Kuldiga is rightly considered one of the most beautiful cities in Latvia. Despite its small size, you can find amazing things here – a fish flying through the air, the widest waterfall in Europe, a brick bridge built in the Roman style. And in the vicinity of Kuldiga there is a real oil well, a cave labyrinth, ancient palaces and estates.
Note: according to allcitypopulation, the population of Latvia is 1.883 million (2021).
It is hard to believe that a quiet town today was filled with the multilingual hubbub of Hanseatic merchants several centuries ago. In the then Goldingen, despite the land status, ships were built, and grapes grew on the hills behind it, the wine from which even managed to be delivered to France.
How to get to Kuldiga
You can get to Kuldiga from Riga by bus (read how to get to Riga here). Transport departs from the capital’s bus station daily at 8:10, 11:45, 18:40 and 20:10, on the same days, except Sunday, at 7:00, 13:45, 17:40 and 18:05, on Sunday at 13:45 and 18:50, Friday at 16:20. The bus covers a distance of 150 km in 2 hours 30 minutes, the ticket price is 5-7 EUR.
When traveling by car, it is better to drive along the A9 or A10 motorways first, and then turn to Kuldiga along the P120 or P108.
What to watch
Any city began its history with a castle. So, the city fortress of Kuldiga (or in the German manner, Goldingen) was founded in 1243 by the Teutonic Landmaster Dietrich von Grüningen. In 1379, the building with the surrounding settlements joined the Hanseatic League and received city rights. In the 18th century, when the residence of the dukes of Courland was formed in Kuldiga, the city experienced a rapid development of industrial and commercial areas. Today you can get acquainted with the remains of Goldingen Castle in the area of Pils (Castle) Street. The ruins are surrounded by a cozy park.
No matter how you wander around Kuldiga, in any case, you will stumble upon the main city church – the church of St. Catherine of the 13th century. It was in this church that Duke Jacob von Ketler, the beloved ruler of Courland, was baptized. By the way, under him Courland could become an empire – the island of the Caribbean island of Tobago and the mouth of the Gambia River went to it.
Despite numerous medieval battles and fires, Kuldiga managed to avoid significant destruction. Therefore, wooden buildings of the 16th-19th centuries are very well preserved here.
In the very center of the Old Town flows the river Alekshupite with one of the highest (4.5 m) waterfalls in Latvia. Since Alekshupite passes right under the city walls, Kuldiga is often called the “Latvian Venice ”.
The typical (in the Soviet sense) European architecture of Kuldiga has repeatedly attracted filmmakers here – in many films it often played the role of some small German town.
One of the most popular attractions is the widest (275 m) in Europe natural waterfall Ventas Rumba. Next to it on the river Venta stands a magnificent arched red brick bridge built in 1874 by the German engineer Otto Dietze.
There is a small dam near the brick bridge. This castle mill is over 200 years old. Previously, flour was ground in it, later it was used as a gunpowder factory, and in the 30s. 19th century – like a spinning mill. Today, in the already quiet backwater, local boys are fishing.
In the Middle Ages, Kuldiga was called the city where the fish flies. The fact is that when salmon went to spawn through the high rapids of Ventas Rumba, they had to jump very high out of the water to overcome the obstacle. Since the 18th century, special wicker baskets have been used to catch this “flying” salmon. You can still watch the flights today. The holiday of the opening of the tourist season at the end of April is held according to the motto “fish – flies!”.
One of the most unusual entertainments is swimming under the Ventas Rumba waterfall. By the way, in the 19th century they took money for such an attraction – it was necessary to at least somehow recoup the costs of bathtubs hollowed out in a rocky bottom. Today, absolutely anyone has the opportunity to swim in Ventas Rumba for free.
Another must-see place in Kaldiga is the Playing Card Museum. Its exposition is one of the richest in Europe.
Not far from the city, in the Snepel parish, there is the ostrich nursery Nornieki, the largest farm in Latvia. Individual and group tours are conducted here, after which you can buy the meat of this giant bird, products from its feathers and skin.
Accommodation in Kuldiga
There is a wide range of accommodation options in the city and its surroundings, represented by hotels, holiday homes, guesthouses, campsites and apartments. They cost a little: 60 EUR will have to be paid for a four-bed cottage in the city, a standard hotel room will cost 40-60 EUR, and spending the night in an apartment will ruin a tourist: the price varies from 40 to 150 EUR.
The climate of Kuldiga is humid maritime with dry and short summers. Humidity in the region is average, about 700-850 mm of precipitation falls here annually. The average temperature in January is -4 °С, in July – +17.5 °С. Rains are most active between April and October. Kuldiga is characterized by unstable weather, many cloudy (150) and cloudy (100) days.