Latvia is a country located in northeastern Europe along the Baltic Sea. It borders Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania. Latvia has a population of around 1.9 million people and an area of 64,589 square meters. The largest city and capital is Riga. The history of Latvia dates back thousands of years to the ancient Baltic tribes. It was later conquered and ruled for centuries by regional powers like the Livonian Order, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden and the Russian Empire. Latvia first gained independence in 1918 but was occupied again during WWII by the Soviet Union then Nazi Germany. Latvia regained independence in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It transitioned from a Soviet socialist republic to a parliamentary democracy and market economy, joining the European Union and NATO in 2004. Latvia’s capital, Riga, has emerged as a cosmopolitan center in northern Europe focused on technology, finance and transit. Latvia continues to integrate with Western institutions while strengthening its national cultural identity.
Top attractions from cities in Latvia highlight Riga’s medieval and Art Nouveau architecture and attractions like the historic Old Town, Riga Central Market, National Opera House and Freedom Monument. Daugavpils is the second largest city along the Daugava River in southeast Latvia. Top attractions include the Daugavpils Fortress, which showcases military architecture and the Mark Rothko Art Center, which exhibits paintings. Other major cities have Liepāja, an important ice-free port; Jelgava, known as a “student city” and home to the Baroque Jelgava Palace; Jūrmala, a popular beach resort town near Riga, Ventspils, an industrial port city with beaches and medieval castle, Valmiera’s manufacturing hub along the Gauja River featuring historic churches and scenic parks and the Lazdukalni Dendrology Park in Ogre that offers a peaceful forested stroll or picnic.
Local cuisines of Latvia feature rye bread, cabbage soup, smoked fish, Riga Black Balsam herbal liquor and sweet and savory pastries like sklandrausis or piragi. Latvia offers good value for budget travelers compared to other European destinations. Visiting during the Christmas season provides cheaper options for flights, hotels and holiday festivities. Latvia has a humid continental climate with warm summers around 20°C (68°F) and freezing winters averaging −4°C (25°F).
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. Riga is located on the Gulf of Riga, an inlet of the Baltic Sea, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Latvian coastline. This gives it access to maritime trade routes. Riga is the capital of Latvia and has a history characterized by diverse cultural influences and key events. Riga was established in 1201 as a port town and played a central role in the Hanseatic League from the 13th to the 15th centuries. The 17th century saw Riga become the largest town in Swedish territory. The 19th century marked rapid industrial growth and city expansion. Suburbs developed around the medieval town with wooden buildings in the neoclassical style and stone structures inspired by the Art Nouveau style until the early 20th century. Riga underwent frequent changes in control, alternating between German, Polish, Lithuanian, Swedish and Russian rule. Riga gained independence during the post-World War I from being a part of the Russian Empire until 1914. It then fell under Soviet rule in 1940, with a period of Nazi German occupation from 1941 to 1944. Latvia reclaimed independence in 1990.
The historic center of Riga, which features medieval and Art Nouveau architecture, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Some of the top attractions in Riga include the Old Town (Vecrīga), a preserved medieval part of town that features narrow cobblestone streets, historic churches, the old city wall and towers and beautiful examples of Art Nouveau architecture. Riga Central Market (Rīgas Centrāltirgus) was built in 1923 in former Zeppelin hangars; this is one of Europe's largest marketplaces selling fresh local produce, prepared foods, flowers, handicrafts and more. National Opera House housed in an 1863 building with ornate interior designs and Freedom Monument (Brīvības piemineklis), the iconic 138-foot tall monument was erected in 1935 as a memorial to Latvian soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence.
Riga is home to 700,271 residents as of 2023, making it the largest city in the Baltic states. Ethnic Latvians compose 47% of the population, while Russians account for 35% and other ethnic groups like Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles and Lithuanians make up the remainder. The geographic coordinates of Riga are 56°57′N and 24°6′E. Riga is 696 kilometers (432 miles) west of Moscow and 310 kilometers (192 miles) north of Vilnius, Lithuania. Riga International Airport is the largest airport in the Baltic states, located 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) southwest of the city center. The best way to get to Riga is to fly into Riga International Airport. It offers direct flights from major European hubs like London, Paris, Berlin and Frankfurt, cities in Scandinavia, Russia and the Baltic region. The airport is connected to central Riga by bus, taxi or private transfer. There are also intercity bus and rail options from nearby capitals like Tallinn or Vilnius.
The best times to visit Riga are late spring through early fall, with mild temperatures. June to August are the warmest months and peak tourism season when fairs and festivals occur almost weekly. Late April, May, September and October are good shoulder season months with smaller crowds and lower prices. Winters are cold, but Riga's Christmas markets in December are magical. Riga can be explored within 3 to 4 days. Three to four days provide adequate time for visitors to visit top attractions like the iconic Riga Cathedral, St. Peter's Church with its city views, the expansive Central Market, the unique Art Nouveau district and various museums illuminating Riga's 800-year history. The recommended number of days provides an efficient time frame to experience Riga's highlights at a comfortable pace.
Daugavpils is Latvia's second-largest city, located in the southeastern part of the country on the banks of the Daugava River. Daugavpils covers an area of 72.37 square kilometers (27.94 square kilometers. Daugavpils has a rich and turbulent history, conquered and ruled by various powers over the centuries due to its strategic location. It was founded in 1275 as a castle named Dinaburg by the Livonian Order. Daugavpils was attacked and captured by Russian troops on multiple occasions. The castle and town were largely destroyed in the 16th century during the Livonian War. A new fortress was later built and the town was rebuilt. The city became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was occupied by the Russian Empire during the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century. Daugavpils (then called Dvinsk) grew rapidly under Russian rule, becoming an important railway junction and industrial center. The city became part of independent Latvia after the war, only to be occupied by the Soviet Union during World War II. It then remained part of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic until Latvia regained independence in 1991.
The top visitor attractions in Daugavpils include the Daugavpils Fortress, which features an impressive 19th-century bastion-style fortress and is a prime example of military architecture. Its history traces back to Napoleon's invasion of Russia. The Mark Rothko Art Center is the only art museum in Eastern Europe exhibiting original paintings by the famous abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, born in Daugavpils. Followed by The Unity House, a majestic neo-eclectic building from 1937 that brings together a theater, concert hall, library and more under one roof and Church Hill, a district featuring Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Old Believer houses of worship.
Daugavplis is composed of 105,161 residents as of 2023. It lies at geographic coordinates 56°3′N 26°33′E. The city is relatively close to the borders of Belarus by 33 kilometers (20 miles), Lithuania by 25 kilometers (15 miles) and 120 kilometers (74 miles) from the Latvian border with Russia. Daugavpils is an important cultural, industrial and transport center. The city has a largely Russian-speaking population, with ethnic Russians making up the biggest share at 48.6% as of 2019. Other major ethnic groups include Latvians (20.1%), Poles (13.3%), Belarusians (7.6%) and Ukrainians (2%). The nearest airport to Daugavpils is Riga International Airport, which is 232 kilometers (144 miles) and a 3.5-hour drive from Riga. The easiest way to reach the city is by rail and regular train connections take 3 to 4 hours from Riga. Buses and private transport can also travel between Riga and Daugavpils.
