Latvian sights and resorts
On June 25, 1211 the bishop Albrecht von Buxhoeveden founded a new cathedral in Riga – the Dome Cathedral. He diligently supervised the construction of the church, invested considerable sums of money and employed the best craftsmen. The oldest museum in Latvia – The History and Navigation Museum – is located in the Dome Cathedral ensemble.
House of Blackheads
An architectural monument dating back to the first third of the 14th century, the House of Blackheads was originally a meeting place for various public organisations in Riga. In the 17th century it was mainly owned by members of the Association of Foreign Merchants, whose patron saint at that time was St Maurice.
Historical Centre of Riga
The historical center of Riga began to be formed only at the end of the 19th century, after the city fortifications were demolished. Just then the first appearance of the embankment of the canal, which became the border between the Old Riga and the city center, began.
Cat House in Riga
There is also the Cat House in Riga, although it has nothing to do with the fairy tale, but it has its own no less interesting legend. A rich merchant built this house in 1910 and placed cats on it, with their backs to the Guild building, where the Latvian hero was not accepted.
This palace near Bauska is considered one of the most outstanding palaces in Latvia built in the style of classicism. It took five years to build, was completed in 1802, and was a gift from Empress Catherine II to Princess von Lieven.
Monument to the Musicians of Bremen
The sculptural composition of the Riga Monument to the Town Musicians of Bremen is represented by four legendary characters from the Grimm fairy tale – a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster. The monument to the Musicians of Bremen was cast by Bremen sculptor Krista Baumgartel and bears a deep political “subtext”.
Today not a trace of the former might of the Riga Castle, which once served the valiant knights of the Livonian Order, is left. With the Poles and later the Swedes settling in the castle, its defensive function practically ceased and during the Russian rule its function was completely lost.
The Rundale Palace can be rightfully called the most striking and beautiful example of Baroque and Rococo architecture in the whole country. The author of this remarkable residence was the famous architect F. B. Rastrelli, and it was destined for the Duke of Courland E. Biron.
Turaida museum-reserve is one of the specially protected monuments of history and culture. On its territory there are 37 historical buildings, including a real castle from the Middle Ages.
St. Peter’s Church in Riga
Due to its high spire, equipped with an observation deck, St. Peter’s Church is visible from afar. An elevator takes visitors up to 72 meters high, where the immense expanses of the city on the Western Dvina can be seen.
Bobsled run in Sigulda
Visitors to Sigulda have a unique opportunity to test themselves and feel a real adrenaline rush. The local bobsleigh track is open not only for athletes but also for all comers. The first slope appeared here at the end of the 19th century on the estate of Prince Kropotkin.
Big and Small Guilds
The Small Guild or St. John’s Guild united craftsmen of Riga and existed from 1352 until 1936. Along with the Small Guild, there was also the Big Guild or Guild of St. Mary (located opposite the Small Guild), which united Riga merchants and later literati.
Sigulda Ski Track
Sigulda is not called the “Switzerland of Latvia” for nothing, not only because of its beautiful scenery, but also because it offers plenty of room for skiing enthusiasts. Beginning in December, when the hillsides in the Gauja valley are covered in snow, hundreds of people from Latvia rush here.
The history of Daugavgrīvas fortress began in the early 13th century, when a monastery was founded between the Gulf of Riga and the left tributary of the river Bulļupe. In the middle of the 13th century there was a fierce struggle between the church, knights and townsfolk for the monastery, and at the beginning of the 14th century the clergy sold the fortress.
Kristaps and Augusta Morberg’s summerhouse complex
Have you ever heard of building a castle out of wood and lining it with iron? And if we speak about the fact that it was built in neo-Gothic style? There is just such a castle in Jurmala: it is a summerhouse complex of Kristaps and Augusta Morberg built in the early 19th century.
Cableway in Sigulda
Fans of unusual ways of travel will love the cableway in Sigulda. It connects two hills on opposite banks of the river Gauja – Sigulda and Krimulda. Since its opening in 1969 and until the beginning of the 21st century, the ropeway was used as a means of communication between the cities.
Kalnciema Street Quarter
Why do tourists go to Riga? First of all, for the sake of the Old Town – losing sight of the fact that the river Daugava has the left bank. Meanwhile, to visit “the other side” is very worthwhile. If it is enough to see the TV Tower from outside, you may find something no less interesting in quiet old neighborhoods.
Dzintari Concert Hall
Dzintari Concert Hall is a complex that is popular both in Latvia and abroad. After all, it is here that most concerts in Latvia take place. If you watched the Humor Festival in Jurmala, you are probably familiar with this concert hall.
