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Banja Luka

Banja Luka
City of Banja Luka
Coat of arms of Banja Luka
Coat of arms
Location of Banja Luka (municipality) within Republika Srpska
Location of Banja Luka (municipality) within Republika Srpska
Country Bosnia and Herzegovina
Entity Republika Srpska
Region Bosanska Krajina
 • Mayor Slobodan Gavranović (SNSD)
 • Total 1,238,91 km2 (47,835 sq mi)
Elevation 163 m (535 ft)
Population (2013 census)[1][2]
 • City (municipality) 199,191
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 78000
Area code(s) +387 51
Website Official website

Banja Luka (Serbian Cyrillic: Бања Лука, pronounced ) is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the capital Sarajevo and is the largest city of the Republika Srpska entity. Traditionally, it has been the center of the Bosanska Krajina region, located in the northwestern 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 River Vrbas and is well known in the countries of the former Yugoslavia for being full of tree-lined avenues, boulevards, gardens, and parks.[3] According to the 2013 census the Settlement of Banja Luka has 150,997 inhabitants,[2] while the City of Banja Luka, which represents Banja Luka's wider area (municipality), has 199,191 inhabitants.[1]


  • Name 1
  • Geography 2
    • Overview 2.1
    • Settlements 2.2
    • Climate 2.3
  • History 3
    • Roman times 3.1
    • Middle Ages 3.2
    • Ottoman rule 3.3
    • Austro-Hungarian rule 3.4
    • Yugoslavia 3.5
      • World War II 3.5.1
      • 1969 earthquake 3.5.2
    • Bosnian War 3.6
  • Demographics 4
  • Government 5
  • Economy 6
  • Culture 7
    • Events 7.1
    • Sport 7.2
    • Tourism 7.3
    • Transportation 7.4
  • International relations 8
    • Twin towns – Sister cities 8.1
  • People 9
  • Gallery 10
  • References 11
    • Notes 11.1
  • External links 12


The name "Banja Luka" was first mentioned in a document dated 6 February 1494, by Vladislav II. The name is interpreted as "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"). A different interpretation is suggested by the Hungarian name "Lukácsbánya", i.e. "Luke's Mine", which is also the meaning of Slovak "Banja Luka". 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).[4]



Kastel fortress and Vrbas river.

Banja Luka covers some 96.2 km2 (37.1 sq mi) of land in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the Vrbas River. The city is located at . Banja Luka's downtown is at 163 m (534.78 ft) above sea level, surrounded by hills.

The source of the Vrbas River is about 90 km (56 mi) to the south. The tributary rivers Suturlija, Crkvena, and Vrbanja flow into the Vrbas at Banja Luka. Banja Luka has also a number of springs 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.


The city of Banja Luka counts the following settlements:

Agino Selo, Banja Luka, Barlovci, Bastasi, Bistrica, Bočac, Borkovići, Bronzani Majdan, Cerici, Čokori, Debeljaci, Dobrnja, Dragočaj, Drakulić, Dujakovci, Goleši, Jagare, Kmećani, Kola, Kola Donja, Krmine, Krupa na Vrbasu, Kuljani, Lokvari, Lusići, Ljubačevo, Melina, Motike, Obrovac, Pavići, Pavlovac, Pervan Donji, Pervan Gornji, Piskavica, Ponir, Potkozarje, Prijakovci, Priječani, Prnjavor Mali, Radmanići, Radosavska, Ramići, Rekavice, Slavićka, Stratinska, Stričići, Subotica, Šargovac, Šimići, Šljivno, Verići, Vilusi, Zalužani, Zelenci.


Banja Luka has a moderate continental climate, with mild winters and warm summers. The warmest month of the year is July, with an average temperature of 21.3 °C (70.3 °F). The coldest month of the year is January, when temperatures average near freezing at 0.8 °C (33.4 °F). These temperatures makes setting a climatic classification difficult, but technically is could be described as oceanic, due to its relatively mild winter temperatures (warmer than −3 °C (27 °F) continental threshold) and summers just below the subtropical threshold of 22 °C (72 °F).

