If you are visiting Bosnia there are a few cities that you must visit and one of them is Banja Luka. Lying on the Vrbas river, this gorgeous city is known for its tree-lined avenues, boulevards, gardens, and parks. Banja Luka is influenced by different cultures and it is noticeable in the city’s architecture which is pretty amazing. A lot of summer festivals will keep you well entertained, so be sure to get there in the summertime. In case you have never been here we are bringing you Banja Luka guide for first-time visitors.
So, let’s start exploring this beautiful green city on the Vrbas river.
Temple of Christ the Saviour
Whether you are religious or not, religious objects in Banja Luka are very interesting to see. Temple of Christ the Saviour is Orthodox Byzantine-style temple settled in the city centre. It was first built in the 1920s but got destroyed in the WWII and the one that you see today opened its doors in 2004. This gorgeous yellow-orange landmark with gold-plated domes is set on a small grass field that is often full of playful children. This temple is the largest religious building in Banja Luka and, we must say, the most beautiful one.
Banski Dvor Cultural Centre
Opposite from the temple you will see another very important landmark of Banja Luka – Banski Dvor Cultural Centre. It is also built in the 1920s as a palace for the local governor and most important Banja Luka’s figure Svetislav Tisa Milosavljević. Today it is the cultural hotspot of the city where you can attend many interesting events such as exhibitions and concerts. Entrance is usually free, and you can get in anytime you want to explore this neo-renaissance building with high ceilings and beautiful chandeliers.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art is another building very important for culture in Banja Luka. Set in the building of an old neo-renaissance railway station that was transformed into the Art Gallery after the earthquake in 1969 and in 1981 it was totally adapted museum purposes that it serves nowadays. The collections that are shown are various, with art ranging from painting, graphic design, photography and illustration to new media and mostly from Serbian artists, but foreign artists too.
Gospodska street (Gentlemen’s street) or Veselina Masleše, which is its official name, is the most popular street in Banja Luka. This is the street that will give you a hint what the city looked like in the Austro-Hungarian times since most buildings still look almost the same nowadays – very elegant neo-renaissance buildings. You have to stroll down this street to see and to be seen.
Another one of the religious buildings in Banja Luka that is seriously breathtaking is Ferhat-Pasha Mosque or “Ferhadija”. It was built by Ferhat-Pasha Sokolović who desired to build the most amazing mosque in this part of the world and he succeeded, seriously. Unfortunately, it was demolished in the war in 1993, but it is reconstructed in 2016 and looks more beautiful than ever. It is an outstanding example of very interesting and different Ottoman Islamic architecture in multicultural Banja Luka.
Kastel Fortress is the fortification built in Roman times and reinforced in the age of Ottomans. It stands by the Vrbas river for centuries and has survived many wars, floods, earthquakes. Today, many of outdoor concerts are held there, such as Demofest. Besides that, you can visit during the day and enjoy a walk, relax in the sun, or go for a nice meal in restaurant Kazamat that is set inside the walls.
Experience for your taste buds – ćevapi
Wherever you go you just have to try a traditional meal that everyone is proud of. In Banja Luka that meal is ćevapi – grilled minced served with flatbread lepinja, onion and kajmak (creamy dairy product). You must visit Mujo’s restaurant (the man who originally introduced Banja Luka’s ćevap) and try it. And forget about a fork and a knife – everything tastes better when eating with hands.
The Vrbas Adventure
The Vrbas river is one of the main Banja Luka’s attractions in the summertime. There are various activities that you can experience on this beautiful river, starting from a simple walk down the river banks. If you are looking for a refreshment you can go for a swim in the pretty cold water or you can go upstream to Srpske Toplice and take a dip in thermal water pools. In case you are feeling a little more adventurous you should try rafting or kayaking in the impressive Vrbas Canyon. Also, you have to experience a ride on Banjaluka’s favourite boat – Dayak, a special kind of canoe that exists only in this amazing city.
Located a little farther away from the city centre Trappist monastery Marija Zvijezda is a place worth visiting for the specialities that it offers. It is the only Trappist monastery in the Western Balkans and it used to be the largest one in the world. Now it’s the smallest one and only two monks are living there and producing their own wine and famous Trappist cheese made by the secret recipe.
Beautiful Surroundings of Banja Luka
There are a lot of places outside of the city centre worth visiting to experience beautiful nature. One of those places is the Krupa Waterfalls in a village about 20 km from Banja Luka – Krupa na Vrbasu. You will experience the crystal-clear water of river Krupa and amazing nature around it. You can buy or eat fresh fish from the local farmers or freshly ground flour from the old wooden mills.
Another amazing place that you can visit is Banj Brdo – a hill outside of Banja Luka that offers you amazing views over the city. Climb up to the hill, to 431 meters above the sea level and you will find a World War II Memorial, which is quite photogenic. And don’t forget to take awesome panoramic photos of Banja Luka.
Already excited for your trip to Banja Luka? Then download our Cultural Places App, find our Banja Luka Guide for First-Time Visitors and add it to your planner so you can easily find it when you arrive in this amazing city on the Vrbas river. If you want to visit more cities in Bosnia check out our blog about Sarajevo, you will enjoy it.