With 150.000 inhabitants, Banja Luka (Cyrillic: Бања Лука) is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the capital Sarajevo and is the biggest city of Republika Srpska entity. Traditionally it has been the center of the Bosanska Krajina region, located in the north-western part of the country. It is home of the University of Banja Luka, as well as numerous state and entity institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The city lies on the Vrbas River and is well known in the countries of the Former Yugoslavia for being full of tree-lined avenues, boulevards, gardens and parks.
In one of these green areas, located in the district of Nova Varos, the Banja Luka Challenger takes place. Right in the middle of the Park Mladen Stojanovic, named after a partisan hero from World War II, the Tennis Klub Mladost with its Wimbledon Café and Lanaco Restaurant is domiciled.
Next to the park you can find the government of the Republika Srpska, with 17 floors the largest building of the city. Along the street a couple of villas from the Habsburg era can be seen.
The city’s most stunning building might be the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Works for this Orthodox Church, which is also one of the tallest monuments in Banja Luka, were completed in 2009. It has replaced a church from the 1920s, which was destroyed by German air force in the spring of 1941. Vis-à-vis, player’s Hotel Bosna is located.
The relatively poorly preserved fortress “Kastel” is found in the City Centre. This mediaeval castle is one of Banja Luka’s main attractions. Located on the left bank of the Vrbas River, it gives a specific charm to the city. During the summer, music concerts take place in the fortress.
Not only on rainy days, the Museum of Republika Srpska is worth a visit. Here you can find ethnographical, historical as well as archaeological collections related to the region. The entrance is free of charge.
Some of the buildings in the Centre are still in style of the so-called “socialistic realism” and a couple of them act as shopping malls. Public transportation within Banja Luka is exclusively operated by the bus services. Over 30 bus lines connect downtown with the rest of the city and its suburbs. The oldest bus link in the city is line No 1. Taxis are also readily available.
The surrounding area also boasts a number of popular tourist attractions. Among the most famous are the pools, thermal springs, and spas in the region. Due to its parks and over 10.000 trees Banja Luka was once nicknamed the “Green City”. The area is popular among nature lovers, while the City Centre is attractive to tourists due to its historical structures and many restaurants.
Other attractions of the region are the Banj Hill and a waterfall of the Vrbas River near Krupa. Rafting on the Vrbas River is currently becoming popular among the local tourists. There is fishing, rock climbing and hiking along the canyon of the Vrbas between Banja Luka and Jajce.