The historic city of Mostar in the southern Herzegovina region of Bosnia Herzegovina may not feature highly on most families holiday destination list!
The landlocked city does not have a beach or a theme park but it does have dramatic, picturesque scenery, world-class museums and historic sites. It is a fascinating, diverse city to visit.
We discovered lots of great things to do in Mostar with kids making it an ideal destination for a budget family trip.
Things to do in Mostar with kids
Know before you go…
It is important to know before visiting Mostar with kids that they will inevitably learn about the devastating Bosnian War of the 1990s and particularly the siege of Mostar in 1993. There is evidence of the war throughout the city, especially around the Old Town.
Countless buildings have been demolished or rebuilt and what has been achieved in the rebuilding programme in a relatively short space of time is staggering.
But there are many other buildings that are derelict, blocked off or supported from collapsing. We were taken aback to see that Sniper Tower is still standing.
In addition, countless buildings throughout the city show clear signs of shell and bullet damage.
The most sobering reminder of the siege of 1993 is the pockets of graveyards dotted all over the city.
During the siege, the residents of Mostar were unable to leave the city to bury the victims of the siege so they had to utilise city centre parks and green municipal land as makeshift cemeteries.
These small, poignant graveyards are everywhere in the Old Town.
The simple, white gravestones and markers often carry the pictures of the people who died, mostly young males, and are consistently marked with 1993 as the year of their death.
There are museums and photographic exhibitions about the war that you can visit as well as specific war-themed walking tours.
As our children are young, we chose not to visit these sites but our children still asked lots of questions on the things they were seeing.
The city today is ‘divided’ into two parts with the eastern side predominantly Muslim and the western side mostly Christian. There are separate bus stations, hospitals and schools.
Do not let the evidence of war put you off visiting Mostar.
We found the entire city a fascinating place to visit and the people of Mostar (from whatever ethnic background) were welcoming and friendly.
The rebuilding of relationships and trust continues, as does as the rebuilding of concrete structures, and the income generated from tourism plays an important role in this.
Old Town (Old Bazar Kujundziluk)
The Old Town you visit in Mostar today has been painstakingly reconstructed to its original appearance after the devastating siege of Mostar in 1993.
Unassuming, modest stones etched with the words ‘ Don’t Forget’ have been placed at each entrance to the Old Town to remind current visitors of past horrors.
The Old Town is primarily a maze of densely packed shops selling the same ‘Mostar’ labelled goods to visiting tourists but it is pleasant to wander the cobbled lanes exploring the tiny shops.
Visit early in the day to avoid the crowds.
You can still discover the occasional family owned shop selling unique hand made goods and handicrafts.
Don’t miss the Art Studio Pandur (opposite the Bosnaseum) where you can watch artists tapping out intricate pictures and designs onto copper plates.
Visit the cute, old crooked bridge (Kriva Cuprija), built in 1558 and currently hidden behind the jumble of shops and stalls.
The grander Stari Most bridge was based on this little bridge.
Old Bridge (Stari Most)
The iconic Stari Most Bridge in the heart of the Old Town is Mostar’s most famous site.
The bridge connects the two sections of the city of Mostar and was originally built in the 16th Century.
Over 400 years later, the bridge was destroyed on 9 November 1993 by Croatian military forces.
After the war, an extensive rebuilding programme began which included dredging the river bed for the original bridge stones to use in the reconstructed bridge.
The finished bridge opened on 23rd July 2004.
It is a picture perfect spot. The creamy coloured stone glows in the sun and the bridge is beautifully illuminated at night.
The inclines of the bridge get clogged with visitors so avoid busy times if you can. Know that the smooth stone is very slippery – we saw several people slip over on the bridge!
A major attraction of Stari Most is the chance to watch the daring divers jump 80 ft off the bridge into the shallow Neretva River below.
The specially trained divers patrol the bridge for jump donations. There is no set jump timetable – when the divers have received enough donations they will make their leap.
It is heartstopping to watch!
Koskin Mehmed Pasha Mosque
The Koskin Mehmed Pasha Mosque was one of our family’s favourite things to do in Mostar.
Our children had never been to a mosque before and it was a perfect first experience for them. Visitors are made to feel very welcome.
Entry is a reasonable 3 Euro for adults and children are free. Women and teenage girls must borrow a headscarf to wear inside the mosque and all visitors should dress respectfully.
The pretty cobbled courtyard outside the mosque houses a few stalls and an ornate washing fountain.
Inside the mosque is quiet and calm; an oasis from the bustling narrow streets of the Old Town. The high vaulted ceiling provides welcome shade.
The ornately decorated, colourful interior is stunning.
The colours are the original ones from when the building was constructed in the early 17th Century.
The mosaic glass catches the morning light creating a myriad of colours across the rug adorned floor.
To the right hand side as you enter the mosque is the stepped access to the minaret.
The steep climb to the top of the minaret is relatively short but the steps are very thin and the tower is very narrow.
At the top of the minaret, you emerge onto an incredible 360-degree view of the city. If you do not like heights you may find the minaret a challenge!
The viewing balcony is ringed by a very low wall and feels very exposed. I was a nervous wreck hanging onto three children!
Before you leave the mosque, walk through the small garden to the boundary wall.
There are fantastic views of the Neretva River towards the Stari Most bridge.
This small, unassuming 17th Century historic house is hidden in a residential side street in the Old Town.
A pretty cobbled courtyard leads to a two storey wood and stone house.
The simply decorated house gives a glimpse into how people lived in Mostar during Ottoman rule.
At night families would sleep together on the first floor of the house, pulling up their large wooden staircase as a security precaution. An upper room overhangs the Neretva River and has beautiful views of Stari Most.
