Featuring one of the world’s most photographed old bridges and arguably the biggest Turkish bazaar on this side of Istanbul, Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina is truly a city that you must visit once in your life.
The city of Mostar was once one of Europe’s most ethnically diverse and peaceful cities, but during the Balkan war in the 1990s its ethnic and religious diversity turned it into one of the worst war zones in ex-Yugoslavia. Muslim Bosniaks, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs all fought one another in Mostar, as neighbors and even family members turned into arch enemies. It was a horrible situation, the scars of which are still visible all over the city—dozens of bullet holes “decorate” buildings, while some houses still lay in ruins.
On the bright side, though, the war is long over and all major landmarks have been renovated or reconstructed. Present-day Mostar is a vibrant city, flooded with tourists in the summer months.
Mostar (and the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina) is officially Muslim. It offers a fascinating mix of Western habits and (Middle) Eastern traditions, a true melting pot of cultures.
Mostar Tourist Attractions
In my opinion, Mostar has three main highlights.
1. The Old Bridge
The Old Bridge, or Stari Most, is without question the highlight among the Mostar tourist attractions. It can even be considered the symbol of Bosnia and Herzegovina—Mostar lies in the region of Herzegovina, by the way, so people who visit only the city and no other place in the country can’t technically claim that they’ve visited “Bosnia”; the official name of the country is Bosnia and Herzegovina, after all.
The city’s name is derived from the word “mostari”, meaning bridge-keepers. “Most” is the word for bridge. The city already had its name before the Stari Most was constructed in 1566, though.
When visiting Mostar, the Stari Most is the one and only building that would be inexcusable if you missed it. Period. This is why most people visit the city in the first place! The Stari Most has such historic and cultural significance that UNESCO considers it to be World Heritage.
2. The Bazaars
As a mostly Muslim city—although there are Catholic districts as well—Mostar has a culture that is strongly influenced by the Ottomans who ruled the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina for many centuries. This is clearly shown in the presence of Turkish-style bazaars. In the Old Town, the streets are lined with typical Middle Eastern-looking shops, selling carpets, jewelry, clothing and souvenirs. It’s a surprisingly lively area and it’s easy to lose track of time when strolling through the historic cobbled streets.
Mostar’s cityscape is dominated by the minarets of mosques. This, again, shows that this is an Islamic country and city in the heart of southeastern Europe—something that, I think, is incredibly fascinating. In the Old Town, there are two significant mosques, both of which can be visited. You can even climb the minarets for seriously spectacular views of the city. Women are required to cover their shoulders and hair—they hand out scarves when you buy entry tickets.
Mostar tourist attractions can be visited in only one day, but it is suggested to spend the night as well. The city gets extremely crowded in the afternoon as tour buses arrive, but empties out in the late afternoon. This is when the historic charm of the city really appears.