Latvia is a beautiful and ancient country located in northern Europe, the very heart of the Baltics. Historical cities, ancient castles, fortresses, magnificent sandy beaches with a total length of more than 500 kilometers, forests and rivers, national reserves, unique culture, nature, traditions – it’s impossible to count all the reasons to visit Latvia.
But if you do decide to give it a try, start with its capital. Riga is one of the most beautiful European cities, its historical center, the mysterious Old Riga, is entirely included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The majestic ancient cathedrals, “cinema” streets, museums, the famous bridges over the Daugava, Riga Castle, and one of the largest (and unusual) markets in Europe.
Apart from these apparent advantages, Riga is very hospitable, cheerful, bright, understandable, and close.
She is loved both by generations of people who grew up in the USSR and daydreaming about her both abroad and by young people who come here on their desired vacation.
Everyone will find here entertainment and something to their liking!
But you should not limit your acquaintance with Latvia to Riga alone, no matter how good it is.
The most exciting cities of Latvia – Sigulda, Cesis, Ventspils, Daugavpils, are also waiting for guests.
Each is attractive in its way – fans of skiing and endless expanses go to tiny Cesis. These places are sometimes called the “Latvian Alps.”
If the snow-white slopes do not appeal to you, come to Cesis to see ancient castles, as well as numerous festivals – they take place every weekend in summer.
The first human settlements appeared on the territory of Latvia about 11,000 years ago. That cultural stratum was called Kunda, after the Estonian city of Kunda, where the first artifacts of this era were found. Later, the tribes of the ancient Livs and Balts came here, and they led a sedentary lifestyle, were engaged in cattle breeding, agriculture. In the same historical period, scientists managed to find the first imported tools of labor made of iron.
The era of the early middle ages
Liepaja, founded in the 7th century in the western part of Latvia by settlers from Scandinavia, is considered one of the first large settlements in the Baltic region.
The country’s population of that era mainly lived in small farms, engaged in agriculture, or on the coast of the Baltic Sea, earning money from trade and navigation.
The connections of the ancient Vikings with distant countries are evidenced by Arab and Roman coins found by archaeologists.
Studying the medieval chronicles, you can find a listing of the peoples inhabiting these lands.
Livs, Semigallians, Latgalians – the latter are considered the dominant nation of that era, and the modern name of the Latvian people came from them.
By the 12th century, several large settlements existed on the territory of modern Latvia, which has survived to this day.
Mezotne village, known as a trade and handicraft settlement since the first century AD, Tērvete, famous thanks to its Tērvete compensation for more than 3000 years, Gersik principality, the historical village of Koknese, mentioned in the “Livonian Chronicles.” All of them have preserved at least one medieval castle (or its ruins). However, all these cities and principalities remained dependent on the Swedish kingdom from the Polotsk and Pskov princes.
Religiously, the tribes of the ancient Latvians practiced paganism. The first attempts to bring the faith of Christ to these lands began at the end of the 12th century. During this period, German crusaders came here.
From the Crusaders to the Hanseatic League
In 1186, the first diocese was founded in the city of Iksküle, and fifteen years later, a fateful event in the country’s history took place.
Riga was founded in 1201 on the initiative of Bishop Albert.
Riga has become a center for the spread of the Christian faith. During this period, the entire territory of modern Latvia was conquered by the knights-crusaders. In the beginning, they were called the Order of the Swordsmen, founded in 1201 to protect the property of the German Catholic communities and missionary activities carried out at that time with fire and sword. Later, the order began to be called Livonian, and the lands, according to his name, were designated as Livonia.
In addition to the planting of Catholicism, the conquerors built stone castles, and their architectural heritage can be seen today. The picturesque Venden Castle is located in the town of Cesis, the Turaida Castle, built by the Crusaders in the 13th century, the romantic Bauska Castle, the castle in Sigulda.
Castles were used by the conquerors as fortifications, as strongholds for the army, and the protection of territories.
A network of such fortresses (not all of them have survived) covered Livonia in the XII-XIV centuries.
Having become the main religion, Catholicism also formed a new elite of society – the nobility and clergy, consisting mainly of German immigrants.
In 1282 a significant event took place – Riga was a member of the Hanseatic League.
It is an association of northern European trading cities that controls trade in the Baltic Sea, Scandinavian countries, and northern Germany.
The Hanseatic League, possessing the rights of a monopoly, regulated maritime trade for almost 300 and ruled the participating cities.
The era of orders and alliances lasted until the middle of the 16th century when wars and a redistribution of power began to torment Europe.
Between the Reformation and Catholicism
The 16th century was the era of the Reformation. The Germans, who make up not only a significant but also a very influential part of the population, enthusiastically embraced the ideas of their fellow countryman, Martin Luther. And even though the Livonian Order obeyed the Pope, doubters appeared in its ranks. The end of the era can be considered the Livonian War and the invasion of the Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible army into the Baltic in 1558.
Neighboring Poland, at that time, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth acted as the guarantor of the Catholic faith, and Sweden, in opposition to it, supported the Lutheran movement, which served as a pretext for confrontation. The Polish-Swedish wars completely torn apart these lands; bloody battles lasted from 1600 to 1629. As a result, the territory of modern Latvia was divided – Riga and Livonia were now considered belonging to Sweden, Courland and Latgale were ceded to Poland.
The decisive blow was struck by the third force, the most powerful – the Russian Empire. Fighting in the North Sea with Sweden, Russian troops seized the territory of Estonia and Livonia. In 1721, according to the Nishtad Peace Treaty, they received the regions of modern Latvia, including Riga.
Latvia within the Russian Empire
In 1721, the deal of the century took place – for 2 million silver coins, Tsar Peter. The First buys Livonia from Sweden, which includes northern Latvia and southern Estonia. These lands were first called the Riga and later the Livonian province as part of the Russian state.
A little later, the Polish lands joined them, and at the end of the 18th century, the Duke of Courland, Peter Biron, sold his possessions to Catherine II for half a million ducats and a life pension.
The middle of the 19th century is the era of mass industrialization. The first railway connected Riga and Daugavpils, the second largest and most important city in Latvia. In 1862, the Riga Technical School opened its doors, and in 1868 – the first Russian gymnasium, Aleksandrovskaya. Her teaching was conducted in Latvian, which became a decisive factor in mass literacy. Riga is turning into the industrial center of the empire. Factories and factories are being built here.
The same period saw outbursts of national-patriotic movements. Organizations advocating the revival of the traditions and rights of the indigenous people appear both in Riga and in neighboring Tallinn and Vilnius, covering the entire Baltic region.
In the fight for freedom
The beginning of the twentieth century has become an era of confrontation of interests. In Riga, occupied by German troops, local parties set up a temporary council, but still, the nation’s fate depended on the outcome of the First World War. At one time, the Baltic state was even created here under the protectorate of Germany. Its history was short-lived.
On November 18, 1918, the independence of the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed. It had to be defended against both the encroachments of German detachments and the troops of the Red Army. But already, in August 1920, the government of the RSFSR officially recognized the independence of Latvia, and in 1921 Latvia, along with Lithuania and Estonia, was admitted to the League of Nations.
The independence period lasted until June 1940. Power in the country was regulated by the Constituent Assembly and was determined by various political currents. This continued until 1934, when the head of the government Karlis Ulmanis, having made a coup, established an authoritarian regime.
In June 1939, Latvia and Germany signed a non-aggression pact, maintaining neutrality and supporting the actions of the German authorities. Latvia counted on military assistance in the event of conflicts with the USSR, but it miscalculated. The first Red Army troops entered Riga in June 1940. At the same time, a pact of Latvia’s surrender was signed. On August 5, 1940, the republic became known as the Latvian SSR.
