The small eastern Bosnian town, Visegrad, became known to the world after Noble Prize winner (1961) Ivo Andric published the novel The Bridge on the Drina. Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic, the UNESCO-listed 16th-century bridge, spans the River Drina surrounded by green limestone ravines. Here are our top things to see in Visegrad.
The long meandering Drina has always been historically significant, forming the Roman border, separating Ottoman Bosnia from rebellious Serbia, and later Austro-Hungarian Bosnian from Serbia. Standing on the banks, you’ll watch the foaming green waters flow with high foothills as the backdrop. Photographing the River Drina in all its glory is a must-do in Visegrad. If you want to get close and personal, join a River Drina Cruise.
Apart from the bridge, Visegrad Spa is another must-do when in town. The spa has its origins in the 16th century and shares a close relationship with the Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge. As the Ottomans mined stone, they discovered thermal water and soon made Turkish Baths.
Pain-reducing radioactive carbons have therapeutic effects on the body’s systems and bubble away at 34°C in the forests approximately five kilometres (3.1 miles) from the town. And no, they’re not harmful. The spa has an on-site hotel, Vilina Vlas, Turkish Baths, and the Church of St Jovan, a former wooden building less than a kilometre away.
Towards the end of the 16th-century Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic asked Mimar Koca Sinan to design a bridge. Sinan was one of the best Ottoman architects who created the 11-arched Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge, spanning 180 metres (591 feet) over the river. Then, it stood on the main road leading to Istanbul; now it’s the top Visegrad attraction and a key stop in backpackers’ trips to Bosnia. Mehmed Pasa suffered damage during both World War I and II. It was later rebuilt retaining its original elements.
Andricgrad, also known as Stone Town, on the confluence of the River Drina and Rzav, serves as a theme park to honour author Ivo Andric. Film director Emir Kusturica designed the artificial town to include a mixture of Ottoman, Byzantine, and Classical architectural styles creating a recreation of Visegrad from the time of The Bridge on the Drina.
After opening in 2014, it became one of the top things to see in Visegrad. As you enter the complex through the stone gates, a pedestrianised street with souvenir shops lead around Stone Town. You’ll find Town Hall, the Church of Saint Lazar, Fine Arts Academy, and the Ivo Andric’s Institute inside. But, despite the fairy tale exterior and today’s magical atmosphere, Andricgrad was once the site of a Bosnian War detention centre.
A few minutes to the north of Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge and almost directly opposite the Ivo Moment on the other side of the river, sits a pink coloured house. The house with a pyramid-shaped roof was the former childhood residence of the author himself. Ivo was born near Travnik before moving here. Tourists can’t go inside, but you can take photographs from the street.
On Visegrad Bridge’s southeast, you’ll see a large marble monument of Ivo. Ivo has hero-status in this small town with a regional population of almost 11,000 in Republika Srpska, after putting Visegrad on the map. Sarajevian sculptor, Ljupko Antunovic, designed the statue, which is worth a photograph for the architectural beauty and importance of the author.
Almost concealed behind the trees on the southern side of the bridge is the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church. Orange roofs surround the white-washed exterior with a towering onion dome. Dating back to 1884, the Virgin Mary holds the position as the most important church in Visegrad. But Orthodox Christianity wasn’t always the dominant religion in the municipality, which makes up almost 90% of today’s population. Muslim Bosniaks made up half the population before the 1990s War.
Other things to do in Visegrad
If you’re visiting Visegrad for longer than a day trip, check out the giant Russian Cross on the western side, the Town Art Gallery, and the Emperor’s Mosque sat elegantly along the banks of the River Rzav, just before Andricgrad. The 14th-century Dobrun Monastery (12 kilometres or 7.5 miles from Visegrad), with 15th-century frescoes, makes for an informative excursion too.
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