7 cities of Latvia to add to your travel itinerary
When visiting a country for a short time, quite often you just visit a capital city and then move on to another capital of another country. Actually, it gives some impression about a country of course, but the countryside and other cities are quite different from the capital, with Latvia being no exception. Riga is almost ten times bigger than any other city in the country, so the other places in Latvia have a much more intimate feel. As Latvia is quite small, even though it’s twice as big as the Netherlands, visiting any city is possible on a day trip. Liepaja and Daugavpils have the greatest distance to Riga and are also much bigger than the others, therefore I would recommend staying there overnight.
You can design your travel itinerary including more than one city in your trip and have a longer exploration of Latvia. So here is the list of the cities of Latvia if you wish to see more of this beautiful country. All the cities on the list are accessible by public transport in all cases by bus, but you can also travel by train to Jurmala, Sigulda, Cesis and Daugavpils. Sigulda and Jurmala are the most visited by travellers because of their proximity to Riga. Here you go!
Why go there? Sigulda is quite a small town with about 11 thousand inhabitants on the banks of the famous Latvian river Gauja. The river has a deep valley at the Sigulda and even three castles are located there. So it makes Sigulda an awesome destination for history and nature lovers. There are many marked hiking trails in the area. Take a cable car ride over the river and see the famous Gutmana cave. The best time to visit Sigulda is late September to early October when you see autumn colours. Another good option is mid-May when bird cherries are blossoming. If you are a music lover, come to Sigulda in late July for Sigulda Opera festival. Sigulda is more than 800 years old and is located to the east from Riga in the historic district of Vidzeme. The distance from Riga is 60 kilometres, up to 1,5 hour travel time by car.
Why go there? Jurmala is a seaside town, a beach resort with white sand beaches, pine tree woods and awesome wooden houses with beautiful architecture. Almost 50 000 people live there. Don’t forget to attend the concert of your choice at the Dzintari concert hall. The best time for a visit, in my opinion, is the summer but it has a specific beauty in every season. Jurmala stretches for 32 kilometres (20 miles) and is sandwiched between the Gulf of Riga and the Lielupe River. Maybe because of that, different parts of Jurmala have their own names, so you can’t just go to Jurmala, but you can go for example to Priedaine, Lielupe, Bulduri, Dzintari, Majori, Dubulti, Melluži or Asari instead. The distance from Riga to Dzintari in Jurmala is 25 kilometres, about 40 minutes of travel time by car. There is an entrance fee to the city, 2 euros in the summer months.
Why go there? Bauska is a town on the confluence of two rivers, the Musa and the Memele, which together create a bigger river Lielupe (The Big River), continuing its flow to the sea. This is also the place of beautifully restored medieval Bauska castle from the 15th century. I loved Motor museum with an awesome collection of old cars on the outskirts of the town. Make sure you visit nearby grand Rundale palace when you do a day trip in this area.Bauska is located in the Southern part of Latvia in historic district Zemgale. Almost 9000 people live there. The distance from Riga to Bauska is 70 kilometres, up to 1,5 hour travel time by car.
Why go there? Cesis is a medieval gem of Latvia with a charming old town and two castles. Stay overnight and attend a concert in Cesis concert hall. Cesis is very beautiful in autumn with colourful foliage but it’s worth visiting at any other time of the year. In Cesis, the local beer is a must. Cesis is located in the North East of Latvia in historic district Vidzeme. Cēsis was founded in 1206 and it is the third oldest town in Latvia. Almost 17 000 people live there. The distance from Riga to Cesis is 100 kilometres, about 2 hours of travel time by car.
Why go there? Kuldiga has two great reasons for visiting: firstly, the charming old town with colourful historic wooden houses and secondly, the widest waterfall in Europe with flying fish in spring. Kuldiga is located in the Western part of Latvia in historic district Kurzeme. Kuldiga has town rights since 1378. About 11000 people live there. The distance from Riga to Kuldiga is 150 kilometres, about 2 hours of travel time by car.
Why go there? Liepaja is the Latvian capital of wind and music. Walking on the beach at the open sea will clear your mind and get you ready for a concert in the concert hall with one of the best acoustics in Latvia. Add a visit to Karosta (War Port) to make your trip memorable. Liepaja is in the southwest of Latvia in historic district Kurzeme. Liepaja was first mentioned in documents in 1253. It has about 70 000 inhabitants. The distance from Riga to Liepaja is 220 kilometres, about 3 hours of travel time by car.
Why go there? Daugavpils is the birthplace of world-famous artist Rotko with excellent Art Centre – the only place in Eastern Europe that displays the painter’s original work. It’s located in historic Daugavpils fortress, also well worth visiting. Another special place to visit in Daugavpils is the Daugavpils Shot Factory, the only ammunition production factory in the Baltic that is open for tourists and where you can see the oldest shot casting tower in Europe, that also functions nowadays. See also colorful pottery of Latgale when in Daugavpils. Visit the Museum of shmakovka, strong alcoholic home made drink to learn about drinking habits of Latgalians and taste shmakovka yourself.Daugavpils is located in the South East of Latvia in historic district Latgale. It’s the second biggest city of Latvia with 85 000 people living there. Daugavpils was founded in 1275 and at that time, it was known as Dinaburg. The distance from Riga to Daugavpils is 230 kilometres, about 3 hours of travel time by car.
Practical information. You can find intercity bus timetables and buy tickets online following this link. Check the train timetables here and buy tickets here.
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What did you think? Have you been to Latvia? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sane