The best time to visit is during the summer (June to August), when most cultural events and festivals occur. Key holidays and celebrations representing the city's multicultural identity, such as the Russian, Polish and Lithuanian, are also observed during summer. Winter can also offer a special atmospheric charm with Christmas markets in December. It is recommended to spend 3 to 4 days in Daugavpils to have enough time to see and experience the highlights of this city, which includes exploring top attractions, immersing in nature, taking in views, relaxing at Dubna River Park and Beach and learning about the history and traditions of Latvia.
Liepāja is the third largest city in Latvia and an important ice-free port on the country's west coast along the Baltic Sea. The origins of Liepāja trace back to a small Curonian fishing village called Līva, located between a lake and the Baltic Sea, with the Līva River running through it. Liepāja has a long history, first mentioned as a small Curonian fishing village called Līva in 1253. The Livonian Order built a fortress there, which developed into the town of Libau. Liepāja was ruled by various powers, including the Livonian Order, Poland, Sweden, Russia, Germany and the Soviet Union. Liepāja remained an important military port closed off to outsiders. It evolved from a modest settlement into a vital Baltic port and naval base. Liepāja suffered damage in both World Wars but continued to develop as a city after Latvia regained independence in 1991. The city has worked to redevelop itself as a modern regional hub focused on transit, industry and tourism.
Liepāja features tourist attractions such as the sweeping beaches along the Baltic Sea, especially the Blue Flag central beach, popular for sunbathing and swimming. Liepāja Lake and its walking trails, meadows and habitat for rare birds. Seaside Park in the city center with fountains, cafes, cultural events and the Love Bridge for newlyweds. The historic Holy Trinity Cathedral houses the world's largest mechanical organ with over 7000 pipes. Karosta, a former top-secret Soviet military base, is now open for tours, including the ominous Karosta Prison hotel. Northern Forts was partially ruined early 20th-century tsarist era fortifications, great for exploring tunnels and taking panoramic photos of the city.
Liepāja has a population of around 80,367 as of 2023. It covers an area of over 60 square kilometers (23 square miles), including inland Lake Liepāja, which is connected to the sea by a channel. The city features sandy beaches, wooded parks, historic wooden architecture and a mix of Latvian, Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian and other ethnic groups. It is located in western Latvia, 220 kilometers (136 miles) Southwest of the capital Riga. The GPS coordinates of Liepāja are 56.5100° N, 21.0100° E. The nearest international airport to Liepāja is Riga Airport, 220 kilometers (136 miles) and takes 2 to 3 hours to drive. Flying or taking a bus from Riga Airport or Riga city center is the fastest and most convenient way to reach Liepāja. Domestic flights are also available from Riga to Liepāja Airport, just south of the city. Frequent buses connect Liepāja with Riga and other towns. The city has a train station and ferry terminal providing service to Travemünde, Germany.
The best time to visit Liepāja is late spring through early autumn, especially June to August when daylight hours are long and temperatures are warm. Winters can be frigid and much of the town may be shut down. Early fall is mild, making it ideal for sightseeing before the cold sets in. The peak summer season is lively but crowded. Liepāja warrants 2-3 days to take in what the city has to offer. Visitors can wander along the sandy Karosta beaches and the Seaside Park area before exploring early 20th-century architecture in the New Town. Sample smoked fish in the winding streets of the Old Town and historic center before capping off the stay relaxing by Lake Liepāja. Liepāja offers a slice of Latvian life off the well-worn tourist track.
Jelgava is a city located in central Latvia,41 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the capital Riga. It sits on the fertile plains along the right bank of the Lielupe River, one of the major waterways in Latvia. Jelgava has a rich history dating back to the 13th century. It was founded in 1265 when the Livonian Order, a German military religious order, built a castle on an island at the joining of the Lielupe and Driksa rivers. A town called Mitau in German grew around the castle. Jelgava became the capital of the united Duchies of Courland and Semigallia, a fiefdom of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, after the defeat of the Livonian Order in 1561. Jelgava prospered as the seat of the Dukes of Courland. Splendid palaces and buildings were constructed, like the Jelgava Palace, designed in 1738 by the renowned Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Jelgava also became a prominent cultural center, home to the region's first university and public library. The city went into decline when the Duchy was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1795. Jelgava has regained some of its former glory and became the center of education and institutions like the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies. Jelgava is often referred to as a “student city”.
Jelgava features top attractions, such as the largest Baroque-style palace in the Baltics and the most famous building in Jelgava. Jelgava Palace houses museums and galleries along with the university. The Jelgava History and Art Museum exhibits works by renowned Latvian painters and displays the history of the region in a stunning 18th-century Baroque building. Jelgava highlights the remaining tower of the largest 16th-century church in Zemgale, which is the
Holy Trinity Church Tower. The tower contains historical displays and has an observation deck with panoramic city views. The scenic recreational Pasta Island between the Lielupe and Driksa rivers hosts concerts, festivals and sporting events that are popular for walking, cycling, boating and beach activities in summer. The Dukes' Tombs under Jelgava Palace containing the ornate sarcophagi of the Dukes of Courland and Semigallia from 1569 to 1791 and the Lelupe Floodplain Meadows that serves as a protected natural landscape on an island near Jelgava Palace, home to 70 wild horses as well as a diversity of plant species and birdlife.
Jelgava has a population of around 54,836 as of 2023 and covers a total land area of 57.66 square kilometers (22.26 square miles). Its GPS coordinates are approximately 56°39′N 23°44′E. The city is only 33.6 kilometers (20.87 miles) from Riga International Airport (RIX) and 41 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Riga. Jelgava is easily accessible by bus or train from Riga, with regular departures taking 45 minutes. It can also be reached by car via the A8 highway in 40 minutes. The best way to get to Jelgava is by bus or train from Riga. Frequent bus services run around every 15 minutes and take 45 minutes. Trains depart hourly from Riga Central Station and the journey takes roughly 40 to 50 minutes.
The best time to visit Jelgava is during the late spring, summer and early autumn months. The weather is mildest and most stable from May through September, with high temperatures averaging 19-24°C (66-75°F). This season also brings the most festivals, concerts, markets and other events to Jelgava. Key annual attractions span from around March through November. Winters in Jelgava are quite cold, with average highs just above freezing and many sights and venues have reduced hours or closed entirely. Jelgava, Latvia's fourth largest city in the heartland of the Zemgale region, merits two days for an engaging stopover. Visitors can stroll the banks of the Lielupe River and explore Jelgava Palace, the former residence of the Dukes of Courland, to admire its Baroque architecture and sprawling gardens. Wander the old town's cobbled streets, with noteworthy sights like the brick St. Anne's Lutheran church and historic Academia Petrina. Visit the Riga Motor Museum to admire a world-class collection of vintage Soviet vehicles before capping off the stay with a concert at the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies. Jelgava rewards visitors with glimpses of Latvian history and culture.
