Latvia which lies on the eastern shores of the Baltic sea, is steeped in a rich brew of history, culture and language. This beautiful country is an exquisite tapestry of virgin forests, pristine coastline and rugged mountains. With its pulsating night life, inventive restaurants and stunning art deco architecture, Latvia has become a favorite haunt for tourists from around the world. Latvia comes across as a young, energetic and cultured country filled with places of historic and cultural interest. To get to know more about some of the truly awesome things one can do in this beautiful country, read on.
Here Are 10 Awesome Things To Do In Latvia
1. Gaze At The Awe Inspiring Freedom Monument
Freedom Monument in Riga symbolizes Latvian statehood. This monument was built to honor the soldiers who laid down their lives during the Latvian War of Independence, between 1918 and 1920.
This 19 meter long obelisk comprises of 13 beautifully carved granite figurines, and is topped by the figure of freedom.
The freedom figure cradles three stars in her hand. These stars represent the three prominent regions of this country i.e. Livland, Courland and Letgallen. The Freedom Monument which the locals affectionately refer to as ‘Milda’, has at its base, a beautiful inscription in the native Latvian language. This inscription when translated to English connotes ‘For Fatherland and Freedom’.
2. Discover The Magnificent Turaida Castle
The recently renovated Turaida Castle, with its distinctive red brick façade, is a magnet for tourists visiting Latvia. This medieval castle was built by Bishop Albert in the year 1214.
The splendid Turaida Castle sits on a narrow strip of land between two deep ravines at Gauja River.
Tourists can climb the main tower of this castle to enjoy breathtaking views of the pristine Latvian countryside. Visitors are also encouraged to explore the guard room, medieval cellar, prison and the cannon room inside the castle. A visit to the Turaida Castle is incomplete without spending some time at the charming Turaida Church.
3. Visit The Spectacular Riga Zoo
Riga zoo which is open to visitors all year round, is located in Mezaparks – one of Riga’s greenest districts. Riga zoo has the unique distinction of being the oldest as well as the largest zoo in the Baltics.
This zoo was opened to the public in 1912. The zoo houses 400 different species of animals.
Some top notch exhibits at this zoo include the Kangaroo House, Flamingo House, Owls of Latvia, Farmstead, Tropical House and Giraffe House (to name a few exhibits). The Tropical House at the Riga zoo houses many rare and endangered species of birds, snakes, amphibians and insects.
4. Soak Up The Intense Tranquility Of Gauja National Park
Gauja National Park, one of the oldest national parks in Latvia, was established in 1973. This spectacular national park which encompasses an area of nearly 917 square kilometers is located in the beautiful region of Vidzeme.
The Gauja National park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna.
This national park also has numerous sandstone outcrops and natural springs. Some popular places of interest to visit within the Gauja National Park include the stunning Gauja River Valley, St John’s Church, Turaida Museum Reserve, Krimulda Manor, Sigulda Medieval Castle and Lake Castle at Araisi. Adventure enthusiasts can enjoy a slew of adventure sporting activities, like biking, hiking, bicycling and canoeing.
5. Tour The Magestic Rundale Palace And Museum
Rundale Palace, an outstanding architectural gem, showcases the best of Baroque and Rocco art. This palace which was built for the Dukes of Courland is located in Pilsrundale – about seventy kilometers south of Riga. The construction of this palace extended from 1736 to 1740 and again from 1764 to 1768. This palace comprises of nearly 138 rooms which are spread over two levels.
Guided tours allow visitors to explore the exquisitely furnished apartments inside this palace.
The Gold Hall and the Parade Hall are the most popular tourist attractions within the castle. The beautifully landscaped gardens outside the palace also attract a lot of visitors. The Rundale Palace Museum which was established in 1972 organizes number of interesting exhibitions on varied themes which are connected with the history of the palace.
6. Spend Some Quiet Time At St Peters Church
The St Peters Church in Riga is an exquisite example of Gothic architecture. Besides gothic architectural style, this church also has hints of Baroque and Romanesque styles of architecture.
This church which is dedicated to St. Peter started off as a Catholic church before it became a Lutheran religious establishment.
The most stunning aspect of the St Peter’s Church, which is believed to have been constructed in 1209, is the 123.25 meter tall tower. From the viewing gallery which is located at a height of 72 meters, visitors can enjoy picturesque views of the surrounding country side. This church also hosts exhibitions and concerts occasionally.
7. Enjoy A Relaxing Day At Vermanes Garden Park
Enjoy the saturated colors of the Vermanes Garden Park which is located right in the heart of the bustling city of Riga. The oldest public park in Riga, The Vermanes Garden Park, encompasses an area of nearly five hectares.
This park came into being in 1817, with the help of generous contributions from wealthy patrons like Anna Gertrud Wohrmann.
The highlights of this park, which is an oasis of tranquility and peace, include exquisite statues by celebrated Latvian artists and a massive fountain. Visitors can enjoy a relaxing stroll through the garden followed by a hearty meal at any one of the numerous food kiosks which are located throughout the garden. To enjoy a more relaxed meal complete with authentic Latvian food visitors can head to Bibliteka No.1 which is located right in the middle of the garden.
8. Visit The Fascinating Jurmala Beach
Jurmala beach is a 32.8 kilometer stretch of white sands that is pulsating with energy and life. Jurmala beach offers wonderful opportunities to enjoy a host of water sports from swimming, to snorkeling and para-sailing. This beach also has many playgrounds complete with swings, slides, basketball courts and even a skate park. There are numerous food kiosks which dot the periphery of this beach.
9. Absorb The Vibrant Atmosphere Of Vecriga
Vecriga or Riga’s Old Town is the historic and geographic nerve center of Riga. The best way to study the architectural gems which dot this area is to take a leisurely walk along the beautiful cobbled streets.
From the narrowest street in Riga (Rozena Street) to the lofty heights of the St. Peters Church and the tranquility of John’s courtyard there are many sites of interest in Old Town.
Visitors to Vecriga or Old town can also visit the numerous museums and art galleries around this area.
10. Catch A Concert At Latvian National Opera
Enjoy a top notch ballet performance, modern opera or classical opera at the Latvian National Opera. Latvian National Opera which was opened in 1923 houses both the Latvian National Ballet and Latvian National Opera. The Latvian National Opera House underwent major renovation work in the 1990’s. Today, the opulently decorated interiors of the Latvian National Opera can seat nearly 300 people.