Elsewhere: Kuldiga and the Venta Rapids, Latvia

Aleksupite Bridge, Kuldiga

Can you think of a place during the holidays that everyone seems to stop at, as they drive to and from their getaway? Somewhere to grab lunch or just pause at to break up the long drive? Well in Latvia, that stop is the small town of Kuldiga. Not exactly halfway between the popular beaches on Latvia’s southern coast and the capital Riga, Kuldiga seems like the nation’s premier rest stop. But geography isn’t the real reason people stop here. No, the real reason they stop is to admire and soak in the incredible Venta Waterfalls.

 

Kuldīga

Kuldiga Town

Found in Latvia’s west, Kuldīga may only be a small town but it packs a fair punch. Kuldīga only has roughly 13,000 residents but it was once an important regional town and even the capital of a Duchy for a time. Today it is one of the main tourist destinations within the region of Kurzeme, thanks to the Venta Rapids, but also its old town charm.

Wooden Carvings

 

Venta Rapids

Venta View at Kuldiga

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Kuldiga’s number one attraction and the reason so many tourists stop there, is the Venta Rapids. Known in Latvian as Ventas Rumba, these falls may not be the highest or have the greatest volume, but they are the widest falls in Europe. At 249 metres wide, these rapids span the width of the Venta River that flows out to the Baltic Sea.

It’s not just the width of the rapids that makes it beautiful. Firstly, the rapids flow through thick patches of reeds and grassy rocks, making for quite a vibrant scene. There’s also the annual opportunity to watch fish try to leap the rapids swimming up-stream during the breeding season.

Rapids by Kuldiga

Just downstream of the rapids is the grand Old Brick Bridge, a red brick bridge that spans the river and leads into Kuldiga. This bridge is actually the longest of its type in Europe and really adds some manmade character to the beautiful natural scene by the river.

Old Brick Bridge Kuldiga

Aside from admiring the Venta Rapids from the many viewpoints or the distinguished bridge nearby, visitors are actually quite keen to cross them. While some are content to go for a swim beneath them, many adventurers souls choose to march through the water and cross to the bank closest to town. I wimped out and didn’t cross the rapids, in part because I had my camera with me and didn’t want to risk it.

Crossing the Rapids, Kuldiga

Along the Rapids, Kuldiga

It is for all these reasons that so many people stop at Kuldiga on their way to and from the southern seaside. Sadly it seems not that many visitors choose to actually venture into town. From what I saw, many people simply park at the rapids, spend time there, grab some food and head on their way again. But trust me, there is other things to see in Kuldiga.

 

Alekšupīte Waterfall

Aleksupite Waterfall Kuldiga

Somewhat overshadowed by its neighbouring attraction but still impressive is the Alekšupīte Waterfall. At 4.5m high, the waterfall is the highest in Latvia and lies near where the Alekšupīte River flows into the Venta River. This artificial waterfall has a bit of an industrial feel to it as it used to service the now abandoned mill. Still, it has a certain feel to it that complements other parts of town.

Upstream, the Alekšupīte River is far smaller than the Venta and flows mostly unobtrusively through town. Every once in a while as you wander about, you’ll find it sneaking between houses. If you keep coming across it in a short time, it almost give the town a sense of a series of canals like you’d find in the Netherlands or somewhere.

Aleksupite River, Kuldiga

 

Town Architecture

Kuldiga Street

An aspect of Kuldiga that I think gets overlooked is the architecture and atmosphere you find walking through its old town. While there are fringes of modernity in Kuldiga, the centre of town is very much its old town. With a combination of red brick and traditional wood panel houses, Kuldiga actually gave off a bit of a frontier feel to me.

Walking down Liepājas ilea, the main pedestrian street, a lot of the architecture made me think of towns in the old west or maybe more gold rush places like Sovereign Hill in Victoria, Australia. It’s honestly hard to put my finer on why, perhaps they’re from similar eras, but that’s the vibe I was getting.

Small Bridge Kuldiga

Either way, I’m always happy to explore somewhere that makes me think and try to figure out its era or influence. I particularly liked the use of the red brick in town, especially for the little bridges, as they seem to pop out at you a little.

When you get into the back streets of Kuldiga, you start to come across some of the more world-weary buildings. In other places this might seem like somewhere to avoid, but I often like finding these parts where everything has that “lived-in” quality. I think one of the great things about visiting Kuldiga is that it gives you such a contrast to Riga, with its immaculate Art Nouveau buildings. Here you find more humble buildings immersed in a nice natural environment and it has a charm all of its own.

Rural Houses Kuldiga

 

Town Square

Town Square Kuldiga

At the end of Liepājas ilea you’ll find the lovely town square, complete with fountain for kids to play in. On the square are some of the most elegant buildings in town, including the town hall and tourist information centre. Just off the square are also several cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating areas where you can get a coffee or lunch.

Kuldiga Town Hall

 

Castle Park

Castle Pond Kuldiga

Overlooking the banks of the Venta River are the elegant and peaceful Castle Park. Where once a castle stood in Kuldiga, now you can find a park that runs over the contours the castle left behind. The castle dated back to 1242, but today there are only some fragments of the stone walls left behind. The park also contains a local museum, water jets in the moat and some manicured floral gardens.

Castle Gardens Kuldiga

 

Staying in Kuldīga

Kuldiga House

Despite many visitors choosing to only pass through Kuldiga on their road trips, I have to say I do think it warrants an overnight stay. Spending a night in Kuldiga means you’ll have time to visit the Venta Rapids but also see the town itself and its smaller sights at a leisurely pace.