From the USSR to independence
In the summer of 1941, Latvia was occupied by German troops. The local population, opposed to Soviet power, for the most part, supported the new regime, considering the fight against Russia their duty.
The USSR army liberated Latvia from the Nazis in 1944, regaining its political influence. Industry and the national economy were rapidly recovering, and large factories and factories were reopened under the industrialization program.
The Riga hydroelectric power station, the road network, the tourist infrastructure, the development of Jurmala as one of the most promising resorts in the country – this list is far from complete.
With the beginning of perestroika, massive widespread protests began in the large Baltic cities.
The patriotic party Popular Front of Latvia comes to power, and in cooperation with activists of the national movements of Estonia and Lithuania, they are holding a joint action.
It has remained in history as the “Baltic Way.”
About two million people lined up in a human chain 670 kilometers long, stretching across the Baltica region.
The country’s independence was legally restored on August 21, 1991. In 2004, Latvia was a member of the European Union, and since 2008 the Schengen rules have been in effect here.
In 2003, Riga hosted the international Eurovision Song Contest, and in 2014 it was honored with the high title of the European Capital of Culture.
Climate and weather in Latvia
Latvia is located in the temperate climatic zone typical of the European continent. All four seasons are clearly expressed here: winter, frosty and snowy, spring, with floods and flowering meadows—warm summers, conducive to nature walks and beach vacations, and bright, picturesque, colorful autumn. Choose the season you like, and Latvia will delight you!
Winter comes to Latvia, as it should be according to the calendar, at the beginning of December. Winters here are mostly snowy but mild and not harsh. As a rule, most winter is light frost, which is very in harmony with winter sports.
Although there are no high mountains in the country, there are excellent trails for skiing enthusiasts.
Also, in Latvia, they took care of fans of cross-country skiing, ice skating, and another popular winter entertainment – ice fishing.
Take a ride along the sea, watching the frozen Baltic (in icy winters, the water freezes), ice sculptures, bizarre patterns on the ice. Or dress warmly and explore Latvian cities.
Spring in Latvia begins in March. In the country’s vastness, it is accompanied by extensive floods, and if you have never observed this natural phenomenon, this is a great reason to visit Latvia in spring.
The best place to visit is the Gauja National Park with its picturesque deep rivers. The air temperature rises gradually, in April it is already very comfortable for walking + 15 … 17 ° C. At the same time, flooded meadows begin to bloom, and lilacs bloom in May.
The best time to visit Latvia in late spring and early summer
Summer Latvia pleases with warmth and sun from June to September. The average temperature is about +20 degrees, but the thermometer often shows all +30 ° C.
Take advantage of summer days to travel along the shores of the Baltic Sea, explore historic towns and ancient castles, or relax on the beautiful sandy beach in Jurmala.
Summer is also an excellent time for ecotourism. Rent a bike and explore the country.
Fans of all kinds of holidays and festivals will not get bored in the summer – almost every weekend is marked with a particular event.
Autumn Latvia is beautiful. This season colors its forests in all shades of reds and golds, making it a great time to explore its National Parks.
Cities and regions of Latvia
The administrative regions of Latvia are named after the historical and cultural areas of the country that developed in the early Middle Ages. There are 6 main regions: Riga, Priryzhie, Vidzeme, Zemgale, Kurzeme and Latgale.
The western part of Latvia is called Kurzeme. Its cultural and architectural heritage is vibrant and colorful – nature, historic cities, beaches, and gastronomy. The largest cities in Kurzeme are the ports of Ventspils and Liepaja.
People come to Liepaja for walks in the Old Town, creative quarters of musicians and artists, a luxurious 8-kilometer sandy beach, and an acquaintance with the military town of Karosta, with its nerve-racking quests and shows.
Ventspils is an adventure city. If you are in Ventspils for just one day, visit the Old Town, where narrow streets and squares are intertwined with modern architecture, the Portovaya Street promenade, and of course, the Livonian Order Castle.
Unusual attractions include the narrow gauge railway, white dunes, and a Blue Flag beach.
Also, in Ventspils, there is a space laboratory equipped with modern telescopes and the most advanced digital planetarium in the Baltics, the only digital planetarium in Latvia.
Kuldiga is the romance of medieval streets and old squares. The nature of this region is also magnificent. In Kuldiga, the broadest waterfall in Europe, Ventas rumba, is located, wherein in the spring, you can observe a unique phenomenon – jumping fish.
If you love seascapes, go to Yulkarne, where a twenty-meter scenic steep coast stretches for more than 30 km.
Romantics will love Cape Kolka, the meeting point of two seas – the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. People come here to watch bird migration and see lagoon-type lakes.
By the way, it is worth walking here and trying – the gastronomy in this area is at its best. Take a look at the fish markets for which this coastal region is famous and try one of the unpronounceable local dishes, such as sklandrausis, a rye flour pie with potatoes and carrots.
Or go on a romantic wine tour. The northernmost vineyard in the world, Sabile Wine Hill, is included in the Guinness Book of Records. You can visit it with a guided tour, observing the process of wine production. And of course, you will be offered to taste the product!
The Vidzeme region, located in the north of Latvia, has a rocky coastline, hilly landscapes, and unique nature. The main cities of the area are Sigulda, Cesis, and Valmiera.
The city of Sigulda, because of its hilly landscapes, is also called Vidzeme Switzerland. For those who want to tickle their nerves, the only cable car in the Baltics is located here, and history fans can go to Turaida Castle, the most visited museum in Latvia.
Creative people come to Cesis. This city bears the name of the cultural capital of the region and hosts the Cesis Arts Festival every summer. And local restaurants have earned themselves the fame of some of the best in the country; young people from the capital often come to Cesis for weekends.
Another trump card of Cesis is a medieval castle steeped in legends.
Experienced guides will gladly tell you about them and invite you to take part in exciting shows, such as a medieval feast.
Valmiera, located on the banks of the Gauja River, is interesting for its unique nature trail.
It is recommended to go through it barefoot, using all the senses. The length of the path is almost 3 km.
The feat can be celebrated in the Valmiermuižas plus brewery, where one of the most popular drinks in Latvia is brewed.
Nature has generously endowed Vidzeme. Here is the only rocky sea coast in Latvia. The highest peak is a mountain 312 meters high, with picturesque banks of the Gauja River. The largest cave in the country, Gutmanis Cave, is nearby. All these wonders are united by the Gauja National Park – the largest and oldest in Latvia.
Those who prefer a peaceful holiday on the seaside should go to the towns of Saulkrasti and Salacgrivu, where you can sunbathe and buy fish smoked according to old recipes from local fishers.
Fans of adrenaline can go to the amusement park “Tarzāns,” located in Sigulda, and appreciate one of the many obstacle paths or jump on a rubber band from the funicular, which hovers right over the Gauja River.
Cesis, Sigulda, and Valmiera offer ski slopes and trails for snowboarders.
The fertile plains, historic towns, palaces, and natural parks in southern Latvia, the Zemgale region. The main wealth of Zemgale is castles.
It is worth starting your acquaintance with the most famous baroque miracle in the Baltics, Rundale Castle. Designed in the 18th century, Rundale Castle is attractive for its parks and marvelous gardens laid out in French fashion.
Jelgava Castle, the residence of the Dukes of Courland, is also located in the Zemgale region. The historical part of Jelgava has preserved wooden buildings, old mansions, and temples.
The nature of Zemgale is also fascinating – fertile fields, windmills, many rivers, and parks.
Pay attention to Tērvete Park.
Hundreds of wooden sculptures based on the Latvian writer Anna Brigade “live” here. Children will like it here.
Also, in Zemgale, there is a part of the Kemeri National Park, known for its curative mud, springs, and mineral waters.
