For the past few years, more and more Eastern European destinations have been finding their tourism groove—with grand cruise liners pulling into Croatian and Montenegrin ports, digital nomads flocking to lesser-known cities like Budapest, Bucharest, Plovdiv and Sarajevo and more and more tourists discovering the fairytale charm of Bosnia’s most adorable town: Mostar.
Nearly completely destroyed by war 25 year ago, these days—thanks to generous donations and a fierce desire to rebuild, this historic university town is a charming, bustling tourist draw.
In Old Town, you’ll find a fairytale scene: narrow lanes, slick stone bridges, heavy stone rooftops, cobblestone streets and terraces draped with twining plants built around the centerpiece of Bosnia’s bright blue-green Neretva River.
Outside town, you’ll find a world of contradictions: beautiful old stone buildings firebombed during the war are now bursting with trees and plants that have reclaimed them in the last 25 years. A perfectly manicured park is overlooked by an abandoned structure known ominously as the sniper tower. And cheerful, hopeful university students live in housing dotted with ancient bullet holes.
These days, Mostar is perfectly safe. But the reminders of war—somehow compelling, interesting and terrible all at the same time—lie just outside the centre.
If history, culture, cobblestone old towns and cities full of hope and growth appeal to you, it’s a good stop to make on your European travels.
Where to Stay in Mostar
Your best bet is to book a place just outside old town. Try to find something within a five-minute walk, but not in the old cobblestone streets itself. Why? Because at certain times of day the tiny town gets crowded and you won’t want to be fighting the tourist hordes every time you need to get out the door.
Be aware that any place in or near old town can get a bit loud when it’s time for the prayer calls. If you’re sensitive to noise, look for a place farther away and not near a mosque—or bring good earplugs.
What and Where to Eat and Drink
Must-trys in Bosnia include traditional sausages (served with white onions and pita bread) called cevapi, red pepper spread and small meat patties sometimes known as Bosnian cookies.
To try the best of everything, make sure to visit Harmonija , just outside old town. Find a spot on their beautiful river-facing terrace and order the traditional plate.
To compare and contrast Bosnian specialties, Sadravan , located in the heart of old town, is another good option. Their traditional plate comes with most of the same specialties, but the subtle differences are a delight.
And if you’d like to get away from the tourist bustle, Pablo’s —a beautiful restaurant on a tree-lined street away from old town—serves up a delicious pepper steak and good wines.
Things to Do in Mostar
Spend your days wandering the alleys of old town, watching brave locals dive off the precariously tall bridge into the river and nursing a Turkish coffee on a riverside terrace. The charm of Mostar isn’t in museums or cultural events, but in experiencing the town itself.
If you’re staying more than a day or two, a trip to Kravice Waterfalls, about 45 minutes outside town, makes for a stunning afternoon. To get there, you’ll need to hire a taxi or take a tour and expect to walk about 10 minutes down to the falls themselves on a well-kept path.
For those staying longer, the Mostar fresh market is a special kind of off-the-beaten-track delight. It’s located adjacent to the Super Konzum grocery store at Splitska 60, about 30 minutes from old town by foot (5 minutes by car; 15 by bike). You’ll find the market bursting with lightly sweet oranges from Dalmatia, bright-coloured flowers, local honey, fresh produce, vinegars, oils, plants and headless chickens.
The Best Time to Visit Mostar
Every year Mostar’s tourism industry grows by leaps and bounds—and its old town is tiny—which means summer can feel pretty packed. Your better bet is to visit during shoulder season. May is warm and lovely and while you will see plenty of tourists, it’s rarely overwhelming. September and October may also be good bets for skipping the worst of the tourist throngs.
Time of day matters here, too. If you hit the streets of old town before 10 a.m., you’ll find them pleasantly uncrowded. Before 7 a.m., you’ll have the old city all to yourself. And after 4 or 5 p.m. the crowds usually thin again, since most people visit Mostar on day trips rather than overnight.
How to Get to Mostar
Round-trip flights from Sydney to Sarajevo start at $1,544 in October and trains from Sarajevo to Mostar run daily and cost a couple bucks.
Alternately, you can fly into Croatia and take buses, taxis or tour vans into Bosnia from Split, Dubrovnik, or Zagreb.
Cost of Living in Mostar
My month in Mostar shopping at the fresh market, cycling around town and working on writing projects cost me about $1,500—and I spared no expense. You could easily do Mostar cheaper by choosing a smaller apartment, living farther from old town and taking less taxis.