Given the size of the town, there aren’t a huge number of options available for travellers. Thankfully, Jēkaba Sēta where I stayed was affordable and comfortable. Situated on the main street and only a short walk from the bus station, your perfectly positioned to explore town. While there are several cafes and restaurants in town,  Jēkaba Sēta also has its own restaurant which was also great value.

If you aren’t driving to Kuldiga, there are multiple buses daily between the town and cities like Riga, Ventspils and Liepaja. Timetables and information can be found here.

 


Have you heard of the town of Kuldiga in Latvia? If not, what would most attract you to visiting this little town? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a booking, I may make a small commission, but at no extra cost to you. 

 


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Elsewhere: Kuldiga and the Venta Rapids, Latvia via @travelsewhere

 


This post is part of Fly Away Friday over at Time Travel Blonde and The Weekly Postcard over at Two Traveling Texans. Please follow the link for more great posts.


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27 Comment

  1. What a beautiful and clean town Kuldiga is. The waterfalls are amazing and so wide and love how it flows around thick reeds. My favorite is the town with its cobblestone streets, interesting buildings and bridges. Stunning photos and thanks for sharing 🙂 #feetdotravel

  2. Kuldiga is such a beautiful city! The photos are amazing, so does the waterfall it looks stunning!

  3. The water features here are amazing! I love every one of them you showcased! This looks like a great place to spend some time!

  4. I love that you went off the beaten path and explored the town. It is truly stunning and you got amazing pictures! I think it’s better that most people just park at the rapids because the town can preserve its lovely quaint atmosphere.

    1. David says:

      I love being off the beaten path because I come across places like this! I suppose you’re right that fewer tourists in town mean it stays preserved, so I guess there is that.

  5. Anisa says:

    So my knowledge of Latvia is very limiting as I have only heard of Riga. Kuldiga looks lovely. I don’t blame you for not crossing the river with your camera. I think I would be tempted to try it as long as the water is not too cold? I also agree that the town is definitely worth exploring. It looks adorable. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  6. So nice to continue learning more about Latvia. I only really know about Riga, and hope to explore much of Latvia one day! Anytime there is a waterfall, it’s always the perfect reason to make a pit stop and explore! Great find! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. David says:

      Happy to keep sharing new places with you Lorelei! Riga is great but there’s a whole country worth exploring as well.

  7. galanda23 says:

    I’ve only been to Riga so far, the Latvia’s countryside is on my list too. Looks so beautiful! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. David says:

      I really enjoyed exploring Latvia’s countryside and hope you get to too!

  8. Kuldiga definitely has the charm of old architecture and days from the past. The bridges and red brick aesthetics give it a unique sense of character.

    1. David says:

      My thoughts exactly Brooke! Thanks for reading.

  9. Kuldiga seems to be a nice place to visit. I like the waterfalls although they are so low but to be honest I wouldn’t cross them. I will add this place to my never ending bucket list. Your pictures are beautiful as always. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Garth says:

    The Venta Rapids look cool, like nothing I’ve seen before, don’t blame you for not risking the walk, I ruined my camera on a speedboat in Thailand, but that’s another story! best to keep it safe. The old town looks charming, I actually like the fact there’s no people!

  11. Kana says:

    You’re the expert of finding these charming small towns that are TOTALLY my jam! Hope you pinned this on the Fly Away Friday board!!! Thanks for joining #FlyAwayFriday! xo

    1. David says:

      Glad you liked it Kana. I actually don’t think I’m part of the Fly Away Friday board, but would love to join!

  12. Looks like a charming town, with the quiet streets and pretty buildings. Interesting that it has both the widest and tallest waterfalls in Latvia. You’d think, with the water and attractions, it would be a bigger town. Staying small probably works to its advantage – wouldn’t be so charming if it was packed with people! Thanks for showing us someplace new!

  13. paulandcarolelovetotravel says:

    Looks a quaint but interesting place to visit. Good to see another place we have not heard of! #feetdotravel

  14. You’ve discovered another awesome place in Latvia! While I vaguely remember reading something about it as a kid, I didn’t know much about the place. The rapids look great and the river flowing through the quaint town is lovely too. Love the contrast of the buildings as well and I think it would be a great place to explore!

  15. I had never heard of Kuliga. Whilst I thought the rapids pretty I think the charm of this place is the quirky town. Yes definately worth an over niht stop.

  16. thriftytrails says:

    What a quaint little town! Doesn’t seem very busy as most of your shots are people-less. It certainly does look like you stepped back in time.

  17. Another hidden gem! The rapids are great and such a pretty town. Definitely worth a visit.

  18. I had no idea that Latvia is so pretty. I agree that the man made bridge looks great against the backdrop of the countryside. I love a water feature and Venta Rapids looks like it wouldn’t disappoint. Your pictures are as amazing as always – you have a good photographic eye.

  19. Barry says:

    I really enjoyed my last visit to Latvia and would like to return one day to explore more. I was surprise on how nice it was it was certainly above my expectations. Perhaps one of the most underrated countries to visit with travellers.

  20. Lisa (Simple Sojourner) says:

    Never heard of this town… how beautiful it is. Love that it doesn’t look to touristy easy roaming around such a quaint town. I would love to visit here and wander through the countryside.

  21. I’ve never heard of Kuldiga before, but I would absolutely visit there! I love how the rapids look and that you can walk through them. They just look so quaint and homey. So glad I came upon your post and learned about a new city!

  22. ttbchloe says:

    I always look forward to your posts cuz they feature so many amazing places, and a lot of them I haven’t heard of yet!! This looks amazing and can’t wait to see your next adventure and places to share!

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