Eastern Latvia, the Latgale region, differs from the whole country in its traditions and dialect and the main religion – the Catholic faith. The main cities are Daugavpils, Jekabpils, and Rezekne.
In Daugavpils, founded by the Knights of the Livonian Order, you should look at least for the sake of the fortress – the sole representative of the beginning of the XIX century preserved almost intact. Daugavpils fortress, which was also called Dinaburgskaya and Dvinskaya fortresses, is the brightest historical monument in Daugavpils and one of the symbols of Latvia.
In addition to the fortress, Daugavpils is attractive for the Church Mountain, where four churches of various religions stand side by side, art galleries, and a lovely historical center.
The land of blue lakes, as Latgale is also called, is famous for its nature. It even has a dedicated boating route across the connected lakes with five bodies of water. Pay attention to the natural park “Bends of the Daugava,” where you can see ancient Latvian settlements walking along the hiking trails.
National Park “Raza” with an unusual lake, also called the “Latgale Sea,” has retained the unique flavor of this historical region. Take a walk on footpaths, appreciate the pristine landscapes and ruins of ancient fortresses, get acquainted with the traditions of these places.
Don’t miss one of the region’s gems, the Ludza Castle Ruins. Its construction dates back to 1399 when the German crusaders built a protective citadel on the castle hill between the lakes. The castle was superb at that time – three floors, six towers, massive gates. Today, only picturesque ruins have survived from it.
Just an hour’s drive from the capital, you can see outstanding historical monuments, architectural masterpieces, and natural wonders. This land is called the Pririzhsky region, which includes a solid section of central Latvia on the coast of the Gulf of Riga.
The main trump card of the region is Jurmala. Jurmala, known for a long time as one of the best resorts in the Baltic and Europe, attracts its unique atmosphere, walking streets, seaside promenades, and golden sandy beaches.
Above many of them, the Blue Flag flies proudly – the mark of the highest quality in the resort business.
On the one hand, the city is washed by the Gulf of Riga. On the other, it is surrounded by the greenery of fragrant coniferous forests, creating a unique healing microclimate.
Fans of cultural recreation will not get bored here either – the Dzintari Concert Hall is known not only in Latvia but also abroad for its vibrant concert program.
Another pleasant seaside resort in Saulkrasti. Here, you can swim and sunbathe and walk through forest paths through dunes and pine groves.
Here you can go on a one-day excursion, either by your car, or with the help of a travel agency, or public transport.
From the Riga International Bus Station, you will be transported in any direction – to Sigulda, Cesis, Jelgava, or Jurmala. It’s easy to see how diverse Latvia is without going too far from the capital!
The last region, Riga, is the smallest in the territory but the most famous. Outlined by the part of the capital of Latvia, ancient and beautiful Riga, the central metropolis of the Baltics is attractive for many factors. Culture, history, architectural masterpieces, museums and palaces, the famous Old Town – a unique Old Town, fully protected by UNESCO.
Medieval mansions here side by side with the palaces of the Art Nouveau era – Riga is considered the queen of the Northern Art Nouveau. Multicultural and multinational, Riga is the same city where it is always interesting. This is an excellent choice for the traveler, for a weekend or a full-fledged vacation.
Where to go in Latvia
The Dome Cathedral
The Dome Cathedral is one of the main attractions of the city. It is the central cathedral of Riga and its symbol. This building is in the first place in terms of size among all the cathedrals in the Baltics, built during the Middle Ages. The name of the Dome Cathedral comes from the Latin phrase “Domus Dei,” which translates as “House of God.” And the main attraction of the cathedral itself is a large ancient organ, whose height is 25 meters, and the number of pipes is more than 6 thousand.
The Riga Zoo is located on the picturesque Mezaparks microdistrict to the west of Lake Kisezers. The foundation of the Riga Zoo was laid by the society “Riga Zoological Garden,” founded about a hundred years ago, in 1908. On October 14, 1912, the zoo was opened to visitors and presented 267 animals of 88 species. From the buildings of those times, a mountain cave on the shore of the lake, an entrance gate, and an administration building have survived to this day. In 1914, the Zoological Garden acquired 538 animals.
House with black cats
The House with Black Cats (Kaku names) is one of the hallmarks of Riga, the capital of Latvia. This famous landmark and one of the most legendary buildings in the city is located in the central part of the Old Town of Riga. But to understand why he is so famous, you should know his story, the legend associated with him, as well as a few other interesting facts.
Riga Castle has a long and challenging history. Over the seven centuries of its existence, it has been rebuilt many times and changed its appearance. But the purpose of this building remained unchanged – it has always been the center of political life. Located on the banks of the Daugava River, the Riga Castle performed both a representative and a defensive function.
Monument “Bremen Town Musicians“
In Riga, you can visit the monument to the heroes of the fairy tale “The Musicians of Bremen,” known to all of us since childhood. This is one of the most famous monuments in the old city.
Vacations Forever: 5 Best Resort Towns You Should Move to ASAP
Do you want to be on vacation all year long? Fewer people are using their part-time vacation homes as primary residences nowadays, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a great choice for you.
Let’s go through the top resort towns you should move to if you want to be permanently on vacation.
1. Jackson Hole, United States
If you’re a big fan of skiing, you’re sure to enjoy Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jackson Hole has very low crime rates, so it’s a safe place to live if you have a family.
It’s also home to some excellent schools, so you don’t need to be worried about your children’s education. However, Jackson Hole does have high costs of living, particularly for a city in a less populated state.
2. Estepona, Spain
Do you enjoy the south of Spain? Consider moving to Estepona. This city, which is located on the Costa del Sol, is populated along the coast. There are tons of amazing water sports you can try out when you visit Estepona.
Plus, you can check out interesting museums when you live in Estepona, like the Antonio Ordóñez Museum of Bullfighting, the Ethnographic Museum, and the Paleontology Museum. And, Estepona is home to delicious restaurants, so you’ll never get tired of eating the local cuisine. Those who are looking for a place to live in Estepona should check out choosemarbella.com.
3. Cartagena, Colombia
If you’re looking for a great beach city, you’ll certainly want to consider Cartagena. There are plenty of resorts you can check out, or you can hit the beaches yourself.
Cartagena is also one of the cheaper cost of living options when it comes to beach cities. However, if you’re a vegetarian or have dietary restrictions, Colombia can be a difficult country to navigate.
4. Palm Springs, United States
Palm Springs is an interesting resort city. It’s extremely popular with seniors and members of the LGBTQ community (along with, of course, people who fall under both categories).
Palm Springs is the perfect place to live for people who love golfing or playing tennis. But be forewarned, you’ll need a car to get around Palm Springs since things are spread out and public transportation can be limited.
5. Todos Santos, Mexico
While Cabo San Lucas is one of the most popular resort city choices out there, it’s probably not a place you want to live long term. So, why not try out one of the neighboring towns? Todos Santos is one great option.
Todos Santos is home to a great community of artists, so people who love creativity won’t want to miss out. Plus, Todos Santos is one of the safest resort towns out there. And, the city is becoming more and more popular, so you’ll be trendy by moving to Todos Santos.
Move to These Resort Towns Today
What are you waiting for? Any of these resort towns are a great option for your next stage in life.
Are you looking for more lifestyle advice? Make su
Estonia Travel Guide: Best Places to Visit And Things To Do
Estonia is one of the brightest, most versatile, and diverse countries in northern Europe. Situated on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea and washed by the waters of the Gulfs of Riga and Finland, Estonia offers tourists an incredible selection of natural landscapes, ancient monuments, and architectural wonders. Millennia of history, cultural traditions, lively and fascinating, historic cities, castles, and fortresses of the Crusader era, museums, and elegant museums from the time of the Empire. Two thousand five hundred islands, virgin forests and National parks, lakes, swamps, meteorite craters, and hundreds of kilometers of beaches – this is all Estonia!
