Small Aluksne town located about 200 kilometres northeast from Riga recently got very popular among local and international travellers. The main attractions of the town include a gorgeous Lake Aluksne, a stunning manor park with many masterpieces of small architecture, a narrow-gauge train multimedia exhibition, Aluksne Castle and manor house, and an extraordinary church. Aluksne will also entice its visitors with good infrastructure and services. Check the top things to experience in Aluksne.
Aluksne Manor and Manor Park
The New Manor House in neo-gothic style was commissioned by owners of the estate, the noble von Vietinghoff family and was built in the second part of the 19th century. It is one of the most remarkable architectural monuments in Latvia. Above the main entrance, the von Vietinghoff family coat of arms can be seen depicting a fox and three shells. The von Vietinghoff family owned the Marienburg (Aluksne) estate from the end of the 18th century until 1920, when, like all other estates, it was nationalised. The palace now hosts History and Natural History Museums.
Manor Park, which is adjacent to the manor house, is designed as a natural landscape park. In the 18th century, the von Vietinghoff family invited the best specialists, including landscape gardeners, gardeners, sculptors, blacksmiths, bricklayers, architects and other craftsmen, to develop the park. It is an architectural monument of national significance. The 24 hectares park is bordering Lake Aluksne as well as residential and public buildings of the city centre. You will find many small architectural masterpieces in the park, such as the Alexander Pavilion, the Aeolus Temple and the Bird Pavilion, the Granite Obelisk, the Pomona Temple, the Baron’s Mausoleum, fountains, and granite benches.
Aluksne Old Manor
The Old Manor is one of Aluksne estate buildings on the shore of Lake Aluksne. It was actually a stone living house built at the end of the 18th century in the classicism style and has undergone minor reconstructions. Nowadays, the Aluksne Art School is located in this building.
The Livonian Order stone castle was built in the middle of the 14th century on the Pils or Maria Island, the largest island on Lake Aluksne. During the following centuries, it was inhabited by Germans, Russians, Poles, and Swedes. In 1702, the castle was surrounded by the Russian army. Since the Swedes did not want to leave it to the Russians, they blew it up. The inhabitants and locals hiding in the castle were taken prisoners. Among them were the priest Ernst Glück, the translator of the Bible to Latvian, and his stepdaughter Marta Skavronska who later became the second wife of Russian Tsar Peter the Great and the first empress of Russia with the name Catherine I. The castle was not renovated, and today, there’s an open-air stage with 3,000 seats alongside the castle ruins.
The church was built during the rule of Baron Otto Hermann von Vietinghoff at the end of the 18th century by the architect Christoph Haberland. Built in the style of classicism, the church has elements of the Baroque style and has a set of colourful rocks in a mosaic shape on the façade. The altar painting, “Baptism of Christ”, painted by an unknown artist, was restored in 2000. The church dominates the city with its 55.5 m high tower.
Aluksne heritage train multimedia exhibition
The narrow-gauge railway line Stukmani–Gulbene–Aluksne–Valka was built in the early 20th century. Nowadays, a 33 km section of the railway is preserved and operated. Gulbene–Aluksne is the only narrow-gauge commercial train in Latvia. In Aluksne, an internationally acclaimed multimedia exhibition "Aluksne Banitis Station" (Alūksnes Bānīša stacija) operates at the reconstructed historical luggage barn of the station. It tells about railway history as well as provides insight into the narrow-gauge train stations and operation. And, of course, you are invited to take a train ride from Aluksne to Gulbene every day.
Lake Aluksne is the eleventh largest lake in Latvia, covering more than 15 square kilometres. A lake is a popular place for fishing and recreation. The shores of the lake are mostly flat. The lake is home to more than 16 species of fish. There are four islands on the lake. In July, the European and Latvian Water Motorsport Championship takes place there. Every summer, the lake hosts competitions for jet skis. Fishing lovers are invited to participate in different fishing competitions during the year. I recommend taking a boat trip on the lake to enjoy stunning views. Don’t forget your swimsuit during summertime so you can sunbathe on one of many beaches and have a nice swim in the lake.
The Temple Hill
Temple Hill (Templakalns) is a 35-metre-high hill on a peninsula in Lake Aluksne with a granite structure on the top which von Vietinghoffs built in 1807 in memory of the Great Northern War and its key commanders, the Swedish Captain Wolf and his foe Russian Field-Marshal Sheremetev.
Aluksne residents can be proud of living in a city with five fountains. On warm summer evenings, few of them are lighted at night to the delight of locals and guests of the city.
Take the trip to the most remarkable places of Aluksne by the city train “Severins”. The trip lasts 45 minutes, with the audio guide being available in four languages: Latvian, English, Russian, and Estonian. Boarding is located near Aluksne Banitis station. Book your train ticket in advance.
Where to stay
The only Art Nouveau building in Aluksne was commissioned by Baroness Helena von Vietinghoff at the beginning of the 20th century. Currently, it houses the Bahnhofs Hotel. Although it may seem that it is difficult to find high quality and excellent service further from Riga, the Aluksne Bahnhofs Hotel proves the opposite. When going on a trip to the highest city in Latvia, it is definitely worth staying in tasteful accommodation offering comfortable rooms, hospitable service, and delicious meals. The Bahnhofs Hotel combines the ascetic style with the high quality found in many hotels in European capitals, as well as the personal approach and cosiness of country guest houses.
You can get to Aluksne by public bus and then reach all the mentioned sights on foot. Bus from Riga takes you to Aluksne in 4.5 hours five times per day. Because of the distance of 200 kilometres from Riga and the time to reach this beautiful town, I would advise you to stay overnight. Another reason to stay overnight is to see lighted bridges and fountains at night time.Like it? Pin it!
What did you think? Have you visited Latvia and Aluksne? I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sāne
About the author