Latvian Museum of Architecture
Latvian Museum of Architecture is located in a residential complex of medieval buildings in Old Riga, known as the “Three Brothers”. The museum does not have a permanent exhibition, but its collection of more than 1,000 items is comprised of the original works of architects – sketches, drawings and schemes.
Latvian National Museum of Art
The Latvian National Museum of Art is the oldest museum in Riga and was established in 1869. At that time the art gallery was located in the building of the city gymnasium, but in 1872 it merged with the Riga German Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts and in 1905 a building was erected for the museum.
What else to see in Latvia
Picturesque old towns with a network of narrow cobbled streets, majestic castles, historical monuments and a romantic coastline of the Baltic Sea – all these are fragments of Latvia’s colorful mosaic.
In 2012, the creators of the First Choice blog asked people from different countries to choose the most beautiful country. Latvia, a small Baltic country, won.
More and more tourists are trying on the “Baltic necklace” lately: they are attracted to Latvia by the cool climate, salty breeze of the Baltic Sea with century-old cedars along the coast and medieval castles and churches covered with green moss. Small towns, built with cozy painted houses and country restaurants with embroidered tablecloths create a unique atmosphere of Latvian hospitality and home warmth.
The capital is considered to be the most beautiful city not only in Latvia but also in the whole Baltics. About 40% of buildings in Riga were built in the Art Nouveau style (Jugendstil, as it is often called in German manner) and therefore it is often referred to as European Art Nouveau capital. In total, there are about 800 buildings in this style, and most of them in the city center, Old Riga. Most of them on the famous Alberta Street, in the so-called quiet center or in the embassy area – every corner, every building here strikes the beauty. Such famous art nouveau architects as Paul Mandelstam, Mikhail Eisenstein and the entire Shel dynasty had a hand in creating Riga’s unique appearance. Many buildings on Alberta Street have never been restored and still bear the imprint of the turn of the last century.
The pearl of Riga is the Old Town, where the famous Dome Cathedral, Riga Castle, Powder Tower, St. Peter’s, Jacob’s and St. John’s churches from the 13th century are located. The entire central part of Riga is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There is a place for beach lovers in Latvia, too – sunny Jurmala, where the golden sands coastline stretches for tens of kilometers along the Gulf of Riga. There are dense pine forests, medicinal mineral springs and the scents of the sea and pine trees in the air.
Latvia is divided into 4 historic regions, each of which is remarkable in its own way. The central part of the country is called Vidzeme. The main attraction of this area is the medieval town of Sigulda, lying in the territory of Gauja National Park. Another popular town is Cesis, where time has stopped, preserving the ancient streets, along which there are wooden houses. In the west of this region is the Vidzeme Seashore, a national park that protects rare species of animals and plants, as well as unique geological features of this part of the Baltic.
Zemgale, as Latvians call the southern part of their country, is home to the majestic and beautiful Rundale Palace. The area is considered to be environmentally friendly.
In the western part of the country, Kurzeme, interesting places are no less: picturesque villages and castles, river bridges, ancient houses and churches. Nature lovers will enjoy excursions to the valleys of the Abava and Venta rivers, will admire waterfalls or go to the Forest Museum near Tukums.
Moving east, you’ll find yourself in Latgale, the religious center of Latvian Catholics. Here you can feel it everywhere: here and there are crucifixes and many churches. Between the lakes Ciris and Aglonas is situated the holy of holies of these places – the famous Aglonas basilica and abbey.
Latvia is one of the small Baltic states, its Riga seashore, wonderful sandy beaches, marvelous pine trees, blue lakes attracts tourists especially in summer time. The resort zone of Jurmala is rightly considered the pearl of the country.
Save on travel to Latvia!
Latvia (the Republic of Latvia) is located in the north-east of Europe. It borders on Estonia in the north, Russia in the east, Belarus and Lithuania in the south. The country is washed by the Baltic Sea on the west. The territory is 64 500 sq. km. The population of Latvia is 2.4 million people. The capital of Latvia is Riga.
Other large cities: Daugavpils, Liepaja, Ventspils. Administratively Latvia is divided into 26 districts (counties). The main rivers are the Daugava, the Gauja, and the Lielupe. The head of state is the president. The head of the government is prime minister. Legislative body is unicameral diet. Ethnic groups: Latvians – 51.8%, Russians – 33.8%, Belarusians – 4.5%, Ukrainians – 3.4%, Poles – 2.3%. Language: Latvian (official), Russian. Currency is Lat. Religion: Evangelical Lutherans, Orthodox.