Jūrmala is a resort town and the fifth-largest city in Latvia, located about 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of the capital Riga. It stretches approximately 32 kilometers (20 miles) along the Gulf of Riga coast, between the Gulf and the Lielupe River. The name “Jūrmala” stems from the Latvian words “jūra” meaning “sea” and “mala” meaning “edge” or “border”, aptly describing its seaside location. It has a 33-kilometer (21-mile) long stretch of white sand beach and is known for its natural resources like curative mud, mineral springs and pine forests. The history of Jūrmala as a resort town began in the late 18th century when wealthy landowners started the tradition of vacationing by the seaside. Its popularity grew substantially after the railroad connecting Riga and Tukums was built in 1877, making the coast more accessible. Several sanatoriums and hotels opened to serve the increasing influx of tourists. During the Soviet era, Jūrmala was a favored beach destination for high-ranking communist party officials.
Jūrmala remains a popular summertime tourist attraction with its long beaches, historic wooden architecture in the National Romanticism style and seaside promenade with cafés and restaurants. Jūrmala is home to a variety of attractions that draw tourists to its sandy shores. The most popular attraction is the Livu Waterpark, one of the largest indoor waterparks in Northern Europe. It provides year-round aquatic adventures with over 20 thrilling water slides, ten pools, fun kids' zones and a luxury spa. Music lovers flock to the historic Dzintari Concert Hall, an open-air venue built in 1897 that hosts symphonic performances, ballet shows and choral concerts during the summer season. No trip to Jūrmala is complete without a stroll down Jomas Street, the vibrant pedestrian boulevard lined with restaurants, cafés, boutiques and hotels that serve as the resort town’s social and commercial heart.
Jūrmala has a total population of 51,158 people as of 2023 and lies in an area spanning 101.23 square kilometers (3.90 miles). Forty-eight percent of residents are ethnic Latvians, while 36.5% are Russians. The population nearly doubled in summer to over 100,000 with an influx of local and foreign tourists. The geographic coordinates of Jūrmala are 56°57′N 23°47′E. The nearest international airport is Riga International Airport, located 32 kilometers (20 miles) to the east, a 30-minute drive from Jūrmala. The most convenient way to reach Jūrmala is by train from Riga Central Station, with departures several times per hour and a ride duration of 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the stop. The town has over a dozen train stations running east to west. Driving by car takes 30 minutes along the six-lane A10 highway but requires paying a small entry toll. Buses also connect Riga and Jūrmala in under an hour.
The best time to visit is during summer, from June to August, when daylight hours are long, the weather is mild, the beach and seaside promenades come alive and cultural events/festivals take place almost weekly. Jūrmala has plenty to offer in spring and fall if you are looking to avoid peak crowds. Wintertime tourism also exists thanks to holiday markets and New Year's celebrations but with limited amenities open. Jūrmala warrants at two days to take in the attractions this city has to offer. Visitors can explore the Livu Aquapark, unwind at the resort's many spas, wander the quaint streets of Majori town or simply relax on the golden shores while enjoying a perfect summer afternoon.
Ventspils is a port city located in northwestern Latvia on the Baltic Sea coast. It was founded in the 13th century by the Livonian Order and was granted city rights in 1378. Ventspils developed into a shipbuilding center in the 17th century as part of the Duchy of Courland. Ventspils continued to grow as a port and industrial city after Courland was absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1795. Ventspils faced occupation by both German and Soviet forces during World War II. Latvia regained independence in 1991 and the city invested heavily in its port infrastructure, making it one of the busiest ports in the Baltic states today. Major exports include oil, chemicals, lumber and agricultural products.
The main attractions in Ventspils feature the Ventspils Beach and Promenade, a long, sandy beach lined by a scenic walking promenade along the Baltic Sea that is popular for swimming, sunbathing and strolling. The medieval castle of Venstspils, built in the 13th century, houses a museum and offers panoramic views from its tower. Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center serves as the cutting-edge radio telescope and space research center with an interactive science exhibition. The Ventspils Maritime Museum documents Ventspils' naval and shipping history with exhibits of model ships, naval artifacts and equipment. Followed by the Ventspils Olympic Center, a large sports complex with pools, ice rink, tracks and courts popular for recreation and sporting events.
Ventspils has a population of 40,196 residents within the city limits as of 2023. It sits on the Venta River estuary along the Baltic Sea coast. The city has a total area of 90 square kilometers (55 square miles). The GPS coordinates for Ventspils are 57.396 ° N and 21.567° E. Ventspils International Airport is 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) south of the city center. The nearest major international airport is Riga International Airport, which is 193 kilometers (119 miles), a 2.5-hour drive from Ventspils. The bus and railway stations are the best way to get to Ventspils as they offer connections to other cities in Latvia. The city is also accessible by ferry from Sweden. Buses, rental cars, taxis and bike rentals are options to reach attractions further outside the city center.
Summer, from June through August, is the peak season in Ventspils. Temperatures are mild, averaging around 19°C with extended daylight hours to enjoy the beaches, parks and outdoor attractions. May and September are also pleasant times with smaller crowds and lower prices. Ventspils also has plenty of winter charm, though many attractions operate on shorter hours or close during the colder months. Ventspils have a humid continental climate with warm summers and cold, snowy winters. The warmest month is July, with an average high of 21°C (70°F), while the coldest is February averaging −3.7 °C (25 °F). Ventspils deserves 2 days to take in its bustling maritime vibe paired with loads of cultural attractions. Ride the ferry to Oviši island, tour the interactive Ventspils Museum to learn of ancient Liv culture and then explore the city's stylish promenades, beaches and sculpture gardens before enjoying a concert at the renowned international Positivus music festival held nearby.
Jēkabpils is a city in southeastern Latvia located on the Daugava River, between Riga and Daugavpils. Jēkabpils was two separate towns, Jēkabpils on the left bank of the Daugava River and Krustpils on the right bank. Krustpils was founded in 1237 by the Bishop of Riga, who built a stone cross castle. Jēkabpils began as a settlement of Russian Old Believers in the 17th century and was named Jakobstadt in 1670 in honor of Duke Jacob of Courland. The two towns were united in 1962 during the Soviet era. This settlement gradually grew into a city which was eventually granted official town rights in 1670 by Duke Jacob of Courland. According to local legend, the duke named Jēkabpils, originally called Jakobstadt in German, after spotting a lynx under a fir tree while hunting along the river, making the lynx now a symbol of the city. The two towns were finally united in 1962 during the Soviet era as one city called Jēkabpils.
The top attractions in Jēkabpils reflect this rich history along the Daugava River. Visitors can explore Krustpils Castle, which has been converted into the city's history museum and tour the Holy Spirit Orthodox Monastery complex. Vecpilsētas Square marks the old town center where the iconic lynx statue stands based on the city's founding legend. The scenic riverfront area also makes for a lovely walk along the levees with opportunities to admire some well-preserved wooden buildings and Latgale red brick architecture that make up the historic cityscape. With its blend of Latvian, Russian and Eastern European history, Jēkabpils remains a unique and appealing destination in Latvia.
