Kastel is the oldest preserved cultural–historic monument in Banjaluka. The total area of the Kastel complex is 48,000 m2. The ramparts encase a multitude of objects, among them: a central camp with two towers and a small arsenal, the central armory, the so called stone building, and various walls that used to separate particular internal sections.
The history of Kastel starts with the Roman invasion of the Illyrian territories. Due to frequent unrests in Banjaluka area and to the Romans gaining only an unstable stronghold in these regions, there surfaced a need that the Roman army units be stationed in these parts on a permanent basis. For that end, army camps (CASTRA) were set up here and all throughout Illyricum (the Roman province Banjaluka was part of), along which camps civillian built up areas burgeoned.
Several late antique bronze specimens, including a bronze fibula, and ceramics were found inside the fortress. In the central part of the fortress there are remains of late antique fortified structures of sizable dimensions. Whether they were an ancient Roman sanctuary, an administrative building or a complex of varied content—remains to be researched.
In 1950, the Kastel fortress was proclaimed a cultural and historical heritage asset of the first priority category, and in 2002 it was placed on the list of National Monuments at Risk in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Currently, a reconstruction phase is underway, as particular parts of the fortress are in a state of dereliction and thus closed for public.
Kastel features Summer Stage, which is home to a multitude of events. This fortress also hosts the Kratkofil Plus evening film projections.
Across the Kastel fortress there lies a tomb of Safikada, a beautiful girl who took her own life because of love. The story of the unfortunate Safikada, who, as the legend has it, took her life over an ill fated love, belongs with the legends that are characteristic of Banjaluka.
Safikada's story, like every legend, has many different versions, but the heart of all the various interpretations of this star crossed lovers tale is the same. Safikada was a young and beautiful girl from Banjaluka who took her own life over her thwarted love for a soldier stationed at Banjaluka's Kastel fortress.
The site of Safikada's tomb has become a cult location where generations of Banjaluka residents have lit candles for a wish of good luck in love. Enamored souls, usually on Valentines' Day, on February 14, visit the tomb in order to burn a candle and leave a rose and a wishing note.
BANJ HILL / ŠEHITLUCI
Formerly known as Šehitluci, Banj Hill is a popular mount not far from downtown Banjaluka.
If you feel like setting aside a few hours on some day during your stay, you might pay this place a visit. There is an excursion site Trešnjik (Cherry Orchard) there, and you can also take a forest path or a paved road to reach the Monument to the Krajina’s Fallen in the Yugoslav People's Liberation War (1941–1945). The monument is 5 km away from the city center.
This monument was designed by an academy trained sculptor Antun Augustinčić, one of the greatest Yugoslavian sculptors and masters of memorial plastic art. It was ceremonially opened on July 27, 1969, on the Day of the Uprising of the Peoples of BiH, with the attendance of the top officials. The edifice in question is a mausoleum-type structure 13 m tall and 24 m long. Its dimensions and monumentality were meant to manifest the greatness of the sacrifice made in the name of freedom.
The monument is so positioned that it can be seen from almost all city quarters, and the site itself is a panoramic viewpoint offering a scenic vista of the entire city.
The inner walls of the monument were meant to be adorned with paintings, and the preparatory drawings had been made by Ismet Mujezinović, but the endeavor had to be postponed due to water intrusion. The monument is constructed of Brač marble, a renowned stone (allegedly used for the construction of parts of the White House, Notre Damme and Reichstag building) that, however, started to crumble, proving to be unsuitable for Banjaluka’s climate. As a consequence, the monument has always been beset by maintenance problems. In the eighties, a meticulous reconstruction was undertaken, but it has prevented deterioration only to an extent.
The monument used to be a pilgrimage spot for people from all over Yugoslavia. The place where outdoor history lessons used to be held. The starting and finishing point of numerous rally, motorcycle and bicycle races. To have some official or unofficial delegation come to Banjaluka and not visit this monument would have been unthinkable. Banjaluka locals themselves liked to take their guests up to this scenic vista point.
GENTRY STREET (GOSPODSKA ULICA)
The best known street in Banjaluka is Gentry Street, whose aesthetics keep safe the charm of the olden days. This is the street that every traveller walks. It started gaining its current appearance back in the time of Austria-Hungary, and it wouldn’t be far from truth to claim the changes have been very slight since. Its today’s look it reached after undergoing major repairs following the earthquake of 1969.