Cities of Latvia
Most of Latvia’s territory is low-lying plain, hilly in the west and east. Latvia is not rich in mineral resources, but there are deposits of dolomite, limestone and peat. The climate is transitional from maritime to continental. Average temperature in July is from +16 °С to +18 °С. In January on the Baltic Sea coast the temperature is -2°C. In the eastern areas, the temperature is -7°C. The sunniest and driest month is May. There are 150-170 cloudy days a year in Latvia. The forests of Latvia are widely represented by deciduous and coniferous trees. Fauna in Latvia is not very diverse. The most common are deer, hares, roe deer, wild boars and black cranes.
Latvia has a developed river network, all the rivers belong to the Baltic Sea basin. Lakes occupy 1.5 percent of the country, most of them of glacial origin. The deepest lake is Drizda (61.1 m). Lakes are used for fisheries. Swamps occupy 4.8% of the territory.
Latvia is attractive not only because of its natural beauty, but also because of the great variety of attractions – architectural, artistic and spiritual monuments.
Practically every big Latvian city has some place of interest for every tourist: the resort town of Jurmala is famous for its white quartz sand beaches, Jelgava hosts numerous museums and a number of splendid churches, and Liepaja sea port is famous for its drawbridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (the same guy who made ingenious drawings of Eiffel Tower in Paris).
Daugavpils sights, the second largest city in Latvia, generally impossible to count – virtually the entire historic city center is one huge monument of architecture with many unique brick and wooden buildings of the XIX century, impressive religious buildings and, of course, the famous Daugavpils fortress, which is a perfect example of the ancient military architecture.
Latvian cuisine is one of those described as simple and hearty. Unlike Western Europeans, Latvians’ table is dominated by soups: milk soup, bread soup, sweet soup (e.g. blueberry soup with dumplings). Beer soup is boiled with cumin and egg yolks, and served with croutons of white bread with cheese. Many dishes in Latvia are made from milk and dairy products- various puddings, mousses, kissels (for example, from rhubarb with milk or whipped cream). Latvian table usually includes cabbage, various fresh and sour vegetables, sorrel etc. Among meat products the most popular are pork, beef, veal. To prepare national dishes the Latvians usually use fish: cod casserole (“zavju pudins”), herring casserole with boiled potatoes (“siltu pudins”), herring fried with sluck sauce, herring in milk with beet salad and currant juice, eggs stuffed with sprat. Favorite dishes of Latvians are pea porridge with barley and boiled peas with fried bacon.
Entertainment and Recreation
Being in Latvia will leave unforgettable positive impressions of your stay due to most diverse events which take place in different cities of the country:
- the annual organ music festival in Liepaja;
- International festivals of ice and sand sculptures in Jelgava;
- young performers’ competition “New Wave” in Jurmala, and many other mass events.
It is worth noting that soccer and ice hockey are popular in Latvia, with matches and competitions often taking place in stadiums and sports arenas throughout the country.
In Riga, art film enthusiasts will have an opportunity to visit five modern cinemas and possibly even purchase a memento of one of the classic films made in the 20th century by talented directors from the Riga Film Studio.
Fans of night life will also have a vivid experience – in all big cities of the country, apart from excellent theaters and wonderful art galleries, there are entertainment clubs with famous DJs and regularly exciting theme parties.
Riga is undoubtedly the most suitable shopping destination in Latvia, with all sorts of goods available in any part of the city: Origo shopping mall is located near the railway station, Galerija Centrs, Galerija Riga and Riga Plaza shopping centers are in the central area, and Alfa and Spice shopping centers are closer to the suburbs; many stores offer VAT return (you can tell them by the Global Blue Tax Free Shopping sign in the window display). The most popular souvenirs among tourists are traditional souvenirs made of amber, ceramics and glass, as well as Riga Balsam (an authentic alcoholic beverage) and warm knitwear. It is important to note that many souvenir shops and chain stores in Riga open only from 10 or 11 a.m.!
In general, accommodation in Latvia is hard to call cheap, but as in any socially developed country, a wide range of options (from a suburban motel for $ 5 per day to the capital of the hotel for $ 150) will meet almost any needs and financial capabilities coming on vacation or in connection with the business needs in this wonderful European country.
The transport network in Latvia is well developed: the international airport 7 kilometers from Riga is directly connected to many major cities around the world, and intercity travel within the country is provided by modern buses and comfortable electric trains, tickets for which can be purchased not only at the appropriate ticket offices, but also directly from the drivers or conductors. Public transport in Latvian cities is represented by buses, and in the capital – also by trolleybuses, streetcars and cabs.
