Latvia, the jewel of the Baltics, may not be the first country that comes to mind when planning a European vacation. However, this Northern European destination perfectly blends a rich history, stunning landscapes, vibrant cultural experiences, and more.
With our cold winters, it’s no surprise that most visitors come to Latvia in the summertime. It’s also when everyone ventures outdoors to enjoy the perfect weather for activities, sports, and events in the warm summer sun. From music events and traditional gatherings to exploring historic sites and enjoying local food, there’s something for everyone happening in the warm summer months in Latvia.
Latvia is one of the most quickly developing countries in the European Union. One area this is seen is in LGBT representation and gender parity, particularly in the fields of science and technology. The country has one of the highest proportions of women in science and technology in the European Union and recently elected the first LGBT head of state in the EU, demonstrating the progressive strides that Latvia has made since joining NATO and the EU.
While Latvians have a reputation for being introverted, it’s one of the happiest countries in the world. The country’s happiness is particularly visible this year after our national hockey team won its first medal at the IIHF World Championships in third place. It’s a big deal with the Parliament declaring a national holiday to celebrate!
1. Visit The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia
Nestled in a pine forest by Lake Jugla, the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia offers an unforgettable summer escape, showcasing the country’s diverse and captivating history.
The museum features various farmsteads and dwellings that once belonged to farmers, craftsmen, and fishermen. As you explore their everyday objects, you’ll gain an understanding of how they decorated their properties and discover their livelihoods from centuries past.
Witness traditional craftsmen at work and try your hand at pottery, basket weaving, honey-making, or coin forging. You can even join in on traditional games and find out about upcoming events at the Ethnographic Museum to plan your visit around a lively festival or fair. As you immerse yourself in the rural life of the Latvian people, you’ll gain a unique insight into their customs and traditions.
2. Indulge in a Photo Tour of Riga
Riga, the capital of Latvia, is a treasure trove of architectural beauty and historical landmarks.
A Riga photo tour is an absolute must for photography enthusiasts and Instagrammers. The city streets are lined with an array of picturesque buildings, each one more beautiful than the next. Capture the timeless beauty of Riga’s old town, the rustic charm of its wooden buildings, or our collection of Art Nouveau architecture, the largest in Europe.
Remember to visit spots like the House of Blackheads, Riga Cathedral, and the Three Brothers for some iconic shots. To make the most of your photography journey, consider doing a tour of these Riga photo spots. It offers a unique perspective on Riga’s most photogenic spots and provides the perfect route for your photographic exploration.
3. Relax on a Daugava River Cruise
The city streets aren’t the only vantage point to enjoy Riga from. Multiple operators offer boat tours on the Daugava River, where you can enjoy stunning views of Kronvalda Park, Bastejkalns, the Latvian National Opera, Riga Central Market, the Presidential Palace, and Dome Church, all within an hour. Or, you can take bigger river cruises that travel all the way from the Kristaps the Great to a more natural neighborhood of Riga, called Mežaparks.
Accompanied by an audio guide, you can soak in the city’s rich history while enjoying the breeze on the Daugava River.
4. Rent a Boat for a Personal Adventure
Chartering a boat is a great option for those who prefer a more personal experience and fewer crowds. Bring along some friends and drinks, and enjoy a leisurely cruise along the water, taking in Riga’s beautiful skyline from a new perspective.
This option is particularly good for those with a love for water and the open sky. You can rent a boat and head out on your adventure on the Daugava River or even venture into the Baltic Sea. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a novice, plenty of options are available to suit your needs. You can choose what fits your preference and skill level, from motorboats to sailboats. This is a perfect way to enjoy the water, sun, and beautiful Latvian landscapes.
5. Float Along the Gauja River
The Gauja River is a source of natural beauty and a hub for water-based adventures. As the longest and most popular river for boating in Latvia, the Gauja River offers water tourists an impressive journey through breathtaking landscapes, pristine nature, and rich historical architecture.
There are several alternative points along the way for your tour to start and end, allowing you to customize the length based on your preferences. Moreover, there are various ways to experience the serenity and beauty of the Gauja River, including kayaking, boating, or hopping onto the Gauja River Tram. Whichever you decide to choose depends on how adventurous, long, and physically active you want it to be.
