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Banja Luka or Banjaluka (Cyrillic: Бања Лука or Бањалука, ) is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, and the largest and most developed city in the Republika Srpska entity. Traditionally it has been the center of the Bosanska Krajina region, located in the north-western part of the country. 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 Vrbas river and is well-known in the countries of the Former Yugoslaviamarker for being full of tree-lined avenues, boulevards, gardens, and parks.


Banja Luka covers some of land in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, on the Vrbasmarker River. The city is located at . Banja Luka's downtown is at 163 m above sea level, surrounded by hills.

The source of the Vrbas River is about to the south. The tributary rivers Suturlija, Crkvena, and Vrbanja flow into the Vrbas at Banja Luka. Banja Luka has also a number of spring close by.

The area around Banja Luka is mostly woodland, although there are mountains a little further from the city. The city itself is built in the Banja Luka valley, which is located at the transition between high and low mountain areas. The most notable of these mountains are Manjača (1,214 meters), Čemernica (1,338 meters), and Tisovac. These are all part of the Dinaric Alps mountain range.


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 . The coldest month of the year is January, when temperatures average near freezing at .

Annual precipitation for Banja Luka is about 988 mm. Banja Luka has an average of 143 rainy days a year. Due to the city's high latitude, it used to snow in Banja Luka almost every year before the recent climatic changes and global warming. Strong winds come from the north and northeast.


The name "Banja Luka" was first mentioned in a document dated February 6, 1494, but Banja Luka's history dates back to ancient times. There is a substantial evidence of the Roman presence in the region during the first few centuries AD, including an old fort "Kastel" (Castra, lat.) in the center of the city. The area of Banja Luka was entirely in the kingdom of Illyria and after that part of the Roman province of Illyricum, which split into provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia which Castra became part of.

The Slavic peoples settled in the area in the 7th century A.D., although the exact nature of their migrations remains something of a mystery. What is known is that the first mention of the city dates to 1494, by Vladislav II. The name means "Ban's meadow", from the words ban ("a medieval dignitary"), and luka ("a valley" or "a meadow"). The identity of the ban and the meadow in question remain uncertain, and popular etymology combines the modern words banja ("bath" or "spa"), or bajna ("marvelous") and luka ("port"). In modern usage, the name is pronounced and usually declined (u Banjaluci) as one word, and often written as such; the citizens reportedly prefer the more correct form with inflected adjective (u Banjoj Luci).

Beside Kastel (lat. Castra) the oldest structure in Banja Luka is the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Svetog Proroka Ilije (St. Elijah, serb. Манастир Светог Пророка Илије), built by Stephen Dragutin of Serbia as his zaduzbina in year 1316. Certainly among the oldest ones is also the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Gomionica from the 14-hundreds.From much later period there is also a Roman Catholic Franciscan monastery, built by Franciscans in 20th century in Banja Luka’s neighborhood of Petrićevac. There is also a Trappist's monastery in part of the city named after the Trappists, i.e. neighborhood Trapisti. It predeceases the Franciscan monastery as it was built in 19th century and has left a large legacy in the area by its famous Trappist cheese and various beer production.

Banja Luka at the turn of 20th century.
During the Ottoman rule in Bosnia, Banja Luka was the seat of the Bosnian pashaluk, and the lords of the region built what is nowadays the main street of the city. The most prominent pasha who ruled between 1566 and 1574 was Ferhat-paša Sokolović, who was not a foreigner, but ethnic Serb, Islamic convert and a nephew of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Makarije Sokolovic. He is one of the main founders of what was the Banjaluka’s town core during the Otoman occupation. He built over 200 projects ranging from artisan and sales shops to wheat warehouses, baths and mosques. Among his more important constructions were Ferhadija and Arnaudijamarker mosques. During their construction, a plumbing infrastructure was laid that served surrounding residential areas. All this stimulated economic and urban development of Banja Luka, that soon after became one of the leading commercial and political centers in Bosnia. In 1688, the city was set to the torch by the Austrianmarker army, but it quickly recovered. Later periodic intrusions by the Austrian army stimulated military developments in Banja Luka, which made it into a strategic military center. Orthodox churches and monasteries near Banja Luka were built in the 19th century. Also, the Sephardic Jews and Trappists migrated to the city in the 19th century, which contributed to the early industrialization of the region by building mills, breweries, brick factories, textile factories and other important structures. For all its leadership to the region however, Banja Luka as a city was not modernized until the rule by Austria-Hungary in the late 19th century.