Jēkabpils has a population of 21,436 as of 2023. The city's name translates to “City of Jacob”, and it lies at coordinates 56.4975°N and 25.8664°E. The nearest international airport is Riga International Airport, which is 136 kilometers (84 miles) or 1.5 hours drive from Jēkabpils. The drive passes through the town of Aizkraukle. The capital, Riga, is located 181 kilometers (112 miles) or 2 hours by car from Jēkabpils, passing through Koknese. Driving is the easiest way to get to Jēkabpils. There is also regular passenger rail service to Jēkabpils and a public bus system within the city.
The best time to visit is during the summer months of June through August, when the weather is mildest. Average high temperatures are around 22°C (72°F) and lows around 12°C (54°F). Spring and fall bring a more moderate climate, while winters can be cold. The Daugava River often freezes over in the winter, allowing ice skating and ice fishing. Summer is the peak tourist season and also when most festivals and events take place, including the weeklong Jēkabpils City Festival every August. Jēkabpils merits a quick 2-day stopover to take in sights like the striking brick Krustpils Castle ruins and medieval Old Town. Visitors can wander streets flanked by old wooden homes before visiting area attractions like the Āraiši Lake Castle archaeological site or heading into the forest for hiking among 200-year-old pines.
Rēzekne is located in eastern Latvia, on seven hills overlooking the Rēzekne River. Its strategic location made it an important stronghold for controlling trade routes between Russia and Europe. The earliest known inhabitants were the ancient Latgalian tribes, who built a wooden fort on the site as early as the 9th century AD. This fort provided protection for the local settlement and helped Latgalians control regional trade. German crusaders belonging to the Livonian Order invaded the region. They destroyed the Latgalian fort in 1290 and constructed a stone castle known as the Rozitten Castle on the ancient castle mound. This served as an eastern frontier fortress for the Livonian Confederation against the pagan tribes. Rēzekne was hotly contested by regional powers, including the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Sweden, repeatedly attacking and capturing the strategically valuable site during various wars. The region became part of the Russian Empire during the First Partition of Poland in 1772. Rēzekne was able to develop into an important trade center. The construction of new Moscow-Ventspils and St Petersburg-Warsaw railways in the late 1800s transformed Rēzekne from a sleepy frontier town into a thriving railway junction connecting imperial Russia with Central Europe. Its river port also gained importance.
Rēzekne is the center of culture and economy in the Latgale region. It has many beautiful churches, including the red-brick Sacred Heart Cathedral overlooking the town from a hill. The Green Synagogue, built in 1845, is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the city. Other attractions include the Latgale Museum of History and Culture, the ruins of the medieval Rēzekne Castle on the ancient castle mound and the large Latgale Embassy cultural center Gors. The city is also home to the famous monument “Latgale Māra,” symbolizing the unity of Latgale with the rest of Latvia.
Rēzekne is a city located in eastern Latvia, in the historical region of Latgale. Rēzekne has a population of 26,839. It lies on seven hills overlooking the Rēzekne River, 242 kilometers (150 miles) east of the capital Riga and 63 kilometers (39 miles) west of the Latvian-Russian border. The city's coordinates are 56°31′N 27°20′E. Its nearest airport is Rēzekne Airport, located 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) north of the city center. The most convenient way to reach Rēzekne is by train, with regular rail connections from Riga as well as Moscow and Saint Petersburg in Russia. There are also bus routes to Rēzekne from Riga and other Latvian cities. Rēzekne has a humid continental climate with warm summers and cold, snowy winters.
The best time to visit is during the summer months of June to August when average highs reach around 22°C. Spring and fall also offer mild weather for sightseeing. Some key cultural events held annually in Rēzekne include the international chamber music festival in April and the ancient Latgalian culture festival “Soļa laiks” in June. Rēzekne deserves 2 to 4 days to experience its distinct culture and scenery. Visitors can wander cobblestone streets past Catholic churches in the pedestrian Old Town before exploring area crafts like pottery and weaving. Nearby greenery offers nice hikes around glistening Lake Rāzna, while the Latgale Zoo houses European bison and other species. Catch a concert featuring Latgalian tunes or sample smoked fish specialties before capping off the stay.
Valmiera has a long history dating back to at least the 13th century. It was founded in the 13th century as a castle settlement of the Livonian Order. This German Catholic military religious order sought to conquer and convert pagan tribes in the region. The Livonian knights constructed a stone castle, church and supporting infrastructure for the town. Valmiera grew into an important trading center due to its location on trade routes. Valmiera suffered repeated devastation from warfare, fires and plague. A major fire in the 16th century damaged or ruined much of the medieval city. Russian troops also attacked and occupied it during the Livonian War in the late 16th century. The destruction hit during the Great Northern War in the early 18th century when the town was burned down by Russian forces. Valmiera rebounded with reconstruction and development in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The historic central district faced complete demolition again during World War II in 1944. Valmiera was extensively rebuilt and rose as a center of industry and manufacturing. Its economy and infrastructure expanded significantly under communist central planning policies.
Valmiera features a diverse economy anchored by manufacturing companies focused on textiles, food production, metalworking and forestry products. It is also a regional center of education, sports and culture. Top attractions include St. Simon’s Church, a medieval church that dates back to the 13th century when Valmiera was founded. It managed to survive World War II while the rest of the old town burned down. Features Gothic architecture and historic pipe organ. Valmiera Castle Ruins serve as an imposing stronghold; the ruins allow glimpses into Valmiera's past as a strategic fortress settlement. Valmiera Museum sits right amidst the castle ruins and the museum chronicles the history, art and cultural heritage of the city and region using archaeological artifacts and other displays spanning over 10,000 years. River Gauja and Town Parks, which flow directly through Valmiera, Latvia’s longest river, are magnets for hiking, swimming, boating and recreation. That includes several beautiful parks with trails lining the riverbanks. Valmiera offers visitors historical sights and outdoor adventures in Latvia's picturesque north.
Valmiera is a city located on the banks of the Gauja River in northern Latvia. The city has a population of around 22,585 as of 2023 and it is the largest city in the Vidzeme region. The geographic coordinates of Valmiera are 57°31'40” N, 25°25'4″ E. It is located 107 kilometers (66 miles) northeast of Riga, Latvia's capital and 50 kilometers (31 miles) South of the Latvian-Estonian border. Valmiera is located 110 kilometers (68 miles) from the Riga International Airport, which is Latvia's largest airport. Valmiera is 85 kilometers (53 miles) from Latvia's capital, Riga. The most convenient way to reach Valmiera is to take a direct train and there are regular routes serving the town in just over an hour. Buses and private transfers by car between the two cities are readily available. Valmiera enjoys relatively easy accessibility to and from the main international airport and the country's dynamic capital city.
The best time to visit Valmiera is during late spring through early autumn. Summers are mild, with average highs around 19°C, perfect for exploring the trails and waterways along the Gauja. Late April to mid-May and September are lovely times to discover the city's historic sites and partake in cultural offerings without dealing with summer crowds. Valmiera merits 2 to 3 days for visitors to take in its wooded, lake-dotted landscapes and lively spirit. Explore the historic center’s towering churches and winding alleys near the Gauja River before choosing your next adventure – whether biking forest trails, rafting down the rapids or taking in opera at the city’s outdoor music festival.
