Complete Guide To Cesis, Latvia

Cesis is a small, picturesque medieval town located in the North East of Latvia, in the region of Gauja, 90 km North-East of Riga. Famous for its medieval castle and history. Cesis it’s the third oldest place in the whole of Latvia and a stunning little town.

Cesis makes an easy day trip from Riga, but if you have time you can actually spend a couple of days in the area, so you can explore the beautiful Gauja National park.

The Castle of Cesis and the Castle Manor House

The Castle is one of the most impressive places to visit in Cesis and is actually a 2 in 1. Also known as the new and the old castle.  The entrance fee is €5

The first is the dark stone tower of the old Wendencastle castle (1214). The other is the more castle-like 18th-century manor house, which is now a museum.

Make sure you visit the castle prison and climb the Western Tower for a nice view over Cesis. Also, go for a walk through the beautiful castle park.

Wander around the narrow streets of the Old Town

One of the nicest things to do here is wandering around through the narrow cobbled alleys of the Old Town. There are beautiful buildings in traditional style to have a look at, like the City Hall, the Merchant House, and the Princess House.

Cesis town square and St John’s Church

The town square is called the Rose (Rozu) Square. It’s a lovely place with a fountain, restaurants, and cafes.

Located right in the middle of Town Square is St John’s Church. One of the oldest medieval monuments in Latvia.

The Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox Church

Cesis’s Transfiguration of Christ Orthodox Church was built in Byzantine style and is blue all over.

How to get to Cesis

Bus line 7730 leaves regularly from the centre of Riga and takes about 2 hours. The ticket costs €4.15. There also are regular trains that connect Riga to Cesis, both duration and cost are similar.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

A guide to Sigulda, Latvia

Sigulda is a town in the Vidzeme Region of Latvia, less than an hour drive from Riga (53KM).

Sigulda makes an easy day trip from the capital but is definitely worthy of a longer stay. Perfect for nature and adventure lovers.

The town sits in an elevated position, overlooking the Gauja River, located in the Gauja National Park surrounded by beautiful forests. Locals call Sigulda the “Switzerland of Latvia“.

I’ve found Sigulda an exceptionally beautiful part of Latvia because of the landscape.

What to do in Sigulda
Turaida Museum Reserve

The Turaida Museum Reserve is home to an impressive red-brick Castle that nowadays houses a museum inside. The Turaida Castle is located across the river valley about 15 minutes drive from Turaida.

The reserve is home to 42 hectares and a variety of buildings that have exhibitions about life in the castle and Latvian history and culture in general.

Sigulda’s Medieval Castle (and New Castle)

Sigulda Medieval Castle

The Medieval Castle, also known as Castle of the Livonian Order is the oldest of the three castles you can find in Sigulda.

The castle was built in the 13th century and suffered damaging during the Polish–Swedish war, so nowadays we have left the ruins.

If you climb to the Castle’s southern and northern towers, the views over the river valley and Turaida Castle are quite nice.

Sigulda views of Gauja

Near the Medieval Castle, you have the New Castle, built in the 18th century. You can’t visit the new castle but you can wander through the grounds.

Peter and Gutmanis Cave

The Gauja River valley is rich in red sandstone and because of erosion, the valley presents several caves and rock formations.

The Gutmanis Cave (Gūtmaņa ala), is the most popular and the largest cave in the Baltic countries. The cave walls are covered in inscriptions dating from the 19th and early 20th century.

Peter’s Cave (Petera ala) is about15 minutes hike from Paradise Hill through the forest.

Paradise Hill, great views and hiking departure point

Paradise Hill also known as Painter’s Hill is located about 30 minutes walk from Sigulda’s historic centre and offers stunning views.

From Paradise Hill, there are many hiking trails crossing the Gauja River Valley to be explored.

Sigulda Cable Car

The cable car connects Sigulda with Krimulda, on the other side of the river valley. From up there you can see the three castles in the area (Sigulda, Turaida and Krimulda).

There’s only one cable car travelling back and forth across the valley, every 20 minutes.

Sigulda Bobsleigh Track

If you like adrenaline visiting the bobsleigh and luge track is a must. A six-storey complex where Olympians also train. Tourists are welcome to have a go (€10).

From Riga to Sigulda

It’s possible to go by train and bus. Both take around 1 hour and 20 minutes and the ticket price is also similar.

Train and bus stations are very close to each other. Personally, I find trains more comfortable, but there is no better solution here, is just a question of personal preference.

By car, it takes about one hour to drive to Sigulda. Finding your way is really easy – just follow the A2.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Riga Travel Guide – Beyond the Old Town

Riga is the capital of Latvia, that with Lithuania, and Estonia make up the 3 Baltic countries.   

Riga is a city with a rich and troubled history, with impressive art nouveau architecture, and a charming Old Town.

I’ve spent time both in the UNESCO-recognized Old Town and in the other parts of the city as well. There are plenty of things to see and do in the city.

