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Latvia Tours

Travel to Latvia to explore Riga, whose historic core has remained almost untouched by modernity, the great Palace of Rundall, an extraordinary reconstruction of a Prehistoric floating fortress-village and the lovely village of Cesis.

Latvia’s history involves interactions with the Teutonic Knights, Sweden, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Imperial Russia and the Soviets. These, and the assimilation of a large German merchant population have given Latvia a fascinating, varied culture. This is reflected especially in its Hanseatic port and capital, Riga. Foundedin 1201, Hanseatic Riga prospered on Baltic trade, eventually becoming the third largest city in the Swedish Empire. Its defenses include 13th-century city walls, the well preserved ‘Powder Tower’ and Riga Castle. Its medieval streets are lined with high-gabled warehouses, guildhalls as well as Gothic and Baroque churches like the Dome cathedral. Its churches’ high steeples acted as markers guiding visiting merchant ships to port. Riga’s House of the Blackheads (1334), housed an association of bachelor merchants. This magnificent building is a fine restoration of the original. The restored Mentzendorff House, once a wealthy merchant dwelling, vividly portrays 17th and 18th century town life. Riga has one of Europe’s finest Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) precincts, built between 1896 and 1913. Many of its masterpieces, a number designed by Mikhail Eisenstein, father of film-maker Sergei, incorporate Latvian folk elements. Riga’s new Art Nouveau Museum is located in the apartment of the famous Latvian Jugendstil architect Konstantins Peksens (1859-1928).

Beyond Riga is vast, Baroque Rundale Palace (1736- ) designed by the Italian architect of St Petersburg, Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Over 40 restored rooms include the Golden Hall with beautifully decorated ceilings and chandeliers, the Grand Gallery, the intricately stuccoed White Hall, and the Room of Roses. Rastrelli also designed a palace at Jelgava, the seat of the Duchy of Courland and the beautiful nearby Orthodox Church of St Simeon and St Anna. Latvia’s Ethnographic Open Air Museum has a vast collection of Latvian rural farmhouses, windmills, pubs, equipment and domestic material. Its National Museum of Art holds a wonderful collection of Latvian art. Araisi, a reconstructed 10th-century tribal fortress floats on logs in the middle of a lake and the lovely village Cesis is dominated by its great ruined castle.