14 most recommended destinations in Latvia
Latvia is one of the most unique countries in Eastern Europe. Many are surprised to learn that Latvia is Europe’s leader in the percentage of its natural areas: more than 45% of the country is covered by natural forests, more than 10,000 lakes and 3,000 rivers flow through its land, and the country has more than 5,000 km of beaches.
Almost everyone is familiar with Riga, the country’s capital and vibrant cultural center, but beyond its borders lies a world not to be missed. After a visit to Riga, visit the national parks, nature reserves, picturesque cities and various historical monuments surrounding it, where you will discover the beauty of Latvian nature as well as the country’s rich and fascinating history. This article compiles a list of the 14 most recommended destinations.
Enjoy all the comforts of life in Jurmala, the largest resort city on the Baltic Sea. The city’s name means “beach,” and that is indeed the main attraction here. The shores of Jurmala, covered with white sand and pine trees, offer various activities, where you can sunbathe, swim, and visit evening shows and parties during the hot summer months.
Jurmala is a city of fun and entertainment with many top international restaurants, luxury stores, health centers, spas and more. To enjoy high-class entertainment and culture, it is recommended to go to the popular Dzintari Concert Hall, where you can watch a musical performance or a spectacular show.
“The Venice of Latvia” is the name of this picturesque city because of the abundance of rivers flowing between its streets, alleys and ancient houses. Old buildings and traditional architecture have been fully preserved here, creating a magical feeling that accompanies the whole trip, where it seems as if time has stopped. While visiting Kuldīga, it is recommended to take a tour of Venta Rapids, the largest waterfall in Europe, located in the city.
The largest and most important church in Latvia, built in the 18th century and named after the beautiful picturesque town in which it is located, is a pilgrimage site for thousands of Catholics who gather here every year on August 15, the day on which the veneration of the Virgin Mary in Christianity is celebrated.
The view of the basilica, with its impressive white facade and extensive park surrounding it, is unique and breathtaking. Inside the church is a collection of iconic works of art that adorn it, including various classical paintings.
Gauja National Park
Nature and history lovers should visit Gauja National Park. It is the largest and most popular park in Latvia, covering an area of 920 sq. km. There are many hiking and biking trails that will take you through amazing sights of huge sandstone cliffs, high cliffs and more than 500 historical exhibits, including castles, stone manors, ancient churches, water and windmills and much more. In addition, Gauja offers many options for sports and adventure, such as the nearby Gauja River and even several ski slopes that open during the winter months.
Gauja National Park
“The flower capital of Latvia” is a city where every year during the first week of August a traditional flower festival is held, during which florists from all over Latvia and the surrounding areas come and decorate it with colorful tapestries.
Of course, it is recommended to come here when the festival takes place, but at any other time as well, this vibrant city is enchanting. It is recommended to visit and explore the lively port of Ventspils and its city market, which is full of fresh goods.
Immerse yourself in a magnificent surviving palace, an example of classical, proud and ostentatious design, immerse yourself in the magnificent world of 17th century Latvian lords. The palace was built for the Duke of Courland, but was converted into a museum in the 1970s.
During the many decades and wars in Europe the palace was destroyed, but today 48 of the 138 huge rooms that originally existed in the palace have been restored, with many works of art, objects and furniture from the Classical period, collected from all over Latvia and Europe. The magnificent French-style gardens in front of the palace are often compared to the legendary Versailles gardens in Paris.
Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center
From classics of the past, we move on to a destination that celebrates Latvia’s recent past and advanced present. The Ventspils Center (not to be confused with the town of the same name recommended earlier) is located in the small town of Irbene and was founded by the Soviet Army as a spy facility against Western countries.
Until the 1990s, the building was a heavily guarded facility, but after the USSR collapsed, it became a center for scientific research and an open tourist destination where organized groups come to observe RT-32, the world’s eighth-largest telescope, which was created by the Soviets for spy purposes and is now used by scientists for space exploration.
Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center
“The city where the wind was born” is the creative name given to this charming coastal city . It is the third largest city in Latvia, but it feels like being in a small and quiet resort town with stunning blue beaches, where you can enjoy its charming atmosphere for hours on end.
It is also recommended to visit the center of the town, which is lined with impressive preserved wooden houses and small picturesque alleys in a zig-zag style. You can also visit Karosta, a ghost town that once served as a secret military base for the Soviets and now functions as a tourist attraction in every way, revealing a not-so-old Latvian history.
Araisi Archaeological Museum Park
To experience Latvia’s ancient past, visit this charming small restored village with many wooden buildings, located on a small island in the middle of Lake Araisi. The ancient settlement, founded by Latvian ancestors, was built in the middle of the lake to protect it from enemies.
Its exact replica was built several years ago after extensive archaeological excavations in the area, which revealed the original preserved buildings. Some of the buildings contain interesting rooms such as the 9th century stucco workshop and the restored living rooms of the original houses.