Car drivers Latvia will be pleased with the quality of roads, the possibility to rent a car (of course, if you have a driving license of international standard) and the fact that the local population carefully observe the rules of the road. However, you should remember that in some cities entry to some areas is limited due to the narrowness of streets and the abundance of architectural monuments, so to move freely may be required to purchase a special permit at a gas station or a store.
Latvia has a well-developed communications network, which includes fixed-line and cellular (GSM 900/1800) telephony. When coming from another country, anyone with a passport can easily purchase a temporary cell phone card (from $3) in numerous outlets, which allows you to make calls within the country at local rates and, thus, can help save on roaming. In Riga and other large cities wireless Internet network is actively developing, which can be accessed, in some cases, even at gas stations and near street payphones.
Latvia also has a stable postal service, with your mail being delivered within one or two days.
Latvia is a calm European country, whose security measures boil down to ordinary vigilance. However, to avoid trouble, you should remember that in this country it is forbidden to smoke in public places, to walk on the lawns and lie on them in the city center, to be in the street at night without a special reflector. Of course, you should not forget about the elementary safety standards: do not keep, if possible, large sums of money, as well as avoid night visits to train stations, ports and other potentially dangerous places.
Remember that health care in Latvia is paid and medical care is quite expensive, so calling an ambulance without any real threat to life could result in a significant fine.
Latvia is a WTO member and it trades most actively with its Baltic neighbors, with whom it has a customs union – Lithuania and Estonia; other foreign trade partners of Latvia include Germany, Sweden, Russia and Great Britain. The great advantages for opening a business in Latvia are freedom of transport communication with all EU countries (including import of goods without customs duties), the right to open a bank account in any country in the world, access to the Baltic Sea, the simplified taxation for small businesses and the widespread Russian language.
Buying a one-bedroom apartment in the historic center of Riga will cost an average of $120,000, a two-bedroom – $100,000 more expensive; in the bedroom community can find a four-bedroom apartment costing less than $100,000. The price of real estate is strongly influenced by the prestige and prosperity of the area, the distance from the sea shore and the city center. Buying housing in Riga and nearby regions, or in other cities of national importance for more than a hundred thousand lats (180-190 thousand $), the buyer of real estate has an opportunity to obtain a temporary residence permit in Latvia in the duration of 5 years.
Tips for the tourist
When entering the country must have a Schengen visa, as well as health insurance policy, at crossing the border in a private vehicle to this list is added technical passport, international driver’s license and car insurance.
Taking into account the unstable seaside climate in Latvia, you can pay special attention to the presence of an umbrella and a set of warm clothes in your luggage. It is also important to remember that drinking alcoholic beverages in public places directly from the bottle (according to the new law, you must hide it in a paper bag, like the characters do in American movies), and when traveling by car, each passenger of the vehicle must have a valid medical insurance.
When planning a trip to Latvia the issue of proper documentation is very important.
Citizens of the CIS for tourism or business stay in the country will require a short-term visa category C, and after two or three visits to Latvia can open a Schengen multivisa (respectively, its owners do not require a short-term visa), which is easy to get, and if you have real estate in Latvia.
Since the spring of 2012 you can fill out the necessary documents to obtain a visa electronically. By the way, the percentage of refusals by the Latvian side is very low – without a visa remain only 0.5% of applicants.
To obtain a visa in Moscow need to contact the Latvian diplomatic mission, located at 3 Chaplygina Street.
Phone: +7 (495) 232 97 43.
Latvia is an industrial and agrarian country. Leading branches of industry: mechanical engineering and metalwork (power engineering, electrical engineering, radio-electronic industry, production of communications equipment and instrumentation, transport, and agricultural engineering). Developed chemical and petrochemical, light, food, timber, woodworking and pulp and paper, glass and porcelain industry. Latvia is famous for the production of perfumes and cosmetics. In the country crafts are developed: leather processing, amber, woodcarving, embroidery.
The main branch of agriculture is animal industries (dairy and meat cattle breeding and bacon pig breeding). In the republic rye, wheat, barley, long-fibered flax, sugar beets, forage crops are grown. Potato growing, vegetable growing, bee keeping, animal breeding are engaged in. Export: products of mechanical engineering, light and food industries.
The earliest information about human settlements on the territory of Latvia goes back to the IX millenium B.C. The first inhabitants migrated here from the southeast and southwest. The ancestors of Latvians are considered to be the ancient Baltic tribes and the ancestors of Ugrofins. By the 1st millennium A.D. related tribal groups were formed: Couronians, Latgals, Semigals, and Selonians.
