Lonely Planet named Latvia as one of the best places to travel and it’s easy to see why as this country bursts with sea, lakes, woods and endless opportunities for exploring medieval towns and castles. If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this country offers unspoiled nature to explore, cobbled streets to walk and incredible cuisine to dine on. Discover something different here, whether you want to play in the sand dunes or jump from a cable car naked, it seems like anything is possible in Latvia. Here are 5 suggestions for your next visit to Latvia.
1. Stay at the Baltic Beach Hotel and Spa
The unique location in the dune area makes this hotel perfect for the ideal relaxation getaway. The hotel boasts 165 rooms that boast either a sea or garden view and houses the largest certified SPA center in the Baltic States. Guests won’t go hungry here with their choice of three different restaurants offering elegant cuisine, and a total of three bars.
There are over 400 treatments here to relax and rejuvenate guests and a variety of amenities including a Russian steam bath, old wood sauna, ice fountain, a shower of impressions and an amber bath. The grounds are delightful, the service is impeccable and it will a stay to remember in Latvia.
2. Visit the Castles
Latvia is absolutely loaded with castles, over thirty of them to be exact and exploring some of them should be high on the list for visitors to this country. One of the first stops should be to Turaida castle where this impressive building rises above the green landscape like a ship built of red brick. Visitors can walk along the castle ramparts and explore the miles of hiking trails on the grounds.
Bauska Castle consists of two parts, the Medieval Castle and Ducal Palace- a rare example of a Renaissance Palace in Latvia. The Medieval part boats a 22-meter-high tower that gives superior views from the top. Cesis Medieval Castle is one of the most significant castles in Latvia as the Livonian Order for several centuries has its center here and Krustpils Medieval Castle is one of the best-preserved castles in Latvia, and both deserve a visit.
3. Visit Slitere National Park
If you are an avid hiker, Latvia has no shortage of trails to choose from and the Gauja National Park is one of the best places to do so. The sandstone outcrops and the caves that are found here are simply incredible. Approximately one-third of all Latvian natural preserves and more than 500 cultural and historical monuments can be found here. The
Ligatne nature trails are the favorite of many as visitors will be privy to all sorts of wild animals including bear, lynx, elk, bison and red deer who have been rescued from all over Latvia. The best part of the time to visit is in the spring when the bird-cherries bloom and the ancient valley becomes almost entirely white.
4. Haggle at the Riga Central Market
When construction was completed in 1930, the Riga Central Market was one of the largest and most modern marketplaces on the European continent. During WWI the pavilions were actually used as zeppelin hangers and now serve as meat, produce, fish and dairy markets. These pavilions are not the only thing that makes this market unique, also present here are old warehouses that have been turned into a hip, arts and entertainment quarter.
Here visitors can buy Latvian-grown food and homemade products as well as exotic fruits and spices. It is all hustle and bustle here and although it isn’t as easy to haggle with stall owners as it once was, you are encouraged to try your luck. Make sure to check out the outdoor stalls and stands as well as the night market.
5. Visit the Riga Art Nouveau Centre
This museum is one of a kind, in fact, it is the only museum in the Baltics that presents a complete picture of the historical heritage of Art Nouveau. Although it is one of the youngest museums in Riga it has done an absolutely fantastic job recreating the authentic interior of a 1903 home, right down to the door and window handles.
One of the best parts of this museum is where it is located, in the Art Nouveau District which features incredible houses and designs. There are a total of 40% of buildings in the center of Riga which belong to art nouveau, more than any other European city. This designated UNESCO World Heritage Site is under protection now and visitors will be able to enjoy these buildings for centuries to come.