With almost two million inhabitants, Latvia is located in the northern part of Europe and borders Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania. The country is full of wondrous natural wonders. It’s home to two Unesco World Heritage Sites being the historic centre of Riga (in particular, its Art Nouveau architecture) and the Struve Geodetic Arc. If you’re looking for a getaway near water, you’re in luck because the country has almost 500 km of coast and tons of beaches.
It’s also home to 12,000 rivers and 3,000 small lakes although only 17 of its rivers are longer than 100 km. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the Ventas Rumba waterfall in Kuldīga. It’s considered the widest waterfall in Europe, stretching up to 270 metres. Despite the fact that it’s not a mountainous country, with its highest point at Gaizinkalns being at 312 metres above sea level, just over half of the country or around 54% of Latvia is forest, making it one of Europe’s greenest countries where you can spot black storks, eagles, otters, beaver, lynx, and wolves, and great concentrations of deer, wild boar, elk and red fox.
As a result of this, around 20% of Latvia is protected with four national parks, 42 nature parks, 260 nature reserves, 355 nature monuments, seven protected marine areas, 24 micro reserves and a biosphere reserve. In midsummer, the country gets about 20 hours of sunlight. If all of this makes you’re thinking about moving to Latvia here are some of the best cities you can consider living in:
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Best cities to live in Latvia
If you’re looking for great architecture, you might enjoy the 800+ Art Nouveau buildings in Riga, which has one of the world’s greatest galleries of this style. Registered on the Unesco World Heritage list, it has winding streets with cobblestones where you can enjoy the soaring grandeur of the Freedom Monument. The most famous streets are Alberta, Elizabetes and Antonijas in addition to Brīvības, Terbatas, Barona, Valdemara and other streets in the city centre.
It is the largest city in the Baltics and is home to most of the entire country’s population. It is also a city full of spirit and great vibes. Stretching on the other side of the Daugava River, some highlights from this city are the Latvian National Museum of Art, Latvian National Opera and Ballet House, Art Nouveau Museum, Kipsala Island, Riga central market, Riga Motor Museum and the Latvian Science Academy panoramic platform.
Sabile is located west of Riga in the Abava Valley, Talsi region. This town dates back to the 13th century and it is also the home of the northernmost open-air vineyard in the world. To celebrate it, residents enjoy the annual Wine Festival in July. While there, you should also visit the Open Air Museum at the Pedale Manor, which exhibits modern art installations and holds various cultural events. If you’re interested in exploring archeological sites with old burial grounds and cemeteries, don’t miss the Abava Valley.
Kuldiga is located close to the Baltic Sea. It is a city that is well-known for its beautiful architecture. The Old Town was built up to join the Kuldiga Castle in the 17th and 18th centuries and has the Aleksupite River running within its walls. This is where you’ll also find the Venta Rapid, or the world’s widest waterfalls. Enjoy the sight of fish jumping up in the air as they seek to swim upstream to spawn. You can also relax on the beach at the Venta River, walk across the waterfall or explore various hiking routes.
After that, go to one of the numerous restaurants and coffee shops that await you in the narrow, winding streets. Some of the highlights of Kuldiga include the city’s historical centre, the old bridge, Kuldīga district museum, Kuldīga St. Catherine church tower, Rezidence Kafe Venta, Goldingen room, Coffee Roastery “Curonia” and the Kuldīga Artists’ Residence.
Kandava has an old town centre with a fort that it was built up around which has now been reduced to ruins. However, there is a tower that remains from the 14th century. The city is also full of architectural delights, has a high concentration of stone buildings and a variety of Neo-Gothic townhouses. Enjoy the Old Town Square and adjoining Promenade which is home to lovely cafes and markets where craftsmen sell their wares.
Located in the west, it is often called the Town of Nine HIlls. It is also home to two lakes, which give it its peaceful atmosphere. You can enjoy the midsummer celebrations which are held on an annual basis or enjoy frequent performances by the Talsi Folklore Group. It’s a wonderful place if you enjoy being in nature.
A cozy seaside town on the coast of the Baltic Sea, it was first built in the late 1800s and established itself as a town where ships were manufactured and later as a fishing harbour. As one of the sunniest areas in Latvia, it is worth visiting if you’d like to enjoy fresh fish caught by the locals.
the third oldest town in Latvia, Cesis is located in the country’s centre and Was built in the 13th century. It is home to the Cesis Castle, which is the site of the Cesis History Museum. There’s also the castle park where you can meander about and enjoy the great outdoors.
There are also medieval remnants of the original old city in the town, such as St John’s Church (13th century) and the ruins of the Livonian Order’s castle. Some of the highlights of this town include the Cesis old town, “Mala” artist community, Vidzeme concert hall, Raunas Staburags, Kalejala (Blacksmith’s cave) and Cirulisu dabas takas.
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Other honourable mentions
A town with many archaeological delights, there is evidence that Dobele has been inhabited continuously since the Stone Age. Located in Latvia’s Zemgale region, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to the ruins of the Dobele Castle or the town’s old churches. The town is also famous for its various festivals including the Lilac Festival, Ancient Castle Festival, Apple Festival or Snowmen Parade.
Located on the south-east border which Latvia shares with Belarus, Kraslava offers access to a variety of parks and nature reserves. It has a history that dates back to the 13th century and offers a lot of cultural heritage.
Considered Latvia’s oldest town, it is the home of the Ludza Castle and the Ludza History Museum, which includes an open-air section.
Liepaja is a seaside city and is the former capital of Latvia. From bars in the city centre, live music, sailors on the promenade, architecture in the Old Town and so much more.
A modern seaside resort city with a 200-year long history, there you’ll find romantic wooden houses and a fine sandy beach. Also offering a variety of recreational facilities, Jurmala stretches 30 km along Riga Bay. Three districts are impressive owing to their fancy restaurants, five-star hotels and stunning villas. Jomas Street is where most of the restaurants, bars and cafes await.
Cities and places you should avoid
As with any place in the world, some parts are safer than others. The same is true for Lavia, where Daugavpils is believed to be Latvia’s most dangerous city and Jelgava the third most dangerous city. Meanwhile, Jekabpils is considered the fifth most dangerous city.
Latvia is a beautiful country rich in natural and historic treasures. The relatively low cost of living makes Latvia a preferred destination for expats and students. Here are some main highlights to bear in mind when you pack your bags for your international move:
- Latvia is a small northern European country
- It offers great beaches and many forests to take walks in
- Some of the best cities to live in in Latvia include Riga, Sabile, Kuldiga, Kandava, Talsi, Paviolosta and Cesis
- There are other great places off the beaten path such as Dobele, Kraslava, Ludza, Liepaja and Jurmala
- Some cities to avoid include Daugavpils, Jelgava and Jekabpils as they are considered unsafe