Banja Luka is a picturesque city in the western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the administrative capital and the largest city of Republika Srpska, and the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Banja Luka has a continental climate, with harsh winters and warm summers. The warmest month of the year is July, with an average temperature of 21.3 C (70 F). The coldest month of the year is January, when temperatures average near freezing at 0.8 C (33 F). Annual precipitation for Banja Luka is about 988 mm. Banja Luka has an average of 143 rainy days a year. Due to the city's high altitude, it snows in Banja Luka almost every year as well. Strong winds come from the north and northeast.
In Banja Luka, the capial of the Republika Srpska the local language is called Serbian. Out of town you might find people who refer to their language as Bosnian. Anyway, these languages are virtually the same.
Please note that international bus companies driving for instance from Zagreb via Banja Luka to Sarajevo (Croatia Bus) are not allowed to take passengers for a domestic route. You won't be able to buy tickets for these buses, no exceptions made.
Buses to Sarajevo leave from the main bus station approximately four times a day. The journey takes approximately 5 hours, and costs around 31 KM.
Banja Luka International Airport (IATA: BNX) (ICAO: LQBK), 23km (14.3 miles) from the city. Flights from Zurich with BH Airlines  four per week and from Belgrade with Air Serbia  daily. Both companies offer connecting flights to other cities in Europe. Ars Tours has charter flights to Tivat in summer period.
As there are just one or two flights a day, there is no public transport from Banja Luka to the airport. A taxi to Banja Luka will cost around 40-50KM. As an alternative you can take a minibus transfer from the old bus staton (stare autobuske), leaving at 13.30. The minibus transfer from the airport to the old bus station leaves daily at 15.30. The journey takes about 20 minutes and cost 10KM.
Please note: There is no ATM on the airport. Wireless Internet is free of charge.
The train (and bus) station is located about 2 km southeast of the center. Connections to: Doboj and Sarajevo (5h), Zagreb (5h) and Ploče (Croatia) and to Belgrade (Serbia). There are only a few trains passing the station each day..
As per May 2014, the train from Banja Luka to Sarajevo does not run anymore due to flooded tracks. The train from Banja Luka to Zagreb will not be affected.
You can have your bike fixed á la minute at the Bike Servis Shop, in the Ul. Gundulićeva 104 - next to the football stadion. Tel. 051/301-470. Another bike shop is 5 doors down in the row of buildings.
The tourist office owns fifteen rental bicycles, which are maintained by the above bike shop. Rental: 1 KM/hour, or 15 KM/day.
There are many historic things to see in the city of Banja Luka.
Cathedral of Saint Bonaventure Built in 1887, the 1969 earthquake leveled the church. The current cathedral was built in 1974.
Banski Dvor (Governor’s Palace) in center of the city. Built in 1930's. A concert hall and gallery. This is the main cultural center .
Monastery of Gomionica from 16th century near Banja Luka. Monastery has the collection of ancient icons from 18th century.
Ferhat-Pasha Mosque (Ferhat-pašina džamija), (also called Ferhadija mosque) This example of Islamic 16th century architecture was built during the time of the Ottoman rule. Built in 1579 it has a central fountain called Shaderwan, stone and iron fence. It is built in the classical Ottoman style. Ferhadija was listed as a cultural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1950. Later it was protected by UNESCO until destroyed in 1993. The site and the remains of the mosque today are a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the mosque is under reconstruction.
Kastel fortress on the bank of the Vrbas river with history up to Roman ages.
The Trapist monastery, close to Pivara Banjaluka. The monastery is the only trapist monastery in the Western Balkans and it was reopened in 2008. It is known for its home-made wines and cheese. Address: Slatinska 1 (on the road to Slatina) 
And contemporary things:
Gospodska street Actually Veselin Masleša street, is the main street of city with shops, offices and cafes (on bottom) alongside. Recommended time to visit, because of its liveliness, is during day on Saturdays whole day, and between 12h and 14h on workdays. During evenings visit on Fridays and Sundays or each day in the case of nice weather.
