20 BEST CITIES AND TOWNS IN LATVIA
20 BEST CITIES AND TOWNS IN LATVIA
LEARN MORE ABOUT 20 BEST CITIES AND TOWNS IN LATVIA AND DISCOVER THIS AMAZING EUROPEAN COUNTRY AND HER CITIES AND TOWNS
20 BEST CITIES AND TOWNS IN LATVIA
Situated between Estonia and Lithuania, Latvia is a country in northern Europe on the Baltic Sea. With more than 500 km (310 miles) of coastline, this little but stunning nation is home to several isolated sandy beaches that are perfect for a romantic outing. Approximately 25% of the country is covered in forests, and there are several lakes, rivers, and national parks that are excellent for camping and trekking. In addition, Latvia has a lot of fascinating historical towns and cities with castles and museums to explore.
The capital of the country is Riga, distinctive for its wooden and Art Nouveau buildings, an enormous market, and a mediaeval historic district. The population of Latvia is less than two million. You will find that most of the people speak some English, which is always a bonus. Latvians are generally friendly and willing to help.
Latvian cuisine is unique. Hearty meat dishes are popular, as are smoked and pickled fish and pelmeni, which is a tortellini-style meat dumpling. Latvians love rupjmaize, a dark rye bread that they even use to make soup.
Latvia has four seasons, and the warmest month is July, with an average temperature of 17C (62F). January and February are the coldest months when the average temperature is -4.7C (23.5F). So, you’ve decided that you would like to visit Latvia. The next step is to decide where to stay, and this is where I come in. I’m going to tell you about 10 cities and 10 towns that I think are worth visiting so, hopefully, there should be at least one or two that meet your expectations.
Riga, the capital of Latvia, is a vibrant city with a rich history.
Your first stop should be the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where colourful buildings adorn the narrow cobblestone streets.
The House of the Blackheads is a highlight. It was originally erected in 1334 in the Gothic style and used by merchants, but it was bombed during WWII, and it was not until the 1990s that it was rebuilt to the original style.
It now serves as a museum and event centre.
You should pay a visit to the Riga Central Market, which is the largest market in Europe.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is housed in five 20th-century German Zeppelin hangars.
Here you can buy fresh Latvian home-grown produce, fish, meat, exotic spices, clothing, and souvenirs.
Climb up St. Pater’s Church for magnificent views of the city.
It is the tallest church in Latvia at 123 metres (403.5 feet) high and it gives 360-degree views of the city, the Daugava River, and the port.
Just outside Riga is Rundale Palace, a magnificent Baroque palace with lavish rooms and spectacular gardens to stroll in.
The House of the Blackheads is at Ratslaukums 7, Centra rajons, Riga LV-1050.
St. Peter’s Church is at Reformacijos Laukums 1, Centra rajons, Riga LV-1050.
Rundale Palace is at Pilsrundale, Rundale Parish, Bauska Municipality, LV-3921.
Daugavpils is on the Daugava River and is the second-largest city in Latvia.
The highlight of the city is the Daugavpils Fortress, which was built in the early 19th century.
It was constructed in the Empire style, apart from the Nikolas Gate and the Water Tower, which are Gothic.
The Mark Rothko Art Centre is housed in the Arsenal Edifice, and it showcases some of the Latvian artist’s work as well as art created by other Latvian artists and some international painters.
The St. Boris and Gleb Cathedral is worth a visit. It is the largest Orthodox church in Latvia and can hold up to 5,000 people.
It was built in the early 20th century in the Neo-Russian style and has ten towers with gilded cupolas.
There are some beautiful murals inside the cathedral.
Daugavpils is known for its green spaces and parks, such as Dubrovin Park, which has a beautiful lake.
It is a pleasant escape from city life.
St. Boris and Gleb Cathedral is at Tautas Iela 2, Church Hill, Daugavpils, LV-5404.
If you are looking for a beach holiday, Liepaja is the place to go but keep in mind that it doesn’t get that warm in Latvia, and the sea will probably be cool.
The beaches are, however, pristine and covered in powder-white sand and even a Blue Flag Beach in Liepaja.
Apart from bathing and sunbathing, you can play tennis and volleyball here, and sometimes there are concerts on the beach.
Many restaurants in the area serve freshly caught fish.
Liepaja is a port town that once served the Russian czars and commissars.
In the 19th century, it was a naval base called Karosta, and if you visit, you can learn about Latvia’s military past.
You can take a guided tour of the underground tunnels and bunkers that were used by the military.