Ogre is a city located in central Latvia. It is the administrative center of Ogre Municipality on the Daugava River. The area around Ogre has been inhabited since at least the Stone Age. Archaeological evidence indicates the Livonians, an ancient Baltic tribe, established settlements in the region. The name “Ogre” comes from the Livonian word meaning “fork”, referring to the forked rivers in the area. The first written record of Ogre dates back to 1206 AD. Ogre was located at the intersection of important trade routes. It was part of the Bishopric of Riga before becoming part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1561. Ogre received city rights in 1613 under Polish rule. Ogre was devastated by warfare, disease and famine during the Polish-Swedish wars. It was incorporated into the Russian Empire during the partitions of Poland in 1772. The 19th century saw the construction of the Riga-Daugavpils railway line, which connected Ogre to major cities and spurred economic development in the region. Ogre became part of the newly independent Latvia. It sustained damage during World War II when Nazi Germany occupied the town. Ogre was an important industrial center during the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic era (1940-1990). Ogre has invested in revitalizing its infrastructure and historic center.
Ogre is home to several notable attractions. The Ogre History and Art Museum features exhibitions showcasing various eras of the Ogre’s past. The city also has an Ogre Library and Ogre Music and Art School. Ogre has a cemetery containing the graves of German soldiers who died during World Wars I and II. Outdoor attractions in Ogre include the scenic riverside Lazdukalni Dendrology Park and the oak tree planted by Russian Empress Catherine I near the Truču estate. Various monuments around town commemorate aspects of Ogre’s culture and history. Sports also play a major role in the city's identity. Ice hockey matches featuring recent championship club HK Kurbads pack the arena with spirited local fans. Basketball and football games additionally draw crowds. Attending a match is worthwhile for visitors who want to witness firsthand the city's athletic passion.
Ogre is composed of three main sections – Jaunogre (“New Ogre”), Ogre (the city center) and Pārogre (“Ogre across”). The population of Ogre is 22,884 as of 2023. Ogre covers a total area of 16.18 square kilometers (6.2 miles), with the city center located at latitude 56.8192° N and longitude 24.6078° E. The nearest international airport to Ogre is Riga International Airport, at 34 kilometers (21 miles) west. Since Ogre lies directly along the railway route from Riga to Daugavpils, the most convenient transportation is by train, the trip takes 40 minutes from Riga. Buses and private vehicles can also access Ogre via highway P80.
Ogre has been a longtime hub for summer river recreation and a health resort destination. The best seasons to visit are spring through autumn. Summertime allows exploring the riverside nature spots and trails, boating or swimming or relaxing at an outdoor cafe. September brings the annual Ogre City Festival featuring concerts, fairs and other public events. Late November into January is also popular when the city center is elaborately decorated for Christmas. Ogre deserves a 2- to 3-day stop to take in sights hinting at its Livonian Order past before exploring its striking natural surroundings. Visitors can hike lush trails, observe wildlife, rent boats on Lake Skaģezers or pick wild berries. Visitors can sample smoked meat dishes and sweet rye breads. Ogre delivers both scenic day trips and delightful cultural discoveries.
What is the best place to visit in Latvia during the summer?
Jūrmala is the best place to visit in Latvia during the summer. Jūrmala has a 33-kilometer (20-mile) long stretch of white sand beach along the Baltic Sea coast, making it a prime summer destination for swimming, sunbathing and beach activities. The shallow waters are safe for children as well. Secondly, Jūrmala has been a popular seaside resort since the late 18th century, known for its spas, mineral springs, scenic nature and historic wooden architecture. It caters well to summer tourists. Thirdly, Jūrmala offers many outdoor pursuits like cycling, hiking, watersports on the Lielupe River, adventure sports and more to enjoy in the warmer months. Fourthly, numerous music concerts, festivals like the Midsummer Festival and other cultural events happen in Jūrmala during the summer, creating a lively entertainment scene. Fifthly, Jūrmala has over 4000 historical wooden structures, including villas, hotels and fisherman homes that give it a quaint, romantic character fitting for a summer holiday. Lastly, Jūrmala's proximity to the Latvian capital Riga makes it easily accessible at
What is the best place to visit in Latvia during the winter?
Riga is the best place to visit in Latvia during the winter. Riga's Old Town is particularly beautiful in the winter when blanketed in snow and decorated with festive lights. Major sites include the Freedom Monument, the Dome Cathedral, St. Peter's Church and more. Secondly, Latvia has festive Christmas markets located in Dome Square and Esplanade Park during the winter season. Thirdly, Latvia has medieval castles like Sigulda and Cesis that can offer a unique winter experience, often decorated and surrounded by snowy landscapes. Fourthly,
The Gauja National Park near Sigulda in Latvia has great winter hiking trails and activities like skiing. Sites like the Bumbu Hill Watchtower offer beautiful winter views. Lastly, The Ethnographic Open Air Museum on the outskirts of Riga allows you to experience Latvian rural life and architecture. Visiting Latvia during the winter could be an interesting experience.
What is the best place to visit in Latvia during Christmas?
Riga is the best place to visit in Latvia during Christmas time. Riga's Old Town is beautifully decorated with festive lights and Christmas trees during the holiday season. Major sites like the Freedom Monument, Dome Cathedral and St. Peter's Church create a magical atmosphere. Secondly, Riga hosts charming Christmas markets located in Dome Square and Esplanade Park, allowing visitors to experience Latvian holiday traditions. Riga feels very festive and celebratory during Christmas time. Thirdly, visitors can experience a variety of holiday entertainment and activities like shows, concerts, ice skating rinks and New Year's celebrations. Lastly, Riga can easily explore the city's top sites and Christmas markets on foot during the holidays and offers a budget-friendly and less crowded Christmas destination compared to other European cities.
What are the best activities to do during the summer in Latvia?
Listed below are the best activities to do during the summer in Latvia.
- Visit Jurmala Beach. Visitors flock to Jurmala Beach to enjoy the sun, sand and refreshing Baltic Sea waters. This day trip includes an English-speaking guide and convenient return transfers to make getting to one of the most beautiful beaches in the Baltic region easy. The chance to relax on golden sands or take a refreshing swim is the perfect summer beach day trip. Jumala is Latvia's premier summer seaside destination and offers the ideal way to escape the summer heat of Riga. Spending a summer afternoon swimming and playing beach games with friends against the scenic Baltic coastline backdrop is an unforgettable summer experience.
- Attend the Riga City Festival. Riga celebrates its birthday every summer with a three-day city festival each August showcasing Latvian culture and talent. Summer weather draws big crowds to the outdoor concert stages to enjoy lively music and dance performances during the long summer evening hours. The Riga City Festival summer concert series has something for everyone to enjoy on a warm summer night. The summer festival features food vendors serving classic Latvian summer favorites like cold beetroot soup and seasonal berry pies and pastries. The Riga City Festival allows visitors to experience Latvian celebrations and culture in the capital while enjoying summer in the city.
- Explore the Art Nouveau District. Summer is the perfect time to explore and admire Riga's over 800 Art Nouveau buildings concentrated in one district. The pastel building facades and intricate floral designs pop in the bright summer sunlight during long summer days. The best examples of Art Nouveau, like the iconic House of Blackheads and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, come alive in summer against their historic neighbors. Wandering the Art Nouveau district on a summer day gives visitors the time to admire up close the creativity that went into each building's design.
