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Bridging cultures: Unraveling the rich history of Mostar’s old bridge

The Old Bridge in Mostar dates back to the 16th century and has a rich history. The bridge can be considered one of the greatest architectural achievements of its time.

Old bridge in Mostar
Old Bridge Mostar

The old bridge crosses the river Neretva and connects the two parts of the city. The old bridge stood for 427 years until it was destroyed in 1993 in the Bosnia war. The reconstructed bridge opened in 2004.


At the place where now is a stone bridge originally was a wooden bridge. In Ottoman times Suleiman the Magnificient ordered the construction of the stone bridge, around 1557. Construction began in 1557 and took nine years.

There is little real information about its construction and only legends about the builder Mimar Hayruddin. He was a student of the great Turkish architect Mimar Sinan, have been preserved. He allegedly had to build this bridge under the threat of death, in case of failure.

According to legend, the architect was preparing for his funeral on the day of the removal of the wooden structure, because he was not sure that the bridge would not be destroyed. Upon its completion it was the widest man-made arch in the world.

The Mostar Bridge height is around 29 meters in its full length and is approximately 4 meters wide. It has two towers that historically housed the Mostari (bridge keepers). Mostar was named after the bridge keepers, because translate of the word bridge on the bosnian language is “most”.

Mostar old bridge in 1900
Mostar Old Bridge in 1900

Deconstruction and reconstruction

The Old Bridge was destroyed on 9 November 1993 in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, by shells fired by Croatian gunners. 

The first temporary bridge on the traces of the Old Bridge was opened on 30 December 1993 It was built in only three days by Spanish military engineers, assigned to the UNPROFOR mission. The temporary structure was subsequently upgraded three times, to eventually link the shores with a more secure cable-stayed until the proper reconstruction of the Old Bridge.

Temporary cable bridge in 1997
Temporary Cable Bridge in 1997

After the end of the war, plans were raised to reconstruct the bridge.  In October 1998, UNESCO established an international committee of experts to oversee the design and reconstruction work. It was decided to build a bridge as similar as possible to the original, using the same technology and materials.

The bridge was re-built in two phases. The first one being led by Hungarian army engineers, and the second one being the removal of the temporary bridge, task assigned to Spanish army engineers, and the reconstruction of the Old Bridge with Ottoman construction techniques by a partnership of civil engineering companies led by Turkey.

Reconstruction commenced on 7 June 2001. The reconstructed bridge was inaugurated on 23 July 2004. Today, the bridge is a UNESCO cultural heritage.

Old bridge in Mostar
Old Bridge Mostar

Mostar bridge jumps

Jumping from the Old Bridge in Mostar is a traditional diving competition that is organized every year at the end of July.

Athletes from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and other countries participate in the races that have been held on the Old bridge.

It is a tradition that young men from Mostar jump from the Old Bridge into Neretva. Since the river is very cold, this is quite a risky endeavor and only the most skilled and prepared jumpers will dare to jump.

The jumps date back to when the bridge itself was built, but the first jump was recorded in 1664. The formal competition was established in 1968 and has been held every summer since then. It is a common spot for hosting the Red Bull Cliff Diving Championships, which then get broadcast worldwide. 

Jumps are performed in 2 categories: on the feet and the head.

Old Bridge Mostar Jump in Neretva
Old Bridge Mostar Jump

We hope you will visit Mostar and the Old Bridge and enjoy the beauty it offers.

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