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Explore Banja Luka like a local

Experience the magnificent, second largest, city in Bosnia and Herzegovina off the beaten path and soak up the atmosphere like a true local.

This truly beautiful city in region of Krajina is a mixture of historical and nature wonders that are must see in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where falling in love in every bit of its charming corners is inevitable.  

1. Walk the walls of Kastel fortress

Many locals enjoy spending their free time here. This fortress is a well-known place among the tourists too, but not so many people explore the entire fortress to admire and learn about its rich history.

The charter from 1525 precisely states that Banja Luka is actually the name of a fort called “Castell Nostro Bagna Luca”.

From the content of the charter, it can even be concluded that the Banja Luka fortress was built on the site of an older and smaller fortification after 1463, as part of the border on the Vrbas in the defense system of the Kingdom of Hungary against the Ottomans.

After the Ottoman conquests, the fortress got the look as we know today.

For centuries, Kastel was first and foremost the guardian of this city, because its ramparts were the last stronghold of those who defended Banja Luka. The famous legend of Safikada was created on it, who killed herself at the Kastel in order to preserve the vow of eternal love.

This fortress represent the stone heart of Banja Luka and walking through it will amaze you every step of the way, especially the top view on the biggest and simply gorgeous Vrbas river on the one side and a small, but not less stunning Crkvena river that has carved its path through the rough surroundings.

Furthermore, Kastel is well known for its restaurant called Kazamat that was once an old prison built in ancient times. This charming restaurant offers a variety of food and drinks where you can rest and recharge while having an outstanding view.

Kastel fortress is settled on the left bank of the Vrbas river and it represent the oldest historical monument in Banja Luka. Surrounded by the thick stone walls, Kastel was once a strong military fortification that protected the basin of the river Vrbas from the enemies.

2. City marketplace

If you want to explore homemade products that are made with lots of love and effort from the local people, you have to visit this wonderful place. People from all over the former state of Yugoslavia are coming here to buy from the variety of homemade products like cheese, meat, fish, and most common fresh vegetables and fruits.

Beside the local production, there you can also buy clothes at a very good and low price.

However, even though New Delta Planet Shopping Mall represents a great place for tourists and has so many worldwide known brands, for more local experience don’t miss the opportunity to visit this beautiful and lively market place located next to historical Kastel fortress. 

Many local producers gather here to sell their vegetables grown with love and patience.

3. Visit and spend time in one of the city parks

Banja Luka has a nickname „the green oasis“ and that is why we highly recommend you to experience one of the many beautiful parks there. If you want to be near the center of the city, visit the charming Petar Kočić park. There you can drink a coffee or enjoy the atmosphere while resting on one of the benches in the park.

Beside this park, there is a big park with tennis courts, trim trails where you can take a relaxing walk while enjoying the nature scenery, also with beautiful playgrounds for children in Milan Stojanović park. In this park retired senior locals like to play chess with enormous chess pieces in their free time. Therefore, for those with a competitive spirit, you can always try your luck and maybe win a game or two against the locals.

For an even more exciting experience you should definitely check out the Banj Brdo (Šehitluci) just outside the town. Since this place lies on top of the Banja Luka, visiting this place offers a wonderful panorama view of the entire town.

Banj Brdo, also known as a Šehitluci, is a place where, beside the stunning view on Banja Luka, you can find a amazing monument with a unique architecture that was built in 1961. as a memorial for fallen Krajina soldiers.  

4. Experience rafting on the Vrbas River

There is no better way to meet the Vrbas River and understand its importance for the city than going on one of the rafting routes from almost out of the city to a floating café, located five minutes on foot from the center of the city.

However, an interesting thing is that Vrbas is the one river that has hosted the Wild Water Canoeing World Cup for junior and seniors in 2016 and again in 2019.

This only confirms the mix of beauty and wilderness in one place is a splendid experience that you’ll want to repeat every time you come visit Banja Luka.

While rafting down the river, you will notice the unique boats called Dayak which represent the symbol of Banja Luka. Discovering the Vrbas river in a Dayak boat is a very special experience that is highly recommended by the locals.

They say that it’s just like when you are visiting Venice, a gondola ride is a must for many visitors and tracing the river in Dayak is just as important to get the best of Vrbas river in Banja Luka. 

