Last year I visited medieval Kuldiga and proclaimed it the cutest town in all the land. But little did I know that Latvia’s Kurzeme region is brimming with fetching towns and villages. My latest crush is Talsi, a picturesque hamlet of about 9,000 nestled among nine hills and two lakes. Comfortably reached via a two-hour bus ride from Riga, Talsi’s charms remain woefully undiscovered. I only learned about the place from a photo that popped up in my Instagram feed.
While not as historic as nearby Kuldiga, Talsi’s 19th century wooden architecture, cobbled streets, and white stone church are certainly idyllic. Not to mention the area’s natural beauty! Visitors can stroll along the Talsi Lake promenade, a wooden walkway built around the lake in 2013. Locals were certainly putting it to good use on a sunny but brisk March afternoon!
Talsi has long been an artistic hub, and the town’s first cultural center opened its doors in the early 1900s. Today, the culture house and adjacent music school form the Talsi Creative Yard – a work and exhibition space for local artists, photographers, musicians, actors, and weavers.
For a more in-depth look at the town’s artistic heritage, I headed to the Talsi District Museum which is spread over two floors of the beautifully restored 19th century manor house of Baron von Firks. Informative displays cover everything from Latvian history and culture to local building techniques and the natural world. Descriptions are only in Latvian, though some of the staff speak English.
One of the region’s best restaurants, Martinelli, welcomes guests to the Old Town in rustic Latvian style. My lunch of mushroom barley soup and pork cutlet with mushroom sauce was excellent and the service was warm and friendly. It was easy to see why everyone I spoke to recommended the place! For those wishing to stay the night in Talsi, Martinelli doubles as a B&B with three comfortably appointed guestrooms.
Trudging up the steep steps of Church Hill, I caught the scent of freshly baked cake. Following my nose like a bloodhound, I soon arrived at Konditoreja “Piena seta,” – or Confectionery “Milk court.” Even though I was still stuffed from lunch, the aroma wafting out of this shop proved irresistible and I picked up several treats to enjoy on the bus ride back to Riga. I also bought some wheels of herbed cheese made right next door at the Talsi Dairy. Finding a gleaming factory in the heart of the Old Town was definitely a surprise, but apparently it has been churning out golden goodness for over 80 years!
Since my Baltic guidebook had precious little on Talsi, I picked up local maps and recommendations from the helpful women running the Talsi Tourist Information Center. They made sure I was able to find every noteworthy place in town and even arranged for a taxi to take me back to the bus stop when I was running short on time. The cherry on top of an already sweet day: the taxi driver himself, who waited unobtrusively to ensure I got on the right bus. If you’re visiting Riga, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Talsi!
Tell me: Which charming Latvian town should I visit next?