Annual precipitation for Banja Luka is about 988 millimetres (39 inches). Banja Luka has an average of 143 rainy days a year. Due to the city's latitude, it snows in Banja Luka almost every year. Strong winds come from the north and northeast. Sometimes southern winds which bring hot weather are also prevalent.

Climate data for Banja Luka
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 3.7
Average low °C (°F) −4.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 69
Average precipitation days 15 14 14 14 15 14 11 11 10 11 13 15 157
Source: [5]


Roman times

The history of inhabitation of the area of Banja Luka dates back to ancient times. There is a substantial evidence of the Roman presence in the region during the first few centuries A.D., including an old fort "Kastel" (Latin: Castra) in the centre of the city. The area of Banja Luka was entirely in the kingdom of Illyria and then a part of the Roman province of Illyricum, which split into provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia of which Castra became a part. Ancient Illyrian maps call the settlement in Banja Luka's present day location as Ad Ladios,[6] a settlement located on the river Vrbas.

Middle Ages

Slavs settled in the Balkans in the 6th century. Medieval fortresses in the vicinity of Banja Luka include Vrbas (1224), župa Zemljanik (1287), Kotor Varoš (1323), Zvečaj (1404), and Bočac (1446). The name "Banja Luka" was first mentioned in a document dated 6 February 1494, by Vladislav II.

Ottoman rule

Banja Luka fell to the Ottomans in 1527. It became the seat of the Sanjak of Bosnia some time prior to 1554, until 1580 when the Bosnia Eyalet was established. Bosnian beylerbeys were seated in Banja Luka until 1639.[7] Ferhad Pasha Sokolović, a relative of Grand Vizier Mehmed-pasha Sokolović, had upon his return to Bosnia in 1574, begun the building of over 200 buildings ranging from artisan and sales shops to wheat warehouses, baths and mosques. Among more important commissions were the Ferhadija and Arnaudija mosques during which construction a plumbing infrastructure was laid that served surrounding residential areas.[8] This stimulated the economic and urban development of Banja Luka, which soon became one of the leading commercial and political centres in Bosnia. It was also sanjak centre in Bosna Eyalet.

In 1688, the city was burned down by the Austrian 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 centre. Orthodox churches and monasteries near Banja Luka were built in the 19th century. Also, Sephardic Jews and Trappists migrated to the city in the 19th century and contributed to the early industrialisation of the region by building mills, breweries, brick factories, textile factories and other important structures.

The Trappist monastery built in the 19th century lent its name to the neighbourhood of Trapisti and has left a large legacy in the area through its famous Trappist cheese and its beer production.

In 1835 and 1836, during the Ottoman administration, numerous people from the Banja Luka Krajina emigrated to Lešnica, Lipnica and Loznica, the villages around Loznica, and to Šabac.[9]

Austro-Hungarian rule

Banja Luka at the turn of 20th century.

For all its leadership to the region however, Banja Luka as a city was not modernised until Austro-Hungarian occupation in the late 19th century that brought westernisation to Banja Luka. Railroads, schools, factories, and infrastructure appeared, and were developed, which led to a modern city


After World War I, the town became the capital of the Vrbas Banovina, a province of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The provincial capital owed its rapid progress to the first Ban Svetislav Milosavljević. During that time, the Banski dvor and its twin sister, the Administration building, the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, a theatre and a museum were built, the Grammar School was renovated, the Teachers College enlarged, a city bridge was also built and the park renovated. 125 elementary schools were functioning in Banja Luka in 1930. The revolutionary ideas of the time were incubated by the "Pelagić" association and the Students' Club. Banja Luka naturally became the organisational centre of anti-fascist work in the region.

World War II

During World War II, Banja Luka was occupied by the fascist forces of the Petrićevac. The Bishop of Banja Luka, Platon Jovanović, was arrested by the Ustaše on 5 May 1941 and was tortured and killed and his body was thrown into the river Vrbanja.[11][12] The city was liberated by the Yugoslav Partisans on 22 April 1945. Banja Luka was the home of many World War II heroes, such as the siblings Vahida and Osman Maglajlić. The nursing school in Banja Luka carried their names, but during the Bosnian War the names were changed by the Bosnian Serb authorities.