Araisi Archaeological Museum Park
Isolated, powerful and beautiful , this is the narrow peninsula of Kolka, Latvia’s northernmost point, where the coastline of Riga and the open Baltic Sea merge into one. A visit to this point may seem like a trip to the end of the world, but don’t miss out on the spectacular sights and sounds from the observation tower located on the beach just above the meeting point between the cape and the sea.
The best time to visit the place is during the spring months when thousands of birds fly over the cape at the height of the migratory season and create a breathtaking view unlike any other.
Razna National Park
This huge park clearly shows Latvia’s tireless efforts to preserve natural wonders for future generations. This natural site was created in 2007 to protect Latvia’s second largest lake, Lake Rāzna, as well as its natural and green surroundings.
Visiting Latvia’s youngest park is an interesting activity because it provides an opportunity to get a glimpse of Latvia’s unique ecosystem. Beyond Lake Rāzna in the park is a long line of beautiful lakes, such as Lake Ežezer, dotted with many tiny islands.
Razna National Park
Sigulda is the Switzerland of the Baltic Sea. Beautiful Sigulda got its name because it is located on the banks of the river Gauja, where natural elements have carved sandstone and created caves , cliffs and steep cliffs, revealing a breathtaking beauty that every nature lover should see.
Sigulda has two of the most impressive castles in Latvia: the new Sigulda Castle and Turaida Castle, and both are recommended to visit. Between the two castles is the Gutmanis Cave, the largest cave in the Baltics.
Pedvale Open Air Art Museum
This unique museum, which has been in existence for almost 30 years, displays the best local art of the Abava River Valley in Western Latvia. The park features more than 150 impressive environmental sculptures created by the best sculptors, both local and international.
The uniqueness of this place is expressed in the way the sculptures connect and adapt to their natural surroundings and appear to be part of it. Legend has it that a chance visit from the White Prince, a legendary figure from Latvian mythology, makes guests want to stay in the park or return here again, so don’t be surprised if you are overcome with the same feelings when visiting this amazing place.
Pedvale Open Air Art Museum
Cesis is a city in central Latvia that is not to be missed . Romanticism is visible in every corner of the city thanks to its unique appearance, preserved since the Middle Ages. The remains of the ancient castle, next to which was laid out a large flowering park, is a landmark that attracts many couples who want to enjoy the quiet and relaxed atmosphere of the city. Visit the restored city center and the Local History and Art Museum, one of the oldest museums in Latvia that has been created with the vibrant culture and historical heritage of this beautiful city and region in mind.
The whole Baltics in one cheat sheet: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia
A handy overview of tourism opportunities in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia at BALTIC WORKSHOP 2015: from beaches and spas to castles and treatments.
Handy overview of tourism opportunities in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia at BALTIC WORKSHOP 2015: from beaches and spas to castles and treatments.
Holidays in the Baltics contains many positive points. If your tourist wants to get the most out of the vacation: and swim, and walk through the old streets, and maybe even check his health – feel free to advise him the Baltic States. Pluses here – at least a lot.
First of all, it is easy to get here.
- By private motor transport;
- by train;
- by ferry;
- By plane (from Moscow and St. Petersburg you can take UTair, Air Baltic, Transaero, Aeroflot, Estonian Air, RusLine. The flight will take about an hour).
Secondly – it is inexpensive.
All experts unanimously agree that the Baltic is cheaper than other European countries. But the quality of services is not inferior. For example, a bite to eat in Prague, Riga or Vilnius, it will cost euros, even with alcohol.
Thirdly, it is comfortable.
Many tourists are hard to acclimatize, but traveling to the Baltic States will give them the opportunity to immediately rush into battle for a new experience. The climate is the same as in most parts of Russia and the CIS countries.
A definite plus is the possibility of year-round vacation. All three countries will be of interest to fans of historical sites and hiking, and the trip can be timed to an event, the good news is that there is a large selection for every taste. Medical treatment and spa treatments are also of special interest. And do not forget that here is possible and beach holidays. Although the season and not long – just July and August – resorts are well equipped and ready to receive tourists, beach lovers.
It is easy to build logistics between the countries. If you come for a weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), you can visit the three capitals and appreciate the atmosphere and flavor of each country. It is most convenient to travel by bus, which have toilets and coffee machines, and televisions, and even wireless internet. This is quite appreciated by business travelers.
In the Baltics, there are all types of accommodation: from private and guest houses to luxury hotels and apartments. Of course, leading hotels and serious hotel chains (Kempinski, Radisson, Sokos and some others, in Tallinn and Vilnius built hotels chain Hilton) are located in the capital cities and major cities, but if a tourist wants to live away from the noise of megacities, to satisfy his desire will not be difficult – you can find accommodation even in barrels on the shores of the Baltic Sea.
It is also worth noting that the whole Baltics is in the Eurozone, so we can safely recommend it to tourists, because the ruble finally strengthened against the euro.
Now that the overall picture of the Baltic States is formed, let’s take a closer look at each country.
95% of tourists arriving in the Baltic States go to the capitals, where attractions, clinics and major events are concentrated.
