Latvia can rightly be called the heart of the Baltics, because it brings together all the best that this region can boast. The ancient architecture of the cities borders with the modesty and charm of the villages, modern multi-storey business centers neighbor centuries-old castles and palaces, churches and cathedrals keeping the mysteries of the past. There are also a lot of health centers, where you can effectively strengthen your organism with the help of special procedures. The locals are polite and courteous in European way, but very hospitable and devoted to centuries-old traditions. If you are coming here for the first time and don’t know what to see in Latvia, we have compiled a list of the most interesting sights in Latvia especially for you. Familiarize yourself with them and be sure to include these places in your travel itinerary to this country.
When searching for the perfect tourist itinerary, don’t forget that you’ll need guides in Latvia, who can take care of the information and organization of the tour. In case you explore the sights on your own, be sure to check what hours they are open to tourists and how much the entrance costs.
The House of Blackheads in Riga is one of the main symbols of the Latvian capital and Latvian landmarks. It regularly hosts cultural events, concerts, exhibitions and excursions. Also, the house has temporarily become the residence of the Latvian president, in connection with the renovation of the Riga Castle.
The foundation of the House of Blackheads dates back to 1334. Various meetings and events of Riga’s societies have been held here since its foundation. By the end of the 15th century, the building was rented to the Blackheads Society, after which it was later named.
Who were the Blackheads? They were a brotherhood of young merchants under the patronage of St George, but later the brotherhood’s patron was Saint Maurice, whose symbol in the form of a black head was depicted on the brotherhood’s coat of arms.
During the Second World War, the House of Blackheads was significantly damaged, and in 1999 it was rebuilt almost from scratch. These days it is home to a museum and a concert hall, which often hosts classical music concerts.
What is worth seeing when you visit the House of Chernogolovs?
Official website: http://www.melngalvjunams.lv/en
An outstanding architectural monument - the Rundale Palace, which was a joint creation of the outstanding architect Rastrelli, sculptor Graff and Italian artists Zucchi and Martini, is an important cultural heritage and a valuable landmark in Latvia. This architectural masterpiece is located in the heart of the country, in the cultural and historical region of Zemgale.
The whole palace complex occupies a huge territory of more than 60 hectares, the main part of which is occupied by parks - the hunting and French parks. There are also a lot of things to see around the complex in Latvia - the nature there is very picturesque, and Bauska Nature Park is another great sight in the vicinity.
Rundale Palace has 138 rooms on two floors, but unfortunately the interior has not survived - the decoration was not spared by the devastation and war. That is why the exhibits that are presented in the palace museum were purchased and brought from other museums. The best Latvian and Russian specialists carried out the restoration work. The interior furnishings, wallpaper, chandeliers, furniture and utensils were recreated according to sketches and historical records. Now the castle, saved at the cost of painstaking work, welcomes many visitors.
In addition to the castle itself, the park area deserves no less attention. Thus, the French garden was created in the 18th century, and since then, its design has never changed. The park is a classic example of the art of landscape gardening in Europe. Nowadays, periodically costume shows are held here, and fireworks are organized.
Official website: http://rundale.net/ru/
The resort city of Jurmala is the real gem of Latvia on the coast of the Gulf of Riga. The first resort villages began to form here in the 18th century, and in the 19th century most of the districts of the city acquired the status of a resort. For more than two centuries, Jurmala has remained a place of great recreation, and you’re sure to find something to see in Latvia, if you come to this unusually beautiful city.
The list of attractions in Latvia in Jurmala includes more than 400 buildings of various orientations. A characteristic architectural feature of the buildings are facades, lavishly decorated with lace carvings on wood. The choice of attractions is wide and the list could be completed endlessly.
To visit some of Latvia’s sights, it is advisable to allocate, perhaps, at once a multi-day trip. Such places include Gauja National Park, spread out in the valley of the river Gauja for more than 900 square kilometers, so you can find something to see in Latvia.
It is the largest park-reserve in Latvia, which is characterized by a variety of landscapes, numerous springs, cliffs, caves, rocks, outcrops of polychrome sandstone, unique natural and cultural monuments.
