What to see in Mostar? What to do in Mostar, the most popular tourist destination in Bosnia and Herzegovina if you want to escape the crowds and see what is BEYOND the historic bazar Kujundziluk and the famous Old Bridge? There are plenty things to do in Mostar outside of the touristy centre, some of them you need to do at your own risk. ;-)
I travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina solo (as always, hehe) and can say that just like in the majority of places in the Balkans, I felt completely safe there, even though I risked some urban exploration and walked in the residential districts. I fell in love with Mostar thanks to its contrasts. As you know, Bosnia and Herzegovina was heavily destroyed during the war and Mostar is a city that will remind you of it. When I was walking down the charming, cobbled streets of the bazar Kujundziluk, listening to craftsmen creating copper plates, the buzzing of conversations, and the songs of muezzins, smelling fresh veggies and strong coffee, I felt as if I were on holidays. As soon as I turned into side allies, I saw run-down buildings, abandoned buildings, bullet wholes in the front sides of houses and in the asphalt, and.. STREET ART. It all made me feel anxious and gave me a loot food for thought about the times we live in.
A few facts about Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar is one of the most popular cities in the whole Balkans. Just like Prizren or Dubrovink, it is visited by tourists from all around the world. Everyone wants to see the famous Old Bridge and courageous guys jumping into the blue river below. Mostar is the fifth largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, its informal capital of culture and a street art hub. Mostar is also a jumping base for day trips to popular tourist attractions in Herzegovina such as Pocitelj, Blagaj, Medjugorie, and Kravica Waterfalls. Not everyone knows, though, that there’s more to see apart from the cities listed above. The name “Mostar” stems from “bridge keeper”. This post is a travel guide to places you should see in Mostar. Be ware though, some of the places listed here are not tourist attractions.
Hold my beer, I’m coming! – urban exploration at Sniper’s Tower in Mostar
What to do in Mostar if you are the adventurous type? There are plenty of things to do in Mostar that can rise your adrenaline levels apart form what I did, but urbex always makes my heart beat faster.
As soon as I noticed the abandoned Sniper’s Tower in the western Part of Mostar while I was driving with Deny in his car to the hostel (Rooms Deny – I can wholeheartedly recommend this place, not only because the hostel is great, but because Deny will take the best care of you ever and tell you A LOT about Herzegovina and Mostar), I knew I had to go there, even if I had to combat my own fear to do that. Places from which you can see panoramic views of a city are my weak spot and I can’t just NOT grab the chance to take some unique photographs.
Going up the Sniper’s Tower in Mostar is not totally legal. However, I noticed that it’s not treated as an offence. All the teenagers go there in the afternoons for clandestine dates, so I bet that the municipal authorities are aware of that.
I walked around the Sniper’s Tower in Mostar twice before I noticed there was a small pile of rocks at the back of the building. To get inside, I had to climb up a concrete fence and jump over it. As soon as I was inside, I felt a pang of fear.
There I was, solo female in some abandoned, dark building of dubious technical condition, unaware if there was anybody else inside. I took my camera in one hand, keys to the other hand and said to my biceps, please don’t disappoint me. And I entered a darkish corridor leading to the main hall.
Nothing bad happened. I was there alone and all the worst types of people were of course in my head only. The next challenge was for me to climb up the building. There was a staircase but without any railings and as you might now, I have a slight fear of heights. I was walking up the stairs as far away from the chasm as possible until I reached the top of the Sniper’s Tower.
I won’t lie, it was worth it. The views over Mostar are really cool and there was a loot of high quality street art in the Sniper’s Tower. I really enjoyed myself there. Take a look!
The best view on the Old Bridge in Mostar and where to find it – how I went up the Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque minaret
So what else to do in Mostar? After urban exploration of the Sniper’s Tower, I still felt in need of adventure and once I noticed “the best view on the Old Bridge” place pointing to the Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque, I entered right away. I wasn’t after the view as much as after walking up the minaret of a mosque. I had never been in a minaret before that and was curious to gain that experience.
The entrance to the Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque in Mostar costs 12 KM and in that price you can see the mosque, the minaret and the surrounding area. As I was walking up the narrow tower of the minaret, there was one moment when I felt uncomfortable. That was the moment, when there was not enough light inside and I had to feel the walls to know where I was going.
Luckily, this didn’t last long and I could soon reach a narrow balcony on top of the minaret and see the view that everybody marvels at. The view of the Old Bridge in Mostar. The day was pretty cloudy so what I saw was still a bit different to what is at ALL postcards from Mostar. Still, the view was nice, even more when I walked to the other side of the balcony and looked at the run down buildings of the eastern Mostar, including the Sniper’s Tower.
Old Bridge over Neretva river in Mostar
There are a lot of spots from where you can see the famous Old Bridge in Mostar. Nearly everyone goes ON the bridge, some people go up the minaret, but there are some other palces where you can see the bridge from and escape the crowds. For example, there is another, newer bridge facing the Old Bridge in Mostar and if you go there, you will see the Old Bridge and the historic old town at once. And it’s usually empty.
Also, you can go down to something that could be called “a beach”. Especially when there are the famous bridge jumpers, this is a good place to watch the jumps.
As you might now, I don’t usually write about places only, but rather what I did there or whom I met, but the history of the Old Bridge is so interesting, it’s worth mentioning it here.
