10 Latvian manor houses straight out of the fairy tale
The history of Latvia has not been easy. Manor houses in the countryside have lost their initial owners a long time ago. Still, many of them have survived, obtained new owners, and look like straight out from the fairy tale book these days. Here is my selection of ten breath-taking Latvian manor houses to include in your future visits to my gorgeous homeland Latvia. The first six are located in the Eastern part of Latvia, while the other four are to the West from Riga. Enjoy!
Cervonka Manor House
Vecsaliena (Cervonka) manor house was built of red bricks in 1870 in the neo-Gothic style and is surrounded by a 19th century park. It is a picturesque building with a dynamic and complex composition—a real fairy tale manor house. The building is covered with a steep gable roof. Its architectural appearance has been improved by risalits, mezzanines and tower. The stained glass window of the baron’s office and a large hall with a luxurious ceiling has been preserved. There is a 3 hectares park with 14 exotic tree species next to the manor house. Although the manor house building is luxurious, and the Barons Han family owned large properties not only in Latvia but also in Belarus, they lived modestly sleeping on straw bags. They often had potatoes with sour milk for dinner. After the Second World War, the manor house building housed a collective farm office, a culture house and a library. Now the building houses the Vecsaliena Parish administration, post office, and library.
Adress: Cervonkas muiza, Vecsalienas pagasts. Located 240 kilometers from Riga and about 25 kilometres from Daugavpils, so you may include it in your tour to Daugavpils.
Jaungulbene Manor House
This manor house was mentioned for the first time in the 18th century. In 1806, the manor house was acquired by Karl von Tranze. The volume of the manor house was symmetrical in the beginning. The Neo-Gothic manor house was periodically rebuilt over time. The façade of the tower depicts the coat of arms of the owner von Tranze-Rosenek family. The parade courtyard has a pond and boulder gate. The 25-hectare landscape park is decorated with many small architectural forms including Bitīte House, Devil’s Gate, road sign and obelisk. There is a farm and residential building complex, which include manager’s house, servants’ houses, stables, arena, and farm building with a basement, firehouse, blacksmith’s house and chapel, next to the manor house. The last owner of Jaungulbene manor house, Paul von Tranze-Rosenek (1853-1928), was a member of the Riga Art Society; he had a rich collection of paintings from the Vienna and Munich School of Painting, as well as sculptures, graphics, furniture and other valuable objects. After agricultural reform in 1920, the manor house building housed a two-year agricultural school, later an agricultural mechanisation school was established there, which was closed in the 1970s.
Address: Jaungulbenes muiza, Jaungulbene. Located 200 kilometres from Riga.
Garsene Manor House
Garsene manor house was built in the neo-Gothic style by Baron von Budberg from 1856 to 1860. The manor house was modelled after the villa located in Germany. Initially, the two-storey part of the manor house was built, but in 1885, the lower wing was added. At present, there is a tourism information centre in Garsene. The largest two-storey part of the manor house is complemented by a round square corner tower, but the smallest one-storey part has a round tower. The doors of Garsene manor house have a glazed upper part. The tiled stove with paintings depicts sailing boats, windmills, sea views painted on a white background. There is an exposition in the manor house, where you can see materials about the Budberg family.The farm buildings are grouped around the parade courtyard; there are an old barn and a stable with a porch arcade next to the manor house. Across the paved road, there is a mill and a mill pond. The manor house complex also includes a brewery with a workers’ house and a servants’ house. There are also hiking trails in the area. The Budberg family coat of arms can be found in the nearby church above the altar, depicted in the stained glass. You will find untouched Budberg family chapel and baron cemetery next to it.It is possible to see the manor house both individually and in groups, as well as with a guide. The manor house premises can be rented for various events. The veranda of the manor house is used as an exhibition hall, while the manor house extension and the second floor are suitable for overnight stays as hostel-type rooms are located here.
Address: Garsenes pils, Garsenes pagasts. Distance from Riga 160 kilometres.
Stameriena Manor House
The manor house was built in the 1830s, but when the 1905 revolution began, Stameriena was an important rebel centre. During these battles, the revolutionaries burned the manor house. The manor house was restored in 1908, with neoclassicism and Art Nouveau features being applied. In the 1930s, the world-famous Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa lived in Stameriena manor house. The author of “Cheetah” Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa was married to Baroness Alexander von Wolf, a widow of the owner of Stameriena manor house.Stameriena manor house is surrounded by a landscape park and lakes, with Stameriena Lake from the west and Pogas Lake from the northwest. The two lakes are connected by a canal that flows through the manor house park. The pride of the park is the Oaks of Love, which has its own legend. The manor house gardener fell in love with the baron’s daughter, but the daughter was promised to another baron. On her daughter’s wedding day, the gardener planted two oaks and twisted them together.
Address: Stamerienas pils, Vecstameriena. Distance from Riga 200 kilometres.
Cesvaine Manor House
Cesvaine manor house, built by Adolf von Wolf, is considered to be one of the brightest architectural achievements of the second half of the 19th century. It is a masterpiece of eclectic art, combining architecture, sculpture, metal art and painting. Cesvaine manor house is a national architectural monument and has been included in the list of European cultural heritage since 1997. Cesvaine manor house was built of broken boulders, and its volume consists of three buildings open to the courtyard. In the north-eastern corner of the manor house, there is a large round tower with an open gallery and a pointed end. Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Art Nouveau features can be seen in the exterior and interior of the building. The park of Cesvaine manor house is designed as a romantic landscape park. Here is a manor house mound, where the former owner of the manor Adolf von Wolf is buried and a fragment of medieval castle ruins can be seen.