- Relax at an Outdoor Beer Garden. Riga's Old Town squares transform into bustling outdoor beer gardens each summer, allowing visitors to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy Latvian brews. Popular summer spots like Egle put on nightly live music performances ranging from blues to rock for patrons to enjoy alongside a cold beer on long summer nights. The summer beer garden vibe draws tourists and locals alike to relax outdoors, mingle over drinks and nibble on classic Latvian bar snacks. The summer beer gardens offer the ideal way to experience Latvian culture and hospitality during the capital's liveliest season.
- Take a Canal Cruise. Gliding along a canal boat is one of the most scenic ways to take in Riga's top attractions on a relaxing summer day. The hour-long summer cruise follows the loop of the city canal and River Daugava, passing beneath historic bridges and sights like the Freedom Monument. Canal cruises allow visitors to continue exploring Riga on a long summer evening after getting oriented to the city. The canal cruise is a must for an easygoing taste of Riga during the summer months.
- Visit Kipsala Beach. Kipsala Beach offers the ideal urban escape with volleyball courts, a cafe, a playground and public facilities. Locals and international tourists flock to the sandy river beach to enjoy summer days of swimming, games and relaxing in the sun. Kipsala Beach provides a local experience to enjoy a summer day on the water without leaving Riga. Visitors can join locals at Kipsala Beach to play, picnic and take a refreshing dip right in Riga.
- Attend Free Concerts. Riga comes alive with a free summer concert series in unique venues like historic guild halls and restored warehouse districts. Summer weather draws big crowds to venues like the Small Guild in Old Town, which hosts jazz bands in its medieval courtyard on Thursday evenings. The former Spikeri warehouse district fills its cobblestone square with the sounds of Latvian groups celebrating folk songs and musical traditions during the festival summer season. Music lovers visiting Riga in summer can discover talented local and international musicians while exploring different neighborhoods after dark during the White Nights of summer.
What are the best activities to do during the winter in Latvia?
Listed below are the best activities to do during the winter in Latvia.
- Go sledding with husky dogs. Sledding behind a team of energetic Siberian huskies as they pull your sled is an unforgettable way for families to enjoy the snowy winter landscapes. Visitors can go sledding with husky dogs and experience their excitement as they sprint along snowy trails. The husky sledding allows visitors to immerse themselves in Latvia's magical winter wonderland. This popular winter tour lets you snuggle with adorable husky dogs after your ride through white winter scenery.
- Try bobsleighing. Test your speed in winter by bobsleighing down Latvia's only Olympic track, reaching exhilarating speeds up to 105km/hr as you race past 16 curves. Riga also offers soft bobsleigh and skeleton options down the iconic path near the icy Gauja River valley. Bobsleighing down an Olympic track is a chance to feel like a winter athlete during your Latvia vacation.
- Go curling. Curling is a popular winter sport that involves sliding stones across the ice toward a target area. Professional instructors teach the winter sport's rules, basics and strategy to first-timers and oversee friendly games. Curling is an addictively fun winter activity for groups in Riga to master together, sweeping the ice furiously and celebrating clever shots. The strategy, skill and excitement of curling create a lively winter atmosphere inside Riga's curling hall. Learning and playing curling is a wonderful way to spend a Latvian winter night with friends.
- Attend winter festivals. Locals celebrate ancient pagan traditions like the Winter Solstice with festive gusto by donning costumes, singing folk songs and burning a yule log to send their worries up in smoke. Visitors can join in the dancing, sample traditional foods and experience this important Latvian cultural event during the magical Winter Solstice festival, held on the grounds of the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum. Riga hosts lively winter events and festivals that warmly embrace beloved Latvian traditions.
- Ice go-karting. Adventure seekers can race high-speed go-karts on thrilling ice tracks by carving up thick ice covering frozen lakes when the temperature drops below freezing. Gliding at high speeds on the specially designed winter go-karts delivers an adrenaline rush and fun challenge for novice and experienced drivers alike. Ice go-karting is only possible during Latvia's coldest winter months when lakes freeze over completely, creating a temporary icy playground for this extreme winter sport. Ice go-karting satisfies any need for speed while providing awesome winter entertainment.
What is the best time to visit Latvia?
The best time to visit Latvia is during Christmas (November to December). Riga and other Latvian cities host Christmas markets starting in late November and running through December. Popular locations include Riga Old Town, Dome Square, Esplanade Park and Cathedral Square. The markets sell traditional Latvian holiday items like woolen, handicrafts, organic goods, mulled wine, gingerbread and more. Cultural activities like concerts, workshops and Santa visits for kids are also offered. While December is cold in Latvia, with average temperatures around freezing, the Christmas markets create a magical, festive atmosphere to walk around bundled up. The Old Town is beautifully decorated with lights and trees. Tourism is lower in December than in the peak summer months, so the Christmas markets are less crowded, especially on weekdays. Travel expenses like flights and hotels can be cheaper too. The weeks in December leading up to Christmas offer the best chance to experience the holiday spirit at the enchanting Latvian Christmas markets.
What should you know before traveling to Latvia?
Listed below are the key things to know before traveling to Latvia.
- Weather. Latvia has four distinct seasons that vary greatly in temperature. Summers can be warm, with average highs around 68°F (20°C), while winters are freezing, with average lows around 14°F (-10°C).
- Transportation. Public transportation like trains, buses and taxis efficiently connect major Latvian cities like Riga, Sigulda and Liepāja. Renting a car is an option as roads are well-paved and driving is not overly difficult. Just be aware that headlights must be on at all times when driving.
- Safety. Latvia is a relatively safe country, especially in most tourist areas. Visitors should still exercise normal travel precautions like avoiding isolated areas at night and not openly flashing valuables in public. Visitors need to be cautious in Riga at night when alcohol is involved, as muggings can occur.
- Tipping. Tipping is not strictly expected in Latvia, but it is appreciated when customers round up the bill at restaurants or tip for good service. Other common tips are leaving small change for wait staff or taxi drivers. Showing appreciation through tips is becoming more common in Latvia.
- Opening Hours. Shops and banks commonly close in Latvia on weekends and public holidays, which are frequent. Checking the schedules of locations in advance. Hours may also be reduced in the summer season.
- Entry Requirements. Entry is easy for European Union citizens traveling to Latvia, but other nationals may require a tourist visa in advance due to Latvia’s membership in the EU Schengen area agreement. Check visa policies at least three months before departure to allow processing time if needed. Entry may be denied without proper documentation.
- Health. No vaccinations are required for Latvia travel except the usual recommended ones like tetanus and hepatitis A. Take precautions against tick bites and encephalitis if camping or hiking during summer when ticks are most active. Seek medical care for flu-like symptoms after tick bites.
- Laws and Customs. Avoid bringing up controversial historical topics like Latvia's past occupation by the USSR, which may still stir emotions among locals. Show respect around cultural events like the Midsummer Festival, which honors Latvian heritage. Fines can be issued for public intoxication and rowdiness.
