The 13 best things to do in Banja Luka

by Kathi Daniela

It is not the country's top tourist destination: Bosnia's second largest city, Banja Luka. But it really is worth a visit - wide boulevards, green parks, hot springs and a wide variety of architectural influences. Banja Luka is very different from Sarajevo or Mostar, but no less exciting.

I have been living in Bosnia and Herzegovina for three years now and have come to love the city. Yes, Banja Luka may have a somewhat quieter charm, which becomes apparent if you take a little time to explore the city, from the Kastel fortress on the Vrbas river to its excellent restaurants. But if you take your time, I'm sure Banja Luka will pleasantly surprise you.

Don't have time for the whole article? 

🏛️ Must-see: Kastel Fortress, hot springs, Mariastern Abbey, Gospodska Street
🥣 Eat Banjalučki Ćevapi
🛋️ Accommodation Hotel Ideja and Courtyard by Marriott Banja Luka
🎒 Best Tours City tour, rafting tour and dajak ride on river Vrbas
🛎️ How long? Two to three nights
🛫 How to get there? From Zagreb by bus bus or rental car or by flight with WizzAir and RyanAir to Banja Luka airport

Banja Luka: A city overview

Banja Luka is located in the northwest of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is picturesquely situated on the Vrbas River. It is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the largest city in the Republika Srpska entity. As the traditional center of the Bosanska Krajina region in the northwest of the country, it combines a lot of culture and history. Around 185,000 inhabitants live in the "Green City" - a nickname it bears because of its many parks.

Banja Luka was already inhabited in Roman times, as evidenced by the Kastel fortress in the city center. Later, the Ottomans, Austrians and Yugoslavians shaped the cityscape and urban culture. In 1969, Banja Luka was severely damaged by two major earthquakes - unfortunately, much of the old architecture is no longer preserved, but the city was rebuilt with donations from all over Yugoslavia. 

Banja Luka - how many days?

If you want to discover Banja Luka, I would recommend two nights to explore the most beautiful sights. If you want to travel slowly and comfortably, then maybe three. That way you can also explore the surrounding area, go hiking in Kozara National Park or simply soak up the vibe of this cozy town in one of the many cafés. You can combine a visit to Banja Luka with Bihać or Jajce or even Zagreb in Croatia.

The best things to do in Banja Luka

Although not a large city, Banja Luka has an incredible amount of nature, culture and culinary delights to offer. I have now been to the city three times and have collected the best things to do in and around Banja Luka.

Kastel Fortress

The Kastel fortress is one of the oldest sights in Banja Luka dating back to the Roman Empire, when the salt route ran through the town. Since 2012, parts of the large building complex directly on the banks of the Vrbas have been reconstructed and you can walk around the grounds. This is particularly beautiful at sunset.

And here's a foodie tip: the traditional restaurant Kazamat Kazamat is located in the old prison within the fortress walls - definitely worth a visit for the atmosphere and menu.

My tip to better understand Banja Luka's multi-layered history? A city tour with a local guidewho can give you a lot of background knowledge and some insider tips along the way!

(Window) shopping on Gospodska Street

Gentleman Street, as Veselina Masleše Street in the center of Banja Luka is also known, is the city's main pedestrian zone and the perfect place for window shopping or observing the inhabitants of Banja Luka. 

The entire street is lined with beautiful Art Nouveau façades that survived the earthquake well - and remind me a little of Bitola in North Macedonia. In addition to cafés, you'll find fashion stores and jewelry stores here.

Gospodska ends at Trg Krajine, the square of Krajina, where you can discover the so-called "earthquake clock". It is no longer in use as a clock - its hands are still exactly at the time when the first quake shook the city, so it serves as a memorial object.

Christ the Savior Orthodox Cathedral

The main church in Banja Luka is the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which rises majestically into the sky at the other end of the pedestrian zone. It was consecrated in 1925, but was destroyed during the Second World War, first by a German bomber and then by Croatian Nazi collaborators. 

From 1993 to 2004, it was rebuilt true to the original using the original materials and consecrated as the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer. The reddish-brown stones with which the cathedral was built come partly from Mesopotamia, and the golden dome, frescoes and icons inside are impressive.

Ferhadija Mosque (Ferhat Pasha Mosque)

For me personally, the Ferhadija Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The details and ornaments with their vibrant colors and stained glass windows make it an interesting place of worship. And its history too, of course.

During the Bosnian War of 1992-95, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and other minorities were forced out from Banja Luka, which at that time was a Serbian center in Bosnia and Herzegovina and was to be incorporated into a Serbian empire as "ethnically pure". Places of worship and cultural landmarks of other ethnicities and religions were strategically destroyed. This included the Ferhadija Mosque and 16 other mosques in 1993.

