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What you need to know about Banja Luka

Banja Luka, is the second largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the de facto capital of the Republika Srpska entity. Traditionally, it has been the centre of the Bosanska Krajina region, located in the northwestern part of the country. According to the 2013 census, Banja Luka has 185,042 inhabitants. 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.

 

Currency

Area: 15 000 km²

Population: Estimate 152,857 Visit Population City

Climate

Banja Luka has a moderate humid subtropical climate with mild winters with frequent frosts and warm summers. The warmest month of the year is July, with an average temperature of 22.8 °C (73.0 °F). The coldest month of the year is January, when temperatures average near freezing at 1.7 °C (35.1 °F). Annual precipitation for Banja Luka (is about 1,037.2 millimetres (41 inches). Banja Luka has an average of 104 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.

 

Culture

The Museum of Republika Srpska inherited the Ethnographic Museum established in 1930, and broadened its setting with collections of archeology, history, art history and nature. The Museum of Modern Art of Republika Srpska, also called MSURS, the Museum of Contemporary Art, displays exhibitions of both domestic and worldwide artists. Banja Luka is home to the National Theatre and National 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, built around 1880. It has been in continuous public use longer than any other structure in Banja Luka.

Economy

Although the city itself was not directly affected by the Bosnian war in the early 1990s, its economy was. In this period 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, the United States, 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.

 

Government

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.

 

Name

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 form with inflected adjective (u Banjoj Luci).

 

Transportation

Public transportation within Banja Luka is exclusively operated by the bus services. Over thirty 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 by way of Gradiška, near the Bosnian/Croatian border. A wide range of bus services are available to most neighboring 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, and two modern air-conditioned ‘Talgo’ trains run to Sarajevo every day. However, services are relatively 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 flights to Belgrade and summer charters to Antalya, while Ryanair operates flight to Brussels, Memmingen and Stockholm. There is also Banja Luka Zalužani Airfield, a small airstrip.