Take a trip to Latvia
This small Baltic country of just over 2 million inhabitants experienced a severe economic depression following its separation from the Soviet states. Since then, it has been able to raise its head and is even experiencing exemplary growth. Your trip to Latvia will start in Riga, the European capital of Art Nouveau. This city will surprise you by the subtle mix of its architecture between medieval art and great modernity. Further along the coast, especially near Jurmula, you will discover the most beautiful beaches of the region. For history lovers, don’t miss the magnificent Rundale Castle, and for unforgettable hikes, go to the Gauja National Park.
Tour guides in Riga
Other guides in Latvia
Five ideas for guided tours in Latvia
The Gauja Park
The Gauja National Park is the largest nature park in the Baltics. Covering an area of more than 900 km², it offers countless opportunities for visits, such as the beautiful historic town of Cēsis and its medieval castle, or Sigulda, a small spa that becomes a ski resort in winter. All along the park, you will discover a wide range of landscapes with its rivers, green hills, abundant pine forest, cliffs and caves. The most famous is the Gutmann Cave (the largest in the Baltic States), which rises more than 30 meters above the river that carved it out.
Sports, hiking and nature lovers will find themselves in Siguida, located in the heart of the park. The paths that surround the city are an infinite playground in summer as well as in winter. Its beautiful scenery has earned it the nickname “Switzerland of Vidzeme”. In the center of the town there are Gothic influenced buildings and the ruins of a castle built in 1207, whose north and south towers have been perfectly reconstructed.
– Turaida Castle
Located only 5 kilometers from Sigulda, Turaida Castle (which means “Thor’s Garden” in Livonian) is in the center of one of the most picturesque villages in Latvia. Its construction, made of red bricks, dates from the 12th century. Its infrastructure was completely destroyed by a violent fire, before being renovated to its original state. The top of the tower offers a monumental view of the entire Gauja valley surrounding the fortress. You can also take a nice walk in its beautiful garden next to the river.
Take a detour to the charming town of Cesis and its many museums, including the Latvian History Museum, located in Wenden Castle. It is here that the inhabitants took refuge in 1577, to flee the assault of Ivan the Terrible and the Russian army. Feeling their defeat was inevitable, they committed collective suicide by blowing up the fort. As you walk through the city, you will discover the oldest famous breweries in Northern Europe. The small city is worth a stop because it has kept a very charming atmosphere of yesteryear with pretty colored houses.
The city of Jurmala is located west of Riga, but this generic name is also given to the seaside resorts and small fishing villages that follow one another for 30 kilometers. It is a favorite place for tourists and Latvians who want to escape the city life, have a good time and rest. There are fine sandy beaches along the entire length of the coast, offering various water sports, but also many stores, restaurants, cafes and terraces. You can also discover beautiful wooden houses typical of the region, and for hiking, the pine forests are nearby.
The romantic little town of Kuldīga (also known as Goldingen, its former German name) is located in the western part of Latvia, in the Kurzeme region. You can stroll through the city center, which has perfectly preserved its 17th and 18th century architecture with its pastel-colored wooden buildings and mansions, which you can discover in the narrow streets. The city, crisscrossed by the Venta River, has beautiful gardens full of flowers, and is home to the widest waterfall in Europe, which can be admired from the old brick bridge dating from the 19th century. You can swim or fish there; in spring, you can even see salmon leaping. At the top of a small hill is the feudal castle that dominates the town.
The coastal port of Liepaja, known as “the city where the wind was born”, attracts tourists by its dynamism. The whole area is full of tree plantations and medicinal plants. The cultural life is very lively with its numerous theaters, concert halls and music festivals. The visits are made around the narrow streets of the city center where one crosses typical Art Nouveau buildings, near the maritime park or near the church of the Holy Trinity with its old mechanical organ. A castle dating from the end of the 19th century houses the former Karosta prison in red brick, now a museum. You can walk along the beach to the monumental 1800 meter breakwater that protects the harbor. The place is ideal for watching the sunset over the Baltic Sea. Don’t miss the municipal museum with objects from the Viking era and wood carvings from the region.
Rundale Palace in the Vidzeme region, near the Lithuanian border, was built in 1740, initially as the summer residence of the Duke of Curonian Spit, Ernst Johann Von Biron. Today it houses a magnificent museum with nearly 140 rooms, chambers and galleries decorated with tapestries, paintings, gilding, furniture and luxury tableware. It is not for nothing that the imposing residence, of strong baroque and rococo inspiration, is nicknamed the “Versailles of the Baltic“. It will be a real privilege for you to wander through its corridors and navigate through time imagining how the inhabitants of these places lived. A theatrical visit of the place in period costume is possible. Conclude your exploration of the place by taking a walk in the splendid garden which extends over 85 hectares.