With the latest technological advances, Estonia offers a unique cocktail of experiences where all the ingredients are perfectly matched. Excursions, entertainment, historical routes, shopping, gastronomic wonders, spa hotels, and the best beaches of the Baltic Sea – whatever plan you go on vacation, Estonia will undoubtedly bring them to life.
Despite its modest size, Estonia can surprise even the experienced traveler. It is easily accessible from any corner of Europe – by air, land, and water. Tallinn, the delightful and ancient capital of Estonia, and the main cities of Sweden and Finland are only hours apart. Guests from Warsaw will be delivered by a comfortable bus, and residents of St. Petersburg should not be late for the evening train. Breakfast can be ordered in the heart of Tallinn.
Magical Tallinn, an actual teleport city, a time machine in action.
The entire old town is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as an example of conservation in northern Europe.
From a bird’s eye view, its shape repeats the heart – this is probably why it regularly steals hearts from impressionable tourists!
It is enough to climb one of the observation platforms to leave your own there, and there are many of them in the city.
And then walk the whimsically twisted streets, admiring the ancient fortress walls, towers, and underground passages – the Tallinn fortress is more than 700 years old, and it is also considered the standard of medieval architecture.
In addition to the fortress, the historic part of Tallinn will offer ancient temples, medieval mansions, museums, and, of course, restaurants – to celebrate your acquaintance with the city tastefully, and you have a choice of 1001 restaurants. Many of them have earned the laurels of the best in northern Europe.
The second most important city in the country is Tartu. It is considered the intellectual capital of Estonia, and it is not for nothing that its foundation is attributed to Prince Yaroslav the Wise. The oldest university, the most picturesque ruins of the cathedral, the most beautiful Botanical Garden, and the most “advanced” museums are located here. Another reason to visit Tartu is fairs, festivals, and other entertainment events. Thanks to the university and the student body, it is also the funniest city in Estonia.
In Narva, Rakvere, and Põltsamaa, ancient fortresses and majestic castles fans should take a ride.
Life here is quiet and unhurried, and only occasionally, the city’s peace is disturbed by music festivals and historical reconstructions.
The “summer” capital of Estonia, stylish and bright, will offer its guests spa hotels, health resorts on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, a pretty port with yachts, and the Old Town of the Hanseatic League.
But the main thing for tourists who come here is eight kilometers of sandy beach, the best in the country.
Those who love everything at once should go to Haapsalu. One of the most famous spa resorts, renowned for its traditions and admirers, Haapsalu also has a worthy historical dimension.
A medieval castle and an old cathedral, a vibrant Old Town, the Seaside Promenade – culture is perfectly combined with vacation motives.
And, of course, you cannot leave Estonia without seeing its islands. Choose the largest and most beautiful island of Saaremaa and its capital, old Kuressaare. The local Bishop’s Castle is considered the most harmonious in the country, and the climate is one of the best on the coast.
In short, why would you not come to Estonia – to have fun, improve your health, or intellectually enrich yourself, you will have a great vacation. Estonia will take care of this!
Estonian history is a journey of thousands of years. This northern country has managed to preserve the traditions and customs of its ancestors, Viking sagas, and tales of overseas kings while remaining a modern European state.
Estonia: the beginning of the beginnings
Historical evidence of life on these lands can be found already in the 9th millennium BC. The appearance of the first people on the territory of modern Estonia is associated with the end of the last known ice age. According to archaeologists, the oldest site of primitive people appeared on the banks of the Pärnu River, not far from Sindi, approximately in 9500 BC. There are several such settlements. They all belong to the Kund culture.
This ancient cultural stratum existed until the 5th millennium BC and is named after the Estonian city of Kunda. Its influence spread to the eastern Baltic states, Poland, and southern Finland. The settlements of hunters and anglers used stone tools of labor and defense, which are found in many archaeologists, right up to the Mesolithic period.
Over the millennia, cultural layers have changed, and along with them – the traditions of the peoples inhabiting these lands. Already in the third millennium BC, the inhabitants of the settlements began to raise livestock, and by the first millennium, this trade became the main activity of the settlers.
The path to the emergence of statehood
Three thousand years ago, the inhabitants of the territories that make up modern Estonia chose a sedentary lifestyle. As a rule, the new settlers preferred the coastal regions, and here the first settlements were built, fortified, and defended. Their traces can be found to this day on the island of Saaremaa, and these are Ridala and Asva, as well as the settlement of Iru near Tallinn.
At the same time, sea and land contacts with neighbors begin to develop. Archaeologists designate this period as the culture of stone burials. It is associated with the resettlement of the ancestors of the Germans from Scandinavia.
Estonia, at the beginning of our era, is the land of agriculture and cattle breeding. Already in the early Middle Ages, customs and traditional ways of rural life appeared, which Estonians managed to preserve to this day. Many historic villages still exist today.
The early Middle Ages are a crucial period in the formation of Estonia. New, fortified settlements are being built, a system of administrative registration of territories has been formed, and a small farm is taken as a unit of measurement – a typical family farm. There are still many of them in Estonia. The entire territory of the state is divided into 8 regions and counties, these are Virumaa, Läanemaa, Rävala, Saaremaa, Sakala, Ugandi, Harju County, Järvamaa.
By this period, an early feudal model of society was formed, where elders ruled the lands. The major Estonian epic, which tells the story of the medieval giant Kalevipoeg, was written just in the spirit of that time.
In the same historical period, around 1030, the campaign of Prince Yaroslav the Wise began in the northern lands. He founded the city of Yuryev, present-day Tartu.
A little later, local tribes recaptured Tartu. In the following centuries, the ancient Estonians, on the one hand, and the inhabitants of Pskov with Novgorod, on the other, regularly “exchanged pleasantries.”
Such raids on neighbors were considered in the Order of things. One of them even went down in history. It is known that the Estonians conflicted with the Scandinavian Vikings. The inhabitants of the largest Estonian island – Saaremaa, mainly distinguished themselves in this confrontation.
Possessing a solid fleet at that time, the Oeselians, that is, the islanders kidnapped the Norwegian Queen Astrid and her son, Prince Olaf.
Subsequently, it was canonized, and one of the most outstanding examples of medieval architecture in Estonia, St. Olaf’s Church, was named in its part.
The Estonian Vikings are also credited with the destruction of the Swedish capital of Sigtuna at the beginning of the 12th century. Visiting the island of Saaremaa, you can see with your own eyes the treasures of the Vikings, which were found here in many.
The Early Middle Ages: From the Crusaders to the Reformation
The beginning of the Middle Ages in Estonia is associated with the spread of Christianity. The faith of Christ came to these lands later than to central Europe, and if at the beginning these were missionary movements, then the planting of a new religion took place with fire and sword. Various organizations – the Teutonic Order, the Pope, German archbishops, Denmark, and the Kingdom of Sweden – advocated for Estonia’s conversion to Catholicism. Pagan ancestor cults have always been extreme in these parts, so the Northern Crusade decided to take drastic measures. In history, he remained under the name of Livonian.
The crusaders reached the Estonian lands by 1208. And in 1217, the battle of Viljandi took place, where the Estonians were defeated. Two years later, the territories of northern Estonia were conquered by the Danes, the south of the state began to belong to the German Order of the Swordsmen.
As a result of the conquests, these lands fell under the control of the powerful Livonian Order, which had occupied a substantial part of the modern Baltic.
At the same time, the Danish king granted Tallinn, which was considered a pearl among cities, the privileges of the Lübeck city law.
According to these laws, the capital of Estonia, like other cities of the Hanseatic League, was governed until the beginning of the twentieth century.
