Must see places in Latvia
Latvia is a small European country with developed communications, so it is not difficult to get from Riga to the provinces. In this Baltic country there are more than 100 medieval castles, new palaces with their own special style and legends. Picturesque old towns, historical monuments and modern buildings – there is a lot to see.
We have collected for you only basic sights and places of interest that must be seen with your own eyes!
House of Blackheads
The House of Blackheads was built in Riga at the beginning of the 14th century. Initially various cultural communities gathered there, but in the 17th century the main owners were merchants, who catered to the city’s festivals. The patron saint of this community was St. Mauritius, depicted in icons as a dark-skinned man. The symbol of the brotherhood was the black head. The building had excellent acoustics, and famous musicians often performed there, and concerts and balls were held.
The Russian Emperor Peter I was also a guest at the House of Blackheads. The halls were decorated with portraits of Swedish and Russian monarchs, three of which were brought by Catherine II. In 1895 the society was transformed into a German merchant club. In 1939 it was disbanded as well. During World War II the building was bombed.
In 1948 the Latvian government decided to demolish the building, the house was restored only after the collapse of the USSR at the end of 90s of the 20th century. When the building was restored, its original dimensions were preserved. On the facade are four figures – Neptune, Mercury, Uniformity and Peace, with the coat of arms of Riga above them.
You can find this house in Riga at: Rātslaukums 7, Centra rajons.
- Monday: Closed.
- Tuesday: 11:00-18:00.
- Wednesday: 11:00-18:00.
- Thursday: 11:00-18:00.
- Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
- Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
- Sunday: 11:00-18:00.
The historical center of Riga
In the historical center of Riga there are many buildings that were built in the Middle Ages. Church of St. Jura, the Cathedral of St. Jekaba, the synagogue, the house of the Convent of the Holy Spirit – all buildings have a unique style.
The oldest building is the Dome Cathedral, its construction began in 1211 and completed several centuries.
In the Church of St. Peter there is an observation deck, from which you can see the entire city. Among the objects of interest is the Freedom Monument, representing a woman holding three stars above her head. One of the largest European markets is located in Riga. Nearby is the 13th-century Powder Tower and the Swedish Gate, which has retained its original appearance from the 17th century.
The Cat House in Riga
The building was built in the Art Nouveau style in 1909. There is a legend about it: merchant Blumer was not wanted to be accepted into the merchant guild, and then two metal figures of cats were placed on the towers, placing their tails towards the Merchant Guild.
It was only after the trial that Blumer was accepted into the Merchants’ Guild, who turned the cats around in joy. The facade of the cat house is decorated with the figure of an eagle and the face of a woman.
In 1991, on the threshold of the house shot 10 people from the film crew “Easy to Be Young? Currently, the house is occupied by a jazz restaurant and casino.
You can find the house at: Riga, Meistaru Street, 10/12. 10/12.
The palace, a gift from Catherine II, was erected in 1802. Currently, the building is a hotel, celebrations and weddings are held. There is also a museum and a monument to Soviet soldiers on the territory.
During World War II, the castle was badly damaged, and the restoration was not completed until 2002. The stucco decorations in the main hall and paintings on the walls have been restored.
Address : Mezotne, Bauskas novads, LV-3918.
Every day from 9:00 to 20:00.
Monument to the Musicians of Bremen
The monument was presented to the city in 1990. It is made by Bremen sculptor Krista Baumgärtel. The sculpture represents a scene from the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale of the same name, when a donkey, a dog, a rooster and a cat look in the window of the robbers.
It is believed that the monument also depicts the end of the Cold War, with the animals looking behind the Iron Curtain.
There is a belief that if you rub the donkey’s nose and make a wish, it will definitely come true. And the most cherished wish will come true, if you reach for the rooster’s tail.
It is located opposite the Convent Yard (just in front of the yellow building of the Ecca convention), at the altar of St. Peter’s Church from the side of Skārņu Street. On the northeast side of the monument is St. John’s Church.
Bobsleigh track in Sigulda
Sigulda bobsleigh track was opened in 1986 and before the Olympic Games in Sochi it was the only one in Eastern Europe. The track is 1200 meters long and it is suitable not only for athletes, but for all comers as well.
