"Fuck the cola, fuck the pizza - all we need is šljivovica"! The T-shirts with sassy sayings at the market stalls on the Veselina Masleše Street show that Banja Luka souvenirs have attitude. The same goes for people strolling down the pedestrian streets, the guests sipping coffee at the plentiful sidewalk cafes and the waiters that are busy looking after them. Beautifully situated on the banks of the river Vrbas in the northern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country’s second largest city is often overlooked by tourists but make no mistake - it’s one of the country’s most convivial cities, full of easygoing and fun-loving people.
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A local experience
The main thoroughfare dates back to the 19th century and is lined with lavish neo-renaissance buildings from Austrian-Hungarian rule. This is where locals take a walk and randomly bump into schoolmates, old friends or potential dates. If you are looking for other local experiences you should go to the Tržnica or City Market. Here, old wrinkled ladies and other experienced vendors sell a wide variety of goods, including handmade woolen socks and gloves, but this is also where you find homemade cheeses, fresh herbs, fruits and flowers. If you are a carnivore you shouldn’t miss Kod Muje, an institution serving Bosnian grilled meatball made of mincemeat, also known as ćevapčići. If the weather is good you’ll have to share the shaded terrace that is full of locals and expats back on holidays from Scandinavia, Germany or the states.
Historic sites and wild swimming
Rich in folklore Banja Luka also feature some interesting historical sites. Located in the heart of the city you find the medieval fortification known as Kastel Fortress, built along the Vrbas River where fortifications from the Roman era previously could be found.
The wild Vrbas River is also where you head to if you want a real adrenaline kick. If you are a skilled swimmer you can go for a swim or you can join one of the operators offering rafting trips through the stunning gorges. The Vrbas is a fast mountain river, with several white water sections and pool drops and some of the big championships are for obvious reasons held here.
Excursions from Banja Luka
From Banja Luka you can make a beautiful journey through the Vrbas Canyon to the old royal town of Jajce and in the immediate vicinity of the city there are monasteries, picnic areas, and unrefined nature to be explored.
Banja Luka is well connected with all major towns and even far-flung places in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Located roughly an hour south of the Croatian border it’s just three hours drive from the Croatian coast or two hour from the Croatian capital Zagreb. There are even train connections to Zagreb.
Taste: Banjalučki ćevapi
Do: Rafting on Vrbas River
Experience: City Market