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Latvia

Main attractions

View from Turaida Castle, Latvia
View from Turaida Castle / Gatis Pāvils, CC BY-SA 3.0

Highlights of Latvia are:

  • Architectural heritage in Riga City - city has several historical districts with unique architecture, there are many thousands of valuable buildings. Especially rich is the architectural heritage created in the late 19th - early 20th century.
  • Palaces and manor houses - many landlords in earlier times had a stiff competition about the most imposing and posh country residence.
  • Castles - there are more than 100 medieval castles and castle ruins in Latvia. Only some 10 still are habitable, but often the castle ruins represent very impressive sight too.

Natural landmarks

Kaive Oak - largest tree in Latvia
Kaive Oak - largest tree in Latvia with 10.4 m girth / Gatis Pāvils, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Dauģēni Big Cave (Large X Cave) - Vidzeme. The longest known cave in Latvia. This 346 m long cave has formed in fragile Devonian sandstone.
  • Ērģeles Cliffs - Vidzeme. Some of the most impressive cliffs in Latvia. This outcrop of Devonian sandstone is up to 22 m high, Gauja river flows 330 m along it.
  • Kaive Oak (Senci Oak) - Kurzeme. Tree with the largest girth in Latvia and Baltic states - at 1.3 m height this oak (Quercus robur) has a circumference of 10.4 m (04.2012.).
  • Liepas Ellīte - Vidzeme. Unique monument of nature and archaeology: a cave and several natural arches formed in Devonian sandstone. Ancient cult site of Livonians.
  • Sēra dīķi - Zemgale. A unique cold sulphur genesis process has created a group of spring lakes with bright yellow water.
  • Skaņais Kalns - Vidzeme. Outcrop of Devonian sandstone. The smooth surface of sandstone creates interesting echo effects.
  • Slitere Blue Mountains - Kurzeme. Virgin broadleaf forest on the steep bank of former sea coast. In late spring is covered with millions of flowers of ramsons, perennial honesties and other flowers.
  • Ventas Rumba - Kurzeme. Widest and most impressive waterfall in Latvia. Width of this 1.5 - 2 m high waterfall is 270 - 275 m.

Man made landmarks

Archaeological monuments

Bīlavas stone ship, Latvia
Bīlavas stone ship / Gatis Pāvils, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Abavmuiža Cross Stone - Kurzeme. Site of legends - stone with 9 crosses incised. According to legend here, outside the cemetery was buried a child. This site was haunted - in order to remove the curse, a clergyman was called who incised a cross. Haunting stopped only when 9 crosses were incised.
  • Bīlavas stone ship - Kurzeme. Burial - stone setting in a form of ship, made in Bronze Age (sometimes around 1000 BC) by unknown culture, considered to have Scandinavian origin.
  • Ķintu Aka - Kurzeme. One of the most unique megalithic monuments in Latvia - a well made of enormous stone slabs, some weighing more than 1 ton. Well has smooth inner surface, stones fit together well. Legends about other megalithic structures nearby which do not exist anymore.
  • Lībiešu Upuralas (Kuiķuļi Sacrifice Cave) - Vidzeme. A cave, which now, after the collapse of entrance part has divided into two caves. Served as a sacrifice cave for Livonians, the site of the first discovery of petroglyphs in Latvia.
  • Padambji cupstone - Kurzeme. A stone with numerous petroglyphs - cupmarks and deeply incised network of lines of unclear implication.
  • Salaspils stone head - Vidzeme, Riga. Stone statue of unclear origin and meaning. In large granite boulder (0.78 tons) roughly incised face. Possible paganic idol. Was hidden in Old Riga for one century, rediscovered in 2000.
  • Virtaka Cliff of Signs - Vidzeme. This sandstone cliff is covered with numerous undeciphered signs - most likely left by Livonians before their Christianization.

Urban planning monuments

Kuldiga Old City, Latvia
Kuldiga Old City / Gatis Pāvils, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Grīziņkalns - Vidzeme, Riga. Extensive part of the city, mostly covered with wooden buildings - housing for numerous newcomers, who arrived in the fast growing Riga city in the late 19th - early 20th century.
  • Kuldiga Old City - Kurzeme. Well preserved, picturesque historical town with hundreds of wooden and stone buildings from the 17th - 19th century, without modern buildings.
  • Old Riga - Vidzeme, Riga. Core part of the medieval Riga, developed since the late 12th century. There has been preserved the old street pattern in Old Riga, while the numerous valuable buildings represent diverse architectural styles.
  • Riga Centre - Vidzeme, Riga. Riga Centre is area of Riga City adjoining the medieval Old City and Boulevard. Centre is developed in the 19th - early 20th century and contains thousands of valuable buildings in Ecclecticism and Art Nouveau styles. Notable concentration of especially ornate buildings is in the area of Alberta Street.