In total, in the Gauja National Park there are more than 500 different attractions, including ancient settlements, castles, churches, mills, estates, and many other archaeological, architectural and historical monuments.
For a family vacation, we can recommend places such as:
For lovers of outdoor activities, there are activities that will really take your breath away, such as a vertical wind tunnel near Sigulda, a cable car jump, the Sigulda bobsleigh track, and numerous adventure parks.
Official site: http://www.entergauja.com/ru/
In the heart of the historical Kurzeme region, on the Venta River, sits the beautiful provincial town of Kuldiga. It is rightly considered one of the most picturesque cities in Latvia, because here, in a small area, you can find a lot of amazing sights of Latvia, such as a flying fish, Europe’s largest waterfall, a cave labyrinth and ancient palaces.
Today it is hard to imagine that a few centuries ago this city was the most important trading post, ships were built here, grapes were grown, wine from which was even supplied to neighboring countries.
What to visit in Latvia, if you have come or are passing through the town of Kuldiga?
Just 50 kilometers from the Latvian capital is a beautiful provincial town, Sigulda. Its calling card is the venerable landmark of Latvia - Turaida Castle from the 13th century. Once upon a time in the Middle Ages, it was the seat of the bishop, was the seat of the Livonian Order and even housed a garrison of Swedish soldiers. Today the fortress keeps the imprint of antiquity, so nowadays the castle has acquired the status of a museum complex, and on its territory there is a museum-reserve.
The museum complex includes not only the castle but also a lot of surrounding historical buildings - there are 37 such structures. The castle itself was founded in 1214 by the bishop of Riga on the right bank of the Gauja. Unfortunately, the fortress has not retained its original appearance from those times, so it has gone through a lot of reconstruction, but nevertheless has not lost its appearance. Numerous legends about the castle and its inhabitants have survived, as well as the name of the castle, which means “Garden of God”.
The key and the oldest element of the castle is the main tower. Now on its upper level there is an observation deck, and on the lower level there is a museum exhibit. In addition to the tower, exhibitions are held in the southern and western corps of the castle. To this day on the territory of the museum-reserve there are still archaeological excavations, and new findings are being discovered, which subsequently enrich the museum’s collection.
Today Turaida Castle has become a popular tourist attraction - along with excursions, there are regularly organized festivals, exhibitions, concerts of classical and modern music.
Official website: http://www.turaida-muzejs
On a flat island between the Lielupe River and its tributaries, the Mitava (Jelgava) Palace, the most important historical landmark in Latvia, was built in 1738 to a design by architect Rastrelli. The initiator of the construction was the Duke of Courland Biron.
Jelgava Palace is currently the largest baroque palace in the Baltics. The palace was built in several stages and lasted several decades.
Bauska is a town in central Latvia, in the Zemgale region. Founded back in the 15th century by German knights, today Bauska is rich in historical monuments and keeps the events of centuries-old history, so you will surely find something to visit in Latvia if you find yourself in this town. For example, confirmation of this is the Bauska Castle, built at the confluence of the Musa and Memsele rivers for the Knights of the Livonian Order.
The fortress was surrounded by a system of fortifications, and later parade halls and living quarters were erected.
Soon after the construction of the castle, a fishermen’s and craftsmen’s settlement was formed around the castle, which later became the city of Bauska.
The castle was owned by the Livonian Order until 1561 when it began changing owners regularly, the Ducal court and chancellery moved in.
In 1625 the castle was seized by the Swedes and at the beginning of the 18th century it was blown up by order of the Russian Emperor Peter I.
The castle was remembered again only in the 20th century, when in 1970 the preserved ruins were subjected to a long and thorough restoration, after which a museum was opened in its walls. To entice visitors to the castle, various events, concerts and festivals are regularly held on its grounds.
The castle complex includes the ducal palace, which houses the exhibition, as well as the ruins of the Livonian Order castle with an observation tower. Court life of the Middle Ages, celebrations and everyday life, dressing, habits and customs - all the past is reflected in Bauska Castle very clearly and realistically.
