Standing boldly amidst the modern architecture of downtown, Kastel offers those who would look closely a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Banja Luka. Originally constructed by the Romans to protect roads and waterways, Kastel dominates the bank of the Vrbas River flowing through downtown. Its position, not only on the river but also in the region, made Banja Luka a strategic location for each of the empires that ruled it.
From the extensive additions by the Ottomans to the open-air amphitheater that hints at an ancient setting flush with culture, Kastel invites locals and tourists alike to explore its past while enjoying its present. Today, Banja Luka has cleverly utilized the grounds of ancient Kastel. Its amphitheater is frequent host to concerts, poetry readings and other creative productions. For those looking for something a little more sophisticated, the view offered on the terrace of the restaurant Kazamat is only matched by the excellence of its food.
Banski Dvor Cultural Center and City Hall
Banski Dvor is housed in one of a pair of immaculate buildings in downtown Banja Luka. These buildings were built in 1932 to house many governmental and judicial proceedings as well as the local rulers themselves.
Today the opulent Banski Dvor is used for lectures, debates, concerts, book readings, and other exhibitions. It is also host of the state television station. The second of the pair of these beautiful buildings houses the City Hall.
Trg. Srpskih Vladara 2
78000 Banja Luka, BiH
+387 51 305 336
Orthodox Sanctuary of Christ the Savior
Standing majestically in the heart of Banja Luka, the Orthodox Sanctuary of Christ the Savior is an icon that will quickly become a favorite landmark for the uninitiated. Its golden domes and colorful exterior beg to be photographed and remembered as a symbol of the city to visitors and locals alike.
To stop at the surface, however, is to miss an opportunity to appreciate contemporary Orthodox architecture at its finest. Originally constructed between 1925 and 1929, the church was destroyed in 1941 during World War II. Using a distinctive volcanic rock substance that originated in Mesopotamia, the church was completely rebuilt in 2004, more than 60 years after its destruction. Today it stands proudly as a beacon of both faith and architecture in the Balkans.
Franciscan Monastery of Marija Zvijezda
Those looking for unexpected beauty need look no further than the Franciscan Monastery of Marija Zvijezda. The colors and paintings found here leave the observer in awe. Visitors can see rare and valuable books, including epistles of St. Augustine, as well as priceless paintings. Food-lovers will be delighted to discover the regionally famous white cheese made here.
Park Mladen Stojanović
Just a short walk up the main road from downtown Banja Luka, Park Mladen Stojanović is an idyllic setting for many outdoor recreational activities. Enjoy tennis on its multiple courts, take a scenic stroll or go for a jog on its extensive footpaths, or simply take time to relax at a cafe or restaurant while the kids play nearby in a safe natural environment.
Park Petar Kočić
Unique in its offerings to the downtown area, Park Petar Kočić is a breath of fresh air to those willing to pause and enjoy it. It boasts a fountain and an exquisite music pavilion. Its many benches are also an ideal spot to rest amidst the many shops downtown.
For those looking to experience the natural beauty of Banja Luka, Banj Brdo makes an impressive case for an excursion. There are many paths for hiking and biking as well as spots for picnics and other recreational activities. Visitors will naturally be drawn to the top of the hill to see the monument to fallen soldiers and to marvel at the panoramic view of the city.
There is a local saying: “Banja Luka in my heart, Vrbas in my veins.” It is in the Vrbas that many will see the true beauty of Banja Luka and where most will fall in love with it. The possibilities for exploring the Vrbas around Banja Luka are nearly limitless, from simple strolls or hikes along its banks to kayaking, rafting or canoeing, parasailing, mountain biking or climbing along the canyon, swimming or fishing. The excellence of the rafting available here drew people from around the world for the European Rafting Championship in 2005 and again in 2009 for the World Rafting Championship. Whether from beauty or adventure, one thing is certain: a trip to the Vrbas will have hearts racing!
Safikada's Tomb is a constant reminder of the passion and heart of the people of Banja Luka. While there are a few variations to the story, the legend of Safikada lives today in the hearts of romantics everywhere. Safikada was a young lady, madly in love with a soldier stationed at Kastel in Banja Luka. Their cultural and religious background differences couldn't diminish the strength of their love. Inevitably, the soldier was sent off to war.
Upon hearing of his death Safikada was grief-stricken, though her family secretly rejoiced that this unequal union was at an end. Soon after, her family introduced Safikada to another young man with the intention of seeing them married. It is said that Safikada, dressed in her wedding gown, secretly made her way to Kastel just before noon, at which time there would be a ceremonial cannon shot. In an act of desperation, Safikada threw herself in front of the cannon as it was shot, thus sealing her fate to her true love. Her family, ashamed and embarrassed, refused to have anything to do with her burial. Some good citizens of Banja Luka erected a tomb near the Fortress in her honor. Today, young lovers light candles in her memory to show their undying love to each other.