Reconstruction began in 2007, largely using original materials that had been found in landfill sites or used to repair road damage. The mosque has been open to Banja Luka's small Muslim community again since 2016.

Wine tasting in the village of Markovac

Banja Luka and Bordeaux share the same initial letter - and a similar terroir, i.e. a similar soil composition. This means that the area around Banja Luka is actually well suited for viticulture. This is why there are several boutique wineries about 20 minutes from Banja Luka that grow grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Tamjanika and Vranac. 

One of them is Winery Jungić . You can either book a guided tour of the cellar, taste wines or have lunch.

Bathing in the hot springs (Srpske Toplice)

Eine der besten Sehenswürdigkeiten in Banja Luka: Hättest du gewusst, dass es in der Nähe von Banja Luka heiße Quellen gibt? Ganz Bosnien und Herzegowina hat Spa-Städte mit Heilwasserquellen, aber die Lage der Hot Springs hier in Banja Luka sind besonders toll – nämlich direkt am Fluss Vrbas. 

The eight springs around 4 kilometers from the city center get up to 36 degrees - you should not bathe in them for longer than half an hour to achieve the ideal healing effect, it is recommended. Entry is free and there are now also newly built changing rooms and toilets.

Du willst mehr Tipps und Sehenswürdigkeiten in Banja Luka und Bosnien?

I've been living in the country since 2021 and now know it really well - from restaurants and must-sees to real hidden gems!

For anyone exploring Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first (or second) time, I've collected over 300 spots you shouldn't miss on this easy-to-use travel map and app.

Eat Banja Luka Ćevapi

Of course, they are a must during any stay in Banja Luka: cevapcici! Here in the north-west of Bosnia and Herzegovina, they are prepared differently to Sarajevo Ćevapi or the meat sausages you can order in Travnik or Tuzla. Traditionally, four Banjalučki Ćevapi stick together - they are made from minced veal and lamb with garlic. Served with onions and lepinja, a flatbread.

The best is at the traditional restaurant Kod Muje. Or if it's full there, directly opposite in the Biljana restaurant.

Buy Trappist cheese at the Marija-Zvijezda Trappist Abbey

In 1869, the German Trappist Franz Pfanner founded an abbey here in Banja Luka, which is now only six kilometers from the city center. Once a flourishing center - the largest of its kind for Trappists worldwide - only one monk still lives here today. Nevertheless, the unique Trappist cheese is still produced here: A mild cheese made from cow's milk that can only be found here in Bosnia and Herzegovina, France and Belgium.  

Diese Sehenswürdigkeit in Banja Luka liegt etwas außerhalb des Stadtzentrums, ist aber einen Besuch wirklich wert. Du kannst mit dem Auto hinfahren, oder aber entspannt mit dem Rad am Vrbas entlang.

Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art

Already from the outside, the old station building from the Austro-Hungarian era is impressive. Many tourists will certainly not go inside, but I can recommend it to you.

Das Gebäude aus dem Jahr 1891 wurde innen modern restauriert, neben internationalen Künstlern werden hier außerdem überwiegend die Werke von Künstlern aus Banja Luka und der Republika Srpska ausgestellt. Das Museum kostet keinen Eintritt. Eine perfekte Banja Luka Sehenswürdigkeit für Budget-Reisende also!

Admire street art in Borik

Borik is one of the newer districts of Banja Luka, which was built after the earthquake. So you won't discover anything "special" here, and many tourists would probably not even come to the residential area. But the many murals on the facades make Borik an interesting destination. The district is also located right in the heart of Banja Luka - and in addition to the works of famous sculptors, valuable frescoes or architectural testimonies, I always find it exciting to explore alternative districts.

Ride a traditional dajak boat

Eine der spannendsten Sehenswürdigkeiten in Banja Luka ist kein Gebäude, sondern das kulturelle Erbe der Einwohner, die schon seit Jahrhunderten im Einklang mit dem Vrbas leben. Zur Zeit Banja Lukas als Handelszentrum wurden die schmalen, flachen Boote zum Transport von Waren genutzt – wer eines besaß war ein angesehener Bürger der Stadt!

And even today, the dajaks are a fundamental part of Banja Luka's cultural heritage. They owe their special shape to the nature of the Vrbas, which is shallow, rocky and full of rapids - even today it cannot be navigated by modern motorboats.

The dajaks will hopefully soon be recognized by UNESCO. Until then, however, you can travel down the Vrbas on them in a dajak (which is also the name of the boatman). 

Visit the water mills of Krupa na Vrbasu

Forty minutes south of Banja Luka lies the small village of Krupa na Vrbasu, which was recently named one of the most beautiful villages in Bosnia and Herzegovina. gekürt wurde. Auf dem Weg nach Jajce kommst du hier vorbei – plane also unbedingt einen Stopp bei der schönsten Natur Sehenswürdigkeit von Banja Luka ein.