Castles

  • Bauska medieval castle and ducal palace - Zemgale. Large structure, consisting of two parts - medieval castle (built in 1443) and Renaissance style ducal palace, built in 1596.
  • Cesis medieval castle - Vidzeme. Ruins of enormous medieval castle. Construction started shortly before 1218, in 1297 - 1577 serving as the administrative centre of the influential Livonian order.
  • Edole medieval castle - Kurzeme. Well preserved medieval castle from the 14th century, partly rebuilt in Neo-Gothic style in 1840. Site of numerous legends, stories about haunting.
  • Koknese medieval castle - Vidzeme. Impressive ruins of enormous castle, which was constructed in 1209. Abandoned in 1701. Now the ruins are rising from the artificial lake of Daugava hydroelectric power station.
  • Riga Order Castle - Vidzeme, Riga. Well preserved, historically very important building. Construction of castle in this location was started in the end of 1340s, castle was rebuilt in 1515. Nowadays the castle united numerous architectural styles and contains many values of art.
  • Turaida Medieval Castle - Vidzeme. Large medieval castle in impressive setting at the rim of the 90 m deep Gauja River valley. Construction of this castle started in 1214, there has been made extensive rebuilding in the 20th century.
Rundāle Palace, Latvia
Rundāle Palace / Gatis Pāvils, CC BY-SA 3.0

Palaces and manor houses

  • Bīriņi Palace - Vidzeme. Beautiful manor house, built in Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Gothic styles in 1857 - 1860.
  • Cesvaine Palace - Vidzeme. Large and luxuriant manor house in Ecclecticism style, built in 1890 - 1897.
  • Jelgava Palace - Zemgale. The largest palace in Latvia, built in Baroque style in 1738 - 1772.
  • Rundale Palace - Zemgale. Enormous Baroque style palace, constructed in 1736 - 1768, with ensemble of subsidiary buildings and large park. Under reconstruction since 1972. Palace has 138 rooms with ornate interior.
  • Stāmeriena Palace - Vidzeme. Beautiful palace in romantic Neo-Renaissance style, built in the 19th century.
  • Ungurmuiža Manor House - Vidzeme. Exquisite wooden manor house, constructed in 1732 in Baroque style. Well preserved.
Riga Dom Cathedral, Latvia
Riga Dom Cathedral / Gatis Pāvils, CC BY-SA 3.0

Churches

  • Aglona Basilica - Latgale. Large church, constructed in 1768 - 1780 in Baroque style. Initially here was located paganic shrine, first Christian church was built here in 1700. Numerous legends about marvels.
  • Liepāja St. Nicholas Sea Cathedral - Kurzeme. Impressive Orthodox Cathedral, constructed in 1903.
  • Riga Dom Cathedral - Vidzeme, Riga. Largest medieval church in Baltic states, built in 1211 and extended in later times. Current Baroque tower constructed in 1775.
  • Riga St. Peter's Church - Vidzeme, Riga. Medieval church with spectacular, 123 m tall Baroque spire. First mentioned in 1209, extended in later times, current design of tower created in 1671 - 1690, last rebuilding of the tower ended in 1973.

Parks

  • Rundale Palace Park - Zemgale. The only preserved Baroque style park in Latvia, area 47 ha. Park is thoroughly planned to create a harmonious whole with Rundale Palace.
  • Skriveri Dendrarium - Vidzeme. A collection of trees and bushes, created in the late 19th century with an intent to make a compilation of all trees and plants able to grow in Latvian climate. By World War I here were growing plants of 590 species, currently registered 250 species.

Museums

  • Latvian Ethnographical Open-Air Museum - Vidzeme, Riga. Extensive enthnographical museum with 118 old buildings from all regions of Latvia, including very valuable late Renaissance - Baroque wooden churches. Museum established in 1928.
  • Riga Motormuseum - Vidzeme, Riga. The largest antique vehicle museum in Baltic countries, established in 1989. Contains more than 230 vehicles, including several vehicles of the leaders of Soviet Union.

Other culture monuments

The Little Guild in Riga, interior
The Little Guild, interior Gatis Pāvils, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Benjamiņi House in K.Barona Street 12 - Vidzeme, Riga. Magnificent city residence in Neo-Renaissance style, built in 1876 for local merchant family. Exquisite interiors.
  • Freedom Monument (Brīvības piemineklis) - Vidzeme, Riga. Large monument in Art Deco style, built in 1935. This 42 m tall monument was built to commemorate the victims of Independence War, now it symbolizes the freedom of Latvia.
  • Irbene Radio Astronomical Centre - Kurzeme. State-of-art spying equipment of Soviet Army - two enormous parabolic antennas with diameter 32 and 16 metres. Nowadays used for space exploration.
  • Kuldīga brick bridge - Kurzeme. Impressive, 164 m long bridge, built of bricks in 1874.
  • Riga Brethrens Cemetery - Vidzeme, Riga. One of the largest Art Deco style memorials in Europe, built in the 1920s - 1930s to commemorate victims of the World War I and Independence War.
  • The Little Guild - Vidzeme, Riga. Ornate public building, created by the union of Riga craftsmen in the 19th century. Built in Ecclecticism style, has very ornate interior.

List of described attractions by counties

Latvia is divided into 119 municipalities - impractical number for Wondermondo. There is popular also division into the following 4 historical regions:

Kurzeme
ArrowKaive OakTrees
ArrowĶintu AkaMegaliths
ArrowVentas RumbaWaterfalls
Latgale
Vidzeme (Includes Riga City)
Zemgale

Map of Latvia

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