Here I will show some information about the main cities of Latvia.
The map of Latvia showing the main cities.
Riga is the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltic Region. It’s situated on the mouth of river Daugava. Its population is 717,371 people. Riga was founded in 1201. by German knights who were looking for strong base for their war and trade operations. Since then Riga has always been a basic center of Latvian land.
Riga is noted for its historic old city part called old Riga. In old Riga you will find two beautiful Gothic churches like Church of St. Peter which tower was the highest tower in Europe for a long time. The Dome cathedral is the main church of Riga.
The Dome cathedral (left) and St. Peters church (right)
The both holy places belongs to Lutheran church, but there is also many Catholic and Orthodox churches in Riga.
The main square in Riga is the Town Hall square (Rātslaukums). In the square you will find restored Riga Town hall and House of Blackheads- the main trading center in Latvia. Its named under the trading Brotherhood of Blackheads who’s patron was St. Mauricius the black saint. These buildings were destroyed by the Nazi artillery in the Second World War and communist government refused to restore them and removed the remains of them completely. Instead they build the Museum of Red Rifleman- a postmodernic black box. It now serves as the Museum of occupation of Latvia.
The House of Blacheads.
There are many more beautiful sites in old Riga. The old Riga is divided from the center by canal. Its surrounded by parks. The main monument in Riga is the Monument of Freedom. Erected at 1935. it’s an symbol of Latvian fight for freedom and Latvian nation. The sign of the monument says “For Fatherland and Freedom” (Tēvzemei un Brīvībai). The main sculptural part is the women lifting three glided stars representing the three regions of Latvia- Curland, Semigallia and Vidzeme. The woman is called Milda by the locals.
Outside Old Riga there many stylish buildings build at the end of 19. century and beginning of 20. century. They are many stiles present, but the most famous buildings can be seen at the Alberts Street. The Art Noveau or Jugendstil buildings are one of the most stinking beauties of Riga.
During the Soviet era the need of more housing for growing number of citizens caused massive build of new neighborhoods. The buildings of these neighborhoods were built according to serial style building. So the large concrete flats looked all the same making new landscapes. All around of the old borders of Riga a new neighborhoods grow. Today the most working force lives there. The most famous such places are Purcviems, Mežciems, Jugla, Zolitūde and others.
The government of Latvia resides in Old Riga. The Parliament or Saeima works in Jekaba iela in old Knighthood building. It was also a local Soviet Government center in Soviet era. The President works in Riga Castle built in Middle Ages as the palace of Livonian Order. It is also home of the National History museum of Latvia and Foreign Arts Museum.
Daugavpils considerably differs from other Latvian cities. It is second largest city in Latvia with 108, 260 citizens, but Latvians are minority here. Daugavpils has always been inhabited by foreign immigrants. Before the Second World War the major ethnic groups were Jews and Russians both sizing at 50%. There were also a large Polish population. Now since the tragic fate of the Jews, the Daugavpils are mostly Russian town, but size of the Latvian population are growing. The main site of attraction in Daugavpils is the Daugavpils fortress. Russian military started to build the fortress in 1810. and finished in 1878. In 1812. the fortress was attacked by Napoleon’s army. It became the main western border protection center. Many Russian tsar’s rested there. After the fall of Russian Empire it was used by Latvian army. After the world war it again become property of Russian, now Soviet Army. When the Soviet Army left Latvia in 1994. fortress become abandon for it was too costly for local government to maintain it. However in the recent years it become a private property and is used as tourist attraction. In future there will be Mark Rotko- the famous modern painter museum. Mark Rotko was born in Daugavpils but left for another country in his early years.
Daugavpils as also noted for its religious buildings. There is many Catholic churches, Orthodox churches and Synagogues. It is only place where Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox churches sit side by side on one street.
