A mind-boggling fusion of historical & cultural heritage, multi-coloured sceneries, flavoured by the Mediterranean touch, yet undiscovered by the crowds. Irresistibly charming, cosy & relaxed, yet modern and cosmopolitan. A capital city in Europe, yet unknown to Europeans. Discover Banja Luka, the least known capital in the Old Continent.
Being second largest city of Bosnia & Herzegovina and de facto capital of Republic of Srpska (one of the two official entities of B&H), Banja Luka is a perfect out-of-the-beaten-path destination in the Balkans. A city of long and rich history dating back to the Stone Age, Banja Luka has been ever since attracting many empires – from Illyrians, Romans and Slavs, to Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians. When in Banja Luka, you will inevitably notice this blend of cultural & historical heritage.
Romans were so much captivated by the sceneries and the healing water springs, that they decided to build a fortress on the bank of the Vrbas River. Constructed as a minuscule town, the fortress named Kastel was primordially a military fortification and a strategic hub. After it survived Ottomans and some earthquakes, today it is one the best-preserved castles in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Located not far from the downtown, Kastel is nowadays used as an open-air amphitheatre that hosts plentiful of cultural events, such as concerts and theatre performances.
Another majestic landmark that stands in the heart of the city is a Temple of Christ the Saviour, a principle orthodox cathedral in the region. This masterpiece is the finest example of the Serbian-Byzantine architecture. Originally, the sanctuary was constructed in 1929, but during the World War II, it got completely destroyed. Almost 60 years later, the faithful reconstruction was initiated. The new church was built using the highest quality materials such as precious volcanic stone ‘travertine’ from Mesopotamia, as well as bells and clocks of famous Grasmeyer Bell Factory from Austria. Finally, in 2004, one of the largest architectural endeavours in the Balkans was completed.
This symbol of human’s faith is surrounded by two similar and charming buildings. Built in the 1920s & 1930s, both structures are the finest examples of Neo-renaissance architecture. One of them serves as a City Hall. The other one called “Banski Dvor” is a sophisticated cultural centre that hosts concerts, exhibitions, lectures etc. all year long.
If you wonder where can you feel the heartbeat of Banja Luka and its up-and-coming vibe, there is no better place than “Gospodska street” (“Gentlemen’s Street”). As its name suggests, this is probably the best spot to mingle with Banja Luka’s ladies, widely famous for their stunning beauty. Don’t be surprised if, for a moment, you think that you are in Vienna, as the facades of this street reflect the Austrian influence, but they also remind you of being in one of the European capitals, certainly the least known one.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.