Another highlight of Liepaja is the organ in the Holy Trinity Cathedral which is the largest mechanical organ in Europe.
If you are lucky, you might be able to attend a concert in the cathedral.
The Holy Trinity Church is at Liela iela 9, Liepaja LV-3401.
Jelgava is just 40.2 km (25 miles) from Riga, so it makes for a lovely day trip from the capital.
The city is one of the oldest in Latvia, having been established in 1578, and there are many historic buildings to explore.
The Holy Trinity Church is worth visiting. It has a total of nine floors and an observation deck on the ninth floor, from which you can see the city and the surrounding area.
It has a glass floor, which may be a little scary for some, including me!
The church tower is 50 metres (164 feet) high, and the viewing platform is 37 metres (121 feet) high.
The church also houses historical exhibitions on three of the floors.
If you are interested in museums, it is worth going to the Jelgava History & Art Museum and the Jelgava Palace Museum, housed in the largest baroque-style palace in the Baltic States.
The History & Art Museum showcases the artworks of the Latvian old master, Gederts Eliass, as well as telling the historical story of the city.
The Jelgava Holy Trinity Church is at Akademijas iela 1, Jelgava, LV-3001.
The HIstory & Art Museum is at Akademijas 10, Jelgava, LV-3001.
Jelgava Palace is at Liela iela 2, Jelgava, LV-3001.
Jurmala is just 25 km (15.5 miles) west of Riga, so it could be a day trip, but it has enough going for it to warrant a longer stay.
It is a beautiful beach resort with beaches stretching for an amazing 32 km (19.8 miles).
You can enjoy the azure blue waters and the golden sand in relative peace, as the length means that the beaches don’t get crowded.
The promenade on the beachfront offers many restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops, so you can easily spend your days here if you are a beach lover.
Just remember that the weather can be unpredictable.
If you want to pamper yourself, Jurmala has many spas where you can enjoy such treatments as massage, acupressure, beauty treatments, and much more.
Jurmala is a good base if you want to explore Kemeri National Park, which is 18.4 km (11.4 miles) away.
Here there is a bird-watching tower by the lake, and you can enjoy the therapeutic sulphur springs.
It is a great place to spot wildlife such as moose, deer, elk, wolves, and foxes.
You will also come across some spectacular Neo-Romantic houses that were once used by Russian nobility.
Jekabpils is 135 km (84 miles) from Riga, so it could be another day out from the capital city.
It was founded in the 17th century and displays some beautiful architecture, such as the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, which was built in the Baroque style.
A must-see is Krustpils Castle which was built in the 14th century and is very well preserved.
Now it houses the Jekabpils History Museum, which offers an English audio guide so you can explore the museum at your own pace.
The museum also has an open-air section that exhibits ancient farm buildings.
Krustpils Castle is at Rigas iela 216B, Jekabpils, LV-5202.
The open-air museum is at Filofu iela 6, Jekabpils, LV-5201.
Ogre, 36 km (22.36 miles) from Riga, is worth a visit of its own as it blends nature and history perfectly.
The city houses art galleries showcasing the works of Latvian artists, and the Ogre History and Art Museum tells the story of the city over the centuries.
You should also visit the ruins of Ogre Castle, dating back to the 16th century.
The Ogre River flows through the city, offering opportunities for boating and fishing, as well as hiking by its banks.
Ogre Nature Park is close by with its beautiful coniferous forests, ideal for hiking.
Throughout the summer, the Ogre Open-Air Stage hosts festivals, concerts and plays.
The Ogre History & Art Museum is at Brivibas iela 36, Ogre, LV-5001.
Rezekne sits in the Rezekne River Valley in eastern Latvia.
It is an old city, having been founded in the 13th century on seven hills.
It is worth going to see the ruins of Rezekne Castle, which was built in the 13th century but destroyed by the Swedes in the 17th century.
From here, you will have spectacular views of the city.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, built in the early 1900s in the Gothic style, is striking with its two towers and red bricks.
If you are interested in art, the Rezekne Arts and Crafts Centre displays work from local artists.
You will be able to see paintings, pottery, wood carvings, and more, and have the chance to buy some of the work.
Workshops are also held, so look the centre up online to see if anything is on during your stay.
Rezekne is a good base if you want to explore Razna National Park, which is 29 km (18 miles) away.
It has the second-largest lake in the country, where you can boat and fish.
You may spot birds at the lake, such as the white-tailed eagle and common crane.