Austrian occupation brought westernization to Banja Luka. Railroads, schools, factories, and infrastructure appeared, and were developed. This led to a modern city, which, after World War I, became the capital of the Vrbas Banovina, a province of the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker.

It owed its rapid progress to the first Ban Svetislav Milosavljević. During that time Banski dvor and its twin sister the Administration building, the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, theater and museum were built, Grammar school was renovated, Teachers College enlarged, city bridge was also built and the park renovated.125 elementary schools were functioning in Banja Luka in 1930. Revolutionary ideas of the time along the city were allocated by the association "Pelagić" and Student's Club. Banjaluka naturally became the organizational centre of anti-fascist work in the region.During World War II, Banja Luka was occupied by the mostly Nazi regime. Most of Banja Luka's noble Serbs and Sephardic Jewish families were deported to nearby concentration camps such as Jasenovacmarker and Stara Gradiška. On February 7, 1942 the Ustaše forces, led by a Franciscan monk, Miroslav Filipović (aka Tomislav Filipović-Majstorović) killed numerous Serbs (among them children) in Drakulići, Motike and Šargovac (part of the Banja Luka municipality). The city's Orthodox church of the Holy Trinity was totally demolished by the Nazi German occupation authorities . The city was finally liberated on April 22, 1945.Banja Luka gave many World War II heroes, such as sister and brother Vahida and Osman Maglajlić. The nursing school in Banja Luka carried their names, but during the Bosnian war it was changed by the Bosnian Serb authorities, as a part of the tremendous nationalism in the war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Banski dvor in Banja Luka
In October 1969, a devastating earthquake damaged (5,4 on Richter) many buildings in Banja Luka. 15 people got killed, and over a thousand injured A large building called Titanik in the center of the town was razed to the ground, and the area was turned into a central public square. With contributions from all over Yugoslavia, Banja Luka was repaired and rebuilt. That was a period when a large Serb population moved to the city from the surrounding villages, and distant areas in Herzegovina.

Bosnian War

During the 1990s, the city underwent considerable changes when the Bosnian war broke out. Upon the declaration of Bosnian-Herzegovinianmarker independence and establishment of Republika Srpska, Banja Luka became the de facto center of the entity's politics and became the scene of much of the most severe and systematic "ethnic cleansing" underway in Bosnia and Herzegovina. State Departmentmarker spokesman in Washington, Michael McCurry, said, "We have said for some time that we have credible information that ethnic cleansing is taking place in Banja Luka." Bosniaks, Croats, Romas, and other non-Serbs were "cleansed" through systematic persecution that included torture, murder, rape, beatings, harassment, de jure discrimination, intimidation, expulsion from homes, confiscation of property, bombing of businesses, dismissal from work, outlawing of all scripts except the Cyrillic in public institutions, and the destruction of cultural objects such as mosques and Catholic churches. Many were forced to leave their homes behind and were taken to the nearby concentration camps established by the Radovan Karadžić's Serb authorities, such as Manjača, Trnopolje and Omarska. Bosniak and Bosnian Croat employees of TV and radio stations aswell as of most newspapers were dismissed and replaced by Bosnian Serbs.

Ferhadija Mosque shortly after destruction in 1993.
An estimated 40,000 Serbs from Croatia took refuge in Banja Luka. Out of 73,000 Croats in Banja Luka, there are now about 6,500. Nearly all of Banja Luka's Bosniaks were expelled during the war and all of the city's 16 mosques were destroyed. A court ruling resulted in the authorities of Banja Luka having to pay $42 million for the destruction of the mosques.

In 2001, several thousand Serb nationalists attacked Bosniaks during a ceremony marking the reconstruction of the historic 16th-century Ferhadija mosquemarker. There were indications of police collaboration. Fourteen Bosnian Serb nationalists were jailed for starting the riots.


According to the latest research from IDC Sarajevo, the final death toll in Banja Luka wide area, which comes under name Vrbas Area, there is total of 8812 persons killed and missing during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By ethnicity: 4784 Serbs (54.29%) (almost all soldiers), 3073 Bosnian Muslims (34,87%) (civilians), 932 Croats (10.58%) (civilians) and 23 persons of other ethnicity (0.26%).


