Is 24 hours enough time to properly savour Banja Luka? Quite obviously not, but beggars and choosers remain in different baskets and all that. If you’ve only got the briefest of times available to explore the largest it in Republika Srpska, this is the best way to wring every last drop out of it. You might even get to relax with a feast along the way.
Even when time is of the essence, there’s no way to do anything in the Balkans without enjoying a morning coffee first. Head to Trg Krajina and Gospodska in the centre of town and simply choose your cafe. If the weather is good, the garden of Citadela will do the trick. If there is rain in the air, maybe nip into Gatsby or Rotkvica for something a little warmer. With the coffee devoured and a spring in your step, spend the first part of the morning exploring the main square and pedestrian drag, people-watching as you go before coming out onto the spectacular Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The monolithic church is the city’s great attraction, and its gigantic bell tower is visible from all over the city. The stunning Banski Dvor Cultural Centre stands parallel to the church, so don’t be afraid to nip inside and check out the glamour. Once you’ve taken enough snaps of these beauties, culture vultures should make a beeline for the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art, with history buffs heading to the Museum of Republika Srpska. Taxidermy fans will prefer the latter.
Lunch & Afternoon
Lunchtime! Now, food is serious business in this part of the world, make no mistake about it. There are a number of quality options in the city centre, but we recommend heading a little out of the city towards the Marija Zvijezda Convent and the nearby Lovački Bar, a hunter’s paradise that offers all sorts of treats for carnivores far and wide. The setting is equally delightful. Nip into the Trappist Monastery on the way back to town, although don’t be surprised to see it closed. If you are visiting on a Friday then a trip up to the Nektar Brewery for a tour is highly recommended, before stopping for a crisp pint of the stuff in Zlatna Krigla. The first power plant in the region stands nearby, although it is now in an abandoned state. Is it worth a look? Of course it is.
With this little excursion out the way, head back into the centre and make for the area around Kastel Fortress. Stop for coffee in EkLEkTIk beforehand, giving yourself time to admire the marvellous Ottoman-era Ferhadija Mosque (rebuilt following the last war). Walk towards the fortress but be sure to stop at Safikada’s Tomb, a pilgrimage spot for tragic romantics worldwide, taking in the sadness before crossing the road and entering the centre of medieval Banja Luka. Kastel is full of curiosities, but there is something about this that gives the impression of more to be discovered.
So, the sun has set, it is time to enjoy the finer part of life, what does Banja Luka have to offer? Only the best night out in the entire country, that’s all. There is something for everyone on the nightlife front in BL — it simply depends on what it is you are after. Clubbers should seek out K.S.E.T or Rudi, while bar-hoppers will be happier at Smuggler or Mac Tire. Craft beer aficionados will find much to love at Illyricum or Master Craft, while those after something altogether boozier will find solace at Peckham Pub. Either way, there really is something for everyone in Banja Luka. Just get ready for the morning headache…
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