Liepaja are located at the end of Curland near the Lithuanian border. The third largest city with Latvia with 85, 132 citizens. Liepaja has always been an important sea port. It was used by Russian navy both Imperial and Soviet Times. Liepaja is site of many notable places like the magnificent Naval Orthodox cathedral located in Karaosta- The War Port. Liepaja was site of many important historical events- in 1905. the Russian navy left Liepaja to fight Japanese navy, only to perish on strait of Tsusima. During the War of Freedom (1918.-1920) Liepaja was temporally Latvian capital in 1918.-1919. When Nazi Germany attacked Soviet Union in 1941. Liepaja was the only city in Latvia where serious Soviet resistance took place.
Ventspils is an old port located on mouth of river Venta is one of the most successful small Latvian cities. During last 18 years Ventspils has become an important transit port sending oil, coal and other resources from east to west. Many say thanks to the Ventspils major Aivars Lembergs. Despite numerous accusations of corruption and forgery he managed to make Ventspils Ventspils “>an rich tourist attraction and business center. The citizens of Ventspils are fiercely loyal to Lembergs and despite the opposition of the lawmakers Lembergs still rules Ventspils with large popularity
The main tourist attractions are the Palace of Livonian Order, The Water attractions park, The skiing center Lemberg’s Hat (Lemberga Hūte) and others. And don’t forget to check out the interesting sculptures of cows randomly scattered across town.
Jurmala is capital of Latvian summer holiday. Located near Riga on the mouth of river Lielupe, Jurmala is main beach resort in Baltic States. Only Palanga in Lithuania can rival Jurmala. That’s Because of it 32 km wide beach across the Riga Bay and river Lielupe. The city is stretched across the bay and river. Jurmala was famous beach resort from the times of Russian Empire. Then city was attracted by rich Germans, Russians and Jews. In times of first independence city was made into national resort. Rich Latvians build mansions and sanatoriums. The sanatorium at Kemeri at west end of the city was famous across Europe. In Soviet times Jurmala attracted thousands of tourists from all Soviet Union. Large hotels, sanatoriums and even special resorts for Soviet astronauts were established. After regain of independence city experienced rapid downfall because of bankruptcy of large Soviet resorts. But during the years city restored it glamor by attracting Latvian and Russian millionaires. Jurmala is filled with large mansions and new resort centers. The heart of the city is Jomas iela, filled with top class restaurants, hotels and shops. There every August at Dzintari concert hall international song contest “The wave of Jurmala” takes place. It features old and new stars from Russia and western world, but the main goal of the festival is to find new talents for Russian music market. If you want to see the riches of Latvia you should pay a visit to Jurmala. Its large beaches, hotels and rich mansions. Only low wealt areas are Kauguri and Sloka at the ends of the city.
Jelgava is the natural center of Semigallia (Zemgale). Located on right bank of river Lielupe Jelgava was the capital of the Duchy of Curland and Semigallia. Late 18. century Dukes build the beautiful Jelgava Palace a great example of Eastern European Baroque. The Palace now serves as the Latvian University of Agriculture.
Jelgava was heavily bombarded by the Soviet aviation in 1944. That’s why Jelgava is rather fulled with 20. century buildings.
Outside Jelgava there is one more magnificent Baroque Palace. The Palace of Rundāle is one of the architectural wonders of Latvia. Used as a summer residence for Curland Dukes, the Palace is now a museum with beautiful gardens.
Cesis (Cēsis) is a historical center of Vidzeme. Cesis was important historical site . During the Medieval Ages Cesis served as the main residence of Livonian Order. One of the most important battle for both Latvian and Estonian nations was fought in 1919. at Cesis. The national forces of Latvia and Estonia defeated the German Iron Division who was looking to annihilate both new nations and make an pro-German state. The Castle of Livonian order was site of many sieges and now lies in ruins. There is also an Medieval Palace of Turaida north-west of Cesis which is partly restored.
Left castle of Cesis. Right castle of Turaida.
There are many more nice cities in Latvia. The recommended are Jekapbils (a restored medieval fortress and many nice churches), Rezekne (the center of Latgalia) and Valmiera (important center in Vidzeme.