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10 Reasons to Visit Latvia

Explore a country of northeastern Europe and the middle of the three Baltic states

|May 17, 2021
Anhelina is a wanderlust-fueled soul who is also a cat mom, amateur cyclist, and painter in her free time. She believes that every location, no matter how remote or obscure, has a unique charm that deserves to be shared with the world.

Learn about Latvia - a country on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Estonia and plan to visit! Read about 10 reasons why you should visit Latvia and plan your trip now!

1. Old Rīga

Riga has become a top holiday destination for travelers from all over the world. The Old Town is the city’s very heart with impressive historic buildings, oversized churches and cobbled streets. In the summer, the Old Town sees heavy tourist traffic because of its many sunny squares, beer gardens and street cafes. During the wintertime, the Old Town is full of Christmas markets with sweet-smelling wine, roasted almonds and glazed gingerbread.

riga old town view and main square in summer

Riga’s Art Nouveau architecture is one of the most unique aspects of this Baltic city. At the turn of the 20th century, when Art Nouveau was at the height of its popularity, Riga just happened to be at the center of an unprecedented financial boom. Riga has more than 400 buildings of Art Nouveau architecture and they are still in great condition. Visit the Art Nouveau Museum to look at its beautiful staircase and a recreation of a true-to-the-era interior or stroll down Alberta or Elizabeta streets for plenty of picture-worthy examples of this century-old style.

2. Latvian Cuisine

If you want to get a glimpse of Latvian culture and traditions and understand them better, you need to get to know the cuisine with all its unique dishes, including kvass, soups and dark rye bread. At the beginning of your trip, some of the dishes may seem unusual or even strange, but if you are open to an unforgettable culinary journey in Latvia, you will want to take all these dishes home with you.

Skābeņu zupa, sometimes called green borscht, is a traditional Latvian sorrel soup. Latvians prepare the soup with beef broth, chopped sorrel leaves, pearl barley, onions, potatoes and lemon juice. Some Latvians also add grated carrots and smoked pork ribs, while hard-boiled eggs and sour cream are typically used as garnishes. Although skābeņu zupa is usually served warm, some prefer it to be served ice cold on hot summer days. The word skābeņu in the name of this soup means sour and refers to the taste of sorrel.

latvian national soup called skabenu zupa or green borscht

Karbonade is pounded pork fried in breadcrumbs. Since pork plays an essential role on Latvian menus, it is one of the country's most popular dishes. Karbonade is typically served with a mound of creamy mushrooms on top and some dill-spiced potatoes on the side.

Aukstā zupa is a Latvian cold soup with an unusual deep pink color. It is made with beets, cucumbers, dill, kefir, hard-boiled eggs, and milk sausage. Some Latvians enjoy the soup with a dash of vinegar. All the ingredients are mixed together, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then the soup is served cold. It is recommended to serve the soup with a few slices of brown bread or boiled potatoes. Aukstā zupa is popular during the summer, so it is hard to find it in restaurants during wintertime.

cold beetroot soup latvian and lithunian dish auksta zupa saltibarsciai

Maizes zupa. A popular way to end a meal in Latvia is to eat a pot of maizes zupa, which is rye bread pudding, a soup-like dessert made of sweetened rye bread, apples, cinnamon, raisins, prunes, cranberries, and whipped cream. The dark rye bread is dried in the oven before being cooked, which gives the pudding a thick, comforting texture.

3. Riga Central Market

aerial view of riga central market buildings

Riga's Central Market is officially the largest market in Europe. The five large former Zeppelin hangars were converted into market halls in 1930. Inside the hangars, you can buy fish, meat, dairy products, bread and vegetables, while CDs and household appliances are sold outside. Exclusive fashion items or souvenirs are rare to find, but a visit to this huge bazaar will give you a feel for local life like perhaps no other attraction can. Negotiating prices is rarely acceptable there, but you can always try your luck. Moreover, you can taste the products on the spot before buying. So if you want to try fresh Latvian products, this is the place to do it. You should definitely try cheese and bread from the region, you won’t regret it!

4. The Perfect SPA Getaway

couple relaxing in a latvian spa in riga

One of the best things about Latvia is cheap and great spas. ESPA Riga is one of the internationally recognized five-star SPA centers in the Baltic States. A whole day at ESPA, a luxurious five-star spa, with facials, body scrubs, hour-long massages, pool and sauna sessions, topped off with a 2-course gourmet meal and Champagne. The total price? Just €170. Moreover, you can find even cheaper spa experiences in Latvia, just search for it!

5. Forests

lush foggy pine forests at sunset in latvia

If you want to get to know Latvia even more closely and deeply, take a walk through the forests of Latvia. The country is one of Europe’s greenest nations. The forests in Latvia cover about 45% of the country and are home to a variety of animals such as beavers, birds of prey and lynx. Visit Kemeri National park and the Gauja National park and enjoy nature at its best.