The conquered lands were transformed into bishoprics. Some of them were subordinate to the supreme authority in Riga. Denmark ruled others.
Of course, this did not consider the interests of the local population, and conflicts were inevitable.
The most famous uprising was St. George’s Night, which marked the Peasant War of Liberation beginning.
The riots, which the Danish authorities could not cope with, forced them to sell the land to the Teutonic Order. The era of German rule in Estonia began.
German landlords wielded tremendous power here for the next 700 years. The territories of modern Estonia and Latvia are called Livonia – a medieval community of interconnected small principalities that were part of the German church territories of the Holy Roman Empire. The feudal system formed in medieval Estonia put German knights and Catholic bishops at the pinnacle of power.
The rights and freedoms of residents were constantly infringed upon, right up to the introduction of serfdom. Taxes and taxes reached unprecedented levels, and all administrative and judicial power belonged to the German magistrates. At the same time, the Estonians themselves, who constituted the majority of the population, remained predominantly peasants and did not have personal freedom.
In large cities, merchant guilds and artisan communities were formed, and Rewal – modern Tallinn, Dorpat, now the city of Tartu, Pernau, familiar to us as Pärnu, and Viljandi were part of the powerful Hanseatic League. This commercial and defensive amalgamation of merchant guilds and merchant cities quickly became a monopoly in northern Europe.
Traces of those times are still easy to find on the streets of Tallinn.
Walking through the Old Town, pay attention to the medieval warehouses, equipped with hooks sticking out above the attic for lifting loads.
Perhaps due to the eternal conflict of interests of the trading cities with their merchants and the Catholic clergy represented by the German bishops, the Reformation movement in Estonia received support.
The middle of the 16th century was accompanied by riots, where ordinary people revolted against the Catholic clergy.
One of the manifestos of the Reformation, which the locals supported, was the holding of divine services and the publication of books in Estonian.
Middle-Ages: from the Livonian War to the Russian Empire
The sixteenth-century turned out to be a turning point – the Livonian Order, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Russian tsar, Sweden, and the Danish kingdom started a major conflict over the division of territories. It remains in history as the Livonian War. Estonia became one of those lands for which they fought. Both the population and the economic component of the cities suffered greatly during the hostilities. As a result, the state was divided between Sweden, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Denmark.
Later, by the middle of the 17th century, all the territories of modern Estonia were ceded to the Kingdom of Sweden. The foundation of the University of Tartu, one of the oldest in Europe, dates back to this time. A significant event took place in 1632, at the direction of the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf.
Until the end of the 17th century, the economic stability of Estonia was ensured by trade. Large cities – Narva, Tallinn, Tartu, stood at the crossroads of trade routes, through which goods went to Europe or Russia and back. The agricultural sector also functioned well, and crafts were developing.
The Great Northern War changed the balance of power in the region. It ended in 1721 with the surrender of Sweden, and the Estonian lands came under the control of the Russian Empire.
Estonia as part of Russia
Most of the Baltic territories in the middle of the 18th century were ceded to Russia. Northern Estonia turned into Revel province, and southern lands, together with Latvia, formed Livonia. Emperor Peter the Great restored the rights of the German nobility, and they constituted a solid layer in the highest authorities. In religion, complete freedom was also allowed for both the Lutheran faith and the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the spheres of culture and education, progress was observed, books, newspapers, and magazines were published in Estonian, educational societies were actively working, defending the rights of the people, and literacy of the population was almost universal.
The population also recovered, undermined by wars and epidemics.
An important historical milestone was the abolition of serfdom by Tsar Alexander the First. It happened in 1816.
In the middle of the 19th century, Estonia and the rest of the empire entered the era of capitalism.
The industry developed by leaps and bounds, mechanical engineering, textile, and agricultural industries formed the basis of the economy.
Success in the economic field and the development of educational programs contributed to the birth of the Estonian national movement.
Towards a free Estonia
Activists of the national movement, formed at the end of the 19th century, demanded equal rights for Germans and indigenous people, Estonians, whose interests were infringed upon. These societies united writers, educators, journalists, representatives of the intellectual elite. They fought not only for legal rights but also for restoring traditions such as the Song Festival, ethnographic festivals, the first Estonian theater. However, despite these bold attempts, the Russians and Germans remained society’s economic and political elite.
In the wake of patriotic movements and extreme provocations, strikes and unrest broke out throughout Estonia. The tsarist government responded with harsh repression, but the uprisings continued in 1916, leading to the 1917 revolution. The interim government was entrusted with managing the former Estland province.
Riots continued this time between Estonian nationalists and Bolsheviks. However, now the First World War intervened in the plans of the future Soviet government. Estonia remained neutral in this conflict, demanding independence.
The wish came true on February 24, 1918 – finally, Estonia became a free state.
The first Estonian republic existed until 1940. The Second World War, its sad consequences, and the subsequent incorporation into the USSR lasted almost fifty years.
Estonia regained independence in 1991 with a rally known as the Singing Revolution.
Over the past thirty years, the state has been actively developing.
Tallinn’s old town was renovated for the 100th anniversary of independence.
Estonia is a member of the UN, the European Union, and NATO, a technically advanced and progressive country.
The system of electronic elections exists and is actively used here, and Skype was invented.
In 2002, Tallinn hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, and in 2018, the anniversary year for Estonian independence, many museums, palaces, and cultural sites were renovated.
The Tallinn Christmas market was recognized as the most beautiful in Europe by the European Best Destinations Association in the same year.
And regardless of political trends, time of year, and the weather outside the window, this beautiful, diverse, and close country is always waiting for you to visit!
Climate and weather in Estonia
Weather in cities
Several factors influence the Estonian climate. The proximity of the Baltic Sea, the Gulf Stream, Atlantic cyclones, temperate continental regions, fifteen hundred islands – this combination can be safely called unique.
The warmest month of the year is July, and the coldest is February.
However, the transitions between seasons are smooth and comfortable, and the country’s inhabitants are unfamiliar with both severe touches of frost and sweltering heat.
Estonia, located both on the mainland and on the islands, is surrounded by water on three sides. A large part of it is swamped, and the sea and the unusual natural relief create their microclimate. The weather in Estonia is most often described as humid and calm, relatively mild.
Winter in Estonia starts as expected – in December. As a rule, snowfalls at this time, which greatly adorn the landscapes, and there is a light frost conducive to walking.
It is one of the most popular tourist seasons of the year and is the time to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
January and February are colder and frosty, and there is a lot of snow. However, the air temperature rarely drops below – 6 … 8 ° C.
The weather is conducive to winter fun – ski runs, skating rinks in parks, sledding, fishing are open.
Estonians are a very athletic nation, and most of the time, joining their winter walks is entirely free.
Spring comes to Estonia not earlier than the second half of March. At this time of the year, frosts are still possible, mainly at night, but the sun is peeping more often.
April is also a fantastic month; May is considered more successful for a visit to the country. Spring can be seen in all its glory – in blooming parks, meadows outside the city, and bright city flower beds. Walking around Old Tallinn, do not deny yourself the pleasure of sitting at a table in an outdoor cafe – in May, such gatherings in the air are already quite comfortable.
If the purpose of your visit is to see summer Estonia, plan your trip in July. June is more like a warm spring than our usual summer. However, the month is exceptionally sunny and not too grainy.
The best time to visit Estonia is in June and July.
July is considered the warmest, sunniest, and driest month of the year. The air temperature warms up to + 22 … 24 ° C. + 30 ° C in Estonia is an abnormal heat. Such temperature cataclysms do not happen often.
Despite quite hot daily temperatures for Estonia, summer nights remain cool.
This feature of the local climate dictates to tourists their own rules for collecting luggage – a light jacket or sweater is required even in the middle of summer.
