Kuldīga is the most magnetic and magical town in Latvia. It has preserved its medieval appearance and charm. Kuldīga was established in 1242 and experienced its biggest economic growth in the 17th century when it became an important economic, administrative and cultural centre of the Duchy of Courland. From 1596 to 1616 Kuldiga was the capital of the Duchy of Courland, one of historical parts of Latvia. As most Latvian towns, it has a different German name. For Kuldīga it is Goldingen. The historical buildings of the town and its nature create a unique, harmonious ensemble, incomparable to anything found in Latvia or elsewhere in Europe. Its beautiful historical centre was granted a European heritage label in 2008. At present, the old town of Kuldīga and the red-brick bridge across the River Venta are candidates for inclusion in the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage. The town is also famous for the widest waterfall in Europe. Now it is the centre of Kuldīga Municipality with a population of 13,500 people. Here is my selection of 7 things for you to do in Kuldīga!
1) Take a Goldingen train ride through the Old town
The old town of Kuldīga almost fully preserves the planning structure and historical street network from the 13th-19th centuries. The very same building character and scale were documented in the city plan from the end of 18th century. The old town preserves its historical meaning. Historical buildings continue to serve the same purpose they were initially built for town hall, schools, churches, hotels, culture and craft centres. The centre of Kuldīga thrives in an up-to-date interpretation.
2) Admire the statue of Jacob Kettler, the Duke of Courland
Jacob Kettler, better known as Duke Jacob (1610 – 1682) was born in Kuldīga. Under his rule, the Duchy of Courland was brought to its greatest peak in wealth and even engaged in colonization. He is remembered as a fair ruler who also spoke Latvian and was well-disposed towards the local peasants. In honour of his 400th birthday, the statue Teleport was placed at the end of Liepaja Street. The front of the sculpture is made from aluminium and symbolizes the 21st century but the back side refers to the 17th century and is made from iron. The memory of Duke Jacob has been also immortalized by naming the new open air stage in Parventa in his honour. On that stage, opera performances and concerts take place in summer.
3) Taste sklandrausis, a traditional dish of Courland
Sklandrausis is a traditional dish in Latvian cuisine of Livonian origin. It's a pie made of rye dough, filled with potato and carrot paste and seasoned with caraway. It’s not very sweet, relying primarily on the natural sweetness of carrots and the rye crust.
4) Visit Saint Catherine’s Church
Saint Catherine’s Church, first built in 1252, is the oldest church in Kuldiga. A metal medallion with an image of Saint Catherine can be seen over the side door of the church. This is also an emblem of Kuldiga because Catherine is a patroness of the town and she holds a rudder in the right hand and a spear, a symbol of power, in her left hand. The coat of arms of Kuldiga features Saint Catherine holding a torture wheel in her hand, with a red background. A legend tells us about pious girl Katrina who saved money to build a church in her town. She was, however, slandered and put to death on the wheel for her alleged contacts with the devil himself. After her death, she was found to be innocent and declared a saint. Originally, it was a wooden church but in 1567 the building of a stone church began. Throughout the centuries, it has been renovated several times. Duke Jacob was christened in this church.
5) Take a walk at Aleksupite Waterfall
The Alekšupīte River flows directly along the walls of many buildings which is why Kuldīga has been called the Venice of Latvia. Alekšupīte Waterfall, the highest in Latvia (4,5 metres high) was built on the river in the 17th century. The stream was used to operate the first paper mill in Kurzeme. An annual race is held on the Alekšupīte, when the contestants run directly along the river bottom.
6) Make a picture of the historical brick bridge
One of the widest brick bridges in Europe has always attracted the visitors of Kuldiga. It was built in 1874 over the River Venta. It is also the longest road bridge of this kind in Europe – it’s 164 metres long. The bridge with seven spans of brick arches and boulder abutments was not only the largest and most ornate on the territory of Latvia but also one of the most modern of its time in the whole Europe. The bridge was built according to Russian Tsarist road standards: 500 feet long, 36 feet wide, allowing two carriages to pass each other on it. It was renovated in 2008.
7) Step in the waters of the river at Venta Rapid
The widest, naturally formed waterfall in Europe (249 meters wide) is associated with a number of legends and historic events. Back in the day, Duke Jacob invented fishing devices installed on the waterfall, so Kuldīga was known as the city where salmons were caught in the air. One could catch as many as a hundred salmons a day. Each autumn and spring one can see an exciting phenomenon here: the fish try to clear the rapid by jumping over it.
The distance to Kuldiga from Riga is almost 150 kilometres. You can do Kuldīga sightseeing as a day trip from Riga by yourself using public bus services departing from Riga central bus station 12 times a day. The travel time one way takes at least 2,5 hours. Everything in Kuldiga is within walking distance so it should be easy.
The summer comes to Kuldiga with a variety of exciting events. The most popular event is the traditional Kuldiga Town Festival that takes place at the 3rd weekend of July.
Goldingen train departs from a parking lot near Venta Waterfall every round hour from noon. Monday & Tuesday are days off.
Have you visited Latvia? What is your favourite place in the country? Share in the comments section!
- Published by Anita on August 05, 2017
Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveler, passionate photographer and a mature career woman from Latvia, traveling mostly solo for more than 10 years. She is a skilled travel planner planning and executing her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her also on Instagram and Pinterest.