One of the world’s greenest countries, Latvia, is home to some of the most serene nature reserves in the world. Not limited to just greenery though, the Baltic country also boasts a number of city-based attractions and cultural monuments. We’ve listed those very landmarks, along with a variety of activities for you to do, in our country guide to Latvia. However, before you join us on our figurative journey around Latvia, make sure that you’ve renewed your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Things To Do
A former European Capital of Culture, Riga is the most well-known city in Latvia and the perfect place to start your journey around the Northern European country.
Possessing a combination of contemporary and historic landmarks, the city is recognised as having the finest collection of art nouveau architecture in Europe.
This capital is also home to a designated creative quarter; where you can find a series of renovated warehouses containing art galleries, concert halls, flea markets and even an open-air cinema.
The Central Market
Latvia is one of the many gastronomic capitals of the world and has earnt its reputation as a foodie’s heaven in no small part, thanks to it being the home of Europe’s largest food market.
Occupying what once were five different Zeppelin hangars during the First World War, the market is situated near the edge of the river Daugava in the capital of Riga.
More than 3000 vendors go there daily to sell local produce, with each stall being categorised into one of the five separate hangars containing either meat, fish, dairy, vegetables or condiments.
Riga Zoo is Europe’s oldest zoo, having first opened its doors in 1911, where it originally housed 267 animals and 88 different species.
The zoo receives more than a quarter a million visitors annually, with tourists flocking the world over to see the zoo’s array of exotic animals.
An old town in the nation’s capital that stays appealing all year round, Old Riga is home to some of Latvia’s finest attractions including a variety of derelict buildings, ancient churches and the world’s first erected Christmas tree.
What’s more, during the summer months, many of the town’s pubs and cafés open their doors, creating shrouds of beer gardens and terraces for locals and tourists alike to enjoy the warm weather.
When you first visit Latvia you’ll probably be shocked at just how many sun-soaked beaches occupy the Baltic country’s coastline and provided you visit during the summer season, you’ll likely to forget that you’re even holidaying in Latvia.
As for where to hang your towel, we suggest Jūrmala a seaside resort town, located a convenient distance away from the capital of Riga.
Stretching for 20 miles, the beach isn’t the only attraction in Jūrmala, with it also being home to the Baltic’s biggest water park, Līvu Akvaparks.
Mark Rothko Art Centre
Mark Rothko, the name might not resonate, but his pieces of expressionist art certainly will, the American painter was actually born in Lativia’s south-eastern city of Daugavpils and that’s where you’ll find the Mark Rothko Art Centre.
The building serves as a celebration to art, culture and education, the Rothko family actually contributed some of the painter’s original pieces to the centre’s collection of contemporary Latvian art.
Not for the faint-hearted, those who want the authentic experience of spending a night in a Soviet jail can sign up to be a prisoner at the Karosta prison in Liepāja.
You’ll be subjected to a prisoner routine for an entire 12 hours in a group of ten, and for an added admission fee, you can spend a night alone in solitary confinement.
Regular hourly tours detailing the prison’s history are also available, as well as live reality shows for those who want a less extreme experience.
Song And Dance Celebration
Taking place every five years, the Song and Dance celebration honours Latvia’s roots as a nation of singers, with choral music and folk dancing traditions which date back to the 19th century.
To start the celebration’s proceedings, more than 30,000 singers and dancers from all over Latvia gather in the Viesturdārzs Park for a series of musical performances.
Then it’s time for ‘Choir Wars’, taking place in the Daugava Stadium, two choirs battle it out while dancers perform to the two separate choruses.
The festival then culminates in a parade through downtown Rigga, with each of the festival’s attendee’s dressing in traditional folk garments.
Gauja National Park
The Gauja National Park is Latvia’s oldest and largest area of protected rural land, stretching for over 90,000 hectares.
Famed for its geological diversity, the park is home to natural springs, differing terrain and a variety of unique historical monuments.
Most notable of which is the Turaida Castle, a manor house which is believed to date back as far as the 11th century.
Latvia is home to Europe’s widest waterfall! The only problem is that it’s two metres tall.
With an average width of 249 metres and up to 270 metres during flash floods, the fall’s height only stands at 1.8 metres tall.
Beautiful nonetheless, the Ventas Rumba still provides a great photo opportunity, as well as a number of guest houses for you to stay in during your visit to the falls.
Things To Consider
Latvia’s public transport system is mainly comprised of trains, buses, trams, trolleybuses and minibuses, all of which provide a convenient means of travelling to Latvia’s cities, towns and countryside.
The Latvian rail network system is probably the best mode of transport to use as it connects the Latvian capital, Riga with several different locations including Tukums, Liepāja, Daugavpils, Zilupe, Gulbene, Valga and Skulte.
Depending on the time you intend on spending in Latvia, there are several types of accommodation that may be better suited to you.
If you’re planning to stay in one place for a long period of time, then a holiday home would probably be the best type of accommodation for you.
However, if you intend on travelling from one city to another, then one of the very affordable hostels would be best fitted to you.
Hopefully, this guide will serve as a valuable resource once you’ve renewed your Euro Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and eventually do visit Latvia.