I absolutely love castles, which is why I’m lucky to live in Europe. We have so many castles in Europe to enjoy.
Latvian castles really bring the country’s history to life. Many are barely standing, but even the old ruins have a story to tell. Built in the depth of thick forests, by charming lakes, on the tops of steep hills, and in the centres of towns that are hundreds of years old, some of Europe’s best castles are in Latvia.
As you wander around the different castles you’ll explore a range of architectural styles that were once characteristic of the area, from mediaeval castles to baroque and renaissance palaces. With this shortlist of the finest castles, you won’t be short of things to do in Latvia.
The 10 Best Castles In Latvia
This modest castle was built near the bank of the Daugava River. It’s one of the biggest mediaeval castles in the country, and it’s still the official home of the President of Latvia. The foundation stone of the castle was laid down in 1330.
The castle saw many battles and wars and was badly damaged many times throughout the centuries. The last major reconstruction took place in 1515. It hasn’t always been under the rule of the Latvians either, at different times it was taken over by the Polish, Swedish and Russians!
It’s a prime example of late Classicism architecture, though on the inside there are an array of decorative styles that speak to the ever-changing history of the castle. Entrance fees cost €3.00 for adults and there are discounts for students and seniors.
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As it’s not the best preserved of the Latvian castles, you’ll have to use your imagination to bring the site to life. But the town and castle are well worth a visit. The town of Cesis has a long history; it’s been around for more than 800 years!
It’s no wonder then that it’s home to the oldest brewery in Latvia. The castle was built in the 13th century, around 1214. Once a prosperous mediaeval castle, it is now half tumbled, half standing. It was originally the residence of the Knights of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword.
In 1577 it was besieged by the Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible. To avoid being captured by the Tsar, 300 people who had sought refuge in the castle blew themselves up with gunpowder! There are different areas to the site, and entrance to each costs around €3.00.
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Derelict and barely standing, the Ludza Castle hasn’t survived the test of time so well. Once a three-storey fortress with 6 towers and 2 foreburgs, there’s not much left of the fortress anymore. It was built in the 14th century by German crusaders who settled in the area and used the fortress as a stronghold.
The castle’s crumbling red bricks come to life as you take a tour around the castle and hear the tales of warriors and princesses. Ludza Castle sits on the top of a hill above the town of Ludza, you’ll have the best views of the village from the castle!
Entrance is free and you can walk up to the castle from town. Bear in mind that the Great Latgalian Market is hosted here annually in the summer, so that’s the best time to visit.
Turaida Castle was built around 1214 for the Bishop Albert of Riga. Before it there was a wooden castle on the site that was deconstructed to make way for the new stone castle. It’s one of the oldest castles in Latvia.
It sits on the top of an 80 metre high cliff, in between two ravines. There’s a 27 metre tall tower you can climb to the top of too, which will give you panoramic views of the Gauja Valley.
Built in red brick and surrounded by thick forest, it’s nothing short of spectacular. The castle isn’t too far away from the town of Sigulda, which has good transport links with Riga. Entrance fees cost around €3.50.
This stunning little castle was built in 1860 by the shores of Lake Birini. The pink and white exterior are nothing like most castles, and the site is renowned as a romantic spot. You can even get married on the grounds! Birini Castle was designed by the architect Friedrich Wilhelm Hess, who lived in Riga.
The exterior of the castle is built in a Neo-Gothic architectural style, whilst the interior is distinctly Neo-Renaissance. Dine at the exquisite restaurant in the castle and go for long strolls around the lake and the parks that envelop the castle to make the most of your time here.
The castle is about an hour’s drive away from Riga, and it’s quite tricky getting there via public transport. It’s close to the town of Sigulda too, so one idea could be to rent a car and visit the Turaida and Birini castle in a day.
This castle is one of the few mediaeval castles in Latvia that remains in such great condition, making Lielstraupe Castle a unique relic of Latvia’s past. It was built in the 13th century and further developed in the 14th century. Sadly, in 1905 the castle was seriously damaged by a fire. Luckily, after four years of restoration it was salvaged.
It was managed and owned by the Rosen family for a long time. There’s a little church within its boundaries, as well as the Castle Park which has a pond and cemetery. The castle’s faded yellow-orange exterior, mediaeval architecture, and peculiar history (it even served as a drug addiction rehabilitation hospital at one point) make it a unique Latvian castle.
It’s especially charming in winter when the castle is surrounded by snow. You’ll want about an hour and a half to explore, and you can walk there from the town of Straupe.
This baroque castle was built for the Duke of Courland in the south of Latvia, amongst the Zamgale Plains. It has a mix of baroque and Rococo architecture that was typical of the late 18th century. The castle was designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrello for Ernest Johann Biron.
Not all of the rooms of this grand palace are open to the public, but you can explore the White Hall, Gilt Hall, and the Great Gallery in the eastern wing of the castle. There’s a museum in the castle too, which has different art exhibits and explores the history of Latvia. After, wander around the lush gardens that ooze royalty.
Rundale Castle is located just 12 km away from Bauska, from there you can get to the castle by local transport in under 20 minutes. There are a number of buses that go past the palace, so ask at the bus station which is running next!
Edole Castle was built on the banks of the Edole Lake. It was constructed for the Bishop of Piltene between 1264 and 1267 and later rebuilt in the 16th century. In the 18th century it underwent a major reconstruction, becoming one of the first buildings with a Neo-Gothic architectural style in Kurzeme.
The exterior and surrounding landscape is spectacular but the interior of the castle is arguably the most impressive part. The period decor and furnishings really transport you back into the past and give you insight into the way of life of the richest families in Latvia.
The entrance fee for adults is €5. The castle is in the town of Edole, which is about two and a half hours’ drive away from Riga.
Sigulda Castle Ruins
This 13th century stone castle was built in 1207 by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword who once resided in the area. It sits within the stunning Gauja Valley. It was converted into a convent not long after its construction and was resided in by Wilhelm of Modena.
In addition to the original castle, a church and parish were added to the site. Sadly, it was destroyed during the Great Northern War and never restored to its former glory. The old castle ruins are by a 19th-century manor house (known as the New Castle) that is worth a visit too. They’re both in the same complex and have an entrance fee of just €2!
Rauna Castle Ruins
Construction of the Rauna Castle began in 1261. It was one of the main residences of the Archbishop of Riga and it sits on the top of a high slope in the centre of Rauna. Sadly, it was destroyed in the 17th century and never restored.
The ruins are particularly beautiful in winter when the old interior of the castle is covered in snow. A single tower in the castle was restored and you can climb to the top for the best views.
The castle is free to enter and there’s a pretty park and skate ground by the castle that are worth visiting too.
There you have it, 10 amazing castles in Latvia not to miss on your next European adventure.
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