Banja Luka, the least known European capital

Ljiljana Krejic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

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.

Off-the-beaten-path city

© Wikipedia/Tomas Damjanovic Banjaluka

Being the second largest city of Bosnia & Herzegovina and the de facto capital of the 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 with a long and rich history dating back to the Stone Age, Banja Luka has been ever since attracting many empires – from Illyrians and Romans to Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians. In Banja Luka, you will inevitably notice this blend of cultural & historical heritage.

Fortress Kastel

© Wikipedia/Saša Knežić

Romans were so 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, Kastel Fortress was primordially a military fortification and strategic hub. After it survived the Ottomans and some earthquakes, today it is one the best-preserved castles in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Located not far from downtown, Kastel is now an open-air amphitheatre that hosts plentiful cultural events, such as concerts and theatre performances.

Christ the Saviour’s Temple

© iStock/Wirestock

Another majestic landmark in the city's heart is the Temple of Christ the Saviour, a principal Orthodox cathedral in the region. This masterpiece is the finest example of Serbian-Byzantine architecture. Initially, the sanctuary was constructed in 1929, but during World War II, it was completely destroyed. Almost 60 years later, the faithful reconstruction was initiated. The new church was built using the highest quality material,s such as precious volcanic stone 'travertine' from Mesopotamia and bells and clocks of the famous Grasmeyer Bell Factory from Austria. Finally, in 2004, one of the largest architectural endeavours in the Balkans was completed.

Banski Dvor & City Hall

© iStock/Bennian

This symbol of human 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, and lectures all year long.

What to do & where to stay

When in Banja Luka, especially if in a couple, indulge with your partner in a peaceful 2-hour romantic walking tour in Banja Luka and witness some stunning areas. Bond with nature and hear local love stories. Alternatively, take a peek behind Banja Luka’s big tourist attractions and treat your eyes to a few hidden city gems on this walking tour. After all that walking around, finding a quiet place to stay is best. I suggest booking your stay at the Hotel Intera or Courtyard by Marriott Banja Luka, both recently built complexes close to the city center.

Gentlemen’s Street

© Wikipedia/Darko Gavric

If you wonder where you can 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, who are famous for their stunning beauty. Do not 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.

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