VRBAS DAYAK BOAT
Cruising along the Vrbas River, there are peculiar boats, called dayaks, that are characteristic of this area. This drift boat is impelled by pushing a wooden oar of 4 m in length—from which the boat borrowed its name—off the river bed. The boat's authentic shape is unique to Banjaluka and it has been the unofficial symbol of the City on the Vrbas River for quite a long time now.
It is not known when the first rivercraft pushed by a dayak set out to cruise the Vrbas. The legend says the dayak boat was conceived of even before Banjaluka, and that cruising in the first dayak was the Banjaluka's very founder himself. Closer to the truth is the story that the dayak was created out of a need and as a means of transporting merchandise from one end of town to the other.
According to the official documents, the dayak was existant in Banjaluka before the First World War, whereas it reached its zenith between the two world wars.
The dayak boat is seven meters long, because over decades that size was determined to be ideal for the speed and depth of the Vrbas River. The width of the boat is commonly 75 centimeters. The most striking details are the stern and the bow, which are constructed of one piece solid wood, which can be acacia, ash or oak, and occasionally cherry and even mahogany. Every dayak has to be named something.
The boat is pushed in a standing position, from the stern, and maneuvering it requires great prowess.
The craftsmen, as is customary, do not disclose the secrets of dayak construction, and one dayak, although no official price list exists, goes for about €1,500, according to unofficial sources.
During the hot summer days you can always spot young lads and girls enjoying a dayak cruise on the Vrbas River.
THE BUILDING OF CITY PALACE AND BANSKI DVOR
After the forming of Vrbas Banovina in 1929 and the naming Svetislav Tisa Milosavljevic for the first ban, there was a need for building a representative headquarters. A Yugoslavian contest for the construction of the Banski Dvor was opened in 1930; the actual construction started in March of 1931, and the official grand opening of the building took place on November 8, 1932. The buildings of Banski dvor and the Ban Administration are solid final elements of the already existing units, at the same time acting as facade cover of the representative square. This architectural solution, which entails an architectural expression of unified Classicism and elements of Serbian medieval architecture, was presented as an architectural achievement of special value.
Today these buildings together with their interiors (The Great Reception Hall, City Council and the Blue Saloon of the Banski Dvor) represent the most luxurious interiors in Banja Luka. The building of the Ban Administration functions as the seat of the Administrative service of the city of Banja Luka and its Mayor, while Banski Dvor, the center of culture, is a place where various assemblies dealing with education, culture and promotion work are organized.
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART OF REPUBLIC OF SRPSKA (building of the old railway station)
The building of the old railway station from 1891-1892 (today the Museum of Contemporary Art of Republic of Srpska) is designed as a monumental structure built in Neo-Renaissance style. The Museum of Contemporary Art hosts exhibitions of well-known local and international authors. Besides the exhibitions, the Museum of Contemporary Art regularly organizes lectures of eminent experts, art historians and artists, publishing work and presentations interpreting contemporary art. The Museum is open every day from 10am to 10pm and the entrance is free.
THE MUSEUM OF REPUBLIC OF SRPSKA
It was founded on 26 September 1930 by the name of Museum of Vrbas Banovina. In accordance with the warrant by the king Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, the founder of the museum was the first ban of the Vrbas Banovina, Svetislav Tisa Milosavljevic. The first director of the Museum of Vrbas Banovina was Spiridon Spiro Bocaric, an academic painter from Budva. By 1982, the Museum of Republic of Srpska changed its name and location several times, after which it was placed in a part of the building of the House of Workers' Solidarity, also housing National and University Library and Children’s Theater. By the decision of the Government of Republic of Srpska on the 14 November 1992, the then Museum of Bosanska Krajina was renamed into the Museum of Republic of Srpska and declared as a central institution for the protection of the cultural assets. It houses a great number of ethnographic objects of priceless historical, national and cultural value.
Phone: +387 51 215 973
THE ARCHIVES OF REPUBLIC OF SRPSKA
The building of the former military command was built in 1878/1880, which was probably the first construction during the Austrian-Hungarian occupation. The installation was made in accordance with the simple architecture shapes suitable for military purposes, and today it houses the Archives of Republic of Srpska.
