Are you planning a trip to Latvia? You may be wondering what Latvian cities to include in your itinerary. Whether you go by car, book a guide, or take public transportation, due to Latvia’s size, its cities and towns are easy to get to and explore if you’ve already established either a base to venture from or a route to follow.
Latvian cities range from those in the seaside to those in the forest. Furthermore, the best cities in Latvia offer many sights and experiences, including:
- Latvian castles
- Manor houses
- Soviet sites in Latvia
- Museums, workshops, and demonstrations
- Seasonal events
- Local architecture
- Latvian nature and outdoor activities
Which cities should you prioritize when you visit Latvia? The following are the best cities in Latvia for travelers.
Travelers often focus on its medieval old town, with its prominent landmark, Riga Castle, overlooking the Daugava River. Winding streets, cozy restaurants, shops selling Latvian folk art or Baltic amber, and open-air markets are characteristic of the historic center.
Art Nouveau in Riga is also an important feature of this destination. With different local styles reflected throughout the city, visitors can either take a tour to gain information about the most important landmarks in this style or explore on their own.
Riga is also an excellent city in which to experience culture. Besides concerts and events throughout the year, visitors can enjoy Easter in Latvia here. Christmas in Latvia, Riga Christmas markets included, is also beautiful in the capital city.
Many people love Riga because it’s a good hub for travel in the Baltic countries. It’s the middle capital between Vilnius and Tallinn and has relatively more connections than either of the two other cities. Therefore, the ease of getting in and out of the city to other Baltic or European countries is one of the many reasons to visit Riga.
Jurmala is a seaside resort town notable for its wooden villas (many of them in Art Nouveau style), fresh pine forests, sandy beaches, and holiday atmosphere.
A short trip from Riga, Jurmala can be visited in a day. Alternatively, many people choose to linger in this Baltic Sea beach town, especially during summer, when the sun is warm and the sea is, if not warm, at least less cold than at other times of year.
Daugavpils is one of the best cities in Latvia for art lovers. It’s famous for its Mark Rothko Art Center, which showcases some Rothko paintings and tells about his early life in Daugavpils and Latvia before emigrating to the United States. It is also heavily dedicated to ceramic arts.
Daugavpils also has a former military fortress conveniently located across from the arts center, a historic district, and a number of galleries. Its Lead Shots Museum is a quirky and unique attraction that preserves the traditional way of making lead shots.
Liepaja, located in western Latvia, is another seaside town.
In addition to enjoying the beach, visitors can see a former military fortress, which has washed into the sea; visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral with the world’s largest mechanical organ; or relax at a spa.
Karosta Prison, a former military prison, is both educational and entertaining. Actors guide guests through the prison, recreating a Soviet-era atmosphere. It’s one of the best cities in Latvia to visit if you’re interested in Soviet sights.
Ventspils is a port city, which its Seaside Open-Air Museum partly pays tribute to. The museum also gives visitors a chance to ride on a narrow-gauge railway.
One of the main attractions of Ventspils is its castle. Though the exterior has seen refurbishment over the centuries, its floorplan remains largely unchanged since the time of its construction in the Middle Ages. Inside the castle, visitors will find history and other exhibitions.
Another aspect of Ventspils is its cow installation pieces created by artists using various mediums.
Cesis is one of the top cities in Latvia for its castle. Cesis has built up its attractiveness to travelers over the years, with its efforts centered around this medieval structure. Tourist numbers to this city have only increased as this Latvian city’s recognition has grown.
Visitors to Cesis can learn about medieval crafts and witness demonstrations about ceramics-making, metal- and stonework, and other skills important to medieval life. An expert in gardening is also on hand to explain how a medieval garden was kept and what was grown in it.
If you’ve ever wondered what a wooden castle would have looked like, Cesis has one of those, too.
Kuldiga has a sweet old town perfect for strolling, exploring, and photographing. This Latvian city is a candidate for inclusion into UNESCO’s list of world heritage—its city planning dates back to the 13th century, evidence of which can still be seen in its streets.
Kuldiga is also home to Europe’s widest waterfall. The waterfall, though not very high, is about 100 meters across.
Sigulda is one of the best cities in Latvia for outdoor adventures. That said, it is also known for its castles—the Old Sigulda Castle, which dates back to medieval times, and New Sigulda Castle, which is a manor house built nearby.
Jekabpils is an interesting Latvian city with a charming old town. The central square was once the market square and dates back to the town’s founding in the 17th century.
Its Krustpils Castle, dating from the 13th century, is home to the Jekabpils History Museum.
The Russian Orthodox church there, with its monastery, adds interest to Jekabpils’ skyline.
Jelgava is one of the best cities in Latvia for festivals. In winter, an ice sculpting festival takes place, while in summer, people compete to build the best sand sculpture. The Jelgava City Festival and the Latvian Milk, Bread, and Honey Festival help round out the calendar of events.
Various Latvian manor houses are located in the vicinity of Jelgava, and these can be visited for various reasons: to enjoy a spa treatment, to stroll the grounds, to stay overnight, to host an event, or to learn about the past.
One of Jelgava’s most striking attractions is its Baroque palace, which is now the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies.
Bauska is a Latvian city located near the Latvian-Lithuanian border. It makes a convenient stop on a road trip, but the area also has a couple of attractions related to the dukes of Courland.
Bauska Castle, which has partially been reconstructed, was once a ducal residence.
Rundale Palace, with its Baroque splendor and beautiful gardens, may be more impressive. Guided tours through the apartments of the duke and duchess, ballrooms, and sitting rooms show off silken wallpaper, ceiling frescoes, and impressive relief work.
If you take the time to explore, you’ll realize that the top cities in Latvia reveal sides of the country that you might not have encountered elsewhere. If you’re looking for things to do in Latvia, they are a good place to start.