Banja Luka, with 250.000 inhabitants, is the largest city in the Republic of Srpska and the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It represents political, financial, university and cultural center of the Republic of Srpska. It is situated in the valley at the altitude of 164 m, in the transition between Dinaric Mountains in the south and Panonic basin in the north. Banja Luka has moderately continental climate with prevailing influences of Panonic area. Average annual temperature is 10.7 C, average January temperature is 0.8 C, while average July temperature is 21.3 C. Due to large number of green areas (parks and avenues), Banja Luka has the epithet of the town of greenery. Banja Luka is also called the town of the young, sports and pretty girls.
In the territory of the today’s Banja Luka, since the ancient times, there were always human communities that left traces of time in which they lived. In Banja Luka you can experience a spirit of different cultures that were interwoven in this territory and visit a large number of cultural and historic monuments being the witnesses of different epochs and human creativity. Cultural and historical monuments: Gospodska Street, Petar Kocic monument, fortress Kastel, Banski dvor, monument of Banj brdo, Hipotekarna banka, Sokolska kuca, hotel Palace, old Serbian Primary School, environmental entity Carski drum, Trappist Monastery, the Building of old railway station, Safikava’s grave, Monastery Gomionica, medieval town of Zvecaj, Archive of the Republic of Srpska, church of Christ the Savior. Also, Banja Luka as a cultural center of the Republic of Srpska offers you the possibility to visit the cultural institutions such as the Museum of the Contemporary Art of the Republic of Srpska, Museum of the Republic of Srpska, Cultural Centre Banski dvor, National Theatre of the Republic of Srpska, Galleries etc.
At the territory of today’s Banja Luka, the continuous development of human communities from prehistory until today can be followed. This territory has been favorable for settling and living since the ancient times, first of all due to natural resources, and later also due to geographical, traffic, and strategic position. Banja Luka was mentioned for the first time in the year of 1494 in the charter of Hungarian king Vladislav II Jagelovic, issued in Budim in Latin language, although the town had existed even earlier. Prehistorically archeological localities as well as the items found on them give evidence on existence of human communities at these areas since the epoch of musterien from 5000 – 3500 BC. In preantic period, wider area of Banja Luka and western Bosnia was inhabited by Illyria tribes called Mezeji and Oserijati which left behind many ancient town settlements. Having defeated the Illyric tribes in Baton war (6 -9 AD), the Romans started to come to this territory and assigned it into their province Illyrik. A part of the structure of military and administrative power of the Roman Empire was construction of roads near which stationary military camps (Castra) and civil settlements (municipium) were formed. After the fall of the Roman Empire, this area was inhabited by Slavs which left behind early-Slavonic ancient town settlements. Medieval life in Banja Luka and its surrounding grew, which can be confirmed by many written documents as well as a large number of fortified towns from the period from XII to XV century. By the fall of the Bosnian state and by coming of Turks to these areas in the year of 1528, Banja Luka got the significance as the strategic bastion of Hungarian and Turkish domination. Banja Luka got a special significance during the rule of Ferhad-Pasha Sokolovic (1574 - 1588) when it became the center of the Turkish administrative unit – Bosnian pashaluk (jurisdiction of a Pasha). The thing that followed after 350 years of the Turkish administration was the Austro-Hungarian occupation (1878) that lasted for 40 years. After the World War I, this area became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, and from 1929 a center of Vrbaska banovina (region ruled by a ban – civil governor) of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia when it experienced its largest rise. The first civil governor (Ban) of the Vrbaska banovina Svetislav Tisa Milosavljevic (1929 – 1934) during his mandate built many structures among which the following buildings should be emphasized: Ban’s administration (Banska uprava) and Ban’s residency (Banski dvor), National Theatre, Hotel Palace, Sokolski dom, City Park (Gradski park), Ethnographic Museum, schools, hospitals etc. Also, the Ban Milosavljevic christened the church of Christ the Savior on the occasion of its dedication in 1929, and the church was bombed later, and then destroyed in 1941. The church was renovated in 2004 and today presents one of the most beautiful orthodox churches in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the World War II, Banja Luka experienced its peak again which was stopped during the time of a large earthquake in 1969 and the war 1992-1995 after which it started to develop again as a center of the Republic of Srpska.
Banja Luka has always been very important intersection of roads, in the period of Romans when a road that connected Roman Provinces Dalmatia and Pannonia passed through the town, and the railway Banja Luka – Dobrljin that was released in 1873 as the first railway of this type in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And today as well, Banja Luka presents the junction of roads of the direction north – east Europe towards the Adriatic and east – west. A railway communication that connects the City with the western and Eastern Europe and other parts of the Republic of Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina passes through Banja Luka as well. There is an international airport Banja Luka situated 25 kilometers north of the center of the City.
Vrbas is the main watercourse of Banja Luka that divides the town into two parts and is something more than just a river for the inhabitants of Banja Luka. Therefore, still in some settlements we have the rule of “view to the river” that is applied in civil engineering at the banks the Vrbas. In town, the following tributaries flow into the Vrbas: Vrbanja, Suturlija, Crkvena, Rijeka, Svrakava, Rekavica and others. Flowing from the south towards the north, Vrbas gets out of the canyon, mountain flow and transfers into plain flow. The area of the Vrbas canyon that is situated only 12 km from the centre of the town is distinguished by the clear water of the II category, rich and various flora and fauna, cultural and historical monuments, and natural rarities on the basis of which it was protected according to the Decision of the Institute for Monuments and Culture Protection of SR BiH dated 1955. Vrbas has a specific boat known as dajak which got the name after the stick used for moving the boat.
The location of Banja Luka as a transit town caused the appearance of stationary resorts as early as in the Roman period. One of the first hotels that were built in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the hotel Bosnia from the year of 1885 and according to some sources it was built even earlier. Today Banja Luka has a large number of lodging capacities of different categories and purposes.
In Banja Luka there are many restaurants that can satisfy the needs even of the most demanding gourmands, from the national ones that offer traditional cuisine till modern with European and world specialties. Specific specialty of the town of Banja Luka is Banjalucki kebab (Banjalucki cevap) consisted of tablets of grilled minced meat and specific round flat bread – lepinja.
During the year, in Banja Luka and its surroundings there are a range of traditional events of different characters such as Ljeto na Vrbasu (Summer on the Vrbas), Povratak selu (Return to village life), Kocicev zbor (Kocic’s gathering), Banjalucke ljetne igre (Summer Games of Banja Luka) and many others.