Today, it has been estimated that the population of the municipality of Banja Luka is about 198,000. Today the population is overwhelmingly made up of Bosnian Serbs and Serb refugees from Croatia. Some Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats have returned to their homes but the majority of Banja Luka's pre-war inhabitants have not yet returned to their city.


The building of the Assembly of the City of Banja Luka
Banja Luka plays an important role on different levels of Bosnia and Herzegovina's government structures. Banja Luka is the center of the government for the Municipality of Banja Luka.

A number of entity and state institutions are seated in the city. The Republika Srpska Government and the National Assembly are based in Banja Luka. The Bosnia and Herzegovina State Agencies based in the city include the Indirect Taxation (VAT) Authority, the Deposit Insurance Agency as well as a branch of the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina (formerly the National Bank of Republika Srpska).

Austriamarker, Croatiamarker, Francemarker, Germanymarker, Serbiamarker, United Kingdommarker and the United Statesmarker maintain diplomatic representation through the consulate-general in Banja Luka.


Government of Republika Srpska building
Although the city itself was not directly affected by the Bosnian war in the early 1990s, its economy was. For four years, Banja Luka fell behind the world in key areas such as technology, resulting in a rather stagnant economy today.

In recent years, financial services sector has gained in importance in the city. In 2002, the trading began on the newly-established Banja Luka Stock Exchange. The number of companies listed, the trading volume and the number of investors have increased significantly. A number of big companies such as Telekom Srpske, Rafinerija ulja Modriča, Banjalučka Pivara and Vitaminka are all listed on the exchange and are traded regularly. Investors, apart from those from Sloveniamarker, Croatiamarker and Serbiamarker, now include a number of investment funds from the EU, Norwaymarker, USAmarker, Japanmarker and Chinamarker.

A number of financial services regulators, such as the Republika Srpska Securities Commission and the RS Banking Agency are headquartered in Banja Luka. This, along with the fact that some of the major banks in Bosnia, the Deposit Insurance Agency and the Value-added tax (VAT) Authority are all based in the city, has helped Banja Luka establish itself as the main financial centre of the country.

In 1981 Banja Luka's GDP per capita was 97% of the Yugoslav average.


Museum of Modern Art of Republika Srpska
Due to its long history, Banja Luka has a rich culture. A number of museums can be found in the city, including the Museum of Bosanska Krajina, and the Ethnographic Museum, established in 1930. Banja Luka also has the national theater and library, both dating from the first half of the 20th century. There are numerous other museums and theatres in the city, including the Museum of Modern Art of Republika Srpska.
Gospodska street
One of the most famous cultural sites in Banja Luka is the cultural centre "Banski Dvor" (Halls of the Ban), built in the 1930s as a spot of residence for the Bans of the Vrbas Banovina. It is a representative building in the very center of the city. The National Assembly is inside, along with a concert hall, gallery, state television, and a restaurant. Most of the main cultural and political leadership nowadays takes place inside of the building.

The relatively poorly preserved fortress Kastel is found in the center of the city. This medieval castle is one of Banja Luka’s main attractions. Located on the left bank of the Vrbas river, it gives a specific charm to the city. During the summer, the music concerts take place in the fortress.

In the city there are many Cultural Artistic Associations. The oldest is the CAA "Pelagić" (founded in 1927), and it is one of the oldest institutions of this kind in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker.


In the summer, there are many festivals taking place, with live bands playing at the outdoor venues. The main festivals include: Banja Luka Choir Gathering (April - May), Theater Festival "Teatar Fest" (May), International Short Film Festival "Kratkofil" (in June), The Month of the Rock Music (in June),"Ex-Yu Rocks!" fesival (in July), Folklore Days of Banja Luka (July - August, every Thursday), Summer on the Vrbas (in July), Banja Luka Summer Games (in August) as well as the Banja Luka Fashion Week.


Banja Luka has one major football stadium and several indoor sports halls. The local handball and football teams bear the traditional name Borac (fighter), though the basketball club was recently renamed to Banjalučka Pivara, after the Banja Luka's brewery. The three football teams from Banja Luka are Borac Banja Luka (Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina), FK BSK Banja Luka, and FK Omladinac Banja Luka (both in the First League of the Republika Srpska), and FK Naprijed Banja Luka.