A farm with large barns, mills and a brewery was situated next to the manor house. The oldest buildings including three barns, stables, a lord’s house, a cavalier’s house, part of a greenhouse, a brewery and a church have been preserved and can be seen these days.
Address: Pils iela 1, Cesvaine. Distance from Riga 170 kilometres.
The manor house under the oaks and lindens—this is what comes to mind when visiting Ungurmuiza. This place seems miraculously sheltered from the storms of fate. However, it is not only the harmonious combination of landscape and architecture that evokes special feelings and gives Ungurmuiza an extraordinary aura. Ungurmuiza is a harmonious ensemble of the 18th century wooden buildings, surrounded by giant oaks. It was built in 1732 by Baron von Kampenhausen as the family house. Today, it is the only baroque wooden building in Latvia. Equally unique are the 18th century murals. This manor house is exactly what was important for Lieutenant General Baltazar von Kampenhausen and his wife when they started building this manor. Limbazi painter Georg Dietrich Hinsch turned the interior of the house, including the attic, into an endless and comprehensive world of paintings in which everything is moderate and harmonious. The park has preserved one of the few mid-18th century park architectural structures in Latvia—the park pavilion. Ungurmuiža has a nice restaurant and a small hotel. Nowadays Ungurmuiza houses a museum and a guest house, creating a place for relaxation, celebrations and seminars. You can enjoy the special atmosphere of the manor house by sipping tea, attending exhibitions and concerts or walking in the ancient park under the giant oaks. Don’t miss the opportunity to have a meal in a fabulous manor house restaurant.
Address: Ungurmuiza, Raiskuma pagasts. Distance from Riga 85 kilometres.
Vecauce Manor House
Vecauce manor house was built in the middle of the 19th century in the pseudo-Gothic Anglo-Saxon style, sketched by the eclectic German architect Friedrich Steiler as the summer hunting residence of Count Medem. In Vecauce, they owned 400 hectares of land and several manor houses in the vicinity. In 1920, the manor house and land were bought from the widow of Count Medem Maria by the Latvian government, and in 1921 in Vecauce, the University of Latvia established a study and research farm for agricultural students. The manor house was badly destroyed at the end of the Second World War. It was restored in 1956, and students returned for studies to the manor house. Its 30-meter high tower is the highest point from where to view the immediate surroundings. There is a 13 hectare park with several ponds and monuments around the manor house.
Address: Akademijas iela 11, Vecauce. Distance from Riga 115 kilometres.
Pelci Manor House
Pelci manor house was formed at the end of the 19th century when a coaching house, a servants’ house and an ice cellar were built. The manor house was built at the beginning of the 20th century by Prince Michael von Liven according to the project of architect Wilhelm Neumann. The architecture of the manor house intertwines elements of Art Nouveau, French Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-Renaissance. Formations above and below the windows, bas-reliefs (knights’ heads) and carvings on the stairs were all made on site. The first floor served the needs of the manor house owners. The manor house has a spacious library room with beautiful bookcases. There is also a balcony and a spiral staircase. The library has a collection of rare volumes on the origins of noble tribes and scientific articles. The gym was situated next to the room with the most modern exercise machines at that time.The second floor of the manor house has been dedicated to the needs of guests. On the second floor, the heat came from the beautiful white glazed tiled stoves. There were several rooms upstairs including living rooms, rooms for photography and an exit to the spacious balcony. Pelci manor house is surrounded by a 9.2 hectare park. The manor house can be easily viewed from the outside. During working hours, it is possible to visit the Pelči Parish Library in the manor house.
Address: Pelcu muiza, Pelcu pagasts. Distance from Riga 160 kilometres, distance from Kuldiga 10 kilometres, so you may easily include it in your Kuldiga tour.
Jaunmoku Manor House
The manor house, which was intended as the hunting house of the mayor of Riga George Armitstead, was built in 1901 according to the project of the German-Baltic architect Wilhelm Bokslaff. The manor house has a stove with unique paintings of Riga and Jurmala. The functional layout of the interior and the luxurious tiled stoves are designed in the Art Nouveau style. Today, the manor house is home to the Forest Museum, where you can see an exposition dedicated to Latvian forestry and hunting, and the Centre of the Sign, where everyone can create their own Latvian sign. The herbal tea tasting and various themed excursions are offered here. There are rooms for conferences, seminars, weddings, and other celebrations.
Address: Jaunmoku pils, Tumes pagasts. Distance from Riga 75 kilometres.
Mezotne Manor House
Mezotne manor house (Mesothen) is located in Mezotne, Bauska District. It was built in the classicist style by Johann Georg Adam Berlin at the beginning of the 19th century, according to the design of the St. Petersburg court architect Giacomo Kvarengi. The former manor houses including servants’ house, stables, manager’s house and barns are nearby. From 1797 to 1920, Mežotne was owned by the von Lieven family. The pride of Mezotne is an English landscape park. The park has three parts: a parade yard, a summer park and a winter park. One of the main paths leads along the beautiful Lielupe River. The second path winds along the eastern side of the park with a small hill in the middle of it, which creates the optical illusion of an extension of the park. Concerts and parties are popular in the manor house. Hotel rooms are available furnished with vintage furniture.
Address: Pils iela 1, Mezotne. Distance from Riga 70 kilometres. You may visit it as a part of your day trip from Riga.
Since many of the manor houses listed in this article are not so easily accessible by public transport, I recommend travelling by car. You will most likely not make all of them in one go, since they have scattered around all Latvia. So consider adding a few of them to one or another itinerary when visiting different parts of the country.
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What did you think? Have you been to Latvia? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sane