CHURCH CHRIST THE SAVIOR
The building of the church of the Holy Trinity in the center of the city was the first bigger architectural accomplishment in Banja Luka after the World War I. The godfather of the completed church was the first ban of the Vrbas Banovina Svetislav Tisa Milosavljevic in 1929. The building of the church initiated the further construction of the surrounding area, especially during the Vrbas duchies. The church was damaged during the Nazi bombing of Banja Luka in 1941, and shortly afterwards destroyed by the order of the then occupant government of the Independent State of Croatia. After the end of World War II a monument was built here to the fallen soldiers of the National Liberation War against fascism. The reconstruction of the church, now known as Christ the Savior, began in 1993. The monument to the fallen soldiers of the National Liberation War was displaced to a plateau in front of the Bosna hotel. The reconstruction of the church took place from 1994 to 2004. The material used was the most precious stone from the Middle East, the so-called colored travertine (red and yellow) originating from volcano eruptions. Placed on the facade of the building are portals, rosettes, pillars, crosses, bifolas, and archivolts carved from the white Carrara marble. The pillars (6 big ones and 4 small ones) are made from ghiandone granite from Sardinia. The golden tin covering the dome does not corrode and it was built in accordance with the Russian technology. The bells were made in Innsbruck, just as were the bells of the demolished church (B-dur), weighing 6400 tons, and the biggest bell weighs 3200 tons. The latest technology of sounding the bells was installed. The Church of Christ the Savior is one of the most beautiful and the biggest works of architecture of Orthodox churches in the Balkans.
THE BUILDING OF THE ORTHODOX METROPOLIS
The Building of the Orthodox Metropolis was built in 1904. Starting with the Building of the Metropolis, the public architecture of Banja Luka started applying Serbian-Byzantium style, with the elements taken from the Serbian medieval construction. This significant object (today Eparchy home) was projected by the architect Josip Blazekovic. It stands out by the richness of its facade ornaments – profiled garlands, floral decorations framed by archivolts and the flamboyant balcony on its eastern side.
Visitors entering Mariastern Abbey are first left speechless. All the space, subtle colors, the unusual artistic work are something definitely unexpected. Actually, the church, which has been serving as a parish for the past 20 years, is unlike any other in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was built in an unusually short period of time: the foundations were laid on 20 August 1925 and as early as the following year it was completed and the dome was finished. The original plans for its construction were made by a monk from the convent, architect brother Eberdard (Wegnandt), who also build around twenty more (smaller) churches around Banja Luka. The plan was developed in detail by a Munich architect Bruno Diamant. The unusual fate of one of his works lies in an unbelievable miracle which remained intact: 2.6m high statue of the Lady with the Child stands unattached in one of the niches high up in the shrine (presbytery). The church was damaged during both of the great earthquakes, but not the Lady herself. The visit to the convent Mariastern Abbey is included in the program of the city sightseeing, and it provides an opportunity to get acquainted with the works of these unusual people and see the photograph exhibition “140 years of Trapists”.
PETAR KOČIĆ MONUMENT
The monument of the writer and national tribune Petar Kočić (1877-1916) is located in the City Park (across the street from the main square) and represents another work by Antun Augustinčić i Vanja Radauš in Banja Luka. The monument was completed in 1929 and was officially revealed on November 6 1932.
THE FERHADIJA MOSQUE
Built in 1579 during the reign of Ferhad Pasha Sokolovic, when Banja Luka became the center of the Bosnian Pashadom. One of the most valuable cultural-historical monuments of the Oriental culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina, built in the spirit of the school of the famous Turkish architect Sinan Ferhad Pasha Sokolovic was a member of the famous Sokolovic family which marked a part of history of Bosnia at the time when the Ottoman Empire was at the peak of its power. Ferhadija was demolished in 1993 during the civil war, and its reconstruction following the same project was started in 2006.
The fortified city of Greben dating back from the Middle Ages is located at Krupa na Vrbasu, 25km south of Banja Luka. Its first mention was in 1192, then 1322 and 1346, when a certain Nikola was governing the city. In the 14th century Greben was property of the feudal lords Hrvatinic, lords of Donjih Kraji, which is confirmed by charts signed in this city during 1374 and 1375. The city was destroyed during the occupation of Jajce duchies by the Turks 1527-1528. The Turkish sources mention it in 1562 in the area of the Jajce nahiya, by the names of Greben and Vrh Krupa. It appears that during the Turkish reign the city was abandoned. Today it is in a state of ruins. Somehow better preserved is only the tower over Vrbas and a part of the wall which goes down towards the river canyon.
