Banja Luka

Banja Luka (Serbian Cyrillic: Бања Лука; pronounced [bǎɲa lǔːka]) or Banja Luka (Serbian Cyrillic: Бањалука), is the second largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the de facto capital of the Republika Srpska entity. Traditionally, it has been the center of the Bosanska Krajina region, located in the northwestern part of the country. According to the 2013 census, Banja Luka city territory has 274,914 inhabitants. The name “Banja Luka” was first mentioned in a document dated 6 February 1494.

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 river Vrbas and is well known in the countries of the former Yugoslavia for being full of tree-lined avenues, boulevards, gardens and parks.

Banja Luka has always been “a paradise valley” with a lot of greenery, water and fruit as described by many travel writers who have visited Banja Luka. Banja Luka is now known for a large number of green areas (parks and tree-lined roads) because of which is called “a city of greenery”.

Photo by Aleksandar Čavić

The most common tree in the urban green space is a horse chestnut tree, but there are also linden, plane tree, spruce and many other species of ornamental woody plants. In the city and its vicinity there are three spas (Srpske toplice, Slatina and Laktaši) with mineral water, whose healing properties were used even in the ancient times.

Cutting its way through the rocks, from Jajce do Banja Luka, Vrbas has created a fantastic canyon where you will find a series of natural rarities. Rapids, waterfalls, cascades, beaches, surrounding rocks, and the wealth of flora and fauna make this region specific. The Vrbas Canyon is the habitat of numerous relict and endemic plant and animal species that represent the specific ecosystem of the canyon. Vrbas leaves the canyon in the city and from the mountain flow and starts its flow through the valley. This river is characterized by rare and precious species of fish in the salmon family, such as brown trout, graying and salmon, which indicates a very high quality of water and specific fish stocks. In Vrbas, especially in the lower reaches, can be found cyprinid fish species such as chub, carp, barbel, carp, and there are also catfish, bass, perch and bullhead.



Many events and sports competitions are held on the river Vrbas. Special attractions are water sports for which this river provides excellent conditions. Vrbas is a host to many national and European kayak/canoe sport competitions on wild rivers, rafting and fly-fishing. The specificity of the river is also the boat dajak which is named after the pole which serves for pushing of the boat.



In the area of Banja Luka and its surroundings, one can follow a continuous development of human settlements from the prehistoric period until the present time. The area was first settled thanks to its rich natural resources and later due to its suitable geographic, traffic and strategic position.

The name of Banja Luka was first mentioned in the chart signed by the Hungarian King Ladislaus II Jagiellon in 1494, written in Latin and issued in Buda (present Budapest), although the city had existed even earlier. Prehistoric archaeological sites and the objects found prove that there were human settlements in this area in the period of Mousterian back to 50.000 – 35.000 B.C. In the antique period, the wider area of Banja Luka and western Bosnia was inhabited by the ancient tribes of Illyrians, known as Maezaei and Oseriates, that left numerous forts in the area. During The Great Illyrian Revolt (6-9 A.C) the Romans conquered the Illyrians and founded the Illyricum province. A part of their administrative and military structure was the development of the network of roads along which many military camps (castra) and civilian settlements (municipia) were established.

After the fall of Roman Empire the area was settled by the Slavs who left their early Slavic forts. In the medieval period Banja Luka and its surroundings flourished again, the respective findings can be seen in many written documents as well in the remnants of many fortified cities from XII to XV century.

Photo by Aleksandar Čavić

After the fall of medieval Bosnian state and the arrival of the Turks in this area in 1525, Banja Luka gained the importance as the strategic stronghold under the interests of both Turkish and Hungarian Empire. Banja Luka became particularly important during the reign of Ferhad-pasha Sokolović (1574-1588) when it became the seat of the Turkish administration unit (Bosnian Pashaluk).

After 350 years of the Turkish occupation the town became a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that ruled in this area for 40 years. After the World War I, the area became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, and In 1929 Banja Luka became the capital of the Vrbas Banovina of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, when the town reached its apogee.

The first ban of the Vrbas Banovina, Svetislav Tisa Milosavljević (1929-1934) built many buildings in the city during his reign. The most significant are: Administration building and Banski dvor, the National Theater, Palace Hotel, Sokolski Dom, City Park, Ethnographic Museum, schools, hospitals, etc. After the World WarII, Banja Luka flourished again but its development was stopped during the great earthquake in 1969 and the war 1992-1995.


Photo by Aleksandar Čavić

Today, Banja Luka is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a centre of the economy, education, administration and politics in the Republic of Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina entity).

Photo by Aleksandar Čavić

back to top