Last year Riga carried the status of European Capital of Culture. It became a platform for many festivals: music, gastronomy, theater, sports and even bathing.
Most of the historical sites in Riga are located in the Old Town . Here are worth seeing: Town Hall Square, the House of Blackheads, the Court of the Convention, the fortress walls and towers, St. Peter’s Church and the Dome Cathedral, the monument of Freedom, the Boulevard Ring and parks. Special tours acquaint visitors with the famous architecture of Art Nouveau.
Riga Central Market is no less interesting. It is one of the largest and oldest shopping facilities, they say, soon the entrance to it will be made paid.
The building of the National Opera, the Latvian National Library, the Monument of Freedom – this is not the whole list of attractions.
The hotel base in Riga is vast. Among the luxury hotels are: Dome Hotel & SPA 5*, Hotel Bergs 5* . Medium class hotels include Radisson Blu Elizabete Hotel 4*, Radisson Blu Daugava Hotel 5* and Radisson Blu Latvija Hotel 4*.
The famous Sigulda Castle (tourism.sigulda.lv/), which was built in the 13th century by the Livonian Order, the cableway, Turaida Castle with its museum-preserve, as well as caves in the valley of the Gaujaia river and in the surrounding hills are situated in Sigulda (tourism.sigulda.lv/).
Cesis (www.cesis.lv/ru). There is Cesis Medieval Castle, the Old Town with streets, stone and wooden buildings, old manor houses and even an old brewery which stopped working for its intended purpose only at the beginning of the years.
Daugavpils s (www.daugavpils.lv/ru). Daugavpils fortress is very interesting which is situated on the territory of more than 150 hectares. On the Church Hill there are temples of four denominations next to each other. Museums, parks, the Latgale zoo – there is a place to take your children for a walk.
Jelgava (www.jelgava.lv/?id=31970). The main attractions are Jelgava Palace and the Rundale Palace, each with a large park area. The Holy Trinity Tower, which offers a good view of Jelgava and its surroundings, is also of interest. There are many parks in the city where you can take a walk.
Kuldīga. The most interesting place to visit is Ventas Rumba – the widest waterfall in Europe. Here you can even bathe in some places, for this hollowed out special tubs. It is also worth recommending a tourist to walk along the stone bridge, it is made according to ancient Roman models and is well preserved.
Ventspils (www.visitventspils.com/ru/nachalo/) stands out from the crowd of Latvian cities, which are usually interesting with their history. Over the past 5 years it has transformed from a port town into a full-fledged resort that is perfect for families. There is an open-air museum on the coast with a variety of fishing schooners. There are historical sites in the area as well. The oldest medieval prison in Latvia is located in Ventspils.
In addition to basic, traditional spa treatments, which are presented here in all their diversity, there are mineral and mud springs in Latvia, so you can safely tell the tourist that the procedures will be performed not with imported raw materials, but with the most local.
Experts claim that the entire spa culture came from the Baltic states. The first festivals on organizing spa spaces, massages, master classes, training – everything started here.
The bathing culture deserves a special mention. Special attention and honor is given to it here. It is said that the Baltic baths are one of the main motivators to come back here.
Note that it is not necessary to look for spa hotels or specialized resorts for a client, in Latvia (as well as in the rest of the Baltic countries) is widely developed network of spa studios. That is, you can pick up a tourist near several studios and let him choose the one that is more to his liking (and body).
Bathing season in the Baltic States is very short – only July and August. But even at this time, the weather can fail: it instantly changes from sunny to cloudy and back again. Therefore, tourists should not recommend these countries solely for the beach vacation, it is better to combine it with something else: treatment, spa or rich excursion program.
But despite the fact that the “beach” here is not the main focus, the opportunities for recreation at sea is very extensive.
The main beach resort in Latvia is Jurmala. The beach here is more than 26 km long with light yellow fine sand. The sea is shallow, you have to walk 40 meters to take a dip. Therefore, the vacation here can be recommended to tourists with children.
On the beaches everywhere there are cafes, toilets, changing rooms. Sun beds and umbrellas are only on central beaches for a fee. Some coastal hotels exhibit their equipment, which for their customers is free. A variety of water and beach sports are available. Jurmala is divided into several sections along the beach, with the Majori and Jaunķemeri sections having Blue Flag beaches.
Experts note the following Jurmala hotels in the above average class: Baltic Beach Hotel & SPA 5*, Hotel Jurmala Spa 4*, SemaraH Hotel Lielupe 4* .
Another popular beach resort in Latvia is Liepaja. Jurmala is heavily promoted, “a little pathos” and focused on foreign tourists, while Liepaja is a favorite place for Latvians. The beach here is wide, clean, with fine light sand, the entrance to the sea is shallow and long. There are changing rooms, cafes and toilets.
You can also have a rest at the sea in Saulkrasti. The beach here is also with light fine sand, the sea often throws out seaweed, pebbles, snags. In Zvejniekciems, the coast is stony.
You can time your clients’ tour to coincide with an event or, on the contrary, if it falls on the dates of the trip, you can draw their attention to an event. Our table is of great help.