Aug 23


Are you planning to visit Latvia, the beautiful ex-Soviet republic on the Baltic Sea? Then you must know a few things about the three most important cities of this country: Riga, Liepaja and Daugavpils.

Riga is the capital and also the largest city in Latvia, located at the egress of the Daugava River. It has a population of about 700,000 inhabitants and is the largest city of the Baltic region. From a cultural standpoint, the city is known for its Jugend architectural style – a typical German Art Nouveau sub-genre. Its history dates from the Viking invasion, from the Middle Ages, when it began to develop as a fishing and trade center.

The city structure includes several old churches, the famous Riga Castle and the Television and Radio Tower in Riga, the third largest tower in Europe! It is also a cultural center, where there are several museums such as the Museum of Engineering, the Outdoor Museum, the Opera, Circus and almost any other objective of this kind. The city is located on both sides of the river. Its main neighborhoods are Agenskalns, located on the left bank, which was built mostly in the 19th and 20th centuries and here you can find several museums; Tornakalns with many villas and gardens, and if you are interested in Soviet architecture, you can go in Purvciems, the Russian neighborhood.

Daugavpils is the second largest city in Latvia, located on the Daugava River as well. It has a population of 104,000 inhabitants. It is approximately 120 kilometers from the border with Russia and almost half of its population is Russian. The city is an important railway junction and an industrial center that contrasts with many lakes and parks surrounding it. It used to belong to Poland and then to the Russian Empire until 1920. It is also an educational center with art and technical universities. Outside the city, the newly built airport is welcoming the visitors who are eager to find out more about its history, culture, architecture and people.

Liepaja is a city located in the western part of Latvia, on the shores of the Baltic Sea, being a port with a population of 85.000 inhabitants. Do not go there if you have a problem with the wind, because the area is famous for its sea breezes. Therefore, it is near the largest wind plant in Latvia. This city was a major port during imperial Russia, and a very popular resort. Here you will admire various architectural styles such as houses, Jugend (Art Nouveau) buildings in Soviet style and some green spaces and expanses of water. There are a few churches. Tourists often go in the park by the seaside for its sandy and immaculate beaches. Transport network includes buses and a tram railroad.

This is a general depiction, but every street corner and every building is full of legends and beautiful surprises, so come visit!

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May 19

Gauja Nationa Park- natural, cultural and historical treasure of Latvia

Gauja, Latvia www.traildino.comLatvia invites you to discover a unique location by its natural, cultural and historical diversity- The Gauja National Park. It is known that the park is dating from 1973 and it has more than 90.000 hectares of green beauty. For a full experience reserve yourself more than one day to go about and explore.

A major interest should be given to the caves in the area: Guatmanala, a very large cave, Kalejala, impressive by its length, Liela Ellite or Velnala. For hiking The Ligatne Nature Trails is highly recommended because it offers the opportunity to observe wildlife, animals in their natural habitat, and excellent spots for bird watching. For impressive views there are the cliffs and the sandstone outcrops. The beautiful colors of the outcrops can vary from red to yellow and gray. The red cliffs are maybe the most picturesque and can be seen on the banks of the Ligatne River, the Lustuzis Ridge and Anafabrika Cliffs. It has been discovered that most of them formed 350-370 million years ago.

The Gauja National Park is also a source of inspiration culturally and historically. A trip in the area is like going in a personal and cultural quest. There are three towns (Sigulda, Cesis, Straupe), six Medieval castles and nineteen ancient castles to be admired and discovered along the way.  If you want to get in the atmosphere of medieval times, you can enjoy a day in Cesis Old Town. A unique feeling you will experience as well if you decide to take a tour of the Turida Museum Reserve, Ungurmuiza Manor, Ligatne Paper Mill or Araisi Lake Castle.

Those in search of high adrenaline experiences will not be disappointed. Rides down the Sigulda Luge and Bobsleigh Track are organized all year round. If bungee jumping is your thing, then you should try the cable car in Sigulda. It is suspended above the Gauja River at a height of 43 meters. Here is also the highest climbing tower in Europe, at Vells.

