My latest effort to see as much of Latvia as possible took me to charming little Kuldiga, a perfectly preserved medieval town in the western part of the country. Kuldiga’s castle might be long gone, but the rest of the city is virtually unchanged, from its street layout to its centuries-old wooden buildings with red clay roofs. The town is so special, in fact, that it’s on a tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage status. If it weren’t for the cars and satellite dishes, you’d swear you’d been transported back to the 17th century. Kuldiga is a living time capsule!
Affectionately known as the “Venice of Latvia,” Kuldiga’s central feature is the Aleksupite River that gently wends its way through the old town. The Aleksupite, which drops steeply before running into the larger Venta River, once powered a paper mill. Today, the river provides a scenic home for the local ducks.
The Venta River, which flows from Lithuania all the way to the Baltic Sea, is a spanned by the Ventas Rumba, the widest waterfall in Europe. It may be only two meters high, but it’s impressive all the same. Be sure to get up in time to watch the sun rise over the waterfall – this is much easier to do on shorter winter days. In the summer, pack your swimsuit and take a dip with the locals.
Another can’t-miss attraction is the Kuldiga District Museum which reopened in 2014 after extensive restorations. Housed in a pretty wooden building with views of the Ventas Rumba, the Museum is spread over three floors, though it’s the second that’s the star. It’s been set up as a fully furnished home, giving visitors a glimpse into the life a wealthy family from the early 20th century. As my friend and I were the only two visitors at the time, the costumed staff took us on a personal tour! The ground and second floors feature rotating exhibits – when I visited, the subjects were tea and the Belgian army’s role in WWII.
Kuldiga is arranged around three main public squares, with a pedestrian street running through the center. Though for all the cars I saw during my stay, every street might as well be pedestrian-only. Kuldiga might be best described as “sleepy.”
Dining options in Kuldiga are somewhat limited, especially during the winter season. The most highly recommended restaurant was closed for renovations so I opted for Goldingen Room, a classy brick-oven pizzeria named after the town’s original German moniker.
Kuldiga is located about 100 kilometers from Riga, though it took about 3.5 hours to get there on the local bus. A Riga taxi driver offered to take me to Kuldiga for 100 euros, but the bus cost just six euros and provided a pleasant glimpse of tiny villages and pastoral countryside.
Is Kuldiga, Latvia a place you’d like to visit?