Jekabpils, a perfect day trip from Riga
Looking for a perfect day trip from Riga? Try Jekabpils, just about 140 kilometres from Riga, beautifully sitting on the biggest river of Latvia, the Daugava, boasting stunning Krustpils Castle with a modern history museum, a promenade on the Daugava River, old architecture, and even a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sounds interesting? Let’s start with a short introduction to the past of Jekabpils city.
A short history of Jekabpils
Historically, the current Jekabpils city was divided into two separate towns, with Jekabpils standing on the left bank of the Daugava River and Krustpils on the right bank. As both banks have been united by a bridge in 1936, the two municipalities were combined into a single Jekabpils town. Krustpils was first mentioned in historical sources in the early 13th century in connection with the construction of Kreutzburg Castle. In 1585, King Stefan Batory of Poland presented Krustpils to Nikolai Corf, whose family owned it until 1920. Jekabpils, on the other hand, was founded in the middle of the 17th century as a settlement of Old Believers refugees from Russia. Legend has it that the Duke of Courland Jacob went hunting and for a long time wandered through the forests of his duchy. Finally, he saw a lynx, the mysterious and quiet inhabitant of the forest, which can be hunted only by the most skilful hunters. Duke Jacobstadt successfully hunted down the lynx. Honouring this event, the Duke granted city rights to the nearby village in 1670 and named it after himself. Hence, the village became Jacobstadt (Jekabpils in Latvian). “And let there be a lynx in the coat of arms of the city!” the Duke decided.
The main building on Krustpils’ side of the Daugava is Krustpils Castle. Like many castles in Latvia, it was originally built by the Archbishop of Riga in the medieval period when the whole of Latvia was divided by Christian theocracies. Later, it was renovated extensively and remained in use up to the 20th century when the Soviet army was stationed there. Currently, the modern museum of local history is located in the castle. The visitor feels like stepping in the Daugava River and watching what happened on both banks of the Daugava because water is projected on the floor of the corridor. There is a timeline on the long walls of the corridor, which tells about the most important events in Krustpils and Jekabpils.After seeing Krustpils Castle, let’s move to the left bank of the Daugava River to explore more of Jekabpils. Our first stop is Ken Manor and Park.
Ken Manor and Park
The manor originated in the 18th century when this city property was acquired by the Ken family, who built the manor and created a park around it. During the Soviet times, the manor house lost its romantic attic roof, but the building has retained some of its architectural value with its small towers. Currently, the buildings of Ken Manor are managed by the Jekabpils Art School. When visiting Latvia, see other beautiful manor houses. The manor’s stable and barn have also survived to this day.
The exposition of the Jekabpils History Museum’s Open Air Department “Selu seta” consists of six 19th century Latvian rural buildings: a residential house, a grain barn, a small barn, a forge, a windmill, and a sauna. The tools and household items of an average wealthy farmer from the Selija region in the 19th century can also be seen. The museum is located in the park, which was planted at the end of the 19th century by Hikstein, Jakobstadt’s biggest businessman and brewer.
Address: Filozofu iela 6
The Orthodox Church of The Holy Spirit and men’s monastery
Among the religious buildings of Jekabpils, the Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Spirit that consists of several churches is the most impressive. The main monastery church was built at the end of the 19th century in the Byzantine style. Its five-domed silhouette is an integral part of the city panorama. The church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker located in the monastery yard is unique for its miniature size 17 × 19.5 meters. A copy of the icon of Our Lady of Miracles, Jacobstadt gathers a large number of pilgrims every year.
Address: Brīvības iela 202
Daugava dam and promenade
The construction of the Daugava dam in Jekabpils began after the great floods of 1981 when the water level rose to 8.7 meters above everyday level and in half a day half of the city was under water. Recently, the dam was reconstructed and improved. Lanterns, benches, as well as a memorial sign, have been installed, which shows the water level of the Daugava during major floods. Now, walking along the pedestrian promenade along the Daugava, you can enjoy the calm flow of the river and watch the silhouettes and reflections of the city’s buildings in the waters of the Daugava.Address: Dambja iela 10
Old Town Square
The current Old Town Square was formed at the beginning of the 20th century. Here guests are greeted by lynx, the city symbol. You can also see the city clock, wallet, well, and scales, which serve as are a reminder of the former market square. Moreover, the images from old photos tell the story of the city.
Historic Wednesday Market Square
Market Square was an active trading place on Wednesdays in old days. In this place, Duke Jacob declared the city established in 1670. It is why Jekabpils 330th anniversary memorial stone is located in this place. Recently the square has been renovated and the sculpture “Horse with a Chariot” was placed there. Also, a historic style carousel and historic well with engraved good wishes can be found in the square.
Address: Brivibas iela 214
Buildings on Pasta Street
Pasta Street began to form in the 17th century. Initially, there were only small wooden houses on the street, but in the middle of the 19th century, the first brick houses were built on Pasta Street. At the beginning of the 20th century, many houses on Pasta Street were rebuilt and then the street got the name Pasta Street because there is a post office on it. The current Jekabpils Agribusiness College building located on Pasta Street 1 was built as a school in Jekabpils district in 1820 according to the project of architect O. Huns. The representative Empire-style house in the city centre stands out with a massive four-column portico. Only boys were admitted to the school in the old days. Do not forget to check other renovated and colourful buildings on Pasta Street.
Square at the corner of Pasta and Akmenu Streets
In the corner square of Pasta and Akmenu Streets, there is a fountain “Sphere” rotating around its axis, around which water flows. There are also some other sculptures in this square.
UNESCO Heritage site in town
Interestingly, Jekabpils has a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list is the 2,820 km long Struve geodetic arc, a network of stations the Baltic German astronomer and geodesist Wilhelm von Struve built in 1816-1855 to calculate the length of Earth meridian. It is an extraordinary example of collaboration among scientists from different countries, and of collaboration between monarchs for a scientific cause. The original arc consisted of 265 station points going from Norway to Ukraine. The UNESCO site includes 34 of the original station points with different markings. One of them is located in Jekabpils and now it is surrounded by Struve Park.
You must be hungry after a long exploration. I recommend Lusu pub for a meal. The pub is a great place to enjoy delicious home cooking and a drink in a cosy atmosphere.Address: Andreja Pormaļa iela 27
To get to Jekabpils from Riga, you can take a train, which will bring you there in slightly over two hours. You can also take a public bus that will get you there in approximately 2.5 hours. Jekabpils is not a big town; you can easily cover it on foot. You can make it to all listed sites in 5 hours or so, including lunch. You are also welcome to visit seven other awesome cities of Latvia.
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What did you think? Have you visited Latvia and Jekabpils? I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sāne