Every year in Sigulda are held competitions in luge, bobsleigh and skeleton. Visitors can also climb the observation deck, which offers a view of the valley of the river Gauja and the track with 16 curves.
Large and Small Guilds
The guilds were located opposite each other. The large guild was intended for the meeting of merchants, later it was occupied by writers and book publishers.
This building is considered one of the oldest in Europe – erected at the beginning of the 14th century. The remains of the first building have survived only in the basement.
After the reconstruction of the main hall, the Philharmonic Hall was organized there. The small guild served until 1936. From the inside the building looks more interesting – the floors are lined with mosaics, the windows have stained-glass windows, made specially in Germany. Now the building hosts concerts and business events.
You can find it at 6 Amatu Street, Riga.
Sigulda Ski Slope
The Latvian ski base is located in the valley of the river Gauja and is operated by the Latvian Olympic Center. There are two slopes – 200 and 350 meters. The slopes are illuminated in the dark and equipment can be rented.
Thanks to the snow cannons, you can ski in almost any weather. Elevators are available to get up the hill. Instructors train children and adults. There is a snug cafe at the base. In addition to skis, you can also take a ride on an inflatable sled, visit Snowpark, for children there is a separate amusement park.
From myself I would add that the experienced skiers here will be a little bit boring. The tracks are short and easy. Although if you go together with the family for a change is possible.
It was founded in the 13th century, at the beginning of the 14th century the clergy handed it over to the Livonian Order. Guests at the former monastery were politicians, military leaders and heads of state. The Swedes, taking possession of the fortress in the 17th century, built defensive structures, which have survived to this day.
In 1709 Peter the Great seized the castle, and the Russian state owned it until 1917. In Soviet times, the territory was used as a secret facility, and after the collapse of the Union, commercial firms were located there. Now the castle has been declared a cultural monument.
Unfortunately, the fortress is very poorly preserved to this day, but nevertheless, it is worth a look. It is still an impressive place. Just imagine how much work went into this grandiose defensive complex.
Kristaps and Augusta Morberg’s summer house complex
The castle was built of wood and clad in iron in the 19th century. The building is decorated with unusual stained glass windows, and there are openwork pavilions in the garden. The complex was bequeathed to the University of Latvia, and now excursions, celebrations and weddings are held there.
In the garden, in addition to the arbors, there is a collection of rare plants, which is atypical for buildings of the 19th century. During Soviet times there was a sanatorium named after M. Gorky, later there was opened “Balsam Bar”, but in our time in its place was built a brick fence. The building is fully restored, most of the buildings restored to their original form.
The cableway in Sigulda
The road connects Sigulda and Krimulda hills since 1969. There is a legend that it was built on the initiative of a young man in love, who rarely saw his bride working on the opposite hill. Until the 80 – s of the 20th century it was an important transport connection, there were no bus routes, even tickets were sold until 2000.
On the cable car there is another attraction for fans of extreme – bungee jumping. Its height is 43 meters, and the distance is 1200 meters. After the reconstruction the carriage is controlled by automation. Near the road there are souvenir shops.
Kalnciema Street Quarter
Kalnciema Quarter is a complex of restored wooden buildings. It is a striking example of 19th century wooden architecture. The restoration of the quarter began in 2001 and by now 6 buildings have been restored.
Kalnciema Street is included in the Cultural Canon of Latvia. In the quarter there are fairs, various events, lectures, exhibitions, entertainment events in the open air, performances of artists. On Saturdays, free workshops on modeling, drawing and sewing are organized for children. For tourists organized excursions – historical and gastronomic.
Concert Hall “Dzintari”.
This building is one of the most popular places for concerts not only in Latvia, but also abroad. In the early years the “Kurhaus Edinburg” (the old name) held opera concerts, variety and circus performances. In 1910 the German symphony orchestra performed on the stage for the first time, later Russian artists began to arrive. “Dzintari was planned as an open-air cinema, but in the 1930s an indoor hall was added.
