Latvia has so much to offer visitors
Many tourists visit Latvia for its stunning nature. However, anyone wishing to explore Latvia will find much much more in this beautiful Baltic country. Those of you who are abroad who happen to Google Latvia Place to visit will discover numerous beautiful towns and cities crying out to be discovered. Of course, first and foremost, there is Riga, considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful cities. But as well as the incredible Latvian capital, there are dozens of gorgeous towns and cities – some of which you might never have heard of – deserving of a visit.
A turbulent history means a rich heritage
Latvia has had a rich and turbulent history, with foreign invaders and international trade blocks fighting over or yearning to possess its territory for centuries. The River Daugava was an essential trade route through Europe to southern Europe and beyond and has forever been coveted by everyone from the Vikings to German traders. Indeed, Latvia’s capital, Riga, was founded by German traders on the banks of the river Daugava in 1201, while Latvia’s oldest town, Ludza, dates back to 1177. In the 800 plus years that have followed, Latvia has been part of, conquered, invaded, or ruled by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, the Hanseatic League, the State of Teutonic Order, the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden, and the Russian Empire.
During the 20th century, it was briefly controlled by Nazi Germany and was part of the Soviet Union for more than 40 years. 800 years of international trade through this country and countless foreign rulers means that Latvia’s cities have retained influences from nine centuries of comings and goings. Put simply, its towns and cities are unique and quite unlike anywhere else in Europe.
Urban delights from West to East
From Ventspils and Liepaja on Latvia’s windy west coast to the perfectly preserved wonder of Kuldiga in Courland, the world-class city beach resort of Jurmala, and the rarely visited delights of Latgale, Latvia is so much more than a nature lover’s dream of forest, beach, and wildlife; it is also an extraordinary place of medieval castles, stunning palaces, grand country houses, and fascinating towns, and cities.
Experience Baltics brings you the 10 Most Beautiful Cities in Latvia. Apologies to the likes of Bauska, Valmiera, Tukums, Jelgava, Saulkrasti, Limbazi, and Rezekne that didn’t make this list! But with 76 towns and cities to choose from, the competition is intense!
Many first time visitors to Ventspils often remark that they feel like they are visiting a town in Scandinavia. Modern, immaculately clean, and a recipient of significant inward investment and modern infrastructure projects, Ventspils perfectly combines the past with modern forward-looking development. Families should definitely include Ventspils in their Latvia places to visit list. Its highlights include an open-air seaside museum, a narrow-gauge train, and a restored 17th-century old town. And then there are the towns’ immaculate blue flag beaches. Yes, there is that word again: ‘immaculate’.
Latgale’s regional capital and Latvia’s second city is Daugavpils. Despite its second city status, relatively few Latvians and even fewer international tourists have ever visited this fascinating city! Which is a shame, because amongst Daugavpils’ many delights is eastern Europe’s best-preserved early nineteenth-century fortress! Constructed in the 19th century, the fortress and its Mark Rothko Art Centre are must-see places for anyone who wants to explore Latvia.
Located on the banks of the River Daugava, the city of Daugavpils has a vibe of being a place that is part Latvian, part Belarusian, and maybe part Russian. The city centre pedestrian promenade is a lovely place to start any exploration of the city. From here you can venture off to explore Daugavpils’ Russian Orthodox, Lutheran, Old Believer, and Roman Catholic Churches. Along with this, its characterful streets of dilapidated art nouveau buildings, and old mansion houses make for an enjoyable few hours of exploration.
The fascinating ancient town of Ludza and its medieval castle ruins is actually Latvia’s oldest town. Having been founded in 1177, Ludza is actually a full 24 years older than Riga! This is a very special place with numerous historical churches. Then there are the quiet, narrow picturesque streets full of single-storey wood and brick nineteenth-century houses. And a gorgeous lake to ease away the summer months by. Due to its history and geographical location, Ludza has influences from Belarusians, Poles, Latgalians, Russians, Baltic Germans, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Jews, and Estonians.
Despite its outstanding beauty and rich history Ludza is barely ever visited by foreign tourists due to its rural location some 270 kilometres away from Riga. But, in many senses, it is this middle of nowhere location that has helped Ludza maintain its rich and unique identity. If you want to explore Latvia and get to know the real heart and soul of this country, then consider a visit to this beautiful and rarely visited part of the Baltic states!
Sigulda is a gorgeous town situated in the dreamy Gauja Valley. This is one of Latvia’s great success stories with the population growing year on year as many city dwellers move to this beautiful, ever-developing satellite town. It’s a bit of a stretch of the imagination to compare this hilly region to the Alps but some call Sigulda ‘the Switzerland of Latvia’. Nonetheless, Sigulda and its surrounding environs are a delightful part of the Baltic states with deep primaeval forests and wild untouched rivers that are home to rich and abundant wildlife.
Sigulda is also home to three ancient castles: Turaida, Sigulda Castle, and the nearby 13th-century Livonian castle ruins. This is unquestionably one of the 10 most beautiful cities in Latvia.