6. Savor the Taste of Latvian Cold Beet Soup
Aukstā zupa, translated literally to cold soup, is a distinctive summer dish with an unexpected deep pink color. This chilled delight is especially associated with the warm season – as reflected in its popularity during ‘Vasara’, which means summer in Latvian. When you’re enjoying this cool, beet-infused treat, you’re savoring a Latvian summer’s taste.
Made with beets, cucumbers, kefir, hard-boiled eggs, dill, and other herbs of your choice, this soup has its own unique character that sets it apart from other beet soups. It can even be made vegan if desired with a few variations from the traditional recipe.
Latvian cold beet soup is more than just a meal; it’s a culinary journey that tells the story of our rich agricultural heritage.
7. Explore Rundale Palace
Visit the Rundale Palace and its beautiful gardens and castle interiors. Built between 1736-1740 and 1764-1768, Rundale Palace was the summer residence of the Duke of Courland, Ernst Johann Biron.
The palace was designed and built by the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who also designed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. The palace spans across 54 lavishly decorated rooms, each showcasing intricate details that reflect the opulence of its time. It’s an excellent specimen of Baroque architecture with an exquisite exterior adorned with ornate sculptures and intricate carvings.
No visit to Rundale Palace would be complete without exploring its lush gardens. Covering over 10 hectares, these extravagant gardens showcase an impressive collection of flowers, water features, and meticulously designed pathways. Take a leisurely stroll through these gardens, immerse yourself in their beauty, and let the history of this magnificent place unfold before your eyes.
8. Celebrate Midsummer in Latvia
Latvia’s enchanting Midsummer celebration, known as Jāņi, is the highlight of holidays in Latvia. Occurring from June 23 to 24, this ancient festival brings together people from all walks of life to honor the summer solstice with a myriad of unique customs, mouth-watering food, and joyful music. With an emphasis on nature, community, and mysticism, Jāņi captures the spirit of Latvia like no other holiday.
The heart and soul of Jāņi lies in its centuries-old traditions that have been passed down through generations. These customs are deeply rooted in Latvian culture and serve as a reminder of the nation’s rich heritage. As the sun sets on June 23, people gather around bonfires to honor the year’s longest day and shortest night. Friends and family come together to sing and dance to seasonally-specific folk songs under the open sky, accompanied by hearty laughter and clinking glasses.
9. Relax on Latvia’s Beautiful Beaches
Jurmala and Ventspils are two remarkable beach destinations in Latvia that offer unforgettable experiences, especially during the summer.
Ventspils Beach, located just a few hours away from Riga, has a family-friendly atmosphere and diverse activities. This Blue Flag-certified beach provides separate areas for surfers, kiters, and everyone who simply wants to relax, ensuring everyone can indulge in their preferred pastimes. The Southern Pier’s observation tower provides fantastic sunset views, while the nearby Ventspils Yacht Harbour caters to boating enthusiasts.
Meanwhile, Jurmala is even closer to Riga. With a sprawling 12.5 miles of the prime seaside, Jurmala is the largest resort in the Baltic States, oozing historic charm. Beyond the seaside, the heart of Jurmala, Majori village, boasts Jomas Street, a bustling hub for shopping and dining. Eastern villages like Dzintari and Bulduri offer a more tranquil ambiance with picturesque boulevards lined with a mix of historic and contemporary architecture.
Latvia might be underrated, but it’s full of surprises and deserves a spot on your summer travel bucket list. Its warm weather, vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and historical gems make it an unbeatable choice for a fulfilling and memorable summer vacation. We also offer a digital nomad visa which can make spending the summer here easier for long-term travelers looking for a base in the Schengen zone.
So, don’t overlook this Baltic gem while planning your European summer adventures – you’ll indeed be charmed by all that Latvia has to offer.
This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex. Photo Credit: [@prescott10/DepositPhotos]
Samanta Vaivade is a digital marketer who is an expert in Instagram and TikTok growth. She's a graduate of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and a native of Riga, Latvia. A regular traveler, Samanta is fluent in English, Latvian, Russian, and Spanish.