Top 5 cities in Latvia: a guide through the highlights

Text by Valdis Čeičs, photos by Solveiga Kaļva, www.solveigakalvaphotography.com

Riga

On the top 5 cities in Latvia the first is Riga. The legend says ‘Riga is never ready!’, and in some way it is true. Being the largest city in the Baltics, its looks are changing continuously. Hundreds of years between being the German Crusader stronghold and becoming the capital of the Republic of Latvia have left their signs.

Riga Old Town is the territory where the Crusader castle was built, and you can see some of its elements till nowadays. However, the most prominent architectural style in Riga is Art Nouveau. The city center with its quality and quantity of Art Nouveau buildings sometimes even trumps other metropolises known for it. Riga has even its own Art Nouveau museum. The most famous streets are Alberta, Elizabetes and Antonijas street, but don’t stop there! Riga offers more than 800 Art Nouveau buildings, so take your time, lift your eyes up and enjoy the beauty of Brīvības, Terbatas, Barona, Valdemara and other streets in the city center! 

Riga stretches also on the other side of the Daugava River. The left bank has developed from Baltic German manor houses and farming land to modern urban areas. The districts closer to the city center, for example, Agenskalns, and Kipsala Island, have preserved their romantic wooden architecture. The districts further away from the city center, for example, Imanta and Ziepniekkalns, are examples of Soviet architecture from the 70s and 80s. In Ziepniekkalns you can find the longest 9-floor living house in the Baltic States (Ozolciema Street 18)!

Highlights:

Liepaja

Liepaja is the most exciting seaside city in Latvia. Being the former capital of Latvia it plays an important role till nowadays. Not only the wind is born in Liepaja, but also most of Latvian rock musicians! The city has a lot to offer on each corner – bars in the city center invite you to enjoy live music, sailors on the promenade welcome you on their boat decks to enter the Baltic Sea water, lovely architecture in the Old Town asks you to leave your plans aside and just wander around.

From all the top 5 cities in Latvia, Liepaja has a unique combination of partying mood on the beach, freedom vibes of rock music all around the city and historic atmosphere at the military harbour territory Karosta. Karosta has the only military prison in Europe which is open for tourists!

Highlights:

Kuldiga

On the top 5 cities in Latvia Kuldīga is the most romantic town in Latvia where you can get lost wandering around beautiful cobblestone streets. You can still feel the breath of the 17th-18th century building style. The city center with the widest waterfall of Europe is so impressive that even fish start to fly! No joking, in the spring vimbas swim against the current across the waterfall and it looks like they are flying. Although, the main reason for visiting Kuldīga is its lovely architecture and charming atmosphere, it is a great destination for nature lovers too! You can relax on the beach at the Venta River or, if you are brave enough, walk across the waterfall, as well as explore various hiking routes starting from the city center and going along the Venta River. 

The best is to enjoy Kuldīga slowly. Numerous restaurants and coffee shops wait for you in the small winding streets. Take a cup of coffee or glass of wine and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you! Many modern art lovers seek inspiration in Kuldīga Artists’ Residence

Highlights:

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Read more about Kuldīga in our blog – Kuldīga: a Perfect Place for Romantics

Cesis

Cesis is the third oldest town in Latvia, and it has kept its medieval spirit until today. Cesis attracts tourists with lovely streets and the medieval castle ruins which you can explore in a candle light. For a great view of the whole town, you can climb up to the tower in the new manor house right next to the medieval castle. 

The compact old town has many places to enjoy a good meal. By accident or not, you might discover a cultural hub for local artists. In the evenings, Vidzeme concert hall and other venue places offer to enjoy music, varying from classic to electronic.

Maybe Latvia has no mountains, but we do have a lot of beautiful sandstone outcrops. Some of the most beautiful sandstone outcrops are located nearby Cesis – Ergļu (Eagle) cliff, Zvartes rock, Liela Elite (Devil’s owen) and Licu-Langu cliff. If you are careful enough, you will spot some caves too, for example, Kalejala (Blacksmith’s cave). A unique natural limestone outcrop from the post-glacial period, Raunas Staburags, is located just 23 km from Cesis. The Gauja National Park has established several easy and accessible hiking trails for everyone, for example,  Cirulisu dabas takas.

Highlights:

Join our tour in Cēsis – Cesis: Medieval heritage and natural treasures!

Jurmala & Kemeri

Jurmala is a modern seaside resort city with a 200 years long history. The core of the resort are romantic wooden houses built for the ones who like to escape the stone walls. Jurmala lurks visitors with its fine sand beach and variety of recreational facilities. Jurmala stretches 30 km along the Riga Bay, and is very easily accessible on foot, by bicycle or train. Each part of the city has its own name, the most prominent are Majori, Dzintari and Bulduri. These districts will impress you with their splendour – fancy restaurants, five-star hotels and stunning villas. For the evening entertainment, enjoy a walk on the Jomas Street where most of the restaurants, bars and cafes wait for you.