Taking a boat down the Gauja River opens up new perspectives on the outcrops in the valley. Boating is safe here from May to October. There is also the option of camping over night on one of the shores for a good night rest. Springtime floods are changing the dynamic of the river and many adventurous people are happy to go boating on the Ligatne and Amata rivers at that time.

Cycling is really favored here. Tourists can go cycling from May to September. Many biking paths near Sigulda like Ramkalni, Apalkalna or Ezu are the delight of those who love this sport.

If you decide to visit in winter then you might be looking for a skiing experience. Tracks like Kordes, Pilsetas, Reina, Zagarkalns are great to try your skiing skills and these are just a few of them.

Having so many entertainment options in a National Park makes a tourist feel like a kid in a candy store: happy and willing to try them all.

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May 16

Riga- art, sport and Rupjmaize in Latvia

71588722_riga_panorama_www.latvia.travelMore than 800 years old, the city of Riga is the gemstone of Latvia and its capital. Located on the south coast of the Gulf of Riga, the city is close to the River Daugava. Riga is considered one of the largest cities in the Baltic States and has a population of 700.000 people.

Dating from ancient times, the city it is a mix of architectural history, old and modern. You can see coexisting in beautiful harmony churches built back in the days along with medieval buildings in the Old Town and great Art Nouveau architecture.

Riga is impressive by its cultural agenda. One of the places that worth visiting is Latvian National Opera. Here you can see performing artists from different corners of the world. Attending to classical and popular concerts it is another way of enjoying this cultural place.

The gastronomy in Riga is an enchanting adventure that takes you through a variety of tastes. The Latvian cuisine it is a fusion of flavors. Here people love consuming raw and smoke fish, wheat, barley, cabbage, onions, potatoes and pork. The dishes are of rustic inspiration with a modern kick to them. When you visit Riga make sure to taste Rupjmaize, the national symbol; the dark bread made of rye is one of the Latvian specialties.

In Riga, tourists can join running the marathons, take part in orienting expeditions in the forest or enjoy different competitions during summer. Jogging or skiing is always an alternative in Riga. Kayaking is an aquatic sport that is very popular in Latvia.

If you are on the look for a relaxing day in Riga, you should go ahead and try the wellness centers that offer spa treatments, from massaging to cosmetic procedures. Don’t miss the special ritual of taking a Latvian bath.

Getting lost on the narrow streets in Riga is part of the charm of the city. While you are there exploring by foot you can buy at reasonable prices beautiful handmade souvenirs or you can visit the art galleries.

For those looking for the perfect Eastern European location for their business conference, international meetings or multicultural exhibitions, Riga is definitely the city that offers the perfect infrastructure for this.

If you decide you cannot live without being connected on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms, you don’t have to worry about bad service on Internet here. In 2014, Riga has been declared the capital of free WiFi. No matter where you are, in your hotel, getting from one place to another in a cab or just having brunch in a nice café, you can communicate and navigate on Internet for free.

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May 03


The largest Baltic city – and most say it’s also the most beautiful – the capital of Latvia is an extremely important economic and strategic spot of the region. Riga rises 10 meters above sea level and is situated in the homonym gulf, where the Daugava River, which separates the city in two, flows in the Baltic Sea.

Riga is one of the cities which combine old and new in equal proportions and it’s said that, for each old building, there is a new one. Unlike most capitals and important European cities that have an Old Center, Riga has a New Center, as well, which is filled with countless historical monuments of flamboyant architecture, while the old center hosts the cultural institutions, amusement parks and most clubs and restaurants in Riga. You will also encounter many cafes, pubs, pizzerias, and places of leisure.

It was attested as an urban settlement in 1201, and ever since, Riga becomes the theater of many historical ups and downs marking the city’s history, at the confluence of the Russian Empire and the neighboring Northern cultures.

Historical manuscripts mention its existence since the 10th century b.C., but it was founded as an urban settlement in 1201.

Many tourists arrive here every year in order to enjoy the beauty of the Art Nouveau architecture, blending with the more somber Gothic style, and admire the superb parks, gardens and squares.

Life in Riga is very vivid through its cultural events, sports (gulf, carting, skiing, water sports, pool and bowling) and also cruising the Northern Sea.