Die Landschaft mit ihren verzweigten Flüsschen, Schluchten und natürlich den historischen, hölzernen Wassermühlen, die noch heute in Betrieb sind, ist ein wirklich entspannender Ort. Wie überall in Bosnien ist hier die ursprüngliche Natur dem Stadtleben so nah!

From here you can start rafting tours on the Vrbas or shorter hikes - both of which I highly recommend! Alternatively, just go for a walk and buy some freshly ground flour.

See how people lived back then: Ethno Selo Ljubačke Doline

If you want to find out more about the history of Banja Luka or how people used to live in this area, the ethno village and museum Ljubačke Doline is the ideal place to go. It is half an hour's drive from Banja Luka.

Over the years, the founder of the museum has collected numerous tools, dishes and everyday objects from normal life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These are now exhibited in the museum village, where you can also watch craftsmen at work during the summer months. Of course, there is also a small restaurant here that offers local cuisine.

The best restaurants in Banja Luka

Bosnian food

  • Kazamat
  • Kod Muje
  • Mala Stanica
  • Restoran Slap

Cafés & Bars

  • Fabrika
  • Bizarre Diverse Bar

International cuisine

  • Kodiak Burger & Steak Bar
  • Chiquita – meksička kuhinja

How to get to Banja Luka

From some German airports you can now fly directly to Banja Luka with Ryanair or Wizzair. Banja Luka airport is small, but is constantly being expanded.

You can rent a car directly at the airport (I always compare the prices and offers for rental cars at Discover Cars) and start a road trip through the whole country.

Fazit zu den besten Sehenswürdigkeiten in Banja Luka

Bosnia's second largest city, Banja Luka, has a quiet charm that only unfolds when you stay a few days and explore the city on the Vrbas and its surroundings. Personally, I've fallen a little in love with the little town - and I'm happy every time I come back!

Travel planning for Bosnia and Herzegovina made easy

💸 What currency does Bosnia and Herzegovina have?
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the convertible mark (KM for short) is used for payment. It has been the currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina since 22 June 1998 and was pegged to the German mark at a ratio of 1:1 until 2001 and to the euro since 2002. One euro is always exactly 1.95583 KM). The conversion is therefore very simple.

🇧🇦 Which language is spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
The official languages of the country are Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian, but there are hardly any linguistic differences between them - I always compare them with German and Austrian. Serbian, however, uses Cyrillic letters, which can lead to confusion in the Republika Srpska part of the country. The best thing to do is to download Google Translate, which also allows you to take photos of Cyrillic menus or street signs and translate them.

💉 Do I need international health insurance for Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Absolutely! You should never, never, never travel without international health insurance. Bosnia and Herzegovina is also not in the EU, which means that your European health insurance does not not cover the country. I am always happy to recommend SafetyWingto other travellers. For less than one euro per day, you can insure yourself here and also protect yourself against the risks of extreme sports, lost luggage and other travelling ailments.

📲 Can I use roaming in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
No, as Bosnia and Herzegovina is not in the EU, your roaming package is not valid here. You can either buy a SIM card locally at a kiosk for a few marks or simply get an eSIM like Airalo, which you can even use for other countries after your trip to Bosnia. You can download the Airalo app here.

🪂 Which tour agency can you recommend for my trip to Bosnia?
Together with my Bosnian partner, I founded the boutique travel agency .Cheyf in 2022. We combined our experience in sustainable tourism in places like South Africa with our knowledge of Bosnia and the ćejf attitude to life - savouring the little moments that make life worth living. This has resulted in tours that convey sustainability, local experiences and communities and a real attitude to life. Here you can take a look at our tours and get to know .cheyf better.

🗺️ I would like to travel without a travel agency, are there any ready-made routes?
Yes! I offer an interactive travel map for the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with several ready-made itineraries and lots of restaurants and insider tips. And best of all, the map is regularly updated and expanded, so you always have the latest recommendations in your pocket. Click here for the interactive travel guide..

💦 Can I drink the tap water in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
You can drink the water in large cities without hesitation. Bottled water is recommended after heavy rainfall or flooding and in rural areas. 

🛬 Where can I find the cheapest flights to Bosnia and Herzegovina?
You can find the cheapest flights on Kiwi - there you can compare prices directly.

🏯 Where can I find the best accommodation in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Most accommodation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including private accommodation, is often listed on In addition to hotels, you can also book flats or guesthouses here and directly support the Bosnian population with your stay.

🛵 Where can I book a hire car for my trip to Bosnia?
I book my rental cars always on where you can choose from a variety of rental cars and compare prices. I recommend that you always book with fully comprehensive insurance. Think about packing your international driver's licence!

This blog article contains personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something via the links, I will receive a small commission. This does not change the price for you at all. Thank you for your support.

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