a great vantage point looking up to the bridge.
The Highest Viewpoint
You can climb the minaret of the Mehmed Pasha mosque for €6 to get a view of the bridge from above with the old town below. The mosque was built in 1618 and was almost destroyed in the Croat-Bosniak conflict but has been rebuilt since then.
The Viewpoint From Luki Most
Another bridge over the Neretva River, called Luki Most, is a 5-minute walk south down the river. It has a view back along the river to the Old Bridge. It was worth walking down to the bridge to get a view from an angle with more of the surrounding town.
The Old Town Viewpoint
You can follow the pedestrian street through the old town on the east side of the river to get a view back to the bridge. There are also various restaurants offering a view of the bridge from roughly this angle.
From the Old Bridge
You can get interesting angles from the Old Bridge itself and take the time to enjoy the many details close up. Be careful when going up and down the bridge as the stones are very slippery, even when dry.
Other Things to Do in Mostar
Watch the Mostar Bridge Jumpers
There are ‘professional’ bridge jumpers who belong to the Stari Most diving club that hang out around the Old Bridge and will jump off once enough donations have been collected. Watching these jumpers is a favourite pastime of tourists. Be prepared to wait a while though. They won’t jump until they raise at least 25 Euros. Until then they tease the watchers by climbing over the fence on the bridge, posing, pretending they are about to jump, then climbing back down.
Wander the Old Town
The area surrounding the Old Bridge on both sides of the river is Mostar’s Old Town. It mostly consists of two pedestrian streets leading to Stari Most plus a few side streets. There are tourist shops and restaurants and I loved the patterns on the cobblestone streets. It doesn’t take long to wander the old town but it can be very busy in the middle of the day. However, if you stay overnight take the opportunity to experience them in the early morning or evening for a completely different, much quieter perspective.
Then we took a short detour up to an old abandoned bank that was infamously used as a terrifying and deadly sniper tower during the war. Officially off-limits, we had to climb over a back wall to get inside to explore the sobering evidence of the war, once again oddly mixed together with extensive graffiti, a prevalent feature in BiH.
How Long Should You Stay in Mostar?
There are some worthwhile day trips around Mostar, but if you don’t want to allot several days there and are just interested in the bridge, one day and night is more than enough. We do recommend staying overnight if possible to see the bridge and old town without the crowds. They have a different feel in the morning and evening.
Day Trips to See the Mostar Old Bridge
Mostar is a standard stop on Balkans tour group itineraries from Dubrovnik, Split and Sarajevo who travel for the day to see the most famous bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most of them spend their few hours slipping and sliding along the inexplicably smooth and polished surface of the bridge inclines and going on buying sprees in the old town. However, as with most popular tourist attractions, you only have to go a block or two outside the main areas to get away from the bulk of the crowds.
When to go to Mostar
Mostar can be visited throughout the year. It is most popular between spring and fall with summer being the busiest. We visited in October and the weather was warm and the skies clear. There is a higher chance of rain in the spring and fall but summer days can get very hot.
Where to Stay in Mostar
We found the accommodation in Mostar to be a very good deal and there are a lot of options.
We went with a friendly little hotel called Sinan Han that cost just €27 per night including breakfast and had a view of the bridge from the rooftop tower.
An excellent midrange option is the Hotel-Restaurant Kriva Ćuprija set in a heritage-listed limestone house overlooking the Crooked Bridge in the Old Town just minutes away from the Old Bridge. Some of the rooms have balconies with views of the Old Town.
The high end Boutique Hotel Old Town Mostar has a great location in the Old Bridge area. This traditional Herzegovinian-style hotel offers a bar and an à la carte restaurant that serves local food which you can eat in the garden right next to the Radobolja River.
Where to Eat in Mostar
Cevabdzinica Tima Irma – we can really recommend this restaurant. It is busy, even for dinner, but it was worth the wait for a table. It focuses on homemade local cuisine and the portion sizes were huge. The menu, however, is small and leans heavily toward meat (although there is a vegetarian option). The wait staff were very amusing and efficient. We got a platter for two and couldn’t come close to finishing it. It’s on the main pedestrian street very close to the Old Bridge.
Bus and Train from Sarajevo to Mostar
We took the bus from Sarajevo to Mostar. A very scenic 2-hour bus journey (not something we get to say often enough) past Lake Jablanica and along the Neretva River. Try to get a seat on the right-hand side. In the Sarajevo bus station there was a 2 mark (about 1 euro) platform fee per person and the same fee again for each bag going on the bottom of the bus. We got the tickets for the bus when we got to the station and the bus wasn’t full.
The train ride is apparently even more scenic as it goes along the other side of the lake away from the road and traffic but the departure times weren’t very convenient.
Bus from Mostar to Dubrovnik
After Mostar, our next stop was stunning Dubrovnik, one of our favourite cities anywhere in the world. The bus station in Mostar was within walking distance (about 20 minutes) from our hotel near the Old Bridge. There was no platform fee and luggage was 2 marks per piece to go under the bus. It is best to have exact change. We were getting rid of all our marks as Croatia uses the kuna, but made sure we kept enough to cover the fees. The bus crosses an international border three times which means a total of six different customs stops but we didn’t have to get off the bus at any of them. It took a total of 3 ¾ hours for the entire trip. The bus station in Dubrovnik has an ATM and a money exchange but there are better exchange rates in the kiosk just outside the station. This kiosk is also the stop for the city bus that will take you to the city centre. The bus costs 15 kuna, takes 10 minutes and you can take the 1a, 1b, 1c, or 3. They come frequently and there is an electronic board saying when the next one will arrive. You can buy your ticket on the bus.
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