1969 earthquake

On 26 and 27 October 1969, two devastating earthquakes (6.0 and 6.4 on the Richter scale) damaged many buildings in Banja Luka. Fifteen people were killed, and over a thousand injured[13] A large building called Titanik in the centre of the town was razed to the ground, and the area was later 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 from more 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-Herzegovinian independence and the establishment of the Republika Srpska, Banja Luka became the de facto centre of the entity's politics.

An estimated 40,000 Serbs from Croat and Bosniak dominated areas of Bosnia took refuge in Banja Luka.[14] Nearly all of Banja Luka's Croats and Bosniaks were expelled during the war and all of the city's 16 mosques including most significant Ferhat Pasha Mosque were destroyed.[15] A court ruling resulted in the authorities of Banja Luka having to pay $42 million for the destruction of the mosques.[15] However, the Banja Luka district court later overturned the ruling stating that the claims had exceeded a three-year statute of limitations.[16] The Bosniak community vowed to appeal against the decision.[17]

On 7 May 2001, several thousand Serb nationalists attacked a group of Bosniaks and members of diplomatic corps attending the ceremony of marking the reconstruction of the historic 16th-century Ferhadija mosque.[18][19][20][21] There were indications of police collaboration.[22] More than 30 individuals were injured during the attack. On 26 May Murat Badić who was in coma after attack, died from head injuries.[23] Fourteen Bosnian Serb nationalists were jailed for starting the riots.[24]


Ethnic composition of settlements in Banja Luka municipality 1991. Serbs (red), Croats (blue), Bosniaks (green), Yugoslavs (purple), others (yellow), uninhabited (black).
Street map of the city.

It has been estimated that today's population of the municipality of Banja Luka is about 250,000.,[25] but the 2013 census in Bosnia showed that the number was much lower - 199.191. Today the population is overwhelmingly made up of [26] During the war from 1992 to 1995 some 60,000 people, mostly Bosniaks and Croats, left or were forced to leave Banja Luka.[27]

Census of the municipality of Banja Luka
year of census 1991 1981 1971
Serbs 106,826 (54.61%) 93,389 (50.86%) 92,465 (58.25%)
Croats 29,026 (14.83%) 30,442 (16.57%) 33,371 (21.02%)
Bosniaks 28,558 (14.59%) 21,726 (11.83%) 24,268 (15.28%)
Yugoslavs 23,656 (12.08%) 31,347 (17.07%) 4,684 (2.95%)
others 7,626 (3.89%) 6,714 (3.65%) 3,948 (2.48%)
total 195,692 183,618 158,736
City of Banja Luka
year of census 1991 1981 1971
Serbs 70,155 (49.03%) 51,839 (41.82%) 41,297 (45.46%)
Bosniaks 27,689 (19.35%) 20,916 (16.87%) 23,411 (25.77%)
Croats 15,700 (10.97%) 16,314 (13.16%) 17,897 (19.70%)
Yugoslavs 22,645 (15.82%) 30,318 (24.46%) 4,606 (5.07%)
others 6,890 (4.81%) 4,550 (3.67%) 3,620 (3.98%)
total 143,079 123,937 90,831



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 centre 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).

Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Serbia, the United Kingdom and the United States maintain diplomatic representation through consulates-general in Banja Luka.


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. However, in recent years, the 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 Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, now include a number of investment funds from the EU, and from Norway, USA, Japan and China.

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 a major financial centre of the country.

In 1981 Banja Luka's GDP per capita was 97% of the Yugoslav average.[29]


Museum of Modern Art of Republika Srpska

Due to its long history, Banja Luka is rich in culture. There are several museums including the Museum of Bosanska Krajina, the Ethnographic Museum established in 1930, and the Museum of Modern Art of Republika Srpska which is also called MSURS the Museum of Contemporary Art. Banja Luka is also the home of the national theatre and library, both dating from the first half of the 20th century, and of numerous other theatres. The headquarters of the Archives of Republika Srpska is situated in the building known as Carska kuća or Imperial House, build around 1880. It has been in continuous public use longer than any other structure in Banja Luka.