July and August are perfect for exploring Estonian cities and relaxing on their beaches.
The water temperature off the coast of Tallinn is usually around + 20 ° C, in rare cases warming up a few degrees higher.
Another good season to visit Estonia is autumn.
September usually welcomes guests of the country with dry, warm, and sunny weather.
This is an excellent time for both city walks and outdoor recreation. The first frosts and rains come with the onset of October, and although the average temperature is around + 10 ° C during the day, the mood is spoiled by prolonged precipitation.
It is freezing and wet in November. This is the time of real northern autumn, with fogs and falling snow. A warm hat and mittens are a must, or you can keep warm at the numerous spas, as well as at Christmas markets, which also start in November.
Estonian cities and regions
The territory of Estonia, divided in the 13th century by the knights of the Livonian Order into eight historical regions – Maakondas in Estonian, today, with the recognition of independence, has been divided into 15 counties. Almost all of them, to a greater or lesser extent, are of some interest to travelers.
The country’s history in stone can be studied in the regions of Harju, Lääne-Viru County, Ida-Virumaa. Here you will find the ruins of ancient castles, noble estates from the times of the empire, palaces, and all this against the backdrop of dunes and seemingly pristine coniferous forests. The main cities of the north of the country are the capital Tallinn, the seaside Paldiski, Maardu with its lake.
In addition to the beauties of ancient Tallinn, with its great fortress and streets of the Old Town, Harju County attracts with its excellent preservation of medieval buildings.
Temples and fortresses, historical landowners’ estates – manors, the Vasalemma palace, and park complex.
The views are also in order here – 17 landscape zones protecting unique natural monuments, including karst fields, heaths, springs, swamps, picturesque coastal cliffs.
County Ida-Viru County is famous for its ancient megaliths in Lahemaa National Park, on the coast of the Gulf of Finland.
Noble estates, the “village of captains” Käsmu, where the first ship of Estonian production was launched, the family estate of Admiral von Krusenstern, as well as a tour of the Neeruti National Park – you will not have time to get bored. Don’t miss Rakvere Castle – built-in 1226 by the Danes, it is perfectly preserved for its advanced age.
Ida-Viru County will appeal to nature explorers. Sea ledges – Klint, the highest waterfall in the country, the Oru landscape reserve, the most interesting in Estonia, the Alutaguse adventure park, the beaches of Lake Peipsi, and the opportunity to kayak on the Kurtna lakes.
The western regions of Estonia – Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Pärnumaa, and Läänemaa, are an opportunity to have a fantastic seaside holiday, combining vacation with viewing architectural masterpieces. In this region, sea resorts, spa centers, mud baths, and sanatoriums are concentrated.
Saaremaa county is located on the largest island in Estonia and encompasses the islets nearby. They are loved by fans of sea sports – surfing and kiting, thanks to their windy weather. And in the holiday season, you can go swimming with seals, organized by the employees of Vilsandi National Park. Do not miss the Kaali meteorite crater, which is filled with water of an unusual jade hue. The lake is round in shape, 100 meters in diameter, and you can swim in it in summer.
The capital of the county is Kuressaare. There is a sea harbor, an airport, and the Episcopal Castle, one of the most beautiful in Eastern Europe.
The Old Town has also survived in Kuressaare, with colorful historical buildings.
Surfers and beachgoers also love hiiumaa.
The second-largest island in Estonia offers tourists a picturesque coastline with a total length of 310 km, wind, and waves for fans of sea activities, as well as hiking trails.
You can walk, for example, to the Kõpu lighthouse – the most ancient navigational landmark in the Baltics.
The largest county in Estonia is Pärnumaa. Its capital, the seaside port city of Pärnu, is considered the main Baltic resort in Estonia. Perfect sandy beaches with white dunes surrounded by pine forests are found here.
Neighboring Läänemaa attracts visitors thanks to the county capital, the old town of Haapsalu. Famous for the traditions of mud therapy – the first clinic in the country was opened here, he has not lost his “qualifications” even now. Do not miss the old Kurhaus on the seaside promenade – a beautiful wooden building from the 19th century with a concert hall. And in the center of the city, you will find a 13th-century bishop’s castle, whose ruins are majestic.
The center of the country is beautiful during the warm season. Gardens are blooming, historic estates are opening their doors, and landscaped parks are inviting guests. Raplamaa, Viljandi County, and Järvamaa counties offer many exciting walks.
For example, in Raplamaa, it is suggested to visit the “Golden Ring of Raplamaa Manors.” The program includes noble estates, old churches, historical manors, which are now open as crafts centers. Hikers should pay attention to the limestone plateau in Maryamaa parish.
Viljandi County is visited for the sake of the central city – Viljandi, with a very ancient and venerable history. The first settlements here date back to the 5th century BC, the Viking Age. Written references to the city date back to 1154, and in the 12th century, the first permanent settlement appeared on the site of Viljandi. At the beginning of the XIII century, these lands were conquered by order of the Swordsmen, and already in 1224, a stone fortress was erected here, which was considered the largest in the Baltic. The defense and the city were called Fellin. Under this name, they were part of the Hanseatic League.
In Järva will appeal to fans of nature and lovers of history. Here you can visit the historic Albu estate and then walk in the Kõrvemaa landscape reserve. Bird watchers will especially appreciate this park; you can watch rare black storks and golden eagles here.
The legendary shores of Lake Peipsi are the birthplace of the Tartumaa and Jõgevamaa regions. The historical battles of the Russian-Swedish and the Livonian War did not pass unnoticed; numerous castles and fortresses in the east of the country have survived to this day in the form of picturesque ruins.
County Tartu County – the citadel of knowledge and scientific progress. Tartu, the region’s central city and the second most populous in the country, boasts a rich history. One of the oldest in Eastern Europe, Tartu was founded by Yaroslav the Wise in 1030 as the city of Yuryev. In addition to the university, one of the oldest in Europe, Tartu is famous for theaters, museums, architectural monuments, pretty streets of the Old Town.
The vicinity of Lake Peipsi, located nearby, will be an excellent competitor to seascapes.
You can come here for a whole vacation and not have time to see all the exciting places in the area – ancient manors, the famous “Onion Route” – a historical route through museums and castles, the beautiful Alatskivi Palace.
The amazing glacial landscapes of Jõgevamaa county take us back to the time of the epic about the exploits of Kalevipoeg, the giant warrior.
Mysterious protected forests, lakes, giant boulders, as if forgotten here by a strong man – everything breathes with legends.
One of the most exciting places in the county is the town of Põltsamaa. Once there was the capital of the Livonian Kingdom, with its castle, which welcomes guests in the city center today. By the way, Põltsamaa is also considered the wine capital of Estonia – fruit and berry and fruit wines are produced here, arranging colorful festivals and fairs in summer.
In winter, the southern regions of Valga County, Võrumaa, and Põlvamaa are especially popular with Estonian residents and visitors. The best ski resorts are located here, and the hilly terrain is favorable for snowmobiling and sledding. Valga County is also popular with professionals – it hosts the qualifying rounds of the European Championships and the World Cup in cross-country skiing. In summer, the freestyle jumps are used as an observation deck.
Põlvamaa will appeal to fans of ethno-tourism. Here are the settlements and villages that have preserved the traditional way of life, all against the backdrop of marvelous nature. National parks offer hiking trails of any degree of difficulty, and you can walk along swamps, cliffs, and canyons.
An additional highlight is meteorite craters, and there are four of them in the area. Moreover, the diameter of the deepest is about 80 meters.
Võrumaa county will appeal to wildlife researchers. The main pride of the region is the Hinni Canyon, a mysterious valley that gives rise to the Rõuge Trail. Having passed it to the end, you will see the pasture of the indigenous abodes of these places – the reindeer.