What to do in Riga
Art Nouveau District

Did you know that Riga has a large Art Nouveau District? I didn’t…  Apparently, you will not find a better collection of art nouveau buildings than here. Rigas has over 800 art nouveau buildings.

The Art Nouveau District sits just on the Edge of the Old Town and is an absolute must. The buildings are really impressive and definitely worth seeing. Around Elzabetes and Alberta streets you will find a few blocks of the most astonishing architecture.

Old Town

Riga’s Old Town is a great place to wander around. The UNESCO listed Old Town is incredibly picturesque, with its colourful facades, narrow cobblestone streets, medieval churches, nice museums and galleries, cafes and markets.

Most iconic buildings are:

The Three Brothers – are the oldest Medieval dwelling houses in Riga.  One of the three buildings is the Latvian Museum of Architecture.

House of the Blackheads – are two building built-in 1334 as a venue for meetings and banquets, located close to the River. Nowadays is where the president works.

The famous Cat House is an iconic yellow art nouveau mansion.

Riga Central Market

The Central Market is a huge indoor market where locals buy and sell their fresh produce. One of the largest and oldest markets in Europe. The market is well organised and a great place to go for lunch.

Viewpoints in Riga

Riga has 4 great Panoramic Viewpoints: St Peters Church, Latvian Academy of Sciences Panorama Observation Deck, Riga Skyline Bar and National Library of Latvia.

St. Peter’s Church is located in the middle of Riga’s Old Town (€9.00). Latvian Academy of Sciences has a Panorama Observation Deck (€5.00). The Riga Skyline Bar is located on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel. (€5.00 entry charge + cocktails start from €6.50)

For a free view, you can visit the National Library of Latvia, located on the other side of the river to the Old Town. This one probably offers the least spectacular views but its free.

Other parts of Riga

Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral – This is just outside of the Old Town but it is such an incredible Church both inside and out and it feels like you could well be in Russia.

Freedom Monument is located in a nice area of Riga. On the edge of the Old Town and the Art Nouveau District with a beautiful green park and the river running under the bridge nearby.

I must say, that in Riga the parks are carefully maintained, they are a great place to take a break of the city’s hustle and bustle.

The Daugava Promenade is a calm and less crowded area perfect for a stroll along the river on a warm day. The view over the Daugava River and the bridges are quite good.

Getting Around Riga and the Baltic States

Riga is a very walkable city and most major attractions can be reached on foot.

From the airport, there is public transport available (trams, buses and trolleybuses), the best option is to take the bus 22 from the airport to the city centre,

If you want to visit Estonia or Lithuania, you have great regular connections by bus.

Have you been to Riga? Would you go back? what was your favourite part of the city?

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Visiting Bauska, Latvia

Bauska is a town in the Zemgale region, Latvia, near the Lithuanian border, famous for its rich fields of grain and castle.

This town was once an important seat in the Duchy of Courland but nowadays is best known as the jumping-off point for the Rundāle Palace.

When visiting the Rundāle Palace from Riga you need to change buses at the picturesque town of Bauska, and since you are already there why not to check it out?

This town has an interesting history and is a great place to spend a few hours strolling around. The Old Town consists of two parallel streets lined with charming wooden homes and shops. The oldest surviving structure is the Church of the Holy Spirit. The greenery is also impressive.

Bauska Castle

The Castle sits on a picturesque hillock between the river Mūsa and river Mēmele.

To find the castle from the bus station, walk west to the central roundabout along Zaļā iela and then continue west along Uzvaras iela (1.5km).

Bauska Castle is divided into two parts – the original 15th-century ruins and the newer part that was built at the end of the 16th century.

Inside, the staff is dressed in period dress. The castle has a range of exhibits including items found during excavation, historical clothing and military items.

The combined ticket of Bauska Castle museum is €4.

How to get to Bauska from Riga

There are frequent buses from Riga to Bauska, The travel time is approximately a 1 hour 15 min.

If you want to visit the Rundāle Palace after Bauska take the bus to Pilsrundāle.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Rundale Palace guide

Known as the “Versailles of Latvia,” the Rundāle Palace is a gorgeous gem worth spending a day visiting while in Latvia.

This 18th Century Baroque palace is located just a little over an hour out of Riga. From its ornate interiors, baroque architecture to detailed, flourishing gardens, everything is a must here.

Rundāle Palace houses a museum which displays applied arts, fine arts and historical expositions.

The French style park is really well kept. you can walk around the rose garden, the Green Theatre, ornamental parterres and the fountain.

The entrance fee for what they call the Long Route is €8, this includes the palace and the French gardens.

How to get to Rundale Palace from Riga

There are no direct trains or buses to reach Rundāle, but it’s still quite easy to get here from Riga.

Take a bus to Bauska then transfer to another bus for Pilsrundāle, where the palace is located. It takes around 90-minute in total (not including transfer time).

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha