The often-overlooked Republic of Latvia is home to numerous gorgeous places. From its charming small towns to its metropolitan capital city of Riga and everywhere in between, this Baltic gem truly shines.
With its abundant natural beauty, imposing castles, and pretty cities, Latvia is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most underrated destinations. Here are just a few of its must-visit spots.
1. Old Town, Riga
The historic center of Latvia’s capital is a truly lovely spot. Riga is known as the Paris of the East due to its huge number of art nouveau-style buildings, many of which can be found in this colorful neighborhood. The intricate architectural style incorporates a variety of natural elements and is quite aesthetically pleasing.
Known as Vecriga in Latvian, the Old Town area also offers pretty river views and gorgeous churches, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s one of the main tourist draws in Latvia.
2. Venta Rapid Waterfall, Kuldiga
This pretty spot on the Venta is actually the widest waterfall in all of Europe. It’s located in the cute town of Kuldiga in the country’s western countryside. Visited by more than 100,000 tourists annually, the waterfall features adjacent pathways for observation.
The Venta Rapid Waterfall is also quite near a pretty red brick bridge known as the Old Brick Bridge. The bridge is the longest of its kind in Europe and dates to the 1800s.
The rest of Kuldiga is beautiful, too, and its Old Town is currently being considered for a UNESCO designation.
3. Rundale Palace, Pilsrundale
This stately baroque structure is one of the grandest manors in all of Latvia. Designed by the same architect who designed the famous Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Rundale Palace deserves a visit, since it’s one of the country’s most impressive attractions. Besides the beautifully appointed and fully restored interior, the palace offers numerous gardens, an amphitheater, and several fountains. Plus, it’s even a museum!
Check out this beauty in southern Latvia if you get a chance. It deserves its nickname of the Versailles of the Baltics.
4. Kemeri National Park, Jurmala
Home of the remarkable Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk, Kemeri National Park, one of four national parks in Latvia, is a must-visit. The misty splendor of the ancient bog makes for a totally unique and stunning backdrop. Visitors should hike the wooden boardwalk to fully experience this natural attraction.
Pro tip: Climb the lookout tower for a bird’s-eye view of this boggy beauty. Some visitors even camp in the area overnight to view the sunrise from this vantage point.
5. Karosta, Liepaja
The western port city of Liepaja is a truly striking place; it’s known locally as the City Where the Wind Was Born and is now the third-largest city in Latvia.
Karosta, the military port, makes up about a third of the city. This area was closed during the Soviet occupation, but it is now accessible to tourists. The eerie beauty of stone breaking away into the sea and the juxtaposition of cold Soviet architecture with windswept natural features make it a fascinating destination.
Those with extra time in the area should be sure to visit the town’s famous Blue Flag Beach as well.
This pretty seaside enclave rests on the Gulf of Riga, just 30 minutes from the capital. A well-known resort area, this healing center charms in a variety of ways. There are historic and ornate wooden cottages sprinkled around the town, beautiful spa retreats, and a pretty white sand beach with views of the Baltic Sea. Nature lovers will appreciate the hiking options at Ragakapa Nature Park, a pine forest adjacent to picturesque sand dunes. Jurmala was a popular resort area during Soviet times, and it’s easy to see why.
Pro tip: Take the train from Riga for about 1 euro for easy access to Jurmala.
7. Cesis Castle, Cesis
One of the best-preserved castles in Latvia, Cesis Castle, has medieval roots, though it was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times throughout its history.
Nowadays, visitors can tour the structure on foot. There is a small garden on the grounds, as well as dungeons and towers to be explored. Visitors should pay particular attention to the Western Tower, which offers nice views of the town and the nearby Gauja River Valley. It is a tradition to climb the Western Tower with a candle in hand.
There’s a lot to love about Ventspils, one of Latvia’s oldest port cities. But perhaps the most interesting attraction in the area is the public art. This industrial center is home to more than two dozen quirky cow statues, among other installations. They are mostly clustered on the riverside promenade, making it a hip and beautiful setting.
These are just some of the gorgeous spots to visit in the Baltic nation of Latvia. For even more ways to experience this beautiful country, spend time in its capital of Riga.