The largest lake in Estonia and the country’s highest point, Suur Munamägi Hill, 318 meters high, is also waiting for you on the route.
Where to go in Estonia
The Tallinn Zoo was founded in 1939.
Today the collection numbers over 350 animal species living on 89 hectares. The zoo’s expositions include Alpine, Central Asian, South American, Arctic, and many other zones.
The zoo is proud of the collection “Tropical House,” rare for northern latitudes: the inhabitants of the tropical jungle were settled here.
Town Hall Square
Each ancient European city has its central square with a town hall founded in medieval times. Such areas were usually used as a gathering place during some important events and as a trading platform. Tallinn is also no exception and has its center – Town Hall Square.
Monument to the battleship “Rusalka.”
A bronze angel on the seashore holds a cross in his hand held high above his head. He points to the place of death of the battleship “Rusalka.” The statue, created by the sculptor A. Adamson, was installed in Kadriorg Park in 1902 on the 7th anniversary of the shipwreck.
Fat Margarita Tower
A medieval maritime city is, first of all, towers and fortress walls, in a word, structures intended to defend the city from invading invaders. Today the Great Sea Gate and the Fat Margarita have turned into monuments reminding native Tallinn residents and guests of the town about the terrible times. Fat Margarita was “born” in the 16th century: a giant armory tower (155 loopholes) with a diameter of 25 meters and a height of 20 meters was erected next to the Sea Gate.
Kadriorg Palace and Park
Kadriorg is considered a prestigious area of Tallinn. The tranquil area is famous for its rich history and the main attractions – the Kadriorg Palace and park. Now on its territory is the residence of the Estonian president and several embassies of other states. The preserved wooden houses are also of interest; Estonia’s prominent figures of literature and art lived in them in the 1920s – 1930s.
Aquapark in Tallinn
Aquapark in Tallinn is a water spa at the Kalev Spa hotel located in the center of the “old town” next to Kanuti Park. Town Hall Square is just a 7-minute walk from the water park. In addition, within walking distance of many attractions is the center of Tallinn – Dominican Monastery, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Dome Cathedral, St. Peter and Paul Church, St. Nicholas Church, Church of the Holy Spirit, Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Toompea Castle, Kiek-de- Kyok and other objects.
Czech Travel Guide: Best Places to Visit And Things To Do
The Czech Republic, or the Czech Republic, is a central European state bordering Poland in the north, Germany in the west, Austria in the south, and Slovakia in the east. The capital of the Czech Republic is the city of Prague, which is one big attraction in the open air. The country covers an area of 78 866 km², has 10 610 947 people (2016). The largest cities are Prague, Brno, Pilsen, Ostrava.
According to legend, the ancestors of today’s Czechs, led by their leader Czech, settled on the territory of the modern Czech Republic, which has been inhabited since the Stone Age. The first chronicle mentions settlements on the Czech land date back to the end of the 9th century when princes from the Přemyslid clan united these lands. In the Middle Ages, the Czech kingdom had significant influence. Still, the religious conflicts that arose (the Hussite wars in the 15th century and the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century) significantly weakened it. Soon the kingdom fell under the rule of the Habsburgs and became part of Austria-Hungary.
After the end of the First World War and the fall of Austria-Hungary in 1918, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Subcarpathian Rus united into the independent republic of Czechoslovakia. Germany occupied the country in 1939. At the end of World War II, the Czech Republic found itself in the Soviet camp, which predetermined its history until 1989. On January 1, 1993, Slovakia separated from the Czech Republic, and both countries gained independence. Today’s Czech Republic has been a NATO member since 1999, and it has been a member of the European Union since 2004.
The Czech Republic is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Regardless of the season, the country annually is visited by about 50 million people—the choice of tourist routes in the Czech. Republic is so extensive that it is worthwhile to decide in advance which direction of tourism interests you at the moment and which should be left for subsequent visits. The most attractive are historical routes since the country has many objects that will be of interest to fans of antiquity: castles, fortresses, castles. Some cities in the Czech Republic are included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
Climate and weather in the Czech Republic
The climate of the Czech Republic is moderate continental with features of the sea. Summer in the region is warm, with daytime temperatures of + 23 … + 25 ° С, with a lot of precipitation. Winter is cloudy, cool, in the day around 0 … + 3 ° С, and at night -5. -2 ° С, snow often falls. In winter, ski resorts start operating in the mountains.
The minimum precipitation occurs in spring and autumn, and this time is considered the most comfortable for excursions and travel around the country.
The weather in the Czech Republic rarely surprises: in summer, as a rule, it is not hot, and in winter, it is moderately calm, so tourists visit the country all year round.
- Pilsen Region – This region attracts tourists with its old Baroque buildings, nature reserves, folklore, and delicious food. Local beer is considered one of the most delicious varieties in the whole Czech Republic and beyond.
- The South Bohemian Region is the greenest and most picturesque region of the Czech Republic, with a rich history and unique architectural sights. A third of its area is covered with forests and seven thousand pounds.
- Stí nad Labem – this area is also called the “Gateway to the Czech Republic,” as it is surrounded by hills – former volcanoes, from the tops of which an impressive view of the whole Czech Republic opens. The region will be attractive for those who like to explore ancient cities and their architecture. And for those who prefer rest among the picturesque nature – there are many reserves here. Thanks to volcanic soils, the region grows the highest quality hops in the world.
- Liberec Region – the region is famous for its magnificent nature and ski resorts. It is also considered the birthplace of a precious stone – Czech garnet.
- Hradec Králové Region – the region is home to the highest mountains of the Czech Republic – the Krkonoše with numerous ski resorts, a large number of castles and fortresses, and the most significant Czech zoo – an authentic African safari.
- Pardubice Region – looks like heaven on earth. Along with its magnificent nature, this region is proud of its history and technical monuments. On the National Stud Farm territory in Kladruby nad Labem, you can see how the white breed of Starokladruby horses is bred.
- The Olomouc Region attracts tourists with its nature reserves and the Jeseníky Mountains with exceptional climatic conditions. This area is rich in its cultural traditions and ancient monuments.
- The Zlín Region has Czech traditions and folklore, good wine and plum brandy, delicious food, and mysterious castles. Visit the local town of Zlín with its unusual architecture in the Czech Republic. Thanks to the local businessman Tomáš Bati, who invited the most distinctive architects in the 1930s, the city has become a natural monument to functionalism.
- South Moravian Region – This hospitable region is considered a wine-growing region, as 96% of the Czech vineyards are located here. A region with beautiful picturesque nature and UNESCO Intangible Heritage Sites.
- Central Bohemian Region – the atmosphere of local towns and villages is created by the legacy of ancient royal dynasties, the prints of which can be found all over the region.
Old cities of the Czech Republic
In addition to castles in the Czech Republic, it is worth visiting ancient cities, in which a vast number of historical and architectural monuments are concentrated.
Cesky Krumlov is the most famous historical area of South Bohemia, located in the Sumava foothills, famous for its stunning ensemble of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings. Cesky Krumlov Castle is the largest in the Czech Republic after Prague Castle, and it is also included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. The ensemble of the castle consists of 40 buildings and palaces, five courtyards, and a garden.
The castle on the old trade route was founded in the 1st half of the 13th century by representatives of the Vitkovich family. The architecture and the castle’s name determined its geographical location: the court was located in a loop formed by the bend of the Vltava River (die Krumme Au – crooked meadow). Podhradie got the name Latran (latus – side, side), and it was also planned to consider the river’s bends. Initially built in the Gothic style, the vast castle complex has changed – first in the Baroque style, then in the Rococo style. In the city, tourists will be interested in a garden and a park, theater, galleries, cellars. The dominant feature of the old town is the church of St. Vitus rising on the steep bank of the river. Buildings decorated in the sgraffito style, red-tiled roofs, and gilded turrets give Krumlov a unique charm and style.