- Driving. An international driving permit for Latvia is recommended but not strictly required for foreign drivers. Headlights must be on at all times when operating vehicles. Drivers can face fines for not adhering to general road rules and regulations.
What is the best local food to eat in Latvia?
Listed below are the best local foods to eat in Latvia.
- Riga Black Balsam. Riga Black Balsam is a traditional Latvian herbal liqueur with a distinct dark color and a blend of different natural ingredients. It's often consumed as a digestive or used in cocktails. Balsam is one of the Latvian local food, known for its unique taste and health properties.
- Cabbage soup (skābeņu zupa). Cabbage soup is a hearty staple in Latvia, with many varieties that commonly contain sauerkraut, vegetables like carrots and potatoes and meat or sausage for protein. The taste can range from tangy to sweet depending on the ingredients, but Latvian cabbage soup always makes for a filling, comforting meal. Locals enjoy cabbage soup year-round, but it is popular in winter.
- Grey Peas with Bacon. Grey Peas with Bacon, known as Pelēkie zirņi ar speķi, is a traditional Latvian dish of grey peas cooked with onions and crispy bacon. It is a hearty and flavorful dish enjoyed by locals and visitors in Riga.
- Piragi. Piragi is Latvian bacon-filled pastries, resembling small rolls or pies. It is typically stuffed with bacon, onions and occasionally other fillings, making it a popular snack or appetizer in Riga.
- Cold soup (aukstā zupa). Cold beet soup, known as aukstā zupa, is a refreshing chilled soup with origins in Latvia made from local ingredients like beets, cucumbers, kefir or buttermilk and hard-boiled eggs. Bright pink in color with a sweet and sour flavor, aukstā zupa is a beloved summertime starter or snack across Latvia for its cooling qualities. Latvians often top aukstā zupa with fresh dill and eat it alongside dark rye bread, making it the perfect meal for hot days.
- Latvian Rye Bread. Latvian Rye Bread, known as Rupjmaize, is a dark and dense rye bread, a staple in Latvian cuisine. It has a hearty flavor and is often served alongside meals, with butter or toppings like cheese or smoked fish. This rye bread is a staple in food in Riga.
- Sklandrausis. Sklandrausis is a traditional Latvian dessert made of rye dough and filled with sweetened mashed potatoes, carrots and spices. It is baked and served in Riga as a pie or tart, offering a unique blend of flavors.
- Latvian Smoked Fish. Smoked fish, particularly smoked sprats and salmon, are popular in Riga. These are often served as appetizers, in sandwiches or as part of a main course, showcasing the country's love for seafood.
What are the facts about Latvia?
Listed below are the facts about Latvia.
- Currency. The official currency of Riga is Euro (€). Latvia joined the eurozone and adopted the currency on January 01, 2014.
- Time zone. Riga is in the Eastern European Time (EET) zone, with a standard time defined as UTC+2. Riga shifts to Eastern European Summer Time (EEST) or UTC+3 during Daylight Saving Time.
- Language. The official language of Riga is Latvian. Other commonly spoken languages include Russian, English, German and Estonian.
- Power plugs and voltage. Riga's power sockets and voltage are the Type F plug and 230 V. The standard frequency is 50 Hz. These are the same systems used across continental Europe. Visitors from North America will need a voltage converter and plug adapter to charge their electronic devices.
How do travelers get around in Latvia?
There are the main ways travelers get around Latvia. These are by trains, buses, renting a car and taxis. Firstly, Latvia has an extensive passenger rail network, with nearly every route beginning or ending in Riga. Trains are more frequent closer to Riga, with a train every 20 to 60 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at train station ticket offices or ticket machines at some stations. For long-distance trains, opt for the faster “ātrs” trains if possible, which make fewer stops. Secondly, Buses reach most locations, making them the best public transportation option outside major cities. Many bus companies operate, so timetables can be difficult to find. Tickets can be purchased at bus station ticket desks, ticket terminals or from the driver. Popular bus companies include Lux Express and Ecolines. Thirdly, renting a car allows travelers flexibility beyond the main cities and Riga surroundings. Most roads outside Riga are two-lane country roads with 90 km/h speed limits and international driving permits are required. Rental cars start at 15€ ($17, £13). Taxis can be used for shorter trips but are more costly than public transport for longer distances. Taxis start at 2€ ($2, £1) a base fare plus a per-kilometer charge.
Is a road trip a good idea to explore Latvia?
Yes, a road trip allows flexibility to reach more remote areas and plan your itinerary. A road trip will enable visitors to see more of the countryside and smaller towns at their own pace. Driving in Latvia can be dangerous; as the roads are notorious for reckless drivers and the weather is unpredictable in winter, inexperienced drivers should avoid navigating in Latvia. Visitors must make sure to get an International Driving Permit and drive cautiously. Public transportation is more limited outside of the major cities like Riga. Buses connect most of the country, but train routes are focused around Riga. Having a car does give more flexibility to explore remote areas. When road-tripping, visitors should be prepared for changing road conditions. While main highways are paved, many secondary roads are gravel. Weather impacts the roads and they can be slippery in winter. The maximum speed limit in Latvia is 90 km/h, which is reduced to 50 km/h in towns. Visitors must allow ample time to account for road conditions when planning the route.
Is driving in Latvia easy?
No, it is not easy driving in Latvia. Roads and highways are decent overall, but winter driving conditions can be difficult. Winter tires are required by law from December 1 to March 1. Latvian drivers have a reputation for being aggressive and not always following rules. However, some locals argue this stereotype is exaggerated. Key rules include driving on the right side of the road, yielding to vehicles from the right, wearing seatbelts and having a 0.05% blood alcohol limit. Getting a rental car with only a recently acquired license may be difficult with some companies. Driving in cities like Riga can be intense with aggressive local drivers. However, highway driving is generally easier. Visitors should be alert while driving, obey speed limits (usually 50-60km/h in cities and 90-110km/h on highways) and use navigation apps to avoid issues. Driving in Latvia is manageable for most foreign drivers if they are attentive and cautious, avoid drinking alcohol, have proper documents/insurance and prepare for winter conditions.
Can travelers rent a car in Latvia?
Yes, travelers can rent cars in Latvia from major international companies and local rental agencies. Major international car rental companies like Avis, Budget, Hertz, Europcar and Sixt all operate in Latvia, primarily in larger cities like Riga. Local Latvian companies also offer competitive rates. Travelers will need a valid driver's license from their home country, a passport and a credit card. Drivers from outside the EU will need an International Driving Permit as well. Rental cars in Latvia typically cost between 15€ ($16, £13) to 30€ ($31, £27)
per day for basic models with unlimited mileage and basic insurance. Automatic transmissions are less common and cost more. Road conditions range from good paved highways to rough gravel and dirt roads. Driving speeds tend to be fast, so defensive driving is recommended. Headlights must be on at all times. Icy roads and snowstorms can make driving more hazardous during the winter months of December to March and snow chains or winter tires may be required.
What are the popular events and festivals in Latvia?
Listed below are the popular events and festivals in Latvia.