Rafting through the water rapids of Vrbas river is a perfect place to feel the adrenalin rush while admiring the wild and untouched nature. The perfect recipe  for an unforgettable adventure. 

Dajak has a very specific appearance and is completely adapted to fast river Vrbas making it able to go upstream and manage strong rapids which are easily mastered by a dajak expert.  

5. Try fish specialties in the restaurant Zdravo Lav

Zdravo Lav is a fantastic opportunity to try something deliciously different from ćevapi, local kebabs that this country is famous for.

Local people proudly recommend this amazing restaurant where you can find a variety of delicious meals and beverages. If you are visiting Banja Luka, make sure to stop by and try one of the best fish soups in town that is served in this place.

However, here you can find other interesting dishes made out of fresh fish and also other classic local dishes like cevapi. We guarantee you will leave this place full and with a smile on your face.

Fun fact is that there is a big possibility that you will see the mayor of Banja Luka eating here and maybe you will have a chance of meeting him in person. So if you want to experience something slightly different than usual, make sure to check out this fantastic restaurant located in the center of Banja Luka.

The villages surrounding Banja Luka are famous for fly fishing and because of that, dishes from the freshly caught fish are one of the main speciality of Zdravo Lav restaurant. 

6. Drink a glass of wine at Jungić winery

Jungic winery is located 15 kilometers outside the Banja Luka, but for those who love to drink a glass of phenomenal wine that will intrigue your taste buds, some extra miles will be worthy of your time. In Jungić vineyards you can find highly esteemed wines like red Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and as well as renowned white wine such as Rhine Riesling and Chardonnay Pinot Blanc.

Also, beside these well known wines you can try some of the amazing local brands and liqueurs that this winery has to offer, we promise you will definitely enjoy it.

However, even if you don’t prefer alcoholic drinks, you can still come to explore and learn the beauty of winemaking. Also, this winery makes the most unique gift boxes, so if you want to share this tasty experience with your loved ones, we suggest you take one with you.  

Explore Banja Luka like local

Despite the fact that Banja Luka doesn’t have the best soil and conditions to grow grapes, this winery has manage to exceed these difficulties and create a recognized brand. Jungić has won a many first place prizes for best production vineyard which only confirms the quality of their wines.

7. Buy a nice present for your loved ones in the town’s center

Walking down the main streets in Banja Luka will lead you to a small market where local people sell books and beautiful souvenirs. This place, near the Palace Hotel, is the perfect place to buy something that will remind you of spending time in this gorgeous town of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, here you can find so many things that connect to the history, tradition and culture of Banja Luka.

Meeting locals here is a must, because you can learn so much about everyday life in Banja Luka while having a lot of fun bargaining for the product you want to buy. People are very friendly and eager to help, so don’t hesitate to start a conversation with the locals. For the most local experience of Banja Luka, don’t miss this very special place.  

 

 

Colorful streets and hospitable people of Banja Luka are perfect combination for memorable visit. 

8. Spend your evening at the open spa

Spa under the open sky called “Vručica” is a fantastic place to relax after a long day of exploring the Banja Luka.  Here you can find young people having fun and enjoying the evening in beautiful natural surroundings while taking a warm bath.

Visiting Vručica will bring you the unique experience of a small water oasis where you can meet new friends and enjoy the evening relaxing swim. However, we recommend late evenings for visiting this place, even nights after 10 pm for the most exciting and interesting experience of meeting the locals and learning more of Banja Luka.

Not many places in the entire Europe give you this kind of opportunity so make sure to check it out while you are visiting Banja Luka.

Vručica is a place where warm water from springs mix with cold water of Vrbas. This place is one of the oldest places near Banja Luka.

9. Try original Banja Luka cheese

If you are one of the cheese lovers, we strongly advise you to go to the monastery Mary the Star and try authentic Trappist cheese. It is semi-hard cow’s milk cheese with a rich history worth hearing.

The production of this cheese started at this place back in 1872 and the recipe came from French monk Abbot Ignatius. Cheeses have been named after places, or the names of the monastery, so the original name of Banja Luka Trappist cheese was Maria Stern, later renamed to Trappist of Mary Star.

This cheese is the most popular one among the locals, so even if you don’t have a chance to visit the monastery you can buy this cheese in any local store in Banja Luka. However, the monastery itself has such an amazing background story that is worth visiting and experiencing firsthand. Here you can learn more about the Trappist order of priests and many interesting historical facts related to this place.