Regardless of the season, the capital of Latvia always has a lot of things to offer: winter sports, desert camping in the dunes nearby or enjoying time on its beautiful beaches, your experience will definitely be unforgettable.

Some of the most staggering visiting spots are: the City Square – ironically in the shape of a perfect square, dating from the 19th century -, the Lutheran Cathedral of Riga – a beautiful piece of architectural jewelry dating from 1211 -, the Riga Castle – probably the most visited spot of the city and the nativity of Christ Orthodox Church – a grandiose edifice in the shape of a sailing boat.

Seems that Riga bears the pattern of the Northern life style: rather solemn on the outside, but warm and boisterous to its core, and has a lot of pleasant surprises to offer the visitors, once they decide to discover its secret charm.


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Oct 30

The Rundale Palace

In this article we are going to go near the Baltic Sea, to Latvia, where we will have a look at an impressive palace built for Ernst Johann von Biron, the Duke of Courtland. The Rundale Palace was constructed after the plan developed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli and it is representative for the Baroque style.

The construction of the edifice was structured in two stages. Both of them lasted for 4 years, the first was initiated in 1736 and ended in 1740 while the second was carried on between 1764 and 1768. Built initially as a summer residence for the aforementioned duke, the palace changed several hands, being owned by various counts and princes. The royal families lost possession of the edifice in World War I when the Germans invaded the country and took hold of the palace, transforming it into a hospital.

The subsequent wars that took this land by storm were highly detrimental to the Rundale Palace, leaving the edifice almost mutilated under their destructive force.

It was only in the latter decades of the 20th century that the palace was declared a historical monument and it was transformed into a museum. Slowly, renovation works were undertaken in the attempt to reestablish the former glory of the palace. And this meant not only remodeling the building itself. The façades were important but in order to revive the Palace, it was also necessary to furnish the rooms and adorn them with works of art.  And these efforts paid off because with the help of the restoration works, the Rundale Palace became one of the most important tourist attractions on the Latvian territory.

When we talk nowadays about the Rundale Museum, we actually refer to an entire complex together with the surrounding gardens. It is worth mentioning that constant work is being conducted in order to beautify the ensemble which includes arranging the park and restoring the adjacent constructions which are now an intrinsic part of the museum complex.

There is an entire department which conducts heavy investigation in what concerns the original baroque garden in order to create an exact replica of the initial surroundings. Their dedication to the project is really admirable because they want to recapture that part of history and the architectural style of the time and present it to visitors. In order to attract even more tourists to this part of the country, the administration of the museum has begun exploring the customs and habits of the 18th century population in order to reenact the way of life of the royalty figures of that time.

But while the museum remains faithful to the Baroque movement, the exhibitions within capture different artistic styles, from Late Gothic to the Art Nouveau movement.

Jul 23

Turaida Museum Reserve

Take a tour of the Latvian historical past and familiarize yourself with the ancient monuments and architectural wonders which have lingered on from the 11th century due to projects aimed at preserving the jewels of the past and which now enthrall the contemporary society.

The Museum Reserve has become a part of the Latvian cultural heritage due to the numerous memorials which are sprinkled throughout the 42 hectares that make up the site. It is worth mentioning that the administration of the museum reserve is interested in attracting visitors to the area but these developments do not interfere with the landscape by any means. On the contrary, the management pays great attention to the surroundings and is intent on preserving the area to its original appearance.

The reserve is situated at a 50 km distance away from the Latvian capital city, Riga, and it bears an immense importance in the country’s culture. Its beauty and archeological and architectural richness have been appreciated since the early beginning and are ‘responsible’  for the name attached to the site. Turaida is a word pertaining to the language used by the ancient dwellers of the area, the Livonians, and translates as ‘God’s garden.’ Further explanations concerning the designated term seem purposeless as all the clarifications are encompassed in the name itself.

Amid the monuments of the reservation, the Turaida Castle stands out due to its imposing construction. Seen from above, the majestic look of the casle is underlined. The red brick edifice pierces through the foliege which embrace it on all sides, creating a beautiful intertwining of the red and green colors.