Official website: http://www.bauskaspils.lv/ru/
The beginning of the Latvian city that changed its name several times (Dinaburg, Nevgin, Dvinsk, Borisoglebsk, Daugavpils) was Dinaburg Castle, built in 1275 by order of Ernest Ratzeburg, Master of the Livonian Order.
This landmark of Latvia had a difficult history - since the construction of the castle there have been many battles, and it constantly passed into the hands of the Lithuanian, Polish and Russian authorities.
In general, the improvement of fortifications continued until 1878, but by the end of the 19th century the fortress lost its defensive purpose and acquired the status of a fortress-storage depot, which housed workshops for the production and storage of shells and gunpowder.
After World War II, in 1947, an aviation school began operating here. The territory of the fortress began to be gradually cleaned up, sports grounds were equipped, the landscaping of the territory took place.
Today Dinaburg Fortress is an example of fortification art. In spite of the numerous tests of time, some forts and ramparts remained intact. In the course of time the authorities of Daugavpils hope to turn this complex into a modern cultural center.
In the central region of Latvia - Zemgale, not far from the well-known Jurmala, is located the Ķemeri National Park. The area of the park is enormous - more than 38 thousand hectares, and these areas are occupied by forests and swamps, under which one of the layers of soil formed sulfurated mineral water. This place is famous for very rich vegetation and fauna - for example, there are about 900 ferns, more than 2,200 species of mosses, a hundred and fifty lichens, more than 500 species of mushrooms. A quarter of plants growing in the park are listed in the Red Book of Latvia.
In the reserve there are particularly favorable conditions for the habitation of various birds, which are monitored and for this purpose there are special towers.
The establishment of a health resort in the Ķemeri Park was due to the use of the salubrious hydrogen sulphide springs. Due to the swampy terrain, the springs were inaccessible for a long time and there were no roads built to them. However, after the accession of part of the park to the Russian Empire in 1783, Kemeri began to develop intensively as a resort.
Tourists discover the country from different angles, and in order to form a complete image, we recommend excursions in Latvia to places from the list below. You will find both natural wonders and historical and architectural monuments. Use your chance to have a wonderful holiday here, even if you only have a couple of days to spare.
In the heart of the Latvian capital is its historic part - Old Riga. If you happen to visit this remarkable place, you’ll definitely find something to see in Latvia - on a comparatively small territory Riga’s main attractions are concentrated here. Almost the entire Old Town of Riga represents important sites of interest in Latvia, and the through traffic on the streets of this area is closed. Therefore, you can take a leisurely stroll here, exploring the architectural monuments and feeling the atmosphere of antiquity.
However you plan to get to know Riga, it is worthwhile to start with Old Riga. Entering its narrow cobblestone streets one feels as if he/she is transported back in time a few centuries: strict Gothic cathedrals and charming medieval houses, old yards, numerous museums, coffee houses with amazingly delicious pastries - all of this conveys a unique flavor of the Middle Ages.
When choosing a list of places of interest of the Old Riga, you should pay special attention to the following ones:
Aglona Basilica is a major shrine and landmark of international importance in Latvia. It is located in the east of Latvia, 40 km from Daugavpils.
The first mention of Aglona settlement dates back to 1236. And in 1697 the local landlords approached the bishop with a request to build a monastery and a school in the village. Later, the first basilica of wood was built there and a male and a female monastery were established.
One of Europe’s largest museums is located in Latvia, just a half-hour drive from its capital city. The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum is a must-see in Latvia, if your route passes through Riga. Here on a vast territory of 90 hectares you can see old buildings from the 17th and 20th centuries. Houses, household outbuildings, temples, mills, and even entire households with household items from that time. All of the buildings were carefully removed from various parts of Latvia and then erected again on the territory of the museum.