6. Beautiful Beaches

people enjoying a sunny day at the beach in jurmala latvia

People who visit the Baltic Sea in Latvia for the first time are often surprised by how beautiful the beaches are. The endless golden sandy beaches are a great place to let the kids play with a bucket and spade. Just 20 kilometers from the capital Riga, is Jūrmala. This is Latvia's most luxurious beach town and is filled with grand wooden holiday homes and large spa hotels. Jūrmala is also known as the tourist pearl of the country, which hosts many visitors every year. There are huge spas, hotels and many historical buildings in the city. You can come here with your loved ones and enjoy a great vacation. Everything you need for sightseeing, rest and entertainment is available there.

For a more relaxed vibe, visit Ventspils in the northeast. Aside from its bustling port, Ventspils is a city of beaches, public art, and an incredible array of activities for children.

7. It’s Affordable

Looking at other European countries, Latvia is a very affordable country. You can easily get a delicious meal for less than €15, rent a car for a week for less than €200, and enjoy a night in a comfortable hotel for only €40. Prices go up in the summer when the tourist traffic increases. Autumn is the perfect time to get cheap deals on flights and accommodation, making your experience even more affordable.

8. Soviet reminders

latvia academy of applied sciences in riga

If you want to see the various sides of the USSR, you can find them all in this country. The "good" side is represented by buildings you either love or hate, such as the oversized skyscraper of the Academy of Sciences in Riga (nicknamed "Stalin's wedding cake") and the boxy modernist building that houses the Museum of Latvian Occupation. Inside, the museum summarizes the "bad" side of Soviet life, such as deportations, gulags, and purges. As for the "ugly" side, you can find many of the grey, utilitarian buildings that embody the words "formerly Soviet."

9. Castles

There are about 140 medieval castles in Latvia. Some of them date back to the time of the Baltic Crusade, while many magnificent palaces belonged to the nobility after the time of the Baltic Crusades.

Rundale Palace aerial view in latvia

Rundale Castle in Latvia is one of the two greatest Baroque castles built for the Duke of Courland. The palace, with its magnificent Baroque and Rococo architecture, is located in the southern part of Latvia, in the middle of the beautiful Zemgale Plain. It was built in the late 18th century and the interiors were decorated by a Berlin-based sculptor and Italian painters. There are so many impressive rooms that can be seen after the renovation. From the Billiards Room to the Studies and everything in between. In Rundale Castle, Latvian history is presented through exhibitions. In the exhibition hall, there are also many exhibits of applied arts as well as historical expositions for the visitors. Many music festivals and classical music concerts are also held in this beautiful palace.

drone view of Turaida Castle near gauja river

Turaida Castle, located on the banks of the Gauja River in the vast territory, is an important defensive fortress that was built in 1214. This castle played an important role throughout history. This building, made of red bricks, attracts great attention for its architecture. Unfortunately, it was damaged in a fire in 1776 but was recently reconstructed. Exhibitions about the history of the brick castle and the Gauja Livonians are available in the restored buildings. It shares the unique landscape that you definitely have to see!

outside view of Sigulda Castle in latvia

The Gauja Valley in Latvia is home to many stone castles. This part of Latvia has the largest concentration of castles. Sigulda Castle is one such castle, built in the 13th century by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. The castle was originally built to control the waterways of the Gauja Valley. In the early 13th century, it was converted into a monastic home by the Pope's legate, William of Modena. A church was built in the castle and a parish was founded at Sigulda Castle.

Riga Castle in latvia

Riga castle. Riga Castle has stood on the right bank of the River Daugava for more than 700 years. Through the centuries, it has seen severe destruction, numerous rulers and wars. Today it is the residence of the President of Latvia.

bauska castle aerial view in latvia

The beautiful Bauska Castle is situated amid a very picturesque landscape. The castle stands on a cape where two rivers, Musa and Melemele, flow into the Lielupe. The castle consists of two parts. One is the old castle of the Livonian Order from the 15th century and a newer part from the 16th century, which served as the residence of the Dukes of Courland. Inside the castle, you can see the defenses, including many cannons, as well as clothing and ornaments of the Duchy of Courland from the 16th and 17th centuries.

10. Kooky experiences

kgb prison exhibition museum

From spy games in old Soviet buildings to horror scenes re-enacted in darkened basements, Latvia has a selection of experiential attractions to offer. If you have an appetency for Soviet-style punishments, head to Liepāja's creepy old military prison Karosta Prison for a few hours of abuse by costumed KGB agents. For an even more immersive experience, you can even spend the night in a cell and familiarize yourself with the authentically gruesome toilet facilities. Join our tour to visit Karosta Prison.

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