- Jāņi (Midsummer Festival). The Jāņi midsummer festival, held on June 23 to 24, is one of Latvia's most beloved events. Centered on pagan traditions, it involves large bonfires, people adorning wreaths of oak leaves and flowers, singing folk songs through the night, feasting on traditional foods like beer and cheese and dancing to honor nature, love and fertility. Some partake in rituals like floating flower wreaths on rivers to predict the future. The festival has deep cultural roots going back centuries.
- Latvian Song and Dance Festival. Occurring every five years, the Latvian Song and Dance Festival gathers the country's best amateur choirs and dance troupes to perform. Dating back to 1873, it is the largest amateur arts event in the nation. The festival promotes national pride by showcasing singing, instrumental music, theater and folk arts. In 2003 it earned the prestigious UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage designation. Over 40,000 performers take part, with attendance reaching 500,000. It is one of the most anticipated Latvian festivals.
- Riga Jurmala Music Festival. The annual Riga Jurmala Music Festival takes place in late July through mid-August. Established as a leading European cultural event, concerts occur in the picturesque Latvian cities of Riga and Jurmala along the Baltic Sea. Renowned international orchestras like the Boston Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic perform symphonic, chamber and recital concerts featuring famed conductors and musicians.
- Winter Solstice Festival. Locals of Latvian gather to mark the gradual return of longer days. Locals share a hearty meal featuring beans, peas and pork before heading outside to light towering bonfires. Locals and visitors walk together in a candlelit procession that fills the streets of towns and cities with a warm glow. The ancient pagan-inspired festival retains cultural significance for celebrating rebirth and renewal.
- Autumn Equinox Festival. Latvians welcome the autumn harvest season with a two-day festival coinciding with the equinox. Folk music and spirited traditional dances entertain attendees, who explore open-air markets showcasing handmade crafts, seasonal produce and artisanal foods. Everyone gathers to light an enormous communal bonfire as a symbol of gratitude for the year's bounty. A fireworks display concludes the event.
- Riga Festival. The lively Riga Festival honors the capital city's birthday in August with a week-long Latvian culture and heritage showcase. Colorful parades, concerts, theater performances, art exhibitions and literary events entertain locals and visitors alike. Historic sites like the Freedom Monument and Old Riga provide scenic backdrops for many festival happenings. The diverse programming highlights Riga's vibrant arts scene and national identity.
Is it expensive to visit Latvia?
No, visiting Latvia is generally quite affordable to other European destinations. Hotel prices in Latvia are quite affordable, with average prices for 3-star hotels costing 65€ ($67, £55) to 92€ ($100, £79). Airbnbs and hostels offer cheaper options as well. Eating out at restaurants in Latvia is inexpensive compared to Western Europe. A meal at an average restaurant costs 5€ ($5, £3) to 15€ ($16, £13). Groceries from supermarkets are also very affordable. Public transportation like buses and trains within cities is cheap; a single-ride ticket in Riga costs around 1 euro (0.86 pound, 1 dollar). Most festivals and cultural events like concerts and performances are free or affordable for visitors. Museums have entry tickets at 5€ ($5, £3) to 15€ ($16, £13) per person. Latvia offers moderate accommodation, food and transportation prices, proving to be an affordable tourist destination. Costs can vary depending on the visitor’s lifestyle and spending habits. Latvia offers good value for budget-conscious visitors.
Is it cheaper to visit Latvia during Christmas?
Yes, visiting Latvia during Christmas is cheaper. Riga has been named the cheapest destination in Europe for a Christmas market trip for the 5th year in a row, mainly due to low-cost flights and accommodation prices rather than prices on the ground. Riga only has two main Christmas markets, located in Dome Square and Esplanade Park, which are easy to cover on foot. Due to lower flight and accommodation costs, Latvia tends to be a cheaper Christmas destination than other European cities. It offers a festive atmosphere during the holiday season.
What are the best Christmas markets in Latvia?
Listed below are the best Christmas markets in Latvia.
- Riga Christmas Market. The Riga Christmas Market is an annual event held in central Riga, Latvia, during the Christmas season, originating when Riga joined the Hanseatic League trade alliance in the 15th century. Over 100 wooden huts and stalls are set up selling traditional Latvian handicrafts, woolens, amber jewelry, foods like gingerbread and mulled wine and hosting handicraft demonstrations and musical performances. The market is centered around the Town Hall Square Christmas tree and attracts over 1 million visitors each year to experience Latvian holiday traditions and boost the winter economy. The Riga Christmas Market allows visitors to soak up the festive atmosphere while supporting local artisans and businesses. This market is one of the much-awaited Christmas markets in Latvia.
- Cathedral Square Christmas Market (Doma Laukums). The Cathedral Square Christmas Market is located in front of the magnificent Riga Cathedral in the heart of the city's Old Town. It is Riga's most popular and traditional Christmas market, with over 160 stalls selling Latvian handicrafts, woolens, art, food and drink. Visitors can enjoy wandering the cobbled streets with a cup of mulled wine, listening to choirs sing festive songs and watching the giant Christmas tree lighting ceremony. There is also a petting zoo and activities for children, like visiting Santa Claus in his cabin. Cathedral Square encapsulates the spirit of a Latvian Christmas.
- Esplanade Park Christmas Market. The Esplanade Park Christmas Market exudes a magical atmosphere. The park sparkles with thousands of twinkling lights and the market features cute wooden huts selling Christmas decorations, Latvian design items and traditional foods like piping hot gingerbread and sweet gluhwein. Kids love visiting the small petting farm to feed the animals, including fluffy bunnies and goats. The market hosts handicraft workshops and festive concerts. The Christmas tree lighting ceremony also takes place here. The Esplanade Market is a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit.
- Kalnciema Quarter. The Kalnciema Quarter is a unique district in Riga, restored in a wooden architectural style. Local producers, farmers, artists and designers gather here every Saturday for a picturesque open-air market. The Christmas version sells handicrafts, organic products, mulled wine and traditional Latvian Yuletide foods. Visitors can watch craft demonstrations and listen to carolers and children can visit Santa. The cozy atmosphere and activities like horse-drawn carriage rides make Kalnciema Quarter an atmospheric spot to pick up artisan Christmas gifts.
- Alus Setas Winter Fair. The Alus Setas Winter Fair offers a fun and lively Christmas market experience hosted at the Aldaris beer brewery in the lovely town of Cesis. It brings together craftspeople, artists, performers and food producers to showcase their wares in the festive setting. Unique gift ideas can be found at the many artisan stalls, while traditional Christmas foods and mulled beer, wine and cider tempt hungry visitors. Kids enjoy cookie decorating and meeting farm animals and the event includes a ceremony to light the town's Christmas tree. Cesis Christmas Fair is great for families.
- Sigulda Christmas Market. Sigulda's Christmas market sits pretty amongst the pine trees and hills of the Gauja National Park. Visitors wander between the wooden market stalls, perusing Latvian handicrafts, woolens, ceramics, jewelry, knitwear and organic cosmetics. Traditional foods like smoked meats, gingerbread and mulled wine provide sustenance. Children can meet Santa and his elves, join a handicraft workshop or go sledding. The Sigulda Christmas market makes for a magical day trip from Riga.
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