The Old Bridge in Mostar, long at 29 meters, high at 24 meters connect the eastern and the western sides of Mostar. The eastern side of Mostar is inhabited mostly by Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) while the western side by Bosnian Croatians (who are mostly Christians). The eastern side was more heavily destroyed during the Yugoslav war, and actually Sniper’s Tower is the place where Croatians troops were located and shoot at the Muslim part of the city.
The Old Bridge in Mostar that you can see right now is not the original one. The original one was erected in XVI century but got completely destroyed in November 1993 when Croatians bombed eastern Mostar. The Old Bridge was later rebuild and has been in its current state since 2004. What is good to know, it was reconstructed in the traditional, “old” way. Despite advanced technology being available, it was build stone by stone just like in XVI century.
Now it’s the most popular spot in Mostar where hordes of tourists go each day to take a selfie on top. The Old Bridge in Mostar is also UNESCO-listed. Hint: when you walk there, watch out. The stones are so sleek, it’s easy to trip over.
Street art in Mostar – proof that painful history breeds amazing art
It’s been a LONG time since I was last as impressed with street art as in Mostar. Those were not tags or paintings made by some school kids. Those were real pieces of art and I could not stop staring at some of the images.
The biggest place where you can find street art in Mostar is just at the entrance to the city if you travel from Sarajevo. There’s a large area hidden behind a metal fence. This whole fence is covered in paintings and what you can see inside is even better.
The next place with really cool street art in Mostar is, of course, in the Sniper’s Tower. Last but not least, near Sniper’s Tower there’s a park Zrinjevac and two really romantic paintings. Without further ado, take a look yourself.
What has Bruce Lee to do with Mostar – what to see in Zrinjski Park in Mostar
This monument surprised me. OK – let’s face it. A monument of a pope, president, some historic hero, but a film star? Bruce Lee monument is located in the Zrinjski park, just a stone’s throw from the Sniper’s Tower. It was created by Ivan Fijolic and unveiled in Zrinjski park in Mostar in November 2005 as a symbol of inclusion and solidarity in a city which is ethnically so divided. Soon after that it was destroyed by vandals. And renovated again. Now it is doing quite well.
Why you should visit eastern Mostar
March is a perfect month to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina because the weather is already nice and it’s still before the high season when all the tourists come. However, if you like to visit off-the-path places or are just curious to see what “life” looks like, go and walk around eastern Mostar. The experience will make your mind blow.
Mostar has many faces and that’s what makes it such an interesting and fascinating city to visit. On the one hand, there’s the historic centre with the Old Bridge and all tourists taking selfies, on the other hand there is the residential district where you can still see the consequences of the Mostar bombing in 1993.
The eastern side was really heavily destroyed and you would be surprised to see how many of the buildings still have the signs of the war – namely wholes after bullets. There are blocks of flats with small bullets, overground car parks with HUGE bullets, abandoned houses with collapsed ceilings, so long unentered, that there are trees growing inside. Some of the buildings have signs of cement cast, which literally reminded of me of putting a plaster on a wound. Yes, Mostar is a heavily wounded city that is fighting for life against all odds.
However, it’s not the only thing that drew my attention. Despite the history and different obstacles, people just keep on living their lives. There are kids playing football, couples kissing, young families having a walk. There are supermarkets, stray cats, little shops. Life like everywhere else. And that’s what’s the most curious for me.
The best place to see the sunset in Mostar (and a flock of unhappy sheep)
I watched the sunset over Mostar in company of Deny (the one from the hostel I told you above) and Jonathan after a whole day trip around Herzegovina (this is what my next post will be about). We actually went to the hill where you can see the “ViH Volim Te” (I love you BiH).
Apart from an epic sunset we watched over Mostar, there was also a large herd of sheep walking down to their shelter. And they all made very funny noises. This was hilarious: I was watching a PERFECT sunset listening to the sounds of unhappy sheep. ;-) I literally couldn’t stop laughing.
Early morning in Mostar – how to have all of Kujundziluk bazar and the Old Bridge for yourself
Balkan coffee is the best. It’s also different to what I drink in Poland. For some reason, I can drink a cup of coffee in Poland after 6 pm and still go to sleep. In the Balkans, I can drink a coffee at 3 pm and have a sleepless night.
I couldn’t sleep in Mostar – maybe due to the intensity of experiences or the strength of coffee. When the first sun rays hit my face, I got up, took my camera and went out to buy breakfast and see Mostar before it wakes up.
The bazar was empty. There was one cat only and we made friends. The Old Bridge was nearly empty and I had it all for myself. Including the view over sun touching the green waters of the river below. I found a small pekara (something like a bakery) with tasty croissants and when I felt the first pang of hunger, I went back to the hostel.
I had a room with a balcony and a view over mountains and a range of red roofs. It was an absolutely perfect morning. I prepared coffee. I took the croissants out at the balkony and sat down by the little white table. It was pleasantly warm and I could hear the traffic in the street rising slowly. I took my time to eat breakfast and just enjoy the moment. This is why I find solo travel absolutely perfect. When I want to, I can have company. When I need to recharge, I can have moments like that one.
I was drinking coffee and thinking that I am a very lucky person. I was at a place I felt great in and was looking forward to the next day of my travels. It couldn’t be better.