You could also be lucky enough to see some wildlife, such as foxes, rabbits. badgers, squirrels and even lynx, wolves, and arctic foxes.
Remember to have your camera at the ready.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral is at Latgales iela 88, Rezekne, LV-4601.
Ventspils is on the coast and offers beautiful and untamed beaches, with a promenade stretching for kilometres.
From the promenade, you get spectacular views of both the city and the sea.
If you are interested in art, head to the open-air museum, which houses sculptures by local artists and is set in a beautiful park.
It is a lovely place to take a stroll.
Ventspils Castle was built in the 13th century but has been restored several times, most recently in 1995, when it was given its’ 19th-century appearance.
It has held different roles over the years, including fortress, home, garrison, school, military base, and prison.
It is now an interactive museum, telling you about the history of Ventspils.
Ventspils Open-Air Museum is at Rinka iela 2, Ventspils, LV-3601.
Ventspils Castle is at Ostas iela 33, Ventspils, LV=3601.
Valmiera is a good base if you want to explore Gauja National Park 30.3 km (20.69 miles) north of the city.
The park offers opportunities to cycle, hike, explore caves, canoe, raft, bungee jumping and camping.
Valmiera has been around since the early part of the 13th century, but much has been destroyed due to conflicts.
In the Old Town, you will be able to see the remains of a fort, and along the banks of the river Gauja, there are the ruins of a medieval fortress.
Valmiera Museum is worth visiting as it tells you about the history of the city through photos, antiques, postcards, works of art and more.
Valmiera Museum is at Bruninieku iela 1, Valmiera, LV-4201.
10 TOWNS IN LATVIA
Sigulda is just an hour’s drive from Riga and is a great base for nature lovers as it is surrounded by two national parks, Gauja and Kemeri.
In Gauja National Park, you can visit Turaida Castle, which is perched on top of a hill and gives spectacular views of the surrounding countryside from the tower.
Inside the castle, there are exhibitions portraying the history of the region.
Start your exploration of Sigulda in the Old Town, with its narrow cobblestoned streets and brightly coloured houses with wood carvings.
Then visit Gutman’s Cave, which has impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
It is the widest and highest cave in the Baltic States, and it is said that if you drink from the spring inside the cave and make a wish, it will come true.
What is most exciting about Sigulda, however, is the aerial cable car that whisks you across the Gauja River and gives you spectacular views of Sigulda and Turaida Castle.
Turaida Castle is at Turaidas iela 10, Sigulda, LV-2150.
Gutman’s Cave is at Turaidas iela 4, Sigulda, LV-2150.
Kuldiga is in central Latvia, and, as in many Latvian cities and towns, it has a lovely Old Town, with cobblestone streets and buildings that have stood up well to the test of time.
The highlight of the old town, however, is the Venta Rumba waterfall, which is the widest waterfall in Europe at 240 metres (787 feet).
It crosses the Venta River, and it is a lovely place to go in the spring when the salmon can be seen leaping into the air.
The river promenade is a pleasant place to take a stroll on a bright summer’s day.
There are some pretty bridges over the river, as well as historic buildings lining the promenade.
If you are a nature lover, Venta Nature Park is just outside the town, with walking trails for all levels of expertise.
Aluksne is in the northeast of Latvia, near the borders with Estonia and Russia.
The highlight is Lake Aluksne, with its four islands, including Castle Island, which is packed full of things to do.
You can get there by motorboat, rowing boat, kayak, water bike, or SUP board.
On the island, you can visit the 14th-century stone castle, use the beach volleyball and basketball courts, play football on the pitch, and use the outdoor gym.
The kids will love the playground.
There is a cafe on the island, so you could easily spend all day there, or you could bring a picnic.
In town, there is an interesting museum, the Nature Museum Environment, which displays fluorescent mineral collections and shells.
For railway enthusiasts, there is a narrow-gauge multimedia exhibition.
The Nature Museum Environment is at Pils iela 74, Aluksne, LV-4301.
Ludza is close to the borders of Russia and Belarus and is surrounded by beautiful natural attractions, such as the Ludza Marsh Nature Reserve and Zvirgzdu Lake.
In town, visit St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, which was built in the Russian-classicism style in the mid-1800s, as well as the ruins of Ludza Castle.
The castle was built in the 14th century and is perched on a hill, offering spectacular views of the city.
You can take a guided tour of the castle to learn more about both the castle and the town. Ludza Regional Museum also gives you an insight into the history of the region.
