Jurmala (German: Rigastrand) is located in the west of the capital Riga and has always been known for spa tourism. The aristocracy came here as early as the time of the Tsar and enjoyed the beautiful beaches, the fresh air and the healing properties of the sulfur springs. Jurmala actually consists of several villages that have grown together. Majori is the main town of the seaside resort.
In Jurmala, the delightful spa architecture can be admired in all its splendor: neatly furnished wooden villas line the streets, with mighty pine trees enthroned in between – a pretty picture. The relaxed atmosphere in the seaside resort – it can only be a bit turbulent on the beach in midsummer – complements this impression. The spa architecture is interspersed with large hotel complexes, which were mostly built under Soviet rule, but which today enable comfortable spa and wellness stays.
Jurmala can also be easily reached from Riga by bus or train. Majori, Bulduri and Dubulti, like almost all districts, have their own train stations.
If you travel to Latvia by ferry, you might arrive in Ventspils. The city with just 40,000 inhabitants has an important port, which is obvious when you come by ship. Oil and coal from Russia are handled here.
Ventspils makes a tidy and neat impression. Pretty flower arrangements and figures can be found everywhere in the city, and brightly painted cows pose along the harbor promenade and greet visitors. In addition, the port city also has an Ordensburg to offer: It was built in 1290 and is still very well preserved. In the course of history it was rebuilt several times, served as a school and a prison. Today it houses the Ventspils Museum.
Great for families: In the south of the city on Lielas Prospect in a park there is a huge playground with swings, climbing frames, slides – the “children’s town”. If you are traveling with children, you can provide variety for the little vacationers here.
Liepaja is a neat little town and with around 80,000 inhabitants the third largest city in Latvia. Liepaja (German: Liebau) is famous for its extensive sandy beach, which primarily attracts those looking for relaxation. The Russian tsar already appreciated this in the 19th century. The beach park, a great place to stroll, was created during this time and is one of the largest parks in Latvia, a country starting with L listed by Countryaah.
The Trinity Church with its magnificent organ – until the beginning of the 20th century it was the largest in the world – is one of the most beautiful sights. There are also numerous Art Nouveau houses in the urban area that are worth a look. Many of them are at the Graudu iela, the Dzintaru iela and the Liepu iela. The market hall of the Petermarkt is also a fine example of Art Nouveau architecture.
The old naval port of Liepajas in the Karosta district is also interesting. An entire military town was built here on the orders of Tsar Alexander II. In Karosta there is also the former prison, which today is probably one of the most extraordinary accommodations in Latvia: Those interested can spend a night in a prison cell here – prison meals included.
The small town of Kuldiga (German: Goldingen) is located in Kurzeme in western Latvia. The pretty old town is extremely worth seeing. It was originally built in the 17th and 18th centuries as a suburb of the castle of the Teutonic Order of Kuldiga. The small river Aleksupite runs through town, right along the house walls, and once operated the paper mill’s watermill. Here the river plunges 4.5 meters into the depth. Also worth seeing is the brick bridge over the Venta, it is the longest drivable brick bridge in Europe. The Venta river is imposing at Kuldiga: At 275 meters, there is – another superlative – the widest waterfall in Europe. Kuldiga is definitely worth a visit. The brick bridge from 1874 and the old town of Kuldigas are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The small town of Jelgava (65,000 inhabitants) is located in the south of Riga. It was badly destroyed in the Second World War, so that a historical townscape is largely missing. The baroque palace, which was built in 1737, is worth seeing. The Russian architect Rastrelli, who also designed the great palace of Peterhof and the palace of Rundale, was commissioned with the planning. The castle was destroyed in the struggle for independence in 1919 and in World War II, but was rebuilt both times. Today it houses the Agricultural University.
The magnificent baroque palace of Rundale is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Latvia and is one of the most remarkable Latvian architectural monuments of the Rococo and Baroque periods. It is located south of Riga near the city of Bauska and is often referred to as the “Versailles of the Baltic States”. The French Versailles served as a model for this building.
Rundale (German: Ruhenthal) served as the summer residence for Duke Ernst Johann von Biron from 1736 to 1740. It was built by the architect Rastrelli, who is also responsible for the Great Palace of Peterhof and the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. He also planned the park.
In 1920 the castle became the property of the Latvian state, then served as a school and living space, and after the Second World War even as a granary. As a result of this conversion, a large part of the interior was lost.
It has housed a museum since 1972. It is interesting to visit the Golden Hall, where the Duke’s throne stood, and the White Hall, where mainly balls were held. Visitors can admire art treasures such as furniture, paintings, porcelain, etc. from four centuries. In addition, exhibitions provide information about the restoration work on the castle and about the Biron family. And for music lovers: the Rundale Palace always hosts the Early Music Festival at the beginning of July.
Daugavpils is the second largest city in Latvia with around 100,000 inhabitants. It is located in the very south-east of the country on the Daugava River. Daugavpils (German: Dünaburg) is not necessarily known as a tourist destination. The city was badly affected by the Second World War, a large part of it was destroyed. The construction was mainly carried out according to socialist standards, so that prefabricated buildings and a street course in a checkerboard pattern are characteristic of the cityscape today. When visiting, it is worth taking a look at the fortress built in the 19th century, the few remaining Art Nouveau houses and St. Peter’s Church.
The small town of Sigulda (German: Sagewold) is located on the edge of the Gauja National Park. But as small as the city is, so “big” are the sights that are hidden here and in the immediate vicinity. The ruins of the Order Castle should be mentioned here: The castle was built in the early 13th century and was the seat of the Order of the Sword Brothers. On the other side of the Gauja Valley are the Turaida and Krimulda castles. They can be reached with a spectacular cable car ride from Sigulda. Turaida Castle was partially reconstructed – it burned down in the 18th century – and is part of the Turaida Museum Reserve. The view from the tower of the castle is fantastic! If you walk from Krimulda Castle to Turaida, you will follow a path on which the Gutmanns Cave is located. Here you can find inscriptions from visitors, some of them up to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Cesis (German: Wenden) is one of the oldest cities in Latvia and looks back on a long and eventful past. It was the seat of the Order of the Swords and was also a Hanseatic city. The impressive Ordensburg was once the largest fortress in the Baltic States. Construction began in 1209, but the castle has been destroyed several times over the course of history. Today it is only a ruin, but still very worth seeing. You should also see the Johanniskirche from the 14th century as well as the neatly arranged city center. Cesis was ravaged by fire several times, so that unfortunately large parts of the city were destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Incidentally, the Gauja National Park can be explored wonderfully from Cesis.