Day 1: MorningYou’re going to be coming back to the bridge quite a bit, and the famous Stari Most really does offer something different at all times of the day. Head straight for it upon arrival in Mostar and prepare yourself for one of Europe’s great images. The Stari Most is the central nervous system of Mostar, a bridge that holds the city together both figuratively and literally, not to mention a piece of Ottoman architecture that is out of this world beautiful. The Stari Most connects the two parts of the city’s Stari Grad, a picturesque area that is absolutely best experienced in the early hours, before the masses of dawdling zombies get off the cruise ships. Stop for a coffee at Stari Grad Cafe, say hello to the family, prepare yourself for the day ahead.
Mostar’s Stari Grad is in the ‘small but perfectly formed’ box, but you’ll be surprised at how much there is to check out. The Old Bridge Museum is found on the eastern end of its namesake, and the Diver’s Club is always worth a look. The masses of trinket sellers all tend to blend into one these days, but the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque would stand out in a box of mosques. The views from the minaret are just about as good as it gets, and the garden is plenty beautiful too.
AfternoonContinue your amble out of the Old Town and head to the Karađoz Bey Mosque, the largest mosque in Herzegovina. Behind the mosque sits a little restaurant called Saray, a place that we seemed to visit on a daily basis when we first lived in Mostar. The aščinica has a quite magnificent setting in the garden of the mosque (no alcohol on the menu, obviously) and the traditional Bosnian cuisine is plenty great too, even if we are slaves to the pileći file. Stop here for a bite to eat before continuing your stroll around Mostar’s eastern side.
That stroll should take you to the Bišćevića Čošak, arguably the most splendid example of private Ottoman architecture in Mostar. Nip in to see what life was like for a wealthy Ottoman noble back in the day, and enjoy a fine cup of coffee as you do. The Museum of Herzegovina is nearby, a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of the region. The museum happens to be located in the old home of Džemal Bijedić, reason enough to visit the building. Rounding out an afternoon of Ottoman architectural wonder is the Muslibegović House, another elegant window into the lives of the rich and famous during those 400+ years.
EveningThe days of watching the sun set from the top of the Ljubljanska Banka tower are long gone (at least for our weary knees), so head back towards the Stari Grad for the climax of your first day in Mostar. The bridge takes on an entirely different complexion in the dart, lit up for all the world to admire, and the streets of the Stari Grad relax once more. Eat at Hindin Han, long renowned as one of the great restaurants in the country and the sort of place we take anyone who visits the city. Another must is the Black Dog Pub, one of the most gorgeously situated boozers in Europe and the best place in town for a raucous night of beer and conversation. Day one, a complete success.
Day Two: MorningSome people say there’s no point in eating breakfast, so you should agree with them and head to Niđe Veze for the most important meal of the day. There is a clumsy linguistic quip in there, but we’re not going to spell it out for you. The colourful cafe sits close to the main road that splits Mostar in too and remains the best breakfast spot in the city. You could also nip down to Cafe de Alma for a little lesson in Bosnian coffee, if you’ve got the energy.
After breakfast, head west towards Spanish Square and the utterly gorgeous Old Gymnasium that steals the show in this part of town. The orange and yellow Moorish Revival piece of magic stands opposite the Ljublanska Banka tower, destroyed during the war and used as a sniper’s nest during that terrible time. The contradictions of Mostar don’t get any more apparent than at this spot. From the school, walk through the park and snap a selfie with Bruce Lee. No, not a typo.
AfternoonContinue heading west in the city, away from the Stari Grad and into the other side of Mostar. The change in atmosphere is clear as day, as Croatian flags replace Bosnian ones, the streets begin to be named after Croatian cities and heroes, the cafes more espresso than Bosnian coffee. Head down Kralja Petra Krešimira IV and stop at whatever cafe takes your fancy, before continuing towards one of the most impressive yet frustrating sights in Mostar.
Built in 1965, the Partisan Memorial Cemetery honours the men and women who died fighting fascism during World War II. The scope and design of the monument is immense, a multi-layered piece of work that is one thing from below and another from the sky, complete with nods towards the ideological history of what was once Yugoslavia. It should be a sight to marvel the Stari Most, but the cultural shift that has taken place since the war means the monument is routinely vandalised, abandoned, neglected and damaged, all in equal measure. Be sure to check it out but do so during the day, as it can be a little iffy at night. A shame, but the beauty remains underneath the vulgarity.