Bauska Castle and the Palaces of Southern Latvia

Pin It

The Latvian countryside is dotted with medieval castle ruins thanks to the Teutonic Knights of the Livonian Order who once controlled the region. Bauska Castle was built in the mid-15th century and served as a stronghold for over 100 years. After the Knights lost the Livonian War in the mid-16th century, the castle was incorporated into the Duchy of Courland, a newly-established vassal state of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. A manor befitting the Duke soon appeared next to the castle and both structures remained in use until they were blown up during the Great Northern War in 1706. (Don’t worry: a grand new palace soon replaced the manor nearby.)

Bauska Castle Ruins

Bauska Castle Ruins

Bauska Latvia

View of “downtown” Bauska from atop the castle ruins.

Today, visitors can clamber to the top of the crumbling castle watchtower for a lovely view of Bauska and the surrounding countryside. The manor house, meanwhile, has been restored and turned into a museum.

Bauka Castle Latvia

Bauska Castle Interior

Bauska Castle Museum

Medieval Costumes

The “city” of Bauska (pop. 10,500) was founded in 1609 and seems to have changed little over the centuries. The Old Town consists of two parallel streets lined with charming wooden homes and shops. I began my visit at the Tourist Information Center located on the ground level of the flamingo-pink Town Hall, an excellent source for maps and regional recommendations.

Bauska Old Town Hall

Bauska Latvia

Bauska Latvia

The Bauska History and Art Museum is located directly across the road from Town Hall square and an interesting place to spend an hour. The exhibits at the time of my visit included an extensive private (and somewhat creepy) doll collection and panoramas of life in Bauska throughout the 20th century.

Bauska Museum

Bauska History and Art Museum

Don’t leave Bauska without stopping by the Church of the Holy Spirit. Built in the 16th century, it is the oldest structure in town. The treasures housed inside include 17th century wooden pews and tombstones of members of the original German congregation. The two kindly ladies inside were delighted to have visitors and even more so that I could understand some of their (patiently slow) Latvian explanations. English leaflets are also readily available.

Bauska Church of the Holy Spirit

Bauska Old Church

Bauska is an ideal jumping off point for exploring the surrounding palaces. 18th century Mezotne Palace was a gift of Russian Empress Catherine II to the nanny of her children, Charlotte von Lieven. Some gift, eh? Too bad Charlotte lived in St. Petersburg and was only able to spend a single day enjoying her palace, which passed to her son after her death; Mezotne remained in the Lieven family until 1939. Heavily damaged during World War II, the three-story palace has since been fully restored and converted into a hotel. How would you like to spend the night in a Latvian palace?

Mezotne Palace Latvia

Mezotne Palace Interior

Mezotne Palace

Mezotne Palace Latvia

Mezotne Palace is nestled in the countryside along the Lielupe River, about 10 kilometers from Bauska. I don’t recommend dining at Mezotne’s onsite restaurant – fit neither for king nor peasant – but do suggest enjoying a sunset from the riverbank.

Sunset in the Latvian Countryside

Summer Sunset in Latvia

A much better dining option is Tornis Taverna, which can be found in Bauska’s Town Hall Square. Order the mushroom-and-cheese stuffed chicken and a pint of locally-brewed Bauska beer – you won’t regret it!

Where to Eat in Bauska

Another good dining option is the restaurant at Rundale Palace, the region’s main tourist attraction. Again, order the chicken – Bauska is one of the leading poultry producers in the Baltic states.

Rundale Palace Restaurant

No trip to southern Latvia would be complete without a visit to Rundale Palace, an 18th century Baroque masterpiece constructed for the Duke of Courland. Although it suffered tremendously during WWII and the subsequent Soviet era, the palace has been fully restored to its former splendor. You can read more about Rundale’s history and see a lot more of my photos here.

Rundale Palace Latvia

Rundale Palace Interior

Rundale Palace Tour

Rundale Palace Museum

Rundale Palace Rose Garden

Rundale Palace Roses

It’s possible to visit all the places in this post via public buses, though the journey will be easier and more enjoyable with your own wheels. I rented a car in Riga and loved having the freedom to pull over and admire the scenic countryside.

Driving in Latvia

Latvian Countryside

Latvia Roadtrip

PIN IT!

Latvia Castles and Palaces Guide

Would you like to explore Bauska Castle and Latvia’s pretty palaces?

What has been your most memorable road trip?

 

10 thoughts on “Bauska Castle and the Palaces of Southern Latvia

    • I’m so jealous you have one of those fancy heaters in your apartment! Many homes have them here in Riga, too, but our landlord modernized our apartment and took all the fancy old stuff out.

  1. What a wonderful blog post! This was such a great trip. Bauska was a neat place to start our castle/palace tour. The restoration of the manor house was wonderful. And those floors! The crumbling ruins of the castle are definitely worth a visit. Mezotne was in a pretty location. I enjoyed my first stay in a palace! The second floor museum area is really beautiful. Worth a visit on its own. The prize though is Rundale. It is just breathtaking. I could visit there again and again. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe how beautiful it is. Really, really enjoyed this trip.

    • I’m so glad! I’ve been thinking that we’d do something similar on your next visit, rent a car and go off exploring. There’s just so much to see!

  2. I would LOVE to explore these palaces…the insides are stunning, and really bring you back to an era of elegance! (I love the mint walls!;-) This fall we’re planning a little road trip upstate to do fallish things–pumpkin picking, cider drinking, and a little hike! Excited for that one!
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted…Cheap Date: Alice In Wonderland + Keko CafeMy Profile

    • It’s such a miracle these places weren’t totally lost to WWII or the Soviets! Actually, I read that Mezotne was saved due to its use by some agricultural society. Thank goodness for small favors!

      Have fun upstate! Autumn was always my favorite season in the U.S. Oh how I miss apple cider donuts!!

  3. Looks like you made the most of your road trip! And – as always – absolutely gorgeous photos. I actually spent a night at the Mezotne castle one summer 10 years ago – it was quite nice!
    Daina recently posted…An Evening in Grand HavenMy Profile

    • Thanks, Daina! I had hoped to swing by the Dobele castle ruins on this trip as well but ran out of time. There is definitely another Latvian road trip in my future! 🙂

  4. Lovely photos! Thanks for showing us this part of the world. As I live in California now, where things built in 1950 are considered old, it’s nice to see some of the proper historical stuff!
    Joella recently posted…Big Love For Big SurMy Profile

    • Thanks, Joella! The Virginia town where I grew up is similarly young and I have such an appreciation for Europe’s old architecture. It’s amazing to think that many of these buildings were standing before the US was even born!

Comments are closed.