Mostar: An Ancient Treasure That Belongs On Your European Itinerary

Mostar: An Ancient Treasure That Belongs On Your European Itinerary

Mostar, an ancient city conveniently nestled in the southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. If you want to take a look into Islamic Europe, Mostar is the place to go.

Mostar is one of the true last hidden treasures in Europe. An ancient city in the southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina—in the Herzegovina region, in fact—Mostar offers visitors a look into Islamic Europe. This city lies on the crossroads of cultures in southeastern Europe, only a few hours’ drive from the beaches of Croatia, yet is nestled within the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina and filled with amazing history.

Also read: 12 Amazingly Affordable European Countries That Don’t Use The Euro

Let us first take a brief look at the city’s history, which goes back many centuries. Although there is some evidence of Roman presence found underneath the modern city, most of its known history dates from after 1474, which is when Mostar was first mentioned in official documents. Its name, incidentally, is derived from the “mostari”, the old bridge keepers that managed the old wooden bridge that spanned the Neretva River. That wooden bridge was replaced by a stone one in 1566, after the rest of the city was fortified as well—this all happened by the order of Suleiman the Magnificent, who was the Ottoman ruler at the time. The bridge became known as the Old Bridge, Stari Most in Bosnian, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

mostar bosniaImage credit: Bram Reusen

Several centuries later, Mostar, as a very multicultural city, had the misfortune to end up in the frontlines of the horrific war that divided the Balkans in the 1990s. Home to Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks, all practicing their own religion and essentially fighting one another, Mostar was nearly completely destroyed.

That last big European war is long over, however, and the largest danger to tourists currently is pickpockets. Yes, it is a former war zone, but then again, it is a former war zone. Mostar is as safe as any other major city in Europe.

That being said, remnants of the Balkan war are still visible all over the city. There are ruined houses even in the city centre and many buildings are still riddled with bullet holes.

On the other hand, the Old Town of Mostar, which was partly annihilated during the war, has been beautifully rebuilt where necessary, and is a stunning example of an Eastern city within Europe—there aren’t too many of those! The Old Town is crisscrossed by cobbled streets, filled with Turkish-style bazaars and dotted with mosques. The star attraction, of course, is the Old Bridge, which connects the two parts of the city.

mostar bosniaImage credit: Bram Reusen

mostar bosniaImage credit: Bram Reusen

You are strongly advised to spend at least two days and one night in Mostar. In addition to the abundance of attractions, the real charm of the city emerges in the evening, after the hordes of daytrippers have left. Almost all important sights are situated in the Old Town, a rather compact and easily walkable area. Be sure to cross the Old Bridge as well as take a look at it from the other bridges that span the river. Additional things to do include wandering the bazaar-lined medieval streets, which can take up a whole afternoon—shops sell everything from carpets and fabrics to spices and baskets. Don’t forget to visit one of the iconic mosques too; the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque is recommended, and its minaret can be climbed and offers commanding views of the Old Town, including the Old Bridge, and beyond.

Also read: The Balkans: The Cheapest Region in Europe to Visit

mostar bosniaImage credit: Bram Reusen

Mostar is one of the absolute highlights of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also makes for a superb addition to any trip to the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. It lies about a three-hour bus ride from Dubrovnik, which is another spectacular city in ex-Yugoslavia.

About Author

Bram Reusen

Bram is a freelance writer, translator and travel photographer. He was born and grew up in a small town in Belgium and currently lives in a small town in Vermont, USA. He likes to try different travel styles and he has backpacked across Australia, cycled from Belgium to the North Cape and back, spent three months immersing himself in the Irish culture, hiked across England, climbed numerous mountains in New England, and visited many a handful of European cities. Besides writing and traveling, Bram spends his days reading, working out and trying to live a healthy life.


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