A city swamped between lush green hills and a darting river slicing through its heart are the unforgettable icons of the capital of the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic) Banja Luka.
As the second largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina after Sarajevo, it is situated in the northwest of the country and is home to traditions and cultures of its kind.
With a population of 250,000, Banja Luka’s citizens buzz throughout the city’s tree-line avenues, boulevards, gardens and parks. During the day, everyone enjoys a relaxing lunch break in cafes and slasticarnas ‘cake cafes’ or lunching away in one of the restaurants, in which they remain till their hearts content. As the day retreats to darkness, a vibrant nightlife awakens where people can drink and dance away to their traditional folk music and other genres of music in bars and clubs around town.
On the banks of the Vrbas River, you can take a stroll amongst the weeping willows that droop their boughs into the water or stop by a riverside café and immerse yourself in a river brimming with wildlife. You can even enjoy a dip in the summer or participate in sporting activities such as rafting and kayaking.
The most beautiful cultural heritage site is the fortress Kastel, built by Ancient Romans and fortified by Ottomans, which settles next to the river. On the weekends, a hike up the Banj Brdo hill to the World War II memorial through the forest is a popular getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can enjoy a barbeque on the picnic grounds and soak up breath-taking views of the city.
Although, Banja Luka remains now a delightful, charming and peaceful city, and the scars from the 1990s conflicts are surprisingly not obvious whilst mingling around town. You will notice existing mosques tend to lie along the main roads leading out of town and close to the Vrbas river. A dozen mosques, along with the famous Ferhadija mosque (1580) had once been a part of the city’s cosmopolitan centre is due to be rebuilt later this year. In 1969, an earthquake also managed to demolish about 80% of the city. The main clock in the centre’s square shows the time when the earthquake struck the lives of its citizens.