Dom Omladine , Đure Danićića 1. The "youth centre" run by the local youth council, with regular concerts, performances, expo's, workshops, etc.
Christ the Saviour Church, located in the downtown.. This church is in the city's center, and it is one of the most expensive and most beautiful churches in the region.edit
Banja Luka is a city with the rich night life. The best place for night occasion is Kruna club  at the top of merchant building in Gospodska street. Others are Opium in basement of hotel Bosna, cafe Focus in bottom of Gospodska street.
Boom Boom Room, Veselina Maslese 15-17(Gospodska ulica), ☎ +387 66 610 000, . In a town where folk music is a general trend,Boom Boom Room is the first club in Banja Luka offering unique,world-like atmosphere,playing exclusively DJ electronic music. Located in the very heart of the city,open W-Saedit
Demofest klub (DFK), Patre 5 (entrance across the street from Kastel), . offers a colourfull programme with diverse music, live gigs from various bands, all genres of music except folk, decent afterparties and average drink prices.edit
Market, Knjasa Milosa (Right next to the busstation). 8-14h. The market, close to the bus- and train station is worth your while. Seems to be coming straight from the countryside, each day of the week in the morning you can buy everything you need there, from vegetables to hardware to second hand frezers. On Sunday cars are on sale - and an occasional French-plated Mercedes, on Tuesdays livestock.(17.206852,44.788295)edit
Take a Dajak tour over the Vrbas from ("Zeleni most" - Prvi mlin - Kastel - "Zeleni most"), 20 KM/ one person; 25 KM/two persons, 30 KM/three persons, (maximum: three persons for one boat) Contact numbers: 065/517-261 or 065/566-139. http://dajak.org
Multipleks Palas (Cinema), Trg Krajina (underneath Boska), ☎ +387 51 217 409, . Cinema Palas with your fair amount of blockbusters and smoe local movies.(44°46'21N,17°11'24E)edit
Restoran Slap (Swim), Novoselija (Go to the east shore of the Vrbas, and continue the road all the way south untll you com in Novoselija [http://slapbl.net/mapa.bmp]), . Restuarant Slap (Waterfall) lies next to a small barrage in the Vrbas and it is excellent swimming there on summer days if the water is not too high.edit
Charitable organization Duga, Kralja Petra I Karađorđevića 88 (between the Government building and the Tobacco Factory, sharing the yard with a kindergarden), ☎ +387 51 307 - 866, . If you are interested in the traditional arts and crafts of the region, Duga can offer fantastic learning opportunities to you. Contact Duga and arrange a visit where you can watch and learn from local craftspeople as they conduct live demonstrations of a wide range of handicrafts including weaving, crocheting, embroidery and knitting. You will be able to have a “hands on” experience and a chance to learn new skills in the process.edit
Demofest - festival of alternative music, usually lasting three days, consisting of two different parts: each evening there is a contest of demo bands, with two semifinal nights and the finals, which are held on the third day of the festival, and concerts of bands with more reputation following each part of the contest.
The local currency is the Convertible Mark (KM), which is tied to the Euro at a rate of 1KM to 0.51129E (at the time of press). Convertible Mark coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 pfenings and 1, 2, 5 Marks while banknotes come in 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Marks. Many establishments (especially hotels) accept Euros (notes only). ATMs are all over the place with MasterCard, Visa and other offshoots being accepted. Credit Cards such as Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are readily accepted by larger establishments all over the country. When changing money, it is best to ask for small bills as shops often are hard-pressed for change. Traveler cheques can be readily changed at Raiffeisen and Zagrebačka Banks.
Near the fortress in the center of the city there is a market, where you will be able to find every kind of products.
In the main town square there is a big shopping mall, Boska, which has a wide variety of stores. Also, in the main pedestrian street you will find a lot of renowned stores, from food to clothing designer and sports stores.
