Liepāja is the third largest city in Latvia and a musical capital of the country. It’s also the third most popular city among tourists after Riga and Jurmala. The city is located on a stretch of land between the Baltic Sea and the Liepāja Lake, connected by the Trade Canal. About 70 000 people have chosen it as their home place. Liepāja has rich cultural, artistic and sports traditions. Summers in Liepāja are usually filled with various events and festivals – starting from the massive “Summer Sound” beach party to the festival of speed “Rally Kurzeme”, when tens of thousands of guests are gathering in the city. The true pearl of art is the internationally recognized performances of Liepāja Symphony orchestra. Magnificent interiors of historical Liepaja’s churches and cathedrals are stunning. The cosy atmosphere of the local cafes and restaurants is capable to replenish the inner spirits of the most tired travellers. Liepāja has lots of things to offer for travellers and I recommend staying there for a weekend or any two days. Here is my selection of top 9 things to do in Liepāja.
1. Admire the city architecture
Liepāja is an excellent place to explore both wooden and Art Nouveau architecture. Just stroll around the old part of the town and make your own discoveries. Here are just a few examples for your inspiration. Get more information about the architecture walking route at a tourist information centre.
Graudu iela 44.(1909) Dwelling house with shops
The large building on the street corner is one of the most heavily decorated Art Nouveau buildings in Liepāja. There are plant and animal motifs on the entrance portal and pediments, balcony railings and column lintel decorations made in the National Romanticism style.
Graudu iela 46. Former Oscar Thal’s fashion house.
Eclectically decorative Art Nouveau. The interior was significantly modified during the Soviet era. Despite multiple reconstructions, the original appearance of the exterior has been preserved.Peldu iela 44. (1902). Dwelling house in neogothic style. Architect P.M. Bertschy
Friča Brīvzemnieka iela 53.
Pastnieka māja restaurant with a summer garden in the very center of the city. The building was built in 1880 and reconstructed in 2000. The building has received the annual architecture award of Liepaja for the best interior. Additional bonus: just go in and have a meal.
2. Take a selfie at Liepāja city sign
Liepāja city sign is a popular place for taking selfies for visitors of Liepaja. Walk the Peldu Street from city center admiring stunning architecture on your way. After a short stroll through the Seaside park, you will get there.
Take your time to explore the views of the sea with the widest sandy beach in the country, strolling through beautiful scenery. After strong wind, you can find some pieces of amber washed ashore. Liepāja has the first beach in Latvia, adjusted for people with special needs. It has special audio beacons for the visually impaired, swimming chairs for people in wheelchairs, and a wide convenient path to get directly to the seafront. Liepāja beach is popular among kitesurfers and windsurfers.
3. Feel the musical soul of Liepāja at concert hall Lielais Dzintars
Everyone can find the most appropriate musical rhythms according to their taste, ranging from musical afternoons in the Seaside Park and live music evenings at one of the restaurants. Many favorite youth festivals take place in Liepāja, Summer Sound being the most popular. Similarly, a proof of music quality and sophistication in Liepāja are exquisite classical music concerts with Liepaja Symphony Orchestra. If you happen to notice musical note signs on the city centre's pavement, follow them and travel through the route "Follow the notes!" and get familiar with the most popular tourist sites.It seems only natural that city has its own „Great Amber” concert hall, home to Liepāja Symphony orchestra. The concert hall „Great Amber” comprises eight stories of more than 14 000 m². It has three halls. The biggest of them, Great Hall accommodates 1000 spectators. At the basis of the architectural concept of the concert hall, created by excellent Austrian architect Professor Volker Giencke, lies amber – the symbol of Liepāja and the Baltic Sea. The shape, unique interior and excellent acoustics of „Great Amber” make for an unforgettable experience!
4. Listen to great organ at Trinity Church
The Liepaja Holy Trinity Cathedral features the world’s largest mechanical organ that has never been reconstructed. Construction of the church started in the middle of the 18th century and was fully completed more than 100 years later. The interior of the church displays splendor typical of the rococo style. The organ was built by one of the best organ builders of that time H.A. Contius. The instrument with 38 stops was officially handed over to the church in 1779. During the 19th century, the instrument was repeatedly enlarged, in 1885 - up to 131 stops.
Learn more about the organ listening to the organ player's story and don't miss the chance to see how the organ is played or attend an organ music concert! Also, take the opportunity to climb up to the top of the church’s 55-meter high tower revealing a breathtaking panorama of Liepāja!
5. Take a tramway ride through the city
The oldest electric tram line in the Baltic States’ territory curves through the city’s residential neighborhoods from north to south. Liepāja tram started to run in 1899. Liepāja was the first city in the Baltics introducing the most modern transport vehicle of the time. It is also worth mentioning that this nature-friendly type of public transportation in Latvia is only available in three cities of Latvia.
6. Visit Karosta (War Port)
Now Karosta has become a part of Liepāja, while it was a completely separate world next to the city for more than 100 years. Karosta- the largest historical military territory in the Baltics occupies the northern one third of the city. In 1890 to the north of Liepāja city, massive construction of fortifications and a military camp was begun. The official order to start building was given by Russian Tsar Alexander III. It was a fully autonomous, populated area with its own infrastructure, electric power plant, sewage system, church, and schools.During the Soviet times, Karosta was made a secret territory and was closed to the public. Today Karosta is a spectacular, paradoxical and unique site in the world’s history and architecture reflecting the interaction of Tsarist Russia military elegance and robust Soviet militarism. You may like or dislike it, but Karosta certainly won’t leave you indifferent. Don’t forget to visit Karosta’s prison for a strong emotional experience. If you want more adrenaline you might ask to stay there overnight.You can reach Karosta by public buses No 1, 3, 4, 7 and 8 or public mini-bus No 22.
7. Visit St. Nicholas Cathedral in Karosta
The St. Nicholas Cathedral is the visual and spiritual dominant of the whole Karosta area. It was built in early 20th century and is unique. It has no columns inside because of special construction techniques. The first service in St. Nicholas Cathedral and its consecration took place in 1903. The Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family took part in this ceremony.
8. Watch the sunset at Ziemeļu mols
Ziemeļu mols (Breakwater) is located in Karosta. When the sea is calm the 1800 m long breakwater is a gorgeous place for romantic walks and watching the sunset. Breakwater protects port of Liepaja from the North against storms and sand. In stormy weather, one can feel intense bursts of waves rolling on the breakwater.
9. Get some gifts at the Peter's Market
The market is located in the very city centre. The pavilion of the market was opened in 1910. It was designed by architect Melvil. The pavilion had an innovative shape for those times. The roof structure with its large windows provides ample light. Did you know that the pavilion of Peter's Market has been recognized as one of the most beautiful market pavilions in Europe?Buy a locally produced vine. Yes, Latvians produce their own vines from different fruits and berries. Latvia is also known as the most Northern place where grapes are grown/
Take an opportunity to taste sklandrausis, 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.
Liepāja is located a bit more than 200 kilometres from Riga. You can reach it by public buses or taking a short flight from Riga airport. I recommend spending two days there including attendance of the concert in Great Amber concert hall or another place of your choice. The city is walkable, but to get to Karosta you’d better take a public transport ride. Iela means street in Latvian.
Have you been to Liepāja? What are your favourite places of the city? Share in the comments section!
- Published by Anita on August 26, 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.