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June, 2019

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We began our sightseeing of Mostar in the BosnaSeum Museum (6 Marks/£2.75). It was centrally located in the old town and on the ground floor. Exhibits showed how the various religious groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina would have lived and the clothes they would have worn. Others featured ancient trades including wood working, embroidery, farriery, pottery etc. There were other displays included Arabic calligraphy and photographs of Mostar in the Austro-Hungarian period.

A short film showed pre-war Mostar in the sunshine with tourists wearing 80s style attire. There were images from each of the war years from 1991 to 1995, showing the damage done. It also featured Mostar’s most famous sight, the Stari Most Bridge, originally opened in 1567. It collapsed from tank shelling in 1993 but was rebuilt in 2004. Footage of the re-opening was included, with a shot of Prince Charles, complete with panama hat as the temperature was over 40 degrees. Our guide told us later that John Cleese was also at the ceremony, although we have no idea what his connection was.

When the bridge was rebuilt it was done from highly polished flagstones with ridges every so often. It can be slippery, especially when wet, and the advice given to us was to step on part of the ridge to avoid falling. We ventured across the bridge into the old town at various times of day and in various weathers and found flat shoes essential.

A highlight of Mostar is watching the Stari Most Divers, who having collected a certain amount of cash, said to be at least €50, will dive off the bridge more than 20m into the Neretva River below. We waited at a vantage point for half an hour, and having contributed, eventually watched the diver jumping off into the fast-flowing river.
Just around the corner, we found the crooked bridge, flowing over the Rabobolja Creek, built as a test run for the Stari Most Bridge. Numerous bars and restaurants with lovely views surrounded this area which were converted warehouses.

The compact old town had narrow cobbled streets, and again, good walking shoes were essential. They are lined with cafes and souvenir shops selling a huge range of goods from copper and brass ware, ceramics, scarfs and pashminas, hand-made jewellery, lighting etc. As Mostar is a favourite for cruise ships, and bus tours from other parts of the Balkans, the town is mobbed between around 10am and 3.30pm when everyone leaves. We stayed for three nights and it was lovely to walk out in the late afternoon and enjoy the sights without the crowds.

Koski Mehmet Pasha Mosque, built in 1617, could be entered and it was possible to climb the minaret, but the clouds were threatening and climbing 93 steps for murky views wasn’t appealing. Another mosque, Karadoz-begova, can also be visited as it’s the most important and significant of all Islamic architecture in Herzegovina.

The Tepa Market has been a busy marketplace since Ottoman times, but we found a small low-key indoor market selling fresh produce grown in Herzegovina along with a range of trainers.

A white cross was erected on a hill in 2000, and at 35m high can be seen from many parts of the town. However, it’s considered provocative as it was built on the spot where the Croatian forces pummelled east Mostar with artillery and anti-aircraft fire.

Mostar is a lovely compact place and it is definitely worth staying at least one night so you get some time to yourselves to wander.

Helen Jackson

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