You can get local, handicraft souvenirs for example at the shop of association "Duga". All items there are made of natural materials by traditional technologies, and are decorated with ornaments from original traditional clothing from the area of Dinara. Their collection contains: ethno souvenirs, decorative products and clothing. Address: Etnoradionica "Duga", Kralja Petra I Karađorđevića 88 (the same street as the city hall) [http:/www.etnosuveniri.com] All of the handicrafts are produced in an ethical manner and by purchasing them you will help Duga to continue providing aid to all of its beneficiaries and support to other local humanitarian projects.
If you like meat, you'll love Banja Luka. Meat is a standard for any meal. However, there is still lots of interesting meals you can make do if you are a vegetarian.
Here is a list of the most popular traditional dishes:
Ćevapi - small meat sausages of lamb and beef mix. They are usually served with fresh onions and pita bread on the side. Ćevapi usually come in pointer finger size sausages and are offered by five or ten pieces, although the variety commonly found in Banja Luka (banjalučki ćevap) usually consists of quadrangular pieces of meat.
Teletina - is veal, usually served in cutlets. Veal in B&H is not produced by locking calves in a cage to ensure softer meat.
Janjetina - lamb grilled over an open fire.
Musaka - a meat pie made of minced beef, very similar to shepherds pie.
Filovane paprike - fried peppers stuffed with minced meat and spices.
Pršut - air dried ham, similar to Italian proscuitto.
Suho Meso - dried meat, either beef or pork.
Sarma - meat and rice rolled in cabbage or grape leaves.
"Ispod Sača" - similar to Dutch oven. A metal dish is placed on hot coals, the food is placed in the dish and covered by a lid which is then completely covered in hot coals and left to bake.
Vlašićki Sir - similar to Travnički cheese. It is a highland cheese from the mountain villages on Vlašić Mountain in central Bosnia.
Mladi Sir - Cottage cheese. It has a soft texture and is unsalted. Often times it is served with a cream sauce on top. It is very healthy.
Kajmak - is analogous to clotted cream in the UK. The top layer of fat skimmed from milk, it is creamy and extremely tasty. Kajmak and Uštipak (doughnut type roll) is a wonderful appetizer.
Iz mjeha - sheep milk poured into a specially sewn sheep skin 'bag'. After a time the dry cheese is taken out of the skin container and the result is a strong, dry cheese that resembles real Parmesan.
Kazamat (Kазамат)  in one of the cellars of the old Tvrdjava Kastel, with English menu's, decent wine, several vegetarian alternatives (only part of the Tropic Club-chain!) tel.: 051/224-466, 051/224-460. approx. 50 Km for three course meal with drinks. Open daily 11-23h.
Integra Restaurant on the 14th floor of the RTRS building (RTV dom, РТВ дом), build by the Integra company for the Integra company, right next to the building of the Vlada (the governemnt) of the RS. You might be sitting next to President Dodik signing oil deals with the Russians. tel. 051/337 430, Trg Republike Srpske 8.
Citadela, in Gospodska street, the main shopping street. On the ground floor a cake and coffee shop, in the basement a traditional restuarant, and on the first floor another. Good quality.
Mala Stanica; the old train station, now right at the foot of the Vlada building. European style, amazing souffles. Kralja Petra I, tel: 051/ 326-730
Rakia or Rakija is considered to be a national drink. Its alcohol content is normally 40%, but home-produced rakia can be a tongue burner, typically 50 to 60%!
Frequently used as a common drink at all celebrations, birthdays, holy holidays, slava (Orthodox christian custom of honoring a patron saint) and even funerals.
Common flavors are slivovitz, traditionally made from plums and lozova, which is made from grapes. But, you can also distill from pears, peaches, apricots, apples, figs and cherries.
Plum and grape rakia are sometimes mixed with other ingredients, such as herbs, honey, sour cherries and walnuts after distillation.
Nektar pivo is the local beer, brewed in Banja Luka.
