Banja Luka is the capital city, economic and cultural centre of the Republic of Srpska and the second-largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Banja Luka is well known for its abundance of green areas, parks, and alleys, the reason why it is popularly called “the city of greenery”. According to the latest estimates, Banja Luka has 227,000 inhabitants and covers an area of 1,239 km2.
Due to its natural wealth, geographical and strategic position, the area of Banja Luka has always been very tempting for the neighbouring nations. For this very reason, many world conquerors, have struggled for power over this city, in a desire to capitalize on its wealth. Banja Luka was first mentioned in 1494 in the wording of the Hungarian king Vladislav II Jagelović. In 1521, Banja Luka fell under the four-century rule of the Ottoman conqueror. During this long period of Turkish rule, 216 public buildings were erected, many of which represent the main features and characteristics of the city today. In 1878, Banja Luka was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which in the next 40 years of its rule, develops economy and trade, builds roads and strives to make maximum use of the city’s great natural resources. Since 1929, the area of Banja Luka has become the centre of the Vrbas Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. During the four-year reign of Ban Svetislav Tisa Milosavljević, Banja Luka is culturally revitalizing, many buildings are built including the building of the Banski Dvor and Administration, Hotel Palace, National Theater, City Park, Sokolski dom, Ethnographic Museum, hospitals and schools.
One of the most important religious landmarks of the city is the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which delights every visitor with its architecture and interior decoration. Next to the Cathedral, you will find the magnificent building of Banski Dvor, built in 1929, as the seat of the Vrbas province governor. Today, the Banski Dvor represents the cultural centre of Banja Luka, the place where various exhibitions, performances, debates, lectures, and many other cultural events take place.
Banja Luka today represents the centre of entertainment, culture, young people, gourmets, and history lovers. The consequence of interweaving various cultures through the history of Banja Luka is the existence of numerous cultural and historical monuments that bear witness to various epochs and human creations. Fortress Kastel is the oldest historical monument of Banja Luka, situated on the left bank of the Vrbas river in the very centre of town. The walls of this fortress have served as a physical defence of people and their lives for centuries, and today represent the memory of past times and traditions.
Across the street, you will come across the Presidential Palace, built during the time of Ban Svetislav Milosavljević in 1936, which is now on the list of national monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The place you surely won’t miss during your visit to Banja Luka is the main Banja Luka square – Krajina Square. It is the most popular gathering place for the people of Banja Luka on various events such as the New Year celebration, various concerts, and gatherings. Your attention will be drawn to an odd-shaped clock – Krivi Sat, which reminds us of the devastating earthquake that hit Banja Luka in 1969.
Banja Luka city has several museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, which contains the largest art collection of the 20th century in the Republic of Srpska. The Museum of Contemporary Art is located in a building that once represented the old Austro-Hungarian railway station built in 1891. The main task of the Museum of Contemporary Art is the cultural rise of individuals through the production of local, regional and international modern and contemporary art.
One of the main features of the Banja Luka city is the vibrant Vrbas river, which springs up on Zec Mountain and flows south through the heart of Banja Luka. River Vrbas was named after the trees that adorn its banks, creating a natural shade–the tree of “willow” (Vrba). Just 12 kilometres from the centre of Banja Luka, Vrbas made its way to the namesake canyon, in which numerous endemic and relict plants and animal species developed under special conditions. For those who want to explore the quiet side of Vrbas, you can enjoy promenades and well-prepared walking trails along the river, perfect for relaxing and escaping the city’s verve. For adventurers, rafting on the Vrbas will be an unforgettable experience. Where else would you have the opportunity to go down through rapids and cascades at night, all through the illuminated route and river canyon?
For those who appreciate delicious, homemade food, Banja Luka will not leave you disappointed. Restaurants in Banja Luka are well known for their hospitality, various traditional dishes, and rich gastronomy. The national cuisine of Banja Luka is characterized by a combination of Mediterranean, Turkish, South Slavic and German culinary tradition, and the most popular traditional dish in Banja Luka is ćevapi or ćevapčići – a grilled dish made of minced meat.
You will often hear that Banja Luka is known as the “City of Youth”, which is not surprising given the city’s rich nightlife and the many music festivals that take place throughout the year. There are plenty of entertainment options at night or day, from cultural and adrenaline events to gastronomic festivals. Is there anyone not intrigued by the mention of the Chocolate, Beer and Wine Festival? Let’s not forget about the Third Ćevap Fest that broke all records of attendance in 2017 and attracted more than 20,000 locals and tourists from the region. Also worth mentioning are the festival of chivalry, the moto fest, the summer fair, and many other interesting events that take place in Banja Luka. For those who like to stay up until the morning, Banja Luka boasts a number of bars, cafes, and clubs that guarantee a great time.
Banja Luka offers numerous hotels, motels, apartments, hostels, and rooms for rent. Regardless of the amount of your budget, Banja Luka has the capacities which suit everyone. For those looking for a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere, private accommodation will be ideal, which is often more affordable than a hotel