If you compare the Latvian Ethnographic Museum with other museums of this type, this museum is unique in its own way - its exposition was already formed in the early 20th century. This is a wonderful place where you can feel the spirit of ancient times and literally go on a journey through the milestones of Latvian history:
Official site: http://brivdabasmuzejs.lv/ru/
The Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia, founded in 1922, is a “green” landmark in Latvia, a ten-minute drive from the center of Riga. For many years since the founding of the garden is regularly updated with new species of plants from around the world - in total there are about 6 thousand plants on the territory of the park of 15 hectares. Today the botanical garden has become a favorite place for walks and rest - here you can leisurely walk through the green alleys, visit many greenhouses and just enjoy the nature in the heart of the capital city. Both professional gardeners and ordinary people will find here a lot of new and interesting.
Official website: https://www.botanika.lu.lv/rus/
In the heart of Riga, namely in its boulevard ring, there is a famous cultural landmark of Latvia - the Latvian National Museum of Art, which has become the largest repository of art in the country. The Museum of Art itself is an impressive architectural monument of national importance. This is the first building in the Baltics, built specifically to house a museum. The building was founded in 1905, designed by architect Wilhelm Neumann, and its facade is an ensemble of Baroque and Classicist styles.
The museum’s collection consists of over 52 thousand items - works of sculptors and artists from the Baltic states and Russia. Not long ago, the museum went through a major renovation and in 2016 opened with a new look, while retaining the monumental nature of the old building.
What can be seen in the museum today?
Official site: http://www.lnmm.lv/ru/
An important role in the portrait of the country is played by historical and architectural attractions in Latvia, the presentation of which will not go without the ancient historical monument in the city of Daugavpils - the last bastion-type fortress in Europe. The fortress is situated on the territory of 150 hectares on both sides of the Daugava River, and its structure resembles a military town layout, with a square in the middle, around which there are a number of administrative, household and barracks buildings. Some of the buildings were built in Empire style, the other part was decorated in Gothic style. Today the castle houses a contemporary art center with works by many Latvian and foreign artists as well as an art center with paintings, drawings, photographs and ceramics.
Official website: http://dinaburg
In the heart of the country on the shores of the Baltic Sea, the city of Riga has a recognizable symbol of the capital, the Riga Dome Cathedral. The largest cathedral in Latvia, it is one of the country’s leading spiritual centers, and concerts of sacred and organ music are held here. In addition to the cathedral, the architectural ensemble includes the Dome Monastery, the oldest maritime museum in the city, and the Gallery of the Cross. The origins of the majestic building go back to 1211, when the first stone was laid - at that time the temple was to be a symbol of success in the conquest of Livonia. The interior design of the cathedral, which you can see now, is the result of restoration works of the 19th century: rather austere and ascetic Gothic interior is executed in white tones, only long and narrow windows are decorated with colorful stained glass, and in some places luxury elements of woodcarving complement the decoration.
Official website: http://www.doms.lv/index/
In search of what to see in Latvia in winter, for an active holiday you can go to the ski resorts of Sigulda or Madonna, or you can visit the beautiful Riga in winter, with its medieval castles and other ancient buildings. One of such structures is the cult church of St. Peter, which stands out against the background of city panoramas with a high spire topped with a rooster figure. Today it is a functioning Lutheran church in which masses are regularly held and on its recognizable spire, at a height of 71 meters, there is an observation deck with a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. The date of the church’s construction is considered to be 1209, when it became the main temple for the privileged of feudal society. The pink brick interior halls have austere decoration with laconic carved wood decor elements and ancient epitaphs.
Official website: http://peterbaznica.
Although Latvia can not boast the same mighty waterfalls as Niagara or Iguassu, the territory of the country has the widest Venta waterfall in Europe. Its width is about 110 meters, and during the high water it reaches 280 meters, although the height is quite small - from 1.6 to 2.2 meters across the entire width. Due to a particular form of rapids, from which the water falls, the waterfall has an amazing zigzag line. Regularly, at certain times in the fall and spring, there is a spectacular spectacle - spawning fish try to jump over the river rapids, and several centuries ago this feature was used for fishing. Since then, Kuldiga has been known as a town where fish are caught right up in the air - for example, during the spawning period, you can catch 80 to 100 salmon per day.
