In a picturesque valley beside a gently flowing river we found Trebinje; a peaceful and charming town in the heart of Bosnia and Hezegovina‘s wine country.
In the centre, sprawling cafes come to life as locals and tourists alike shelter from the intense summer heat. While the rustic suburbs remain sleepy and simply beaming with vibrantly-coloured flowers and plump seasonal fruit.
Residents work proudly in their gardens and munch the spoils on their patios.
Little Trebinje is easily navigable on foot, making it a perfect day trip from nearby Dubrovnik or Mostar in Croatia, or Kotor or Herceg Novi on Montenegro’s coast, all of which are within an easy 2-hour drive. Or if you’d rather indulge in the wining and dining culture that the region is known for, it’s an ideal place for a slow-paced weekend escape.
Whichever way you choose to visit, these are the best things to do in Trebinje.
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The old town is quiet and quaint with greyed stone walls draped in vines and cafes with colourful patio furniture spread out across the small alleyways.
It may appear a little lacklustre compared with other historic cities in the Balkans, but we found it a nice enough place to explore for an hour or two before settling into a comfortable chair with a glass of the regions famed produce – wine.
While the old town is perfectly charming, we found the real heart of the city to be in the residential streets sprawled across the opposite bank of the river.
Old ladies sit on their patios escaping the afternoon heat beneath a thick weave of grape vines. Fragrant rose bushes spill onto the streets through small iron gates, pomegranate trees show the first signs of budding fruit and branches hang low under the weight of juicy plums.
As the shadows grow long leathery-skinned men in worn dress shirts, drenched in sweat from the day’s heat, begin their work in the small cultivated plots fronting each house. They tend to the tomato plants, dig up a few potatoes and chat cordially over tattered fences.
Our daily walk to and from town through these unpretentious back streets was where we found the real charm of the city.
The usually still river perfectly reflects the world passing by above its surface – the two bridges a reminder of a time long gone.
Follow the dusty path leading away from the old town along the impossibly clear waters of the Trebišnjika River towards the Arslanagić Bridge.
When in wine country there’s no better way to escape the heat and while away the afternoon than sipping on a chilled glass of white under the shade of the plane trees. And so, every afternoon, that is exactly what we did.
Many local restaurants serve up a great selection of Bosnian wines by the bottle or glass for just a couple of Mark.
Hotel Platani, with a separate restaurant and bar, is the most popular gathering spot for both locals and tourists. Set on the sprawling leafy plaza across from the fresh produce market, it’s one of the best places to nurse your wine and watch the world go by. The food is also excellent although a little more expensive than the average Bosnian restaurant.
Considering the area is famous for its wine, there aren’t many wineries in the area that are accessible by independent travellers.
The main winery located within walking distance from the old town is Vinski Podrum Vukoje 1982. It’s a fairly upmarket place and the interior is a little sterile, but the views over Trebinje and the vineyards are lovely, as are the wines. They do self-directed tastings priced per glass and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner with prices ranging from 12 to 24 KM (€6 to €12).
Unmissable on a hill overlooking the city is Hercegovačka Gračanica, a Serbian Orthodox church, built here in 2000.
From here the views are the real highlight looking out over the clunkily put together jigsaw that is Trebinje nestled in the mountains. Clusters of identical Soviet-style apartments, the grey walls of the old town and the red roofs of the suburbs dotted between a lush tangle of grape vines and fig trees.
Take the short uphill climb out of town at sunset when the river shines golden between the verdant hills.
Trebinje may be a small town but there are a number of charming accommodation options on offer.
Hotel Platani, set right in the heart of town is the perfect choice for those seeking some affordable luxury on a weekend escape to wine country. This historical establishment is near to all the main attractions and is home to our favourite restaurant in town. Search for rates and availability here.
Trebinje is also known for its selection of small, locally run guesthouses that are sprinkled throughout the town getting you up close with the laid-back, rural feel of the suburbs while still being within an easy walking distance of the centre. Search rates and availability here.
Trebinje is well connected to other major centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina with five daily buses to Mostar and three to Sarajevo. Several services also run to major destinations in Montenegro and there is a daily bus to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Check the timetable inside the terminal when you arrive.
If you’re staying in Dubrovnik, you can also visit Trebinje on a day trip. Check rates and availability here.
One thing that confused us to no end on arrival in Trebinje is that given this is very much a Serbian influenced state, most signs – including street signs – use the Cyrillic rather than the Latin alphabet. Have a clear idea of where you are going on a map because the street names won’t be able to help you – unless, of course, you can read Cyrillic text.