Ludza Castle is at Baznicas iela 56, LUdza, LV-5701.
Ludza Regional Museum is at Kulneva iela 2, Ludza, LV-5701.
Pavilosta is a port town at the mouth of the Saka River on the coast of the Baltic Sea that’s popular with locals and tourists for seaside holidays and surfing.
Take a stroll along the promenade and the piers, and visit Akmenrags Lighthouse, which has lovely views out to sea and a small museum.
Next to the promenade is the Pavilosta History Museum, which tells you more about the town and about the fishing traditions still practised by the locals.
If you enjoy hiking, there is a trail a few kilometres north of the town, the Stranteulmale Seashore Bluffs, which offers lovely views of the bank of Kurzeme.
Cesis is 90 km (56 miles) from Riga, so it is a good place to go for a day trip or to stay if you want to explore the nearby Gauja National Park that surrounds the town.
In the park, you can hike, cycle, and canoe or kayak along the Gauja River.
The park is stunning, with dense forests and imposing rock formations.
Cesis has a lovely Old Town that has a mediaeval feel about it. Overlooking it is the 13th-century Cesis Castle, which is perched on a hill and offers stunning views of the town.
St. John’s Church is worth visiting as well. It was also built in the 1200s and has beautiful stained-glass windows and a magnificent organ with more than 3,000 pipes.
Cesis Castle is at Pils Laukams 11, Cesis, LV-4101.
St. John’s Church is at Liela Skolas iela 8, Cesis, LV-4101.
Talsi makes a nice day trip from Ventspils, which is 74.4 km (46.23 miles) away.
It is a small town, but there is still plenty to do to spend an enjoyable day there.
The historic centre is pedestrianised and has interesting shops to visit and cafes to stop at for a coffee.
In the centre of town is Castle Hill, with the ruins of a 13th-century castle to explore.
It is a popular spot for picnics, and it presents lovely views over the town and the surrounding area.
The Talsi Regional Museum is also worth a stop. It has exhibits on local art, ethnography, and archaeology through which you can learn more about the town.
Not far from the centre of town is the Talsi Open Air Museum, where you can wander around beautiful grounds and visit reconstructions of traditional Latvian homes and other buildings.
The Talsi Regional Museum is at Karla Milenbaha iela 19, Talsi, LV-3201.
Situated on the Berze River, 80 km (50 miles) from Riga, Dobele is well known for its botanical gardens, Peteris Upitis Garden and Museum, where it is well worth spending the afternoon.
The highlight is the collection of 200 species of scented lilacs. Guided tours are on offer, as are tasting sessions.
You can have cherries in the summer, apples and pears in the autumn, and candied fruit in the winter.
There is a shop where you can buy the fruit you have tasted, as well as plants.
Another of the attractions in Dobele is the ruined castle, which you can take a guided tour of to learn more about this area of Latvia.
The Peteris Upitis Garden and Museum is at Graudu iela 1, Dobele, LV-3701.
Salaspils is famous because it is the site of a WWII Nazi concentration camp.
Here you can now find the Salaspils Memorial Ensemble, a collection of seven enormous Soviet-style sculptures depicting life in the camp, for example, a mother standing still to protect her children and a humiliated person cowering behind a tree.
There is also a concrete wall measuring 100 metres (328 feet) long with the words, ‘Beyond these gates, the land groans’.
The grounds have a quietly eerie feel about them as if they remember the horrors that went on in the 1940s.
Another attraction in Salaspils is the Botanical Garden, which is representative of the flora in the Baltic States.
There are 14,000 varieties of plants and trees, and the garden covers an area of 129 hectares.
Salaspils is just 19 km (12 miles) from Riga so you could easily go and spend the day there if you are staying in the capital.
The National Botanical Garden is at Miera iela 1, Salaspils, LV-2169.
Kraslava lies on the Daugava River and is a great place to stay if you want to explore the nature park, Daugavas Loki.
There you can hike and visit the 23 archaeological monuments, the medieval settlement of Slutski, the Vasargeliska Observatory Tower, and the Priedaine Sightseeing Tower.
You get magnificent views from both towers.
The Priedaine Tower is one of the tallest towers in Latvia, at 32 metres (105 feet) high.
The most spectacular feature in the park is the river, which has nine enormous river bends and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There is a castle in the town, but it is modest, and, unfortunately, the inside is closed to visitors.
However, the gardens are open and make a lovely place for a gentle stroll, and there is a small history and art museum in the complex.
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