The first feudal principalities in the lands of Latvia were formed in the X-XIII centuries: Koknese, Ersika, and Talava. The main occupation of the population was agriculture: rye, wheat, flax, oats and hemp were grown. Developed crafts, especially blacksmithing. In XI-XII cc trade communications became regular. The main way of communication was the Daugava (or the way along it).
Politically the most developed were the Latgalian and Selonian tribes who created principalities. The most significant state of the Latgalians was Talava, whose center was in Beverin Castle. Between Talava and the Pskov principality there was another Latgalian state, Atzele. At different times the lands of the Latgalians, Livonians and Selonians were dependent on Novgorod, Pskov and Polotsk. In XII century the Crusaders’ aggression on the territory of modern Baltic began, which interrupted the process of statehood formation. In 1207 the Brotherhood of the Sword captured the lands of Livonians and in 1214 the lands of Latgalians. In 1236, in the battle of Saul, the Swordsmen were defeated. But in 1245-1254 the Livonian Order, created not long before that, crushed the resistance of Couronians and Semigallians. With the help of the Teutonic Order, the Livonian Order established its rule over the territory of Zemgale in 1290. On the territory of modern Latvia and Estonia a number of small spiritual principalities were formed. The territory was called Livonia. The most important economically and politically were the lands belonging to the Livonian Order and the bishopric of Riga. German landlords became the centers of economic life. At the same time Riga was becoming an important center for transit trade throughout Eastern Europe because of its geographical position. The Mongol invasion greatly weakened Livonian ties with the Russian lands. Up to the 15th century the foreign policy of Livonian principalities was based on their relations with Lithuania, which supported the archbishop of Riga. In the first half of the 16th century during the economic prosperity of the Livonian lands, Riga became the center of the reformation movement. By 1524 the moderate part of the reformation prevailed in Riga. The next year the county council even made a treaty with the Livonian Order to keep the old (Catholic) confession of faith unchanged for three years.
The Livonian War (1558-1583) between the Livonian Order on one side and Sweden, Poland and Lithuania on the other changed the political map of Livonia significantly. Russian forces occupied Narva and Dorpat (Tartu) and defeated the troops of the Riga archbishopric in two battles. But Russians did not succeed in conquering Riga. The victory of Russian forces over the Livonian Order in the battle of Ergem (1560) resulted in the dissolution of the Livonian principalities. To the north of the Daugava River was created the Duchy of Zadva, which in 1566 became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania; to the south of Livonia was created the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, subject to the Polish and Lithuanian kings. Under the Union of Lublin (1569) Poland and Lithuania created a single state – the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
In the second half of the 1570s it entered into a military alliance with Sweden. In the early 1580s Russia relinquished all its conquests in Livonia. The territory was divided by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden and Denmark. As a result of Polish-Swedish war (1600-1629) Riga and a large part of modern Latvia passed to Sweden. Riga became one of the most developed Swedish cities.
The Northern War (1700-1721), in which almost all of Eastern and Western Europe was involved, caused serious changes in the history of the Baltic territories again. In the early years, Russian troops and allied Saxons suffered one defeat after another from the Swedes. However, Russia’s victory at the Battle of Poltava radically changed the course of the war. As a result of the nearly ten month siege of Riga the city surrendered to the Russian troops. Military operations ceased in autumn 1710. Under the Nystadt Peace Treaty of 1721 Vidzeme with Riga and the present day Estonian territory with Revel became parts of Russia.
In 1783 the Livonian province was equalized to the other provinces of Russia. The Russian authorities gave all power to the governor general and his viceroy. In 1795 the Duchy of Courland became part of Russia. Thus, at the end of the XVIII century all lands, populated by the Latvians, became part of Russia. The beginning of the Latvian national revival movement refers to the second half of the XIX century. The most active public figures, the so-called Young Latvians demanded the equal rights for the Latvian people with other nations. After World War I ended, independence was declared in Latvia. In 1922 the first president was Janis Cakste.
With the beginning of World War II according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty Soviet troops occupied Latvia and it was forcefully included into the USSR as a Union Republic on 5 August 1940. In 1941-1945 it was occupied by German troops. In 1945-1991 was again a part of the USSR. With the beginning of Perestroika a number of socio-political organizations appeared in Latvia, advocating secession from the Soviet Union and restoration of independence. From 1989 mass speeches and demonstrations began in Latvia. In 1990 the country declared its independence, in 1991 the USSR recognized the sovereignty of Latvia. Currently Latvia is an independent parliamentary republic, a candidate for membership in the European Union and NATO. It was admitted to the United Nations. Since 1999 the president is Vaira Vikke-Freiberga.