Not far from Krumlov, only 32 kilometers away, there is a new (opened in 2012) attraction – a wooden observation tower at the top of Kremlin, above Lake Lipno. This tower is unique among structures of this kind for its pedestrian zone – a wooden suspended frame begins on the ground and gradually rises to the top of the building. In 2012, this site was named the best new Czech landmark.
Telč is a city on the water, Moravian Venice, whose layout is due to the presence of three artificial reservoirs and a bypass channel – the former castle moat. The city’s historical core is an old fortress, which has retained its appearance since the Middle Ages. The Gothic castle on the water was founded in the 13th century, and the building acquired its modern appearance during the reconstruction in the 16th century. The main building of the old city is a palace with rich interiors:
- The Golden
- Theater and Knights’ Halls
- The All Saints’ Chapel
- A treasury
- A banquet hall decorated in the sgraffito technique
The town of Jindrichuv Hradec is home to the third-largest castle complex in the Czech Republic, built in the 13th century on the historical border between Bohemia, Moravia, and Austria. The complex’s main building is a Gothic palace with valuable paintings, the Church of St. John the Baptist with rare frescoes, and a former Minorite monastery. The city is famous for its annual classical music (Concertino Praga) and folk music (Folková růže) festivals.
Brno is the capital of Moravia and the second most important and largest city in the Czech Republic. The most recognizable symbol of Brno is the Gothic castle of Spielberg, the silhouette of which is depicted on Czech coins. The court was founded in the 13th century on the summit of the Spielberg mountain.
Once in Brno, it is worth exploring the Moravian Gallery, the second largest museum in the Czech Republic, famous for its rich collection. The gallery, founded in 1961, contains objects of free art – not only painting, graphics, and plastic arts from ancient times to the present, but also photography, applied art, and graphic design.
Also noteworthy in Brno is the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the Church of St. Jacob, the Town Hall, the Church of St. Michael.
The historic town of Kutná Hora, the second largest after Prague in the 14th century, became famous for its silver mines. In the 16th century, after the cessation of silver mining, its importance fell, but the town retained its charm, becoming one of the most famous tourist centers in the country. Tourists may find it interesting to visit the Chapel of All Saints, built around 1400 at a Gothic cathedral in the cemetery of the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec. As a result of the cholera epidemic of 1318 and during the Hussite wars at the beginning of the 15th century, the cemetery grew considerably. The arriving bones began to be piled up in pyramids. In 1870, by order of the Schwarzenberg’s, woodcarver Frantisek Rint decorated the chapel’s interior with bones from 40,000 skeletons, from the altar to the chandelier.
It is worth visiting Vlašský Dvor – a cultural monument of Kutnogorsk, which is a complex of buildings from the 13th – 14th centuries, once the residence of Czech kings, with an old mint; the stone palace Hradek, which today houses the Silver Museum with an exciting exposition; Cathedral of St. Barbara – Czech Notre Dame de Paris.
Plze, the fourth largest city in the Czech Republic, located in the country’s west, stretches at the confluence of four rivers – Uslava, Uglava, Radbuza, and Mži. Pilsen is famous for the following attractions: the tallest church tower in the Czech Republic (103 m) – the tower of the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew, the cathedral itself with the late Gothic Sternberg Chapel, the Town Hall, the dungeons, the Museum of West Bohemia, the third largest synagogue in the world in the Moor-Romanesque style.
As you know, Plze is the capital of Czech brewing, and Plze beer of the Prazdroi and Gambrinus brands is brewed here. The beer is produced according to the old technology, unchanged since the century before last, and the inimitable taste to the drink, according to the Czechs, is given by the Pilsen water, its malt, and the unique storage conditions in the cellars. You can learn more about the history of the Plzeský Prazdroj brewery in the Brewery Museum.
The Terezin Fortress was founded at the end of the 18th century at the confluence of the Laba and Ohři rivers, 5 km south of Litoměřice. During World War II, the German invaders set up a concentration camp for Jews in the fortress, the so-called Terezin ghetto, which housed a little less than 140,000 people (of whom 33,000 died while in the ghetto). Some of the Jews (88,000 people) were deported to Auschwitz and other death camps. By the end of the war, 17,247 people had survived in the ghetto. Soviet troops liberated Terezin on May 9, 1945. Today Terezín houses the Memorial to the Victims of the Concentration Camp.
Medical resorts of the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a recognized destination for health tourism, and the country is famous for its thermal and mineral spas, the most famous of which is Karlovy Vary. The city was founded by Emperor Charles IV century. 1358 appeared in a place where 132 mineral springs break through to the earth’s surface, 12 of which are with healing water. The resort has a glorious history; the entire world elite came here to improve their health: monarchs, prominent political figures, famous people of art. The city’s streets repeat the bends formed by the Teplaya River, across which openwork bridges are thrown. The town is decorated with picturesque buildings of different eras, parks, squares. In addition to medical procedures shown for a wide range of diseases, and pleasant walks in the bosom of nature, you can always enjoy your time here. For example, the city hosts the Karlovy Vary Film Festival – the second most important in Europe after the Cannes Film Festival.
Marianske Lazne -the second most important resort in the Czech Republic after Karlovy Vary, whose history begins in 1528 – discovered Ferdinand’s spring. Today there are about 40 mineral springs here.
Another Czech town with a spa tradition is Frantiskovy Lazne, popular mainly among women, as the local mud successfully treats infertility.
You can find out more about the country’s resorts in our article “Therapeutic spas of the Czech Republic,” which tells about the most popular places for treatment on the waters.
Aquapark Babylon is located in Liberec and is part of the largest entertainment center in the Czech Republic Babylon. The interiors of the water park resemble antique baths, and the most popular attractions are the “wild river” and the adrenaline “space bowl.”
The AquaPalace water park is located in the village of Čestlice near Prague – it is the largest water park in Central Europe. The complex consists of the Palace of Waves, the Palace of Adventures, and Relaxation. There is a diving tunnel for lovers of deep-sea diving, and sauna lovers can visit the classic Finnish saunas, Roman baths, and Russian baths.
The Aqua-Olomouc water park is located in Olomouc and is famous for its adrenaline-pumping attractions. Visitors are also offered a massage, solarium, and tepidarium (dry heating zone).
Where to go in the Czech Republic
Prague Old Town
The Old Town of Prague (Old Town) is the central, oldest, and most popular part of the Czech capital. Everything that Prague is associated with is concentrated here: narrow cobbled streets, unique buildings built in different architectural styles from Gothic to Art Nouveau, beautiful copper doorknobs, orange roofs, and the indescribable charm of a medieval city.
The Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge is a famous Prague landmark, one of the recognizable symbols of the city, so adored by tourists.
The medieval Charles Bridge over the Vltava River is a pedestrian, free entrance, open around the clock.
The bridge connects two historical districts – Stare Mesto and Mala Strana.
The length of the Charles Bridge in Prague is 515.76 meters (usually rounded up to 520 meters).
In the very center of Prague Castle, there is a picturesque street called Zlata Ulichka. Along the cobblestone pavement, there are tiny multi-colored “gingerbread” houses built into the arches of the former fortress wall.
National Park “Bohemian Switzerland”
This reserve, which has no analogues in Europe, stretches from the town of Tisza in the Ustecky region to the Shluknovsky ledge in the Decinsky region. The park was founded on January 1, 2000, and became a Czech extension of the German Sächsische Schweiz National Park (Saxon Switzerland), founded 10 years earlier (1990). The Bohemian Switzerland Park is part of the vast natural complex of Labske Piskovce, and the main