Try to avoid visiting the lovely Biscevic House at the same time as a tour group as the little rooms get very crowded!
Entry is 4 euro for adults.
You can also visit two other historic houses in Mostar – the 16th century Kajtaz Turkish house and the 17th-century Muslibegovic House (which is also an upmarket hotel)!
The Bosnaseum is a small, relatively new museum which is continually adding new exhibits to its collection. It is a thought-provoking museum and is well worth a visit.
The current eclectic collection charts the history of Mostar with an informative section on the diverse ethnic groups of the Herzegovina region.
For a relatively small region, there are lots of ethnic groups with their own distinct costume and customs.
A further section of the museum compares the traditional homes of the ethnic groups.
One section of the museum was particularly compelling.
Photographs on display showed streets and scenes of Mostar that we had become familiar with during our stay. The photos showed the street as it looked in the past and as it looks today.
But in the middle of the display, another photograph showed how the street looked during the 1993 siege.
The powerful images showed complete devastation.
This was further enhanced by an excellent short film using footage taken during the war. It was an emotionally moving and eye-opening film that brought home to us – and to our children – the devastation that Mostar and its people suffered and the extent to which the city has been rebuilt.
Entry is 3 Euro.
Museum of Herzegovina
A small museum located in the house of the former head of the Yugoslavian government, Dzemal Bijedic.
There are varied displays of anthropological and cultural artefacts though we found the museum to have sporadic translations and opening times!
Entry is 2.50 euro.
There are a number of walking tours on offer in Mostar but I would highly recommend joining a tour with Sheva Walking Tours.
Run by affable, energetic Sevko, the company offers both free and themed private tours.
We joined Sevko on his popular free nightly walking tour around the city. The tour starts in the cooler early evening departing from in front of the Hamman museum in the Old Town.
The fascinating tour visits all the main sights of the Old Town and then crosses the Neretva River into the modern part of the city.
Sevko is passionate and knowledgeable about his city and his historical facts and stories were punctuated by personal memories and anecdotes.
He talked honestly and openly about Mostar’s traumatic recent history and we found his commentary balanced and moving.
Our kids may not have understood everything Sevko talked about but he kept them engaged and interested for over two hours. No mean feat!!!
This is one of the best walking tours we have done and I highly recommend it.
Day trips from Mostar
There are many interesting sites and activities close to Mostar that make ideal day trips.
We took trips to pretty Blagaj Tekija, a 600 year old Dervish Monastery in an idyllic mountain setting by the Buna River.
We explored the historic village of Pocitelj whose residents are direct descendants of those who founded the strategically important village in the 16th Century.
We spent a few hours at the pilgrimage town of Medjugorje.
The kids loved swimming at beautiful Kravice waterfalls.
Mostar has a good, reliable public bus network which can be used to make day trips out of the city.
Make sure you check the timetable carefully as different bus lines depart and arrive at the different bus stations in the city.
For example, the bus to Medjugorje leaves from the bus station in the western part of the city. But on the way back, the driver dropped us unexpectedly in the middle of the city from where to had to catch a taxi back to where we had started from! (The public bus route to Medjugorje crosses the mountains and is very twisty and winding)!
Taxis are also reasonable particularly if you are travelling in a group.
There are several tour companies in Mostar offering multi attraction day tours. These trips can be cost effective for multiple attractions if you are in the region for a short time.
Renting a car is easy in Mostar and main roads are well sign posted and generally well maintained. Research your route carefully and stick to major roads if possible.
I would highly recommend avoiding driving on mountain roads in the dark; the roads are scary enough in the daylight!
Where to stay
Mostar is an affordable family destination. I would recommend staying near or in the Old Town to be near the major attractions.
Try to stay somewhere owned by locals to help spread the tourist dollar.
We stayed at the excellent Appartments Old Bridge. We had an immaculate one bedroom, self catering apartment with four beds and a sofa bed in the living room.
It was perfect location, just a two minute walk from the heart of the Old Town.
We visited Mostar in soaring August temperatures and staying so close to the main attractions enabled us to go out sightseeing early before the tour buses arrived and to return to the apartment in the middle of the day for a cooling siesta.
It was just 45 Euro per night for our family of five.
How to get to Mostar
Dubrovnik to Mostar
Self driving takes around 2-3 hours from Dubrovnik to Mostar so the city can be visited as a long day trip. Public buses take around 4 hours.
Many tour companies in Dubrovnik offer day trips to Mostar but check carefully how long you will spend in the city itself.
Know that border crossings can involve long waits in peak summer.
Kotor to Mostar
Travelling to or from Kotor to Mostar by public transport is not straightforward. Most routes entail a trip to Dubrovnik in Croatia to catch a connecting bus into Bosnia Herzegovina.
Due to the major roads involved, this is also the most popular self drive route taking between 5 -6 hours.
An alternative option is to catch a shuttle bus operated by Montenegro Old Town hostel in Kotor.
The minibus travels directly from Kotor to Mostar (and vice versa) via an inland central route. A ticket costs a reasonable 30 Euro but unfortunately, there is no discount for children.
The journey takes around five hours and stops at a supermarket en route for a rest stop. The journey is scenic passing through mountains, river valleys, rolling farmland and vineyards.
The descent into the Bay of Kotor is nail biting but stunning!
Sarajevo to Mostar
The Bosnian capital is easily reached by car in a little over 2 hours.
There are frequent public buses throughout the day to and from Mostar taking around three hours. Tickets start from as little as 5 Euro.
A great option is to travel from Sarajevo to Mostar by train or vice versa. There are two departures a day and tickets are cheap for this scenic route. You must make a seat reservation.
For the best views, sit on the left side of the train going from Sarajevo to Mostar and the right hand side when travelling in the other direction.