Banja Luka, the capital and the largest city of Republic of Srpska and second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the cradle of many natural beauties. Divided in two by Vrbas, known as ‘the perfect river’ due to its tameness and shallow waters during summer and rapids and hazard during winter, Banja Luka stands proud and charming for more than 1000 years.
It is important to know few historical details just to understand the background of city’s architecture and particular mixture of different cultures. Romans built a fortress here - “Kastel - the walls of which encompassed an entire miniature town. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the Slavs took over. This is when the name "Banja Luka" was first mentioned. The name is interpreted as "Ban's meadow", from the words ban ("a medieval dignitary"), and luka ("a valley" or "a meadow"). During the Ottoman rule Banja Luka got its distinct oriental flavor. Afterwards the Austrian-Hungarian Empire absorbed Banja Luka peacefully in the 19th century. They rapidly modernized the town, building factories and connecting it to Vienna and other capital cities. Two most important events any citizen will tell you about Banja Luka are Bosnian war and 1969 earthquake. But, let’s not bother with shaky and dreadful things when Banja Luka is full of delightful ones.
People and atmosphere
People here are very friendly, warm and welcoming. And climate that prevails here! Wow! The most perfect one! Continental climate – with sun-drenched summers full of cool starry nights and blazing days and bitter and snowy winters. But during autumn and spring Banja Luka sinks into a mysterious beauty. This shy belle begins to blossom, garlanded with corolla and delicious fruits. People say that during autumns and springs in Banja Luka you can feel certain love and enthusiasm in the air, her almost touchable soul. But if you really want to touch the Banja Luka’s heart go and walk through the Gospodska Street. More important than emptying shops situated here is visiting picturesque ‘Pravoslavni hram Hrista Spasitelja’ (Christ the Saviour - Cathedral Church) that stands in the heart of the city as a beacon of faith and architecture.
What you shouldn’t miss either is shopping at local market place known as “Tržnica”. Great deal of fresh local products won’t leave indifferent! This is where true tastes, smells and spirits of Banja Luka hide.
200 000 inhabitants search for fun and relaxation in parks, museums, national theatre, national library but what they enjoy most is eating. Here, you’ll have a chance to meet hundreds of gourmands all over famous local restaurants with a wide range of dishes. Local cuisine experience is something you must not simply skip, especially guzzling ‘banjalučki ćevapi’. Trying to explain this dish to foreigners proves impossible, so come and savor the true taste of Banja Luka. And how to enjoy local dishes or local beer ‘Nektar’ and local plum schnapps without local people (not that they’re alcoholics or something)?
Well, if you want to become friends with these citizens just tell them you are ‘Borac’ fan! The local handball, basketball and football teams bear the traditional name Borac (the fighter). Borac has participated in UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europe League. Situated on the Balkan Peninsula where sport is highly appreciated, Banja Luka is proud to invest in talented young people, football stadium and several indoor sports halls. Banja Luka was host of the 2005 European White-Water Rafting Championship as well as the 2009 World White-Water Rafting Championship.
And you wouldn’t believe how Banja Luka’s geography can raise your adrenaline levels! Kayak and rafting – thanks to the river Vrbas and its canyon and rapids. Hiking, mountaineering and rock climbing – during which you can see the raw limestone mountains, rich valleys, centuries of forests, crystal clear rivers, green mountains and lakes of the region. Paragliding and skydiving - if you want to enjoy in view from the sky!
You may not have heard of this Balkan beauty before, miniature in comparison with other famous cities but equally marvelous and proud. Lulled in its valley, surrounded with protective mountains, shy but attractive, Banja Luka is more than happy to show its beauties to the visitors.