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Banja Luka is dominated by the Vrbas River and Tvrdava Kastel that was built on its banks. Tvrdava survived earthquakes and wars and is one of the best-preserved castles in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Parts of it are still intact and in use.


It was originally a much smaller Roman fortress, strengthened by the Slavs and expanded by the Ottomans when Banja Luka became a main frontier town from which the Ottomans defended their empire against the Austro-Hungarians.

The main park on Karadordevica Street, called Mladen Stojanovic Park, has a large pedestrian area, several tennis courts, a caf and a restaurant. The park is filled with locals, making it a great spot for mingling with the Banja Lukans. The main traffic-free strolling street is Gospodska Ulica, the first and foremost shopping street in town.
The Cultural Centre Banski Dvor (Trg srpskih vladara 2; tel: + 387 51 300 686; email: banskidvor.kc@blic.net) is situated in a beautiful building with park that originally served as the governor's residence. It has programmes of performances, concerts, poetry and other events several days a week. You have to check the schedule when you arrive.

The eco-tourism experience

There has been a recent revival of eco-tourism activities in and around Banja Luka. Most of the activities centre around the Vrbas river (see the separate section). But there are also activities that do not specifically relate to Vrbas, like paragliding. Check out the Tours, activities and other services section for more details.

Around Banja Luka

Bocac is a 15th century medieval town situated on the left bank of the Vrbas River, half way between Banja Luka and Jajce. There have been several initiatives to create eco-centers to preserve its natural beauty and clean the river from buildup from the hydro-electric dam. It has been placed on the list of national monuments by the government of Republika Srpska. If you're up for a wander, the road leading south out of Banja Luka through the Vrbas Canyon will take you there.
Gomionica Monastery is one of the finest examples of eastern Orthodox monasteries in northern Bosnia. The monastery also has a church on the grounds dedicated to Vavedenje Bogorodice by Bronzani Mejdan, dated 1536. In similar styles as the orthodox monasteries in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, there are several fresco paintings preserved and a great number of valuable icons and old manuscripts. One can also find an interesting collection of old printed books (all in Cyrillic), as well as other precious objects of art crafts used for the liturgy.

Krupa na Vrbasu Monastery of St. Ilija

Rested above the grounds of the church is the medieval fortress of Greben town situated in the Vrbas Canyon. It is believed that the original church was built within the ancient town but with most of the fortress in ruins and little archeological work completed it has not been confirmed. In the 15th century, the feudal family Vojsalic, successors of Hrvoje Vukcic Hrvatinic, took care of maintenance of the Monastery below the Greben Grad. The Church of St. Ilija in Krupa on the Vrbas was rebuilt in 1889 shortly after the fall of the Ottoman Empire by Sava Kosanovic.

Trapisti Franciscan Monastery of Marija Zvijezda

The colony of Trapista was established in Banja Luka (Delibasino selo) in 1869 and the old church of the Trapisti Monastery was built between 1874 and 1875. Apart from the liturgical objects made of precious metals dated from the 19-20th century, the collection of Trapisti Monastery includes two precious paintings: the Crucifixion and St. Filomena, both Venetian works form the 16th century. Like most monasteries it too has a collection of old printed books, among which is the collection of epistles of St Augustin, printed in Bazel in 1493. The monastery is well-known for the delicious white cheese that the monks have been producing for over a century.
 
Romanovci is a small wooden church located near the town of Gradiska to the northwest of Banja Luka. It is dedicated to St. Nikola by the villagers of Romanovci on the eastern slopes of Kozara Mountain, 20 km south of Gradiska. It was built in the first half of the 18th century and is one of the few remaining wooden orthodox structures in the country.

Spas

Slatina is a small town 13km northeast of Banja Luka where 43 water flows from the earth at Banja Slatina (Slatina bb; Laktasi, tel: + 387 58 587 222/210). The spa has a hotel that has tapped into the warm waters and built a complex with thermal baths. It is worth a night or two if you are in the region for a while. There are several buses a day to Slatina from Banja Luka. A 20-minute taxi ride from Banja Luka will cost around 20KM. Alternatively, Banja Laktasi is also less than 20km out of town. It is equally easily
accessible by bus, and has been a functioning spa ever since Roman times. The third spa in the region, in Srpske Toplice, has no hotel but a pool that is nicely situated under a hill.









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