The city has a long tradition of handball players and teams. RK Borac Banjaluka was the European Champion in 1976, the European Vice-Champion in 1975 and the winner of the IHF Cup in 1991.

Recently, tennis has taken on a bigger role in the city. The local tennis tournament, "Memorijal Trive Vujića", has become professional and has been awarded ATP status in 2001, with the rank of a Challenger. The Banja Luka Challenger takes place in September each year. Also, in 2006, the Davis Cup matches of the Europe/Africa Zone Group III took place in the city. Apart from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the teams included Monacomarker, Estoniamarker, Turkeymarker, Lithuaniamarker, Moldovamarker, Armeniamarker and Andorramarker.

In 2005, the European Championships in Rafting were held on the Vrbas river. According to the International Rafting Federation: "The event was hugely successful and the hosts are to be praised for the exemplary manner in which they ran the event, managed the media and looked after the competitors, staff and spectators...". Many nations took part, with the Czech Republicmarker being the most successful. In May 2009 the World Championships will be held on the Vrbas and Tara rivers.

Among other sports Banjaluka has recently had a flourish of sports that did not exist or were unactive in the whole region or B&H, such as Archery (archery club "Banjaluka", floorball, and many other sports.


The natural beauties of the surrounding area guarantee the city of Banja Luka a good position in tourism. Banja Luka has a number of hotels, the oldest one dating back to 1885.One of the hotels is the Hotel Marriott, which is right on the Vrbas river's bank.The city and surrounding area have a number of popular tourist attractions. Among the most famous are the pools, thermal springs, and spas in the region. Banja Luka was once nicknamed the "Green City," due to its parks, and over 10 000 trees. The area is popular among nature lovers, while the city center is attractive to tourists due to its historical structures and many restaurants. Another attractive sights of Banja Luka are the Banj Hill and a waterfall of the Vrbas river near Krupa. Rafting on the Vrbas river is currently becoming more popular among the local tourists. There are also opportunities for fishing, rock climbing and hiking along the canyon of the Vrbas between Banja Luka and Jajce.


Banja Luka west transit road
Public transportation within Banja Luka is exclusively operated by the bus services. Over 30 bus lines connect the downtown with the rest of the city and suburbs. The oldest bus link in the city is the line No 1.

Taxis are also readily available.

Banja Luka International Airportmarker is located 23 km from Banja Luka. There are two airlines currently, B&H Airlines and Jat Airways, with the regular flights to Zurich (three times weekly) and Belgrademarker (three times weekly). Charter flights also operate from the airport, and the airport can be used as a back-up to Sarajevo Airportmarker. Zagreb Airportmarker, often preferable in the winter to Sarajevo due to weather conditions, is approximately two hours away from Banja Luka by car.

Banja Luka is the hub of the railway services of the Željeznice Republike Srpske (Railways of Republika Srpska), comprising one half of the railway network of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Services operate to most northern Bosnian towns, Zagreb (twice daily), and Belgrade. Due to the recent conflict, outdated rail network, and a lack of carriages, services remain slow and infrequent compared with neighbouring countries.

A wide range of bus services are available to the most neighboring and larger towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as to the regional and European destinations such as Austria, Croatia, Germany, France, Italy, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and Slovakia.

The expressway E-661 (locally known as M-16) leads north to Croatiamarker, existing as an expressway from Banja Luka to Laktasimarker and a two-lane road from Laktasimarker to Bosnian/Croatian border, and this second section of the road is currently being upgraded to an expressway.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Banja Luka is twinned with:



File:P1020062.JPG|City Administration buildingFile:Setnja u Banja Luci.JPG|The Gospodska streetFile:Petar Kocic Spomenik.JPG|Monument of Petar KočićFile:Walkway in Banja Luka.JPG|Gospodska street, entrance from the Krajina squareFile:Светислав-Тиса Милосављевић.jpg|Monument of Svetislav Milosavljević.File:Бранко Ћопић.jpg|Monument of Branko Ćopić.File:Administrativni centar Vlade Republike Srpske Banja Luka 04.JPG|Administration Center of Republic of Srpska GovernmentFile:Venice bridge.jpg|"Venice" bridge


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