First mentioned in a document dated 6 February 1494 by Vladislay II, Banja Lake is the 2nd largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo is the biggest. Sitting on the Vrbas River that runs through its heart, the city is awash in tree-lined boulevards, avenues, lush gardens and green parks.
This is where "cake cafes" reign and lunchtime is a serious business to partake of until distended stomachs have had enough in one of the many restaurants. At night the city is vibrantly alive to the sounds of traditional folk or more contemporary music as the locals drink and dance in one of the many bars or clubs dotted around the town. The weeping willows dipping their feet in the water along the riverbanks cry out to be admired as you stroll along whilst the riverside cafes lure you into taking up a table and sipping espresso as you people watch the passing parade. For the water babies, you can even go rafting or kayaking or in the summer months a bit of a dip in the water if you are feeling energetic enough to use your muscles.
Built by the Romans and fortified by the Ottomans, the Kastel Fortress nestled beside the river is pure eye candy to explore. You can hike through the forest up Banj Brdo Hill to the serenity of the World War II memorial and soak up the breath-taking views. There are about a dozen mosques on the road leading out of town to wander around when you need to get out of the city for some quiet time. You will also find plenty of museums to poke your nose into such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Bosanska Krajina and the Ethnographic Museum.
Banja Luke is a charming city to explore with a soft underbelly that is reflected in the fact that the clock in the main city square resolutely shows the time when the earthquake of 1969 destroyed about 80% of the city.
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