Banja Luka

Banja Luka (also written Banjaluka or Бања Лука) is a picturesque city in the western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the administrative capital and the largest city of Republika Srpska, and the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Understand

The Republika Srpska has a somewhat turbulent recent past, which motivates some people to be less than enthusiast of many things Serb in Bosnia. For example, the Lonely Planet cynically felt a need to introduce Banja Luka as follows:

"There’s little to attract visitors to the Republika Srpska capital. The only reasons for stopping are to take a breather en route to Belgrade, Zagreb or Sarajevo, or for the rafting. Banja Luka was never much of a tourist centre. A 1969 earthquake destroyed about 80% of the town and in 1993 local Serbs updated the damage by blowing up the city’s mosques, including the famous 1580 Ferhadija. In 2001 a bussed-in nationalist mob stoned an attempt to lay a new foundation stone."

Despite the 2001 mob, Ferhadija is now almost rebuilt and it's hard to insist that the tree lined avenues, the wild Vrbas River, the castle in the city centre or the friendly youngsters in town have nothing to offer for the visitor.

Climate

Banja Luka has a continental climate, with harsh winters and warm summers. The warmest month of the year is July, with an average temperature of 21.3°C (70°F). The coldest month of the year is January, when temperatures average near freezing at 0.8°C (33°F). Annual precipitation for Banja Luka is about 988mm. Banja Luka has an average of 143 rainy days a year. Due to the city's high latitude, it snows in Banja Luka almost every year as well. Strong winds come from the north and north-east.

Talk

In Banja Luka most locals call their language Serbian, although there are plenty of people who refer to the language as Bosnian, BHS, or simply as 'Naš' (our [language]). Anyway, those languages are virtually the same. Sometimes you'll find (road)signs written in Cyrillic.

Get in

By bus

The bus station is located approximately 2 km to the North of the center. There are taxis right at the exit of the bus which for ~10KM can drive you to the center. The city bus leaves from next to the train station, 200m away, and a fare to the center is less than 2KM. The wifi password of the café at the busstation is neobasbl

There are direct bus connections from the main bus station to

See http://www.autobusni-kolodvor.com/en/terminal.aspx?k=148&d=070

Several international buses from Western Europe to Bosnia follow the route Zagreb - Bosanski Brod - Derventa - Doboj - Sarajevo, providing you with a wide detour around Banja Luka :(

Normally you would get out of those buses at Derventa but if the weather is al right and its not in the middle of the night, you could ask the bus driver to let you already out at the Novska gas station (3 km after the Novska exit) on the Zagreb-Bosanski Brod highway, approx 3 hours before Derventa. From the Novska gas station its another 15 km hitchhike to Okučani, the highway exit to Banja Luka (the bus won't let you off there, it is off the highway, but its easy for cars to drop you off there). From Okučani its 3 km (hitch)hike to the Bosnian border. You can then cross the border on foot (or hitching) and continue the last lap of your travel by taking a bus to BL in Bosanska Gradiska (approx 8 marks). This will almost always save you several hours, and totally widens the spectrum of buses available to travel to Banja Luka.

By plane

Smiljić bus company arranges a minibus/taxi to and from the airport to the old busstation (stara autbuska stanica) in the center of town. Its recommended to make a reservation by email (agencija_smiljic@blic.net). The charge is 10km (€5) for a one way ticket. So if your with three or more, its probably just as cheap to go by cab.

By train

The train (and bus) station is located about 2 km southeast of the center. Connections to: Doboj and Sarajevo (5h), Zagreb (5h) and Ploče (Croatia) and to Belgrade (Serbia). There are only a few trains passing the station each day, but tickets are a bit cheaper than the bus, and the train is generally more comfortable.

Ride-sharing

Ride-sharing too and from Banja Luka is in 2012 often done through the Trazim- nudim prevoz (Searching- offering transport) Facebook group.

Get around

By bike

You can have your bike fixed á la minute at the Bike Servis Shop , in the Ul. Gundulićeva 104 - next to the football stadion. Tel. 051/301-470. Another bike shop is 5 doors down in the row of buildings.

The tourist office owns fifteen rental bicycles, which are maintained by the above bike shop. Rental: 1 KM/hour, or 15 KM/day.

Car rental

See

There are many historic things to see in the city of Banja Luka.

And contemporary things:

Do

Banja Luka is a city with the rich night life. The best place for night occasion is Kruna club at the top of merchant building in Gospodska street. Others are Opium in basement of hotel Bosna, cafe Focus in bottom of Gospodska street.

Events

Rafting

Go rafting on the parcours of the 2009 World Championships of rafting in the Canyon of the Vrbas with Buk, , mailto:buk@blic.net, Jesenjinova 1, 50 KM per person, or with the much more posh Kanjon Rafting Club in Karanovac.

Buy

The local currency is the Convertible Mark (KM), which is tied to the Euro at a rate of approx. 2KM to 1€. Convertible Mark coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 pfenings and 1, 2, 5 Marks while banknotes come in 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Marks. Many establishments (especially hotels) accept Euros (notes only). ATMs are all over the place with MasterCard, Visa and other offshoots being accepted. Credit Cards such as Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are readily accepted by larger establishments all over the country. When changing money, it is best to ask for small bills as shops often are hard-pressed for change. Traveler cheques can be readily changed at Raiffeisen and Zagrebačka Banks.

Tipping

It is not compulsory to tip in Banja Luka, though a reward of about 10% for good service in restaurant or bar is always appreciated.

Souvenirs

You can get local, handicraft souvenirs for example at the shop of association "Duga". All items there are made of natural materials by traditional technologies, and are decorated with ornaments from original traditional clothing from the area of Dinara. Their collection contains: ethno souvenirs, decorative products and clothing. Address: Etnoradionica "Duga", Kralja Petra I Karađorđevića 88 (the same street as the city hall) All of the handicrafts are produced in an ethical manner and by purchasing them you will help Duga to continue providing aid to all of its beneficiaries and support to other local humanitarian projects.

Next to Kastel is also a souvenir shop, look for the big "Suvenir"-sign.

Eat

Traditional Food

If you like meat, you'll love Banja Luka. Meat is a standard for any meal. However, there is still lots of interesting meals you can make do if you are a vegetarian.

Here is a list of the most popular traditional dishes:

Restaurants

Splurge

Drink

Alcohol

Rakia or Rakija is considered to be a national drink. Its alcohol content is normally 40%, but home-produced rakia can be a tongue burner, typically 50 to 60%! Frequently used as a common drink at all celebrations, birthdays, holy holidays, slava (Orthodox Christian custom of honoring a patron saint) and even funerals. Common flavors are slivovitz, traditionally made from plums and lozova, which is made from grapes. But, you can also distill from pears, peaches, apricots, apples, figs and cherries. Plum and grape rakia are sometimes mixed with other ingredients, such as herbs, honey, sour cherries and walnuts after distillation.

Nektar pivo is the local beer, brewed in Banja Luka.

Sleep

Possibility to pitch a tent in their huge backgarden

Go next

Kameni most (Камени мост) seen from the side of the Vrbas river.
This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, November 24, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.