Talsi is strangely off most people’s tourist radar but this in our opinion is certainly one of the most gorgeous cities in the entire Baltic states. Located on nine hills on the banks of Vilkmuizas Lake to the north and Lake Talsi to the south, Talsi’s cobblestone streets full of ‘antique houses’ are a joy to explore. But it is the setting that really makes this a must for anyone wanting to explore Latvia, with the picturesque town hugging and overhanging Talsi Lake. One of the great delights here, in fact, is taking a long leisurely evening or early morning stroll along the attractive promenade that encircles the entire lake. There’s an arboretum on one of the town’s nine hills. And there are plenty of old villas and manor houses to explore on a random exploration of this beautiful town’s delights.
The sight of the medieval stone castle dominating the picturesque centre of Cesis is something that stays with almost every visitor to this beautiful Vidzeme town. Dating back over 800 years, Cesis is a romantic place full of cobblestone streets and protected historical buildings that should be on anyone’s Latvia places to visit list. The countryside around Cesis is regarded as some of the most beautiful in all of Latvia. Situated in the heartland of the stunning Gauja National Park, this lovely town is the ideal base to stay. By doing so you can enjoy some great overnight accommodation and dining options, and explore the natural delights beyond Cesis.
Yes, Cesis is just 80 kilometres away from the Latvian metropolis of Riga but we reckon this gorgeous town is more than deserving of spending at least one night here, discovering its delights.
First-time visitors to Liepaja usually remark about its gorgeous white sand beaches, immaculately clean streets, wonderful parks, and the city’s authentic buzz. This city was once the capital of Latvia. And, as well as being one of the most interesting places to visit in the Baltics, it is undoubtedly one of the 10 most beautiful cities in Latvia.
Liepaja was once one of the leading naval towns in the former Soviet Union. The remnants of this time including the Karosta area of the city mix with Liepaja’s art nouveau buildings, red-brick warehouses, and timber houses to create a unique atmosphere that you won’t find in any other city in Europe.
Today, mid-range and upmarket hotels compliment Liepaja’s excellent music venues and cosy restaurants to help make this a destination in its own right. Indeed, Liepaja is especially popular with Lithuanian tourists and those arriving here from abroad by ferry.
Jurmala, an 18th-century spa ‘town’, remains one of Europe’s hidden beach gems. Those in the know will tell you that this city boasts the kind of world-class beaches that few can conceive would exist in this part of the world. And the beauty of its 25 kilometres of white sand beaches is only accentuated further by a stunning backdrop of miles and miles of pine tree forests.
Jurmala city is actually a collection of more than a dozen small towns amalgamated into one administrative centre. The architectural styles on display here are something to behold for the first time as well as the hundredth time visitor! There are over 4000 wooden mansions and villas in Jurmala. The eclectic mix of styles here on the Gulf of Riga includes national romanticism, classicism, art nouveau, the downright garish, and space-aged 21st century!
In total, more than 400 of these buildings are protected. These nestle wonderfully inside Jurmala’s forest environment, a stone’s throw away from those amazing wind sand beaches! A visit to nearby Ķemeri National Park is the cherry on the cake for visitors to Jurmala.
If Riga is Latvia’s most beautiful metropolis then Kuldiga is unquestionably the country’s most beautiful and atmospheric urban town. Kuldiga is one of the best-preserved towns in northeastern Europe. Visitors will discover a glorious ensemble of timber houses, ancient churches, immaculately preserved baroque buildings, and romantic cobblestone streets. It is situated in stunning fairytale Latvian countryside which only adds to the sense that time has stood still here.
Kuldiga is also home to the widest waterfall in Europe. This makes for an enjoyable stroll from the centre of town, crossing a nineteenth-century red brick bridge. Back in town, there are lots of cosy coffee shops and high-quality restaurants. There are also a number of snug authentic Latvian pubs to while away the rest of your time in gorgeous Kuldiga.
Kuldiga should definitely be high on your visit Latvia list.
No surprises perhaps, we think Riga is the most beautiful city in Latvia. In fact, we honestly believe it is one of the most beautiful cities in the entire world. Why? Well consider the following:
Latvia’s capital city, Riga, was recently named Europe’s 10th greenest city, according to the latest Green Cities Index by TravelBird portal. Riga boasts 113.04 square metres of green space per person in Riga!
Riga is also a World Heritage-listed city with its medieval old town described by UNESCO as:
The Historic Centre of Riga is a living illustration of European history. The Outstanding Universal Value to be preserved also resides in the spacious panorama of the Historic Centre of Riga with an expressive skyline.
The Latvian capital also has the world’s finest and most extensive collection of art nouveau architecture. And then there is one of the finest collections of centuries-old wooden architecture you will find in any major urban centre in Europe.
Thanks to centuries of careful and well thought out planning, the centre of Riga is also a glorious mixture of immaculately landscaped city parks, broad tree-lined walkways, dreamy canals and protected green areas. This beauty is only accentuated by the River Daugava cutting a swathe through the heart of the city on its way out into the open sea.
Truly, Riga is a beauty that once you have set eyes upon, you will very possibly conclude it is love at first sight! It not only tops our Latvia places to visit list but is the clear winner when it comes to the 10 most beautiful cities in Latvia.