The construction of the castle was initiated in the early years of the 13th century, in 1214 more precisely, on the grounds of a former wooden castle, but it continued in the centuries to come. The developments in terms of defense systems have contributed to the further improvement of the castle. But regardless of the enhancement produced, the medieval elements are still noticeable on the walls of the edifice.

Another element of significance which would definitely entice the visitors is the garden of sculptures which has been put together in order to honor the Latvian folklore. Legends are an important part of the Latvian culture and this specific garden will allow visitors to get a glimpse of the country’s traditions. In the Turaida Museum Reserve, tourists also get the chance to visit one of the oldest churches in the country, the Turaida Church, which has been constructed at the middle of the 18th century (1750).

The area is not renowned solely for its historical monuments but also for the specific environment. The setting is sprinkled with rare plants and crystal clear water courses which might be alluring to nature-lovers.

At present, there are exhibitions held within the castle which retrace the history of the monument step by step, starting from its construction year and throughout the development and restoration periods.

Oct 17

St. Jacob’s Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Iacob)

St. Jacob’s Cathedral is a beautiful cathedral which combines elements pertaining to the Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles. This edifice, which is located in Riga, is among the oldest of its kind but among the most wonderfully crafted. The detailing of both the exterior and the interior reflect the architectural evolution of the cathedral as several stylistic designs are incorporated within its structure.

The Gothic tower comprises 3 stained glass windows which depict an amalgam of leaf and berry motifs beautifully painted in the Art Nouveau style, a representation meant to symbolize the Eucharist.

The church, which is dedicated to St. James the Great, dates from the 13th century, having been mentioned for the first time in official documents in 1225. Throughout time, the original edifice was improved. In the 15th century, the Gothic church was remodeled in the sense that a fragment of the edifice was turned into a basilica. More so, in the same period of time, the Holy Cross Chapel was constructed in close vicinity of the church.

Even the scope of the church shifted according to the religious wave that swept over Latvia at particular times. For instance, in the 16th century, when the Protestant Reformation was under way, the cathedral was transformed into a German language Lutheran church. In 1523, it was turned into a Latvian language Lutheran church.

In the later part of the 16th century, the church underwent a change of hands as it was offered to the Jesuits when the Counter Reformation took shape. However, it was returned to the Lutherans after Gustav II Adolf gained control over Riga. There was a time when the edifice served completely different purposes than the ones it was designed for. In the early 19th century (1812), Napoleon’s army used the building for storage.

In the 20th century, the cathedral returned to the Catholics and has remained under their administration till the present day.

It is believed that St. Jacob’s Cathedral has been around since the early development of Riga. Bishop Albert, the founder of the city, is thought to have ordered for the cathedral to be erected together with two other churches: the Virgin Mary’s Assumption Church and St. Peter’s Church.

Even if the church is recorded in the annals of Riga from the early 13th century, the construction work extended over a lengthy period, the edifice having been completed in the 1300s. But work on the church was carried on until the later decades of the 15th century.

St. Jacob’s Cathedral consists of red bricks placed on a limestone fundament. While throughout the passage of time the church underwent several modifications, the original structure has been kept.

The last adjustments conveyed to the edifice were done at the end of the 18th century when a supplementary roof was built in the shape of a pyramid and the tower was plated in cooper.

At present, the cathedral comprises a central hall with a specially arranged space for the choir, the basement and a prayer room which is made up of 2 presbyteries and the altar room. St. Jacobs’s church is an architectural monument, having been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Jul 23

The Museum of Occupation (Muzeul Ocupatiei)

The Museum of Occupation is dedicated to remembrance. The items on display are meant to recall the visitors how Latvia presented itself under the Nazi and Soviet occupations. The exhibitions are sectioned so as to pinpoint the totalitarian ideologies which were inflicted on the Latvians by the Soviets and the Nazis, the factors which contributed to the annihilation of the country’s economy, and the political framework on which these events occurred.

But the museum also contains valuable items which reflect the population’s struggle to overturn the totalitarian regimes, as well as their efforts to attain their freedom, which they managed to do in 1991.