MEDIEVAL FORTIFICATION BOČAC
The fortress Bocac is located on the left river bank of Vrbas, in the middle of the road E661 between Banja Luka and Jajce. It was built on a rock at the beginning of the 15th century with the task of defending the crossing over Vrbas. Its first mention was in a chart dating back from 1448. From 1463 until 1527, when it fell under the Turkish rule, the city was the fortification of the Jajce duchies. In the early 18th century Bocac was mentioned as a fortification with few canons. It was abandoned before 1833. During the Turkish rule it was additionally fortified and maintained, so the strong walls and the towers which surround spacious city yard have been preserved to this day.
Gomionica Monastery with the church dedicated to the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary near Bronzani Majdan (42km west of Banja Luka) dates back from before 1536, when Turkish sources mention its prior Andrija. Typicon of Gomionica monastery originates from 1599 and today is kept in the eparchy library in Arad (Romania). In the late 17th century, the monks fled to the monastery Hodoš in Banat and in 1738 to the Slavonian monastery Pakra. The church was rebuilt several times during the 18th and the 19th century. Monastery school, founded in 1882, was also attended by the famous writer Petar Kocic. Older frescos were discovered in 1892 in the dome under the layer of the wall paintings which date back roughly to 1870. This led to the conclusion that Gomionica church was originally decorated by frescoes, except for the interior parvis. The murals in Gomionica have certain characteristics of style which connects them to the artisans who, during the seventh and eight decade of the 16th century, painted the parvises of Pec and Gracanica, the church of Lomnica monastery and repaired frescoes in Studenica, Mileseva and Banja near Priboj. The monastery dormitory was expanded and given an additional floor in the 19th century. The niche in the eastern wall of the dining room houses the fresco of the Virgin Mary with Christ from the 17th century. The monastery treasury holds collections of the icons from the 16th to the 19th century, old manuscripts and printed books from the 14th to the 18th century and objects of the artistic trades. The golden silver cross of Gomionica dating back from 1640, the work of Stefan Ivanovic Sarajevac from Sombor, is today a part of the collection at the University of London.
THE CHURCH OF HOLY ILIJA IN KRUPA NA VRBASU
The Church of Holy Ilija is located on the road E661 leading from Banja Luka to Jajce and Mrkonjic Grad. The church is situated on a necropolis with tombstones, among which two are decorated with crosses, rosettes and half-moons, carved in high relievo. Above the church, on the rock over the Vrbas canyon, there are remains of a medieval fortress of the Greben city. Since Greben is mentioned in sources in the end of the 12th century, it is possible that the church under it was built at the same time. In the 15th century feudal lords from the Vojsalic family, the heirs of Hrvoje Vukcic Hrvatinic, oversaw the reconstruction of the monastery under the city of Greben. The monastery was deserted in 1527-1528 when Jajce and Greben fell under the Turkish rule. Between 1718 and 1739 an anonymous Austrian spy recorded that by the homonymous spring and the village of Krupa lies a great abandoned Orthodox monastery. The Church of Holy Ilija in Krupa na Vrbasu was reconstructed in 1889 by the metropolitan Sava Kosanovic. “Doorsteps of the west and south doors, as well as an inscribed church panel were removed by the Turks and used in a construction of a mosque”, said Kosanovic. The church was re-roofed in 1889 and a belfry was added. In 1941 it was burned by the Ustashas.
Fragments of painted plaster were found in the ground by the church, and are deemed to be older than 1527-1528, after when the church was abandoned. It is assumed that they date back from before 1447 when, according to written records, the church of Greben was reconstructed. The Church of Holy Ilija in Krupa na Vrbasu is just one of the sights worth visiting in this beautiful place, between two Vrbas canyons.
MEDIEVAL FORTIFIED CITY OF ZVEČAJ
The ruins of the medieval fortified city of Zvecaj are located around 10km south of Banja Luka, on the south slopes of the rock over the left Vrbas bank. Zvecaj was first mentioned in 1404, when herceg Hrvoje Vukcic made a deal here with the people of Dubrovnik against the Bosnian king Ostoja. It is assumed that the fortification predates this times. In 1419 Bosnian King Stjepan Ostojic confirmed the privileges of the people of Dubrovnik in Zvecaj. In 1463 the Turks overtook the fortification and in the end of the same year it was reclaimed by the Hungarian army of Matija Kovin. It served as a fort of the Jajce Banovina until 1527 when it was handed over to the Turks by Captain Andrija Dresneki. The city was consisting of a citadel, walls descending to Vrbas and towers, one of which was preserved up to the height of 10m.