The Baltic country of Latvia is not one of the most well-known or popular destinations in Europe. That is, among European and American tourists. Russian travellers have long discovered the charm of this small country on the Baltic Sea.
Latvia’s turbulent history, rich culture and beautiful nature make it the perfect vacation spot for city trippers and outdoor enthusiasts. And Latvia has none of the issues of mass tourism that plague other European countries. Even in the summer high season, the crowds are manageable and prices affordable. Latvia offers a wealth of beauty from elegant cities to picturesque villages and sprawling forests to sandy beaches.
Whether you are travelling around the Baltic Sea or planning a quick trip, here are the 10 beautiful places in Latvia you cannot miss.
The capital city Riga is one of the most beautiful places in Latvia, if not Europe. Despite the impressive old architecture, Riga has a fresh and vibrant atmosphere. Perhaps it’s the relatively new won independence of Latvia (1991) that makes this old city feel young.
Admire the mix of architectural styles dating back to the Middle Ages in the UNESCO World Heritage city centre, with the famous House of the Blackheads and the Three Brothers. The Alberta neighbourhood has the most extensive collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. To learn more about Latvia’s culture and history, you can take a trip to the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, just outside of Riga.
Riga is also an excellent destination for foodies, who will love a trip to the Central Market and the affordable local restaurants for a taste of typical Latvian cuisine. Don’t miss out on a glass of Black Balsam in a hip ruin bar
Sigulda is one of the many historic cities in Latvia. It lies in the middle of the Gauja National Park (see further below), making it a perfect destination for outdoorsy travellers and history fans. There are three beautiful castles in Sigulda, all from different periods. The most important castle sn Sigulda castle, which contains both the Old and the New Castle. Both are beautiful and impressive, as are the grounds surrounding the two castles. Across the river from Sigulda lies Turaida Castle. It was built in 1204 from red brick. Don’t miss the impressive Krimulda Manor either.
Sigulda is also an excellent base for exploring Gauja National Park, a few spots down on this list of beautiful places in Latvia. In Sigulda, outdoor and active travellers can go bobsledding, and if you still have energy after that, visit Tarzan Adventure Park for fun rides and activities.
For a day or weekend of romance, visit the charming town of Kuldiga. The picturesque city with its bridges and colourful houses is nicknamed the Nordic Venice. It is easy to see why when you are taking in the views and historical architecture. Kuldiga Old Town is currently being considered for a UNESCO World Heritage position, so you know it must be a beautiful place. The combination of building styles is unique in Europe and the perfect backdrop for a romantic stroll.
Kuldiga is also home to the Venta Rapids, the widest waterfall in Europe. The river is popular for swimming and flyfishing in summer, but don’t worry; although the waterfall is 110 meters wide, it is only 2 meters high.
Kuldiga’s traditional culture makes it a good spot to buy artisan souvenirs and try the local cuisine.
Cesis is one of the best-preserved Medieval cities in the Baltics and one of the most beautiful places in Latvia. The 800-year-old town is most famous for the Cesis Castle in the heart of the city. The castle is open for visitors and offers fun activities for young and old, such as theatrical performances and candlelit tours.
But that is not the only sight in Cesis, the New Castle, the Church of St. John, the railway station, and the Old town are all worth a look.
The distance and size of Cesis make it perfect for a day trip from Riga. But if you are staying overnight, there is plenty to do. You can visit the oldest brewery in Northern Europe or go out and explore the nature. Cesis borders Gauja National Park, which you can explore on foot or by bike.
5. Gauja National Park
Guaja is the largest National Park in Latvia. It covers an area along the Gauja River, from which the park gets its name. In the mostly flat country of Latvia, Gauja is one of the few hilly regions. The park is popular with both domestic and international tourists as a natural reserve and spot for recreation.
Gauja offers plenty of things to do. You can go on day hikes or mountain bike through the beautiful nature. Or explore the caves, such as the Gatman’s cave, which are a source of local legend. For a beautiful view of the park, take the cable car across the Gauja River Valley.
6. Cape Kolka
Since Latvia borders the Baltic Sea, this list of beautiful places would not be complete without a beach. Cape Kolka lies at the tip of a horn, where the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea meet. In summer, the Cape is the perfect place to enjoy relaxed days at the beach. In the fall and winter, you can explore Slitere National Park’s nature and watch bird migration.
Be sure to visit the historic Kolka Village, the old lighthouse and hike the Pine Trail to the observation tower. Don’t forget to try some of the traditional smoked fish made by local fishermen.
Although Latvia has quite a long coast, it has only one official beach resort: Jurmala. It is a popular summer vacation spot for Latvian and Russian tourists. They come to relax by the water on the 25 km white sand beach and enjoy spa treatments with healing mud and mineral water.
Jurmala is a lively beach town with a vibrant nightlife, shops and restaurants. The annual Jurmala Festival on the first day of summer is the highlight of the season. The city is filled with characteristic and historic colourful wooden buildings. There are outdoor playgrounds and waterparks for children, for when they tire of the beach. For a bit of nature and culture, visit the Open Air Museum and hike the Great Kemeri Bog Trail.
8. Rundale Palace
You might feel like you are in France when you visit Rundale Palace, but it is one of the most beautiful places in Latvia. The incredible 18th-century Baroque palace in the south of Latvia was designed by an Italian architect and lavishly decorated by German and Italian artists.
The palace suffered damages during the Latvian War of Independence and the Second World War but was beautifully restored to its former glory. Although the palace is now mostly a museum and tourist attraction, it is also used to house important guests and foreign dignitaries. Fans of history and architecture will marvel at the palace and the impressive gardens.
Liepaja is a beach town in the south of Latvia. The constant fresh sea breeze has earned it the nickname “City where the wind is born”. It is a popular vacation spot and the perfect destination for travellers looking for a combination of sun and culture.
The 8 km beach is not only an excellent place to sunbathe and swim; you might even find some amber in the sand! For a lesson in Latvia history, take a guided tour of the Northern Fort which was built before the First World War and visit the Karosta Prison. Be sure to see some of the old churches and beautiful architecture in Liepaja as well.
Daugavpils is the second-largest city in Latvia, after Riga. It is a diverse city where the different influences of Latvian history are visible. Although the town dates back to the 13th century, it is a modern and vibrant place.
Daugavpils Fortress is the perfect place to learn more about the history of the city. Explore the more modern city centre by a walk through the pedestrian zone. Be sure to visit Church Hill when you do. Daugavpils also houses several interesting museums, such as the Smakovka Museum, dedicated to the local liquor, and the Lead Shot Factory. For a bit of adventure for young and old, spend a day at the Zoo or the Adventure Park.
Latvia is a wonderful country with a vibrant culture and rich history. Explore this hidden gem on the Baltic Sea by visiting the most beautiful places in Latvia, from Riga’s busy streets to the wild nature of Gauja National Park. Whichever destination you choose, you are sure to fall in love with Latvia.
Latvia would also be great to add to a multi-destination trip. Visit Baltic States Multi-Destination Trip: Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn for an itinerary suggestion.
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