In the exhibition halls where official documents are on display, one can notice papers which tell the story of Latvia’s occupation. Among these, one can read the pact that the Soviets and the Nazis signed on the 23th of August 1939 and which divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence.

Latvia has been under foreign occupation three times: the first occupation lasted from 1940 until 1941, time in which the Latvians were under Soviet domination; the second occupation (Nazi) took place from 1941 up until 1944/45, after which the Soviets reentered the country and ruled over it until 1991.


Each of these historical events is followed through documentary evidence so visitors can partially re-enact, so to speak, that troubled historical period. Another section of the Museum of Occupation is dedicated to the fight for independence and the regain of autonomy, which occurred in 1991.

The museum’s purpose is to collect and preserve any type of written or oral material evidence, official papers, photographs, or items which in any way reflect the Latvian experience during the aforementioned timeframe.

The collection is in a constant expansion in the sense that if individuals or organizations who are in possession of any materials relevant to Latvia’s history are willing to donate them to the museum, then these will be included in the collection, in the appropriate section.


More so, if there are witnesses to special events which occurred back in the day and they are willing to share their story with the posterity, the museum will videotape the account. All of the items encountered in the museum are accessible to the public mainly because the museum is interested in allowing the public to gain insight into that specific historical period.

There is a special department, the Audio-Visual Archive which contains the narratives of the people which were directly impacted by the Nazi or Soviet occupation. This includes not only eyewitnesses, but also expatriates or refugees who can give authentic testimonials about those historical events.


The Museum of Occupation has a Research Program which was initiated back in 1999 with the scope of shedding light on the period in which Latvia was under occupation. The researchers engaged in this program are both of Latvian origin and foreigners: Russians, Americans, English, etc., all contributing to portraying an objective account of that period. The discoveries are included not only in the annual publications issued by the Museum, but also in scientific journals and newspapers.

The museum is opened for visitations all year long, with the exception of national holidays. There are also specific days in which the museum is closed, but the program can be learnt from the official website of the Museum of Occupation. Depending on the time of the year in which you decide to make a visit, the museum is opened from 11:00 until 17:00 or 18:00.

Jul 16

St. Peter’s Church (Biserica Sf. Petru)

St. Peter’s Church is situated in the historical center of the Latvian capital city, Riga. The locality of the monument is enough to indicate that the church is a part of the history of the state, thus pointing to its significancy. But more so, St. Peter’s Church is an ancient and valuable construction not solely of Latvia, but of the Baltic region. Representative for the medieval architectural design, the church has been recognized for its value and included in the UNESCO World Heritage Program in 1997.

The first written document which attests the existance of the church dates from the beginning of the 13th century (1209). At first, the structure was quite different from what it is presented before us at present. The church had a small hall and 3 corridors which were more or less identical in terms of height and width. As there is no mentioning of a belfry, the accurate assumption is that this was probably constructed separately.


The edifice which stands today is actually the result of the restoration work conducted in the 15th century. The altar dates from the same century and it is representative for the Gothic style. In fact, the same architectural design can be encountered in a basilica located in the German town of Rostock – the St. Mary Church.

The Gothic belfry, which exceeded 130 m in height, was finished at the turn of the century, but it did not manage to survive too long. The steeple came tumbling down in 1666 and the church remained without this intrinsic part of the construction for 24 years. It was not until 1690 that a new belfry was constructed under the supervision of Rupert Bindenschuh.


This new building bore the mark of the Baroque style and consisted of various domes and corridors. But the material from which it was created, wood, was definitely not the best of choices. In 1721, during a lightning storm, the steeple, the largest edifice in the world at that time, was burnt to the ground.  Tsar Peter the Great, who was in Riga at the time of the fire, gave order that the steeple be reconstructed to its former structure.

The work was completed in 1746 and the church survived up until the Second World War. This time of world conflagration brought about the demolishing of the church. The fate of the church was doomed: the belfry and the roof were reduced to ashes while the interior was completely devastated.