During World War II the building was closed, and performances there were resumed only in 1959 after the roof was restored. During the Soviet times Laima Vaikule, Alla Pugacheva, Alexander Raikin and other popular artists gave concerts here. Now KVN festival is held here.
Latvian Museum of Architecture
The first exposition in the museum appeared in 1994. It is located in the architectural monument “Three brothers”. The museum works in exhibition mode, so it does not have its own exposition. Exhibitions are devoted to the historical heritage of Latvia and modern architecture.
The collections contain about 9000 items – historical documents, lists of famous architects and their creations. The museum cooperates with the magazine “Latvijas architektura”, which provides exhibitions with posters, postcards and brochures. The museum courtyard holds medieval rarities – a forged coat-of-arms of Riga from 1554, a portal of the House of Blackheads.
Latvian National Museum of Art
The museum was founded in 1869 but acquired its own building only in 1905. The main exposition is represented by three directions – Baltic Art in the 18th-19th centuries, Latvian Art in the 19th-20th centuries and Russian Art in the 18th-20th centuries.
Besides the permanent exhibitions, there are also temporary exhibitions which can be visited on guided tours.
There are terraces on the roof of the museum from which the whole city can be seen and which are available for visitors.
Rundale Palace Museum
The author of the residence is F. Rastrelli. The first part of the building began in 1736, the palace was finally erected in 1768. Nowadays, exhibitions and guided tours are held there, and guests of the castle can see the French-style park, greenhouse, and fountains.
The main hall is decorated with marble and gold stucco, for which it is called the Golden Hall. Originally it was planned to house the house church, but then it was decided that the ballroom is more necessary. It organizes weddings, concerts, receptions.
The grounds are huge and it took us a few hours to get there. I really enjoyed it, I would recommend it!
Jurmala is a popular resort city. The beaches along the coastline of Riga are several tens of kilometers long. They are equipped with free changing rooms, cafes, and toilets. It is recognized as one of the best European beaches.
The main attraction is a pedestrian street Jomas, which has restaurants, souvenir shops and stores. In the summer season there is a car show presenting old vehicles. There is also a prison history museum and an open-air fisherman’s market.
Gauja National Park
The park was established in 1973 and is the largest in Latvia.
Here is the largest cave in the Baltics – Gutmanja, more than 500 national monuments of history and culture – fortresses, churches, manors. castles, old mills.
Near Sigulda there is a vertical wind tunnel, a bobsleigh run and the highest Tower in Europe.
It is especially beautiful here in autumn. When the leaves begin to turn yellow. You should go here for a whole day, together with your family.
The city of Kuldiga
The first mention of the city dates back to the 13th century. The city fortress of Kuldīga was founded in 1243. Despite wars and frequent fires, the buildings of 16th – 19th centuries are well preserved.
In 1874 was built seven-span bridge, the longest of all such structures in Europe.
Ventas Rumba Falls was in the past a major fishing spot, special devices for catching fish became famous and the town became a place where fish are caught right up in the air.
It was founded in 1214 on the left bank of the River Gauja. Despite many reconstructions, the fortress has managed to retain its original appearance. On the main tower there is an observation deck and a museum exhibit.
There are often concerts of modern and ancient music, holidays and exhibitions, and in the courtyard there is a craft studio. excavations are carried out on the territory, finds from which replenish the fund of the museum.
Kemeri National Park
The park is famous for its biodiversity, plenty of bogs, mineral springs and therapeutic mud. There are traces of the First World War – soldiers’ graves and trenches. A school of natural history operates in the National Park.
Construction of the fortress began in 1810. After the war with Napoleon it was not used in military operations. During the Second World War, the castle was occupied by the Germans, and after their departure, it was badly damaged. At present, the fortress is undergoing extensive reconstruction.
Ethnographic open air museum
The museum houses 118 different constructions from the 17th and 20th centuries, brought here from all over the country. The expositions present the life of farmers, Russian Old Believers, craftsmanship, look at the churches of different faiths. In addition to tours by appointment, you can work with the archives.
11 facts about Latvia that you might not know.
I hope our selection of places has helped you. If we forgot something interesting, leave it in comments, we will add it! You can also add your own photos of Latvian places of interest, and we will add their author!