Kemeri, the oldest part of Jurmala city where the first therapeutic facilities were established, is located on the outskirts of Jurmala. On the rich grounds of sulfur spring, sanatoriums, pavilions, rotondas and bridges across artificial canals were built for recreational and healing purposes. Most of Kemeri splendour has moved to Jurmala center, leaving a rich variety of historical buildings and sightseeing objects to travelers. The town is part of the Kemeri National Park which includes several bogs, dunes and sulfur springs.

Highlights:

Join our tour in Ķemeri – Hiking tour: Rromantic town, green dune, bog and sulfur water in Kemeri

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What travelers say about us

EXCELLENT
36 reviews on
Paul Green
Paul Green
2024-07-12
Anna Brish was a fantastic tour guide for understanding Jewish history and culture in Vilnius. She was friendly, deeply knowledgeable, eager to answer our questions and accommodate our specific interests. Anna does other tours and we would take any of them, she’s amazing!
James Cornez
James Cornez
2024-07-11
Myself and my best friend came across this company whilst researching options to travel in Latvia and we are very pleased we did. Valdis was very amenable during the planning process by arranging video calls with both of us so we could better understand what was on offer for us to do. He compiled an 8 day itinerary for us that did not disappoint starting in Riga for 2 days. We paid for an optional 3hr walking tour which was very worthwhile to see the main sites of the city. Janis took us on the tour who is a great guy that gives you plenty of interesting information, ready to answer any questions regarding Latvian history/culture. We chose the self driving option to see as much of Latvia as possible which I would definitely recommend if you want to have more than just a city break. It took us to varied places ranging from the heavily forested and pretty areas of Sigulda (where we did a fun kayaking tour on the Gauja river) and Cesis to the pleasant coastal cities of Liepaja and Ventspills. Overall, definitely the company to approach if you want to authentically explore Latvia!
Esther A
Esther A
2024-06-21
Valdis and his team helped us to organise a guided 16 day trip across Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Helsinki. We had a very enjoyable experience! Coming from Singapore and not knowing Valdis beforehand, we were initially worried about language and logistical challenges. All these were unfounded as Valdis and his guides were not only knowledgeable but also responsive, helpful and flexible. We had some minor hiccups during the trip but Valdis was able to resolve them very promptly. I would highly recommend engaging Valdis for your next trip!
Annette Ihrman
Annette Ihrman
2024-06-16
The tour was very versatile and a good addition to our trip to Riga. We can recommend it!
K G
K G
2024-04-06
I joined Valdis for Gauja national park tour and experience breathtaking views, beautiful cave, Plus the experience to see the inside of luge and skeleton track. It’s an unforgettable experience to see something outside the Riga! Highly recommended!!!
Carmen Daams
Carmen Daams
2023-09-22
I took the Kuldiga trip with Valdis. The experience was amazing. The entire day was great. He is a great guide, and knows a lot of interesting information. He would definitely make your whole experience even better. Kuldiga is such a captivating city, very unique with a very special style and soul. If you are visiting Latvia, don't hesitate to take this trip, it is a "must".
Stanley Wallerstein
Stanley Wallerstein
2023-08-29
Great Tour and great guide. Baltic Nature Travel is excellent.
Maria M Andrade
Maria M Andrade
2023-08-28
Valdis organized an absolutely wonderful 10 day trip to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania trip for my sister, a friend, and myself. He arranged all details including our private chofer and tour guide up the last detail. He went far and beyond when he knew I had an accident in Estonia. We met him Latvia and he make us feel welcome. He recommended the most amazing restaurants for us and he took care of my doctor needs where he was the interpreter. In every country we had the best guys one can possibly ask for. All hotels were walking distance from city centre. Thank you Valdis we will always remembered this trip!!!!
Sarah Daniels
Sarah Daniels
2023-08-21
Thank you, Valdis, for helping my family have a wonderful two week trip to the Baltics! Your advice and recommendations were very helpful, and our tour guides in 4 different cities were each outstanding! I highly recommend a vacation in the beautiful and fascinating Baltics, and I highly recommend using Valdis to help you plan it.
Rita Derencius
Rita Derencius
2023-08-09
Tours and tour guides, Tomas and Mindaugas, exceeded my expectations. We were able to curate our tour of Lithuania. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and adapted the tour based on our input. Valdis was responsive and easy to work with. Extremely happy we chose to have private tour guides. Best trip ever!

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