Considered to be the pearl of the three Baltic States, Latvia is nestled in Northern Europe between Estonia and Lithuania. Latvia boasts beautiful and diverse landscapes, which range from dense forests to sandy beaches to medieval and fascinating cities bursting with culture and history.
At the heart of this is the capital city of Riga, which is often called the “Paris of the East”. Riga is found on the Baltic Sea and at the mouth of the River Daugava, which makes it an ideal place for water-based activities or simply gazing out over the waters on the beaches found here. Elsewhere in the capital, you will find a stunning medieval Old Town, marvellous wooden and art nouveau architecture, and many museums and churches which reflect the strong national identity found in Latvia.
Outside of the thrilling and fun capital, Latvia is a brilliant destination for nature lovers thanks to its diverse and pristine beauty. With many fantastic areas for hiking, cycling or taking in the magical views in each region; Latvia has an enormous amount to offer despite its small size.
What to Do
As the capital and cultural hub of Latvia, Riga is an area that you will want to spend a lot of time. The stunning Old Town features cobbled streets, medieval architecture and many scenic courtyards. Meandering down these streets is a great way to soak up the atmosphere, but there are many other highlights to see. A few examples include the lively Central Market, Riga Zoo, and the historic Riga cathedral. The beaches are perfect for water sports and activities or relaxing down by the water.
Elsewhere in Latvia, Gauja National Park contains awe-inspiring and diverse natural beauty which is perfect for hikes and trails, boating and even bungee jumping. Kuldiga is another amazing medieval and picturesque town where you can participate in a range of cultural events, and, located on the banks of the River Venta, it features many of Latvia’s most scenic areas.
For nature lovers, the seashores of western Latvia (Kurzeme) are a must visit. Pristine and practically untouched by civilisation, these shores are perfect for a romantic stroll, sunbathing or hunting for beautiful amber stones.There are a number of small coastal towns and fishing villages in this part of the country which are brimming with culture and will give you a real taste of the Latvian lifestyle.
Typically eastern European; the Latvian cuisine is hearty, filling and delicious. Combining locally available meat and crops with neighbouring countries’ dishes, a few popular local dishes include meat patties, pastry filled with bacon and onions, dark rye bread, potato pancakes and breaded pork chops. Around the coast, the focus shifts to fish which is often accompanied by potatoes, sauerkraut and seasonal soups.
Filling and mouth-watering meals are usually washed down with a tasty Latvian beer or a strong liquor, but there are also locally made fruit juices which use wild berries and many other refreshing local drinks available.
The Baltic climate can be wildly unpredictable, but late spring/summer should provide sunshine, which allows you to enjoy the Latvian great outdoors and enjoy strolling around the medieval towns. Summer lasts from June to late August, but it is likely that even this period will see spells of cold nights and rainfall.
The temperature plummets during the dark winters, but this can turn the medieval towns into enchanting and magical areas and provide majestic views in the dense natural surroundings.
How to Get There
The capital city of Riga features an airport, train station and cruise port which makes Latvia and its main attraction easily accessible, but by air is the best method unless travelling through Europe. Flights from England are direct and very affordable, whilst transfers from Riga make onwards journeys easy to organise. Alternatively, flights can arrive at Liepaja, for those wanting to explore the Baltic coast.
Travelling to Latvia? Don’t Miss…
- Riga Central Market is a superb place to soak up the unique atmosphere found at the pretty capital city, whilst also finding local ingredients for the perfect Latvian picnic. Furthermore, it is a splendid place for people watching, interacting with the locals and gazing out over the river.
- Designed by the Italian baroque genius famed for designing the magnificent Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Rundale Palace is one of rural Latvia’s highlights. The stunning gardens and many of the palace rooms are open to visitors, whilst you can learn more about the Duke of Courland and Latvia’s history.
- Turaida Museum Reserve, or “God’s Garden”, is a glorious red-bricked castle located on the outskirts of Riga. Picturesque surroundings, a fascinating history and fairytale-esque castle grounds make this a must visit and a fulfilling day out.
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