But the basilica was to be restored one step at a time, beginning from 1954. The first part of this project consisted of restoring the roof, this time covering it with tiles. The steeple would not see the light of day until 1967. The new belfry would set itself apart from the previous design it bore, as this time around the material used in its construction was metal. Another differentiation consists in the height of the building, the new steeple measuring 123,25 m, a couple of meters below its precursor.

Modernity had its way of getting involved in the restoration work, in as much that visitors can ascend from one passage to the next via an elevator. This goes up as much as 72 m. The restoration work for the church was finalized in June, 1973. The Clock Tower was restored in one year’s time, from 1975 until 1976.


After the exterior was redone, architects turned their entire attention to the interior of the church and managed to create a one-of-a-kind design. The ceiling of the basilica consists of overlapped and stellar cupolas and it is supported by massive columns. The altar consists of 5 chapels, arranged in a circle ,- design representative for the Gothic architectural style.

The restoration work was lengthy and strenuous, but the result was worth it, as at present Latvia prides itself with one of the oldest and most significant basilicas situated in the Baltic States. In honor of the persons and organizations which contributed to the restoration of St. Peter’s Basilica, an inscription plate was placed near the church in 1995.

Today, the church is a unique cultural monument, bearing signs both of the past and present architectural design.

Jun 20

Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation (Muzeul de Istorie si Naval, Riga)

The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation is not only the oldest museum on the territory of Latvia, but also on the entire European Continent. The edifice which holds within its walls the museum is the Riga Dom Cathedral, located in Old Riga, a construction which bears the mark of various architectural designs  – as these have appeared throughout the centuries (the 13th -20th century).

But the history of the museum began in 1773 and it only consisted of the private collection of artistic pieces and natural science materials belonging to a local doctor, Nikolaus von Himsel. After his death, Nikolaus’ mother had made sure that her son’s wish was fulfilled, in as much that she donated the impressive collection to the city of Riga.


The town council decided to name the museum that was to be founded after the man who so kindly donated his collection and chose the Anatomical Theater as the grounds for the museum. However, the passage of time was cruel with this particular building, so the Himsel Museum had to be relocated. Thus came into picture the Riga Dome Cathedral, which had underwent restoration works so as to house the museum and the town library.

In time, the museum grew extensively in as much that today it holds one of the largest collection of items – historical evidence of Riga.


The 19th century brought about specific modifications to the museum. The year 1816 marks the moment when an Arts Cabinet was established. In the latter part of the 19th century (1881), Himsel’s collection and the numismatic collection of Riga were unified and thus the City Coin Cabinet came into being.
The collections of natural science and archeology found in the museum were transferred in the 1860s – some to Riga Museum and some to the Art Gallery

When the collections were moved to the Riga Dom in the last decade of the 19th century, the name of the museum was changed to Dom Museum.

The history of the museum (or more accurately of the collections) is quite tormented. From 1932, the museum came under the administration of the Board of Museums of the Republic of Latvia, but 4 year later, the same board decided to close the Dom Museum, opening instead the Riga City History Museum – which was to hold, among other items, all the former collections of the Dom Museum. The additional collections were relevant for the history and culture of the city, including coins, tokens, medals, paper money, casts, as well as valuable documents – in original.


But the Second World War was bound not to go by unnoticed. The museum was badly damaged in this period. Collections were transferred to territories occupied by Germans and some which were not acceptable to the Soviet Union, due to the fact that they were ideologically incompatible with the beliefs put forth by communism, were removed. The result was dramatic: the museum had been deprived of some of its most valuable items.

In 1964, the main characteristics of the museum changed so the name attached to it was to reflect this change: the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation.
At present, visitors can admire as much as 80 collections, which together count more than half a million objects.

Some of the permanent exhibitions found inside the museum are: ‘The Origins of Riga’ (prior to 1201), ‘Medieval Riga’ (from 1201 until 1581), ‘Riga under the Polish and Swedish Rule’ (1581-1710), ‘Riga and Riga’s Citizens’ (1918-1940), etc.

Visiting hours:

1)      May, the 1st – September, the 30th:

         Daily: 10:00 – 17:00

2)    October, the 1st – April, the 30th:

        Wednesday – Sunday: 11:00 -17:00

       Monday – Tuesday: closed