Promenade – Gospodska street

One of the most famous cultural sites in Banja Luka is the cultural centre of "Banski Dvor" (Halls of the Ban), built in the 1930s as the residence for the Bans of the Vrbas Banovina. It is a representative building in the very centre of the city housing the National Assembly along with a concert hall, gallery, state television, and a restaurant. Most of the main cultural and political events nowadays take place in the building.

The relatively poorly preserved fortress "Kastel" is found in the city centre. This mediaeval 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, music concerts take place in the fortress.

In the city there are many Cultural Artistic Associations. The oldest is CAA "Pelagić" (founded in 1927), one of the oldest institutions of this kind in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[30]


In the summer, there are many festivals, with live bands playing at the outdoor venues. The main festivals include: Banja Luka Choir Gathering (April – May), Theater Festival "Teatar Fest" (May), International Film Festival "Kratkofil Plus" (in July), Demofest in July, International Animated Film Festival (in October), The Jazz Festival "Jazzlook" (in October), The Film Festival "Dukafest" (in November), The Month of the Rock Music (in June), Banja Luka Rock Open Air, "Ex-Yu Rocks!" festival (in July), "Demofest" festival (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.


In 2009. Banja Luka was host of World Cup in rafting.

Banja Luka has one major football stadium and several indoor sports halls. The local handball, basketball and football teams bear the traditional name Borac (fighter). The three football teams from Banja Luka are Borac Banja Luka (2010/2011 season champions of Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina), BSK Banja Luka, and Omladinac Banja Luka (both in the First League of the Republika Srpska), FK Naprijed Banja Luka and FK Vrbas Banja Luka

Borac Banja Luka is the most popular football club in the Republika Srpska. The club has won several major trophies in its history such as trophies as a champion of Mitropa Cup, Yugoslav Cup, Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Cup, First League of the Republika Srpska, Republic Srpska Cup. They have participated in UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

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.

Also, the city has a scout group named "22nd April". Recently, there was another scout group, but it was shut down. Now, the leader of the group is Miodrag Stanivukovic, the senior instructor is Nikola Sodic, and the vice-leader is Darko Mitrasinovic. The group participated in the 9th Serbian Scout Jamboree, in 2014, and has plans to go to World Scout Jamboree in Japan in July 2015. The group had many awards in former Republic of Yugoslavia, and in 2014 was named the "Eagle group" of Bosnia and Herzegovina Scouts. The group's sister scout group is "Garesnica", from Garesnica, Croatia. There are two competitions organised by "22nd April": the May Meetings (late May, mostly for scouts under 16 years), and the November Meetings (late November, mostly for more experienced scouts and scouts above 16 years).

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 Monaco, Estonia, Turkey, Lithuania, Moldova, Armenia and Andorra.

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 Republic being the most successful. In May 2009 the World Championships were held on the Vrbas and Tara rivers.

A panorama of the Borac Banja Luka stadim


Krupa River

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, one of the best being Hotel Cezar Banja Luka. One of the hotels right on the Vrbas river's bank is the Marriott. The city and surrounding area boast a number of popular tourist attractions. Among the most famous are the pools, thermal springs, and spas in the region. Due to its parks and over 10 000 trees Banja Luka was once nicknamed the "Green City". The area is popular among nature lovers, while the city centre is attractive to tourists due to its historical structures and many restaurants. Other attractions of Banja Luka are the Banj Hill and a waterfall of the Vrbas river near Krupa. Rafting on the Vrbas river is currently becoming popular among the local tourists. There is fishing, rock climbing and hiking along the canyon of the Vrbas between Banja Luka and Jajce, and there is plenty of accommodation for visitors.