Mariastern Abbey is a Trappist monastery that once was the largest Trappist abbey with 219 monks. Today, it counts only one monk from the Trappist order.

10. Play cards with locals

“Skaut” café near the Vrbas River is an excellent place that has a stunning view on the river and it can be seen from the Kastel Fortress. What makes this place special is that this  place allows you to play cards, dominos, chess, jamb, and many other board games while you speak with locals or enjoy watching the biggest Banja Luka river from their balcony.

To join any kind of game that interests you, all you have to do is make an order and get the needed equipment. Skaut café is the one and only in the city that has a licence for this kind of fun. If you are feeling lucky it’s even possible to play for the money.

However, even if you are not interested in playing board games, this place should still be on your list, because of the positive and friendly atmosphere that surrounds this place, and of course the unforgettable view that is worth seeing.

Local Banja Luka people are famous for its generosity and hospitality. So meet the locals and share the love. 

11. Trace the river Cvrcka

The Cvrcka river is a small river flowing through Bosnia and it is the largest left tributary of the Vrbanja river. Cvrcka became famous when Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio shared a picture of it, as an example of the fantastic natural beauty while taking a stand against building mini-hydropower plants.

However, this cold and unique river is perfect place for river canyoning. Mixture of amazing surrounding landscapes, cool air and untouched nature is something that you really can’t find often these days and it simply calls you out to explore every part of it.

Tracing Cvrcka river is one of the kind experience, so all of our nature lovers, don’t miss the chance to explore it. 

 

“Cvrckanje” or canyoning the river Cvrcka is one of the most fun and challenging adventure for all the nature lovers.  

12. Try the local craft beer

Banja Luka is well known in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the top place to drink good and cold beer. Local beers like Nektar, that is one of the most sold beer, and Banjalucko, that is a bit newer and bitter, are one of the best picks by the locals and many more.

Furthermore, in Banja Luka there is a local Master Craft Brewery that is first and only craft brewery in town where you can see and experience the whole process of beer making. It is very exciting and ideal place for all beer lovers. Not only because of the tasty beer, but because of delicious and amazing food like ribs and sausages that makes this experience more memorable. 

Master Craft Brewery offer a wide range of beers made with love and passion. 

13. Learn the art of embroidery

Women’s association „Rainbow” is the first non-government organization in Banja Luka. Rainbow is a well awarded association that has a special mission of empowering the unemployed women, preservation of culture and passing it down on next generations.

Furthermore, in their workshop in town you can learn more about their achievements and about the noble skill of embroidery and make or buy a unique souvenir that will remind you of your time spent here with these amazing and truly inspiring women.  

It is important to mention that their traditional embroidery is part of the World’s Cultural Heritage. This place is very special to us and it is something that can’t be skipped while visiting Banja Luka. 

 

The art of forming a decorative design by hand needlework, embroidery, is one of the oldest processes of decorating fabric. 

14. Try yourself in fly fishing

Vrbas river is an amazing place for recreational fly fishing. Many locals and people from next door countries comes here to try themselves in catching something from rich repertoire like grayling, brook trout, pike, chub, barbel and many more.

This is one of the most popular outdoor activity in Banja Luka and villages around it. Beside being fun and exciting, it is also a perfect way to escape the city rush and enjoy your time here surrounded by beautiful nature and peaceful silence.

It is one of the highly recommended activity that you shouldn’t miss while visiting Banja Luka.   

Fly fishing is an way of catching a fish using an specially made artificial fly.  

15. Experience the nightlife

Banja Luka at night come to life painted in bright colors. It has numerous café’s, nightclubs, and bars that offers you a glimpse of local fun night out.

When it comes to nightlife, locals usually come to the bar called “988”, located in the center of the city.

However, for all of you passionate dancers who loves the feel of latino beats, in Boom Boom Room every Thursday night you can have an unforgettable and amazing experience that will keep you on your tiptoes all night long.

Those places are simply made for dancing, getting to know cities heartbeat and  meeting locals at their best. Joining Banja Luka busy streets at night is a one of a kind experience that is a truly must see.  

Banja Luka has such vibrant mixture of old and new ways to dance the night away.

 

 

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