14 December 2021 Places

A weekend in Banja Luka – a breath of the orient, culture and history

The second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina lies in the west of the country, on the banks of a picturesque river. It is a real gem of weekend tourism. Less than an hour from Belgrade you can find one of the most charming towns in the Balkans. Banja Luka captivates its visitors with its architecture, history and gourmet cuisine. It is the home of ćevapi (the local form of kebabs), the scene of a Balkan story of Romeo and Juliet and a place where the cultures of the East and the West intertwine. This city is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists who want to see a variety of attractions in a few days and spend quality time in a town that is both urbane and offers a getaway to one of the most beautiful green oases in this part of Europe.

Air Serbia offers its passengers the opportunity to reach Banja Luka on a flight of about 50 minutes. Tickets for the Belgrade - Banja Luka flight and all the information you need for a safe and pleasant trip can be found on the company's website. By subscribing to the Newsletter, be among the first to be informed about new departures to favorite destinations and discount ticket prices.

Banja Luka - a city on the rapid Vrbas

The western centre of Bosnia and Herzegovina connects the west and the east in a unique way, preserving monuments that testify to its rich past. It lies on the river Vrbas, which it wholeheartedly includes in its offer to tourists. In recent decades, Banja Luka has been developing rapidly and becoming a real modern city, but tourists can still walk through ancient complexes and enjoy the view of cult buildings that captivate you with their harmonious architecture. But this is also a city of good company, crazy nightlife and a rich festival calendar.

Banja Luka is a city of youth and youthful spirit and a frequent destination for students from all over the Balkans. Banja Luka nurtures its gentle and romantic side through original songs that speak of great loves, and which are still gladly sung in the cafés.

On the other hand, its history is full of legends about the heroism and courage of its famous inhabitants, so it can be said that visiting Banja Luka is a journey into a charming mystery that will take tourists through ancient streets, lovely alleys with history and positive spirit.

An active holiday on the Vrbas

The Vrbas is a prominent tourist feature of Banja Luka, because of its beauty and its clean water. Visitors can explore this river on one of the symbols of the city - the dajak boat. This boat used to be the only way to cross from one side of the river to the other, and today is a tourist attraction for the whole family. The dayak is seven meters long, reminiscent of a kayak, and it is not controlled by an oar, but by a pole. This way of maneuvering a boat is possible on the Vrbas as it is a fast, but shallow river, on which oars are of little use. Another unusual fact about dajaks is that they sail upstream, which requires great skill in managing and overcoming the current. Vrbas is also host to the European and World Rafting Cup, as one of the best European rivers for this kind of adventure. Visitors to Banja Luka who like adrenaline can embark on the descent along the Vrbas and its rapids, which stretch for 15 kilometres.


One of the favorite places of Banja Lukans and visitors who want to take a break from the city noise is Banj hill, close to the city centre. This green oasis is intersected by hiking trails, and from the top there is a view of the unforgettable panorama of the city.

Centuries-old architecture ready to welcome new visitors

A walk through Banja Luka should start in the Kastel Fortress, an ancient building that is also the symbol of the city, and whose ramparts dominate the banks of the river Vrbas. It was built to defend against Austrian attacks on the city, and covers an area of 48,000 m2. Tourists can see two gates with towers, nine bastions, a central camp and arsenals in the complex. A large number of festivals, concerts, art colonies and open-air theater performances are held here in the summer. From the fortress, visitors can proceed to the Ferhadija mosque, the largest and most beautiful mosque in the city, built in the 16th century when it was the city centrepoint. On the way to the mosque, careful observers will notice a marble memorial plaque, which is a symbol of the tragic love of two Banja Luka citizens worthy of Shakespeare's plays. The memorial plaque is dedicated to Safikada, a beautiful woman from Banja Luka, the granddaughter of Ferhat Pasha, who tragically ended her life after the news of the death of her beloved on one of the European battlefields of the 16th century.

On the square of Serbian rulers, you will find the largest Orthodox church in Banja Luka This is the Church of Christ the Savior, an imposing building that is especially breathtaking at night, when its facade is illuminated by warm lights. It lies on the site of the former Church of the Holy Trinity, which was relocated in the last century. The most important institutions of Banja Luka are on this square, such as the Palace of the Ban's Administration and Court, where the most important cultural events, concerts and art exhibitions are held.

Museum lovers can fill a walk in Banja Luka with real treats

The museum scene of Banja Luka is varied, so every visitor can find something of delight. The Museum of the Republika Srpska has a long tradition, it has changed names several times, and holds over 30,000 exhibits and 14,000 books. Leading European historians and artists often visit this museum.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is located in a railway station from the Austro-Hungarian period, which has been adapted to present the aesthetics of the past to museum visitors. In such a rustic atmosphere, permanent and visiting exhibitions of the best European artists and their colleagues from all over the Balkans are prominent.

One of the increasingly popular museums in recent years is the Puppet Museum. It is interesting to walk past the National Theater and the Imperial House, which today houses the archives of the Republic of Srpska, as these buildings will captivate you with their interesting exteriors and vivid colours. Connoisseurs of architecture will be especially intrigued by the Cathedral of St. Bonaventure, a Catholic church with a rather unusual appearance.

Banja Luka is a synonym for gourmet food

The first thing you associate with this city is definitely the ćevapi. If you ask where to find the best ones, the answer is simple - in the nearest café. Banja Luka ćevapi are served with a bun, kajmak (raw cream), onion and hot pepper, and they come to the table on plates of four. This way of serving is a tradition that Banja Luka ćevapi makers have carefully preserved for over 100 years. Besides the dedicated ćevapi shops, this specialty can be tried on the street or in any restaurant. Apart from ćevapi, Banja Luka is known for burek (a special kind of meat pie), which is traditionally served with yogurt, sour cream or sour milk.

As for dessert, the influence of the long Turkish rule in this area can be noticed at every step. Oriental sweets are aromatic, and homemade products of this type can be tried everywhere. After a walk through the city, you can refresh yourself with baklava, tulumbami or urmašica, with the inevitable homemade lemonade made from whole lemons.

The nightlife of Banja Luka is rich and offers something for everyone's taste. Most tourists like to spend the evening in one of the cafés, to feel the famous hospitality, positive energy and love of music that Banja Luka is so proud of.


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