What is Latvia Famous For? 9 Things That Make Latvia the Country it is
Latvia is a cheap, charming and cultural country that is so often overlooked in favour of more famous European destinations. But we’re here to tell you that Latvia, and Riga especially, are well worth a visit.
What is Latvia Famous For?
Latvia is known for it’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites that include Riga’s old city centre, unique cuisine like Rupjmaize, medieval towns, and one of the fastest WiFi speeds in the world, Latvia is also famous for its beer, beautiful women, lakes, waterfalls and art nouveau buildings in Riga.
Whether you’re a foodie fanatic, a culture vulture or a Digital Nomad, you’re sure to find plenty to see and do in Latvia that will take your fancy.
But what else is Latvia famous for and why should you add it to your Bucket List? Read on to find out!
1. Art Nouveau Architecture
Riga, the Latvian capital, is known for its stunning Art Nouveau architecture that dates from around 1904 to 1914. This architectural style includes multi-storey building design, ornamentation, geometric patterns and romantic and neo-classical windows and doors.
The historic centre of Riga is known for having a distinct mix of medieval and Art Nouveau architecture and actually has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture anywhere in the world! Intricate designs can be seen as you walk around the UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town of Riga with highlights being seen on Alberta Street, Elizabetes Street and Audēju Street 7. Other favourite sights include the Riga Cathedral, St Peter’s Church, the Art Nouveau Museum and The Three Brothers.
2. Rivers, Lakes and Waterfalls
Latvia is a watery wonderland that is thought to have as many as 12,000 rivers, 3,000 small lakes and a number of beautiful waterfalls. This means that there are plenty of opportunities to get out on the water, be that kayaking, canoeing or even swimming. It makes Latvia an excellent destination for hiking and exploring nature, and there’s nothing more peaceful than taking a walk around a lake!
Latvia is also home to Ventas Rumba, the widest waterfall in Europe at 249m wide! The only slight disappointment with this is that it is only about 2m high, so it’s a little less impressive than it sounds. Visitors can, however, swim in the water around the Ventas Rumba waterfall in summer or watch the salmon spawning season take place in spring which make for fun trips out of the city.
While Latvia may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think about wildlife destinations, you might be surprised to hear that this small European country is home to a vast array of animals and birds including lesser spotted eagles, otters, beaver, deer, wild boar, elk, red fox, lynx, wolves and a whopping 7000 breeds of stork! This is thanks to the fact that around 40-50% of Latvia is covered in forest, making wonderful habitats for all of these different species.
Some of the best locations for wildlife watching in Latvia include the Tervete Nature Park, Ragakapa Nature Park and the Pape Nature Park that is especially good for bird-watching in autumn!
4. National Parks
As I mentioned above, a large proportion of Latvia’s landscape is covered in forest, and about 20% of that land (plus a number of marine areas) are protected. Latvia is home to four national parks, seven protected marine zones, 24 micro reserves, 40+ nature parks and over 500 nature reserves and nature monuments combined! This means that it is one of the greenest and most well-looked-after countries in Europe and that it has a regular spot at or near the top of the Environmental Performance Index.
As such, Latvia is a bucket list must for those who love the great outdoors. Visitors who want to explore the nature reserves of Latvia are encouraged to visit between April and September when temperatures are warm enough to get outside and make the most of these pristine habitats.
If you’re not that inspired by the great outdoors, you may be more interested in the fact that Latvia is a beer-lover’s heaven, with local breweries making many of the beers extremely region-specific! There are, subsequently, hundreds of different beers to try, with gaišais, a pale lager and tumšais, dark beer, being the two most popular strains. Aldaris, Lacplešis, and Cesu are the three largest producers of beer in Latvia, and these are ideal if you want to enjoy cheap yet local lagers. However, if you want to receive admiration from the beer connoisseur bartenders or simply want to experience an authentic taste of Latvia, you’re better off trying one of the microbrews such as Piebalgas, Tervetes and Valmiermuižas (bonus points for pronouncing it correctly – psst, it’s: VAL-meer-MWOY-zhahs).
Whether you find a beer-centric bar, head to a micro-brewery or simply seek out a decent beer in a touristy bar or restaurant in the heart of Old Town, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the smooth, well-balanced flavours of Latvian beer!
6. Castles and Palaces
As with many Baltic countries, Latvia is home to a beautiful collection of castles and palaces which are especially favoured by American travellers who love this part of European heritage. Rundale Palace and Museum is probably the most famous, a Baroque and Rococo masterpiece that is similar in style to the Palace of Versailles. Other palatial and fortress highlights include the Turaida Stone Castle, the Castle of Cēsis and the Daugavpils (Dinaburga) Fortress which now, uniquely plays host to the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre.
Latvia’s castles and palaces vary in style and structure thanks to the fact that they were built during different centuries and by different historic families and most of these are open to the public for tours or events. You can even stay overnight in some of Latvia’s manors and palaces such as Rumene Manor and Mezotne Palace.
Another thing that Latvia is known for is the beauty of its women who are famed for having striking looks that are desired the world over. This fact is highlighted by the statistic that shows that Latvia produces more female models per capita than almost any country in the world. The countries that rank higher than Latvia are neighbouring Estonia and Lithuania as well as Iceland and Denmark. So while Latvia’s ladies may have some competition in their own region, many travellers will still be astounded by the beauty of these women compared to ladies in their own home countries!
8. Chilly Seaside
Considering Latvia’s location on the northern coast of Europe, it’s not surprising that the country is not very often deemed a beach destination. However, Latvia is actually home to around 330 miles of sandy beaches! The most famous beach in Latvia is probably Jurmala as it lies just 20 minutes’ outside of Riga and there are beach bars, spas, waterparks and festivals to keep all the family entertained.
Other beach destinations that are worth a visit in Latvia include the Jūrkalne Bluffs (perfect for walkers), Pape Nature Park (home to a colony of wild horses) and Ventspils (a family favourite).
Of course, Latvia’s beaches have some pretty crisp water to contend with, but if you visit in the height of summer when temperatures are in the late teens and 20s, a dip in the chilly waters may be just what the doctor ordered!
9. Being Budget-Friendly
Last but by no means least is the fact that Latvia is a very budget-friendly place to travel. Accommodation, food and sight-seeing are all pretty cheap not to mention the aforementioned locally-brewed beer that is kind on the wallet! It’s, therefore, no wonder that Riga is a popular Stag-Do destination or that families and backpackers love to choose this Eastern European gem for their budget-friendly vacation.
Riga is also a relatively small capital city which means that you can basically walk anywhere you want within the city, not having to worry about paying for transport between attractions. This, added to the fact that there are plenty of free outdoor activities to enjoy make Latvia the perfect choice for bargain hunters seeking out a new destination.
Hopefully, by now you know more than you ever did before about what makes Latvia famous and that you can see why it has become a more popular destination for discerning travellers searching for somewhere new to explore. Whether you want to discover the great outdoors, try some delicious food and drink, visit some spectacular castles and palaces or take a brisk dip in the Gulf of Riga, Latvia may well be the destination for you!
Have you ever been to Latvia? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!
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