Hotel Banja Luka, Mladena Stojanovica 123, ☎ 0038751326400, . edit
Hostel Monaco Dreams, Njegoševa 34, ☎ +38766723725, . checkin: 12:00; checkout: 11:00. Free internet access, comfortable rooms. Pizzeria next to the hostel. 15 minutes walk to bus station and city center.€ 15. edit
Hostel Banja Luka, Srpskih ustanika 26 (1.5 kilometers from city center, part of a town called Starcevica, very close to Merkator center and almost across Integral gas station), ☎ +387 65 831 131, . checkout: 2PM. Comfortable ambiance and friendly staff. Restaurant and free Internet.10. (44.759461,17.200598)edit
Hostel Hertz, Milana Rakića 22 (in the center of Banja Luka (Borik), next to the Vrbas river), ☎ +38766617627, . checkout: 2PM. Free internet access, free coffee in the café Hertz, quiet place to rest.€11. (44.767425,17.195401)edit
Possibility to pitch a tent in their huge backgarden
City Smile Hostel, Skendera Kulenovića 16, ☎ +38766619500, . edit
Hostel Zeleni Most (Green bridge), 9. ul. Braca Moraca (On the west side of the Zeleni Most (Green Bridge), 500m from the city center), ☎ +387-51-460 813 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 24/7. mobile phone: +387 65 404 666. Right across Kod Nane-restaurant11€/night. (44.7612473,17.1823972)edit
Hostel Centar I, Slavka Rodića 4 (150 meters South-West from Kastel, 100 meters West from Gradski bridge), ☎ +387 66 806 954, . new, nice big rooms, I was in a huge single with terrace for KM 20 (~ €11 / US$ 13,50), 3 rooms in my floor for 2 WCs and 1 shower. Air conditioning and cable TV in rooms. Staff speak English.from 18 KM (~ € 8,5 US$ 12), 0. edit
Banja Luka, despite its first appearance, is an extremely safe city, both for locals and tourists. You have nothing to worry about if you use your common sense, and even if you don't, there is practically no chance something will happen to you. As soon as you stroll around the city, you will notice how friendly and kind locals are.
Just remember that there are still some unexploded land-mines in the fields in the whole country. So if you are trekking or hiking in the hills nearby, DO NOT go away from the marked pedestrian paths.
Kameni most (Камени мост) seen from the side of the Vrbas river.
Ex-Yu Rocks Festival This is the Woodstock of Banja Luka taking place on the banks of the beautiful Vrbas river at "Krupa na Vrbasu", about 4 km out of that town, 20 km south of BL. Strictly punk, rock and heavy metal bands, one can enjoy a possibly painful head-banging experience or just chill out at the festival's camp-site with a beer and a bonfire.
Climbing: 24km south of Banja Luka and 5km north of Krupa na Vrbasu is a nice climbing site; the 'stone bridge' (Kameni Most, Камени мост). More information you can for example get at "Extreme Banja Luka " climbing club.
Rafting: At Karanovac, 15 km south on the main road from Banja Luka is rafting club "Kanjon" from where you can go rafting in the Vrbas canyon . On the Vrbas, together with the Tara near Foča, the world championships of rafting were held in 2009.
Canyoning. Not far from Karanovac is the canyon of the Svrakava river, a small canyon where it is nice to try to climb through. Its a wild spot, it is not being commercially exploited. You can reach the canyon by going on the road towards Kneževo. After you pass the bridge over the Vrbas to Karanovac, there is a small road going on your left with an indication of Svrakava. That is just before the main road goes uphill into the forest. After that indication there are no others, so you'll have to find it from there on yourself. Its about 3 km further that road.(13.752222,100.493889)edit
If you really want to go canyoning, ask a local person to take you to Cvrcka canyon (Цврцка). Around 40 km south-east of town, between Kotor Varoš and Kneževo. On hot summer days you can track up to 18km through the canyon wading through the fresh water of the Cvrcka river. Not very difficult.