Banja Luka west transit road
B&H Airlines ATR 72 at Banja Luka airport preparing for the flight to Zürich, August 2010

Public transportation within Banja Luka is exclusively operated by the bus services. Over 30 bus lines connect downtown with the rest of the city and its suburbs. The oldest bus link in the city is line No 1. Taxis are also readily available.

The expressway E-661 (locally known as M-16) leads north to Croatia from Banja Luka to Gradiska, near the Bosnian/Croatian border.

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

Banja Luka is the hub of the railway services of Željeznice Republike Srpske, comprising one half of the railway network of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Services operate to most northern Bosnian towns, Zagreb (twice daily), and Sarajevo. The outdated rail network and a lack of carriages make services slow and infrequent compared with neighbouring countries.

Banja Luka International Airport (IATA: BNX, ICAO: LQBK) is located 23 km (14 mi) north of Banja Luka. The airport is served by Air Serbia, which operates daily flights to Belgrade, and B&H Airlines, which operates a 4 weekly flights to Zürich. There is also Banja Luka Zalužani Airport, a small airstrip.

International relations

Twin towns – Sister cities

Banja Luka twinned with the following cities:[31]





  1. ^ a b Preliminary Results of the 2013 Census of Population, Households and Dwellings in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo. 5 November 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2013
  2. ^ a b Census of population, households and dwellings in BH 2013, on the territory of Republika Srpska - Preliminary results,
  3. ^ General information about Banja Luka,
  4. ^ Ivan Lovrenović, " ‘Serb’ towns in Bosnia", BH Dani, 20 July 2001
  5. ^
  6. ^ Pleiades
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Jovan Cvijić, Balkansko poluostrvo i južnoslovenske zemlje /Balkan Peninsula and South Slav Countries/ (Belgrade: Zavod za izdavanje udžbenika, 1966), pp. 151-152.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Svestenomucenik Platon
  12. ^ Danas, Sveti Platon banjalučki – Forum-Banja Luka-Info
  13. ^ NOAA National Geographical Data Center, Significant Earthquake Database states that the 15:36 26 October 1969 earthquake was 6.0 magnitude (intensity 8 Mercalli scale) and killed 14 people and causing $50 million damage, whilst the 08:10 27 October 1969 earthquake was 6.4 magnitude (intensity 9 Mercalli scale) and killed 9 people. The earthquake location was 44.9 Lat 17.3 Long on 26 October, and 44.9 Lat 17.2 Long on 27 October. Both had a focal depth of 33.
    Observing our environment from space: new solutions for a new millennium, proceedings of the 21st EARSeL Symposium, Paris, France, 14–16 May 2001, edited by Gérard Bégni, pub Taylor & Francis, 2002, p267 claims that the earthquake in the vicinity of Banja Luka in 1969 had a magnitude of 6.4. (Comparison of other earthquakes mentioned shows that this is 6.4 on the Richter scale.)
    Chronology of Extreme Weather, by Ken Polsson, claims: "magnitude 6.4 earthquake occurs. 20 killed, 150 seriously injured, and 65,000 left homeless." 31 March 2009Sarajevo Rocked by Two Earthquakes, which claims that: "The biggest earthquake in Bosnia and Herzegovina's history took place in 26 and 27 October 1969... That tremor measured 5.4 on the Richter scale and between 7 and 8 on the Mercalli scale."
    HistoryGymnasium Banja Luka claims that the 26 October 1969 earthquake had an intensity of 7.5 on the Mercalli intensity scale, whilst the 27 October 1969 earthquake had an intensity of 8.5 on the Mercalli scale.
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ UN: Officials Alarmed By Mob Violence In Bosnia at the Wayback Machine (archived 18 February 2009)
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ HRCC Human Rights Quarterly Report, 01 April - 30 June 2001, HRCC Human Rights Quarterly Report, 01 April - 30 June 2001
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ OSCE Regional Centre Banja Luka: Fact Sheet
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m
  32. ^ – Διεθνείς Σχέσεις0

External links

  • Banja Luka City homepage
  • Official Banja Luka Tourism page
  • Banja Luka Tourism page
  • Banja Luka Travel Guide - android application
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