The most important cultural attractions in Latvia are concentrated in its capital city, and one of them is the Riga Castle, which is now the official residence of the Latvian president. It is located in the Old Town of Riga, on the bank of the Daugava River. The beginning of the history of this large-scale castle goes back to the times of confrontation between the inhabitants of Riga and the Livonian Order in the 14th century, when the knights of the Order decided to build a suburban fortress. It was quite impressive, but another conflict in the 15th century literally wiped it off the face of the earth. The building was fully restored, and over the centuries it was repeatedly rebuilt and supplemented with the arrival of new authorities, but invariably remained the core of political life. Now the old castle is also a tourist attraction - you can visit the National History Museum in it.
Official site: https://www.president
Of course, the sights of Riga are not without the highest of the Baltic buildings - the 369-meter Riga TV Tower. Construction of the tower began back in Soviet times, in 1980, and lasted about 10 years. Reinforced concrete was replaced by an innovative material for those times - steel plates that provided the structure with unprecedented strength and according to calculations, the structural strength reserve of the building is designed for 2.5 centuries! On the 100-meter level there is the first observation deck, on the 134-meter level - the second one. The TV tower has a very peculiar appearance - it is a construction of 3 towers and a spire. There are two inclined rail elevators in its supports, as well as an ordinary elevator connecting the observation deck with the lower technical levels.
Not far from Sigulda, on a small hill near the mirror-like Lake Birini, rises an elegant castle from 1860 that attracts attention with its combination of gentle shades of pink and white and elegant turrets. Just like the castle, the nature itself is magnificent, framing this creation - it is a wonderful park with lakes and plenty of various greenery. The overall architectural design of the building is neo-Gothic though the interiors are decorated in romantic Neo-Renaissance style. The manor-house was named after the famous knight Johann Biring who received the manor from the king for his heroic deeds in the 13th century and later changed its owners several times. Today, guests of the manor house are offered a number of opportunities - hotel vacations, celebrations, baths, horseback rides, and boat rides on the lake.
Official website: https://www.birinupils.
Traveling through the Baltics, you can cover the sights of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in one trip - thankfully, the very small distances allow for such a plan. You should just take the Tallinn-Riga freeway, along which you can find a variety of interesting places. Once in Riga, you can visit one of the key objects in the heart of the Latvian capital - the Freedom Monument. This symbol of Latvian independence is a tribute to all those who gave their lives for their country during the civil war. The 42-meter stele is topped by a 9-meter sculpture of Freedom, a young woman holding three stars symbolizing three cultural and historical regions of Latvia. The foot of the monument is decorated with several bas-reliefs presenting historical scenes and the most important human values of society.
The tourist map of Latvia abounds with interesting objects - for example, in the southeastern part of the country, on both sides of the Daugava River there is a picturesque place - Daugavas loki Nature Park. Here the Daugava River has numerous bends, creating suitable conditions for water tourism - this point is not neglected, so there are a number of boat and raft rentals along the river, as well as excellent resting places. In addition, the park holds unique historical monuments - the fact is that the river has long served as the basis for the development of the surrounding areas, and on its banks were built castles and formed entire settlements. Therefore, more than 20 archaeological sites can be seen in the park today, such as Vecpils hillfort, Vasargalish tower, Markovo and Vecrāti hillfort, Rosalis manor castle and many others.
In the Latvian city of Liepāja there is an unusual historical museum of extreme interest to many tourists. The Karosta Prison, originally a hospital, was built in 1900. This site is unique in that it is the only prison in Europe that is open for guided tours. It is notorious for horrific and at times bloody events, such as mass shootings during the totalitarian regimes. There are no less gloomy accounts, with locals claiming that mystical stories have taken place within its walls, and that haunted spirits roam its corridors. For those who wish to dilute the heavy impressions of what they have seen, there is something to see on the way to Liepaja: for example, a very spectacular picture - snow-white roadside windmills in the middle of the plains, against the background of the bottomless Latvian sky. While in Latvia, consider visiting a country known for its medieval architecture and delicious beer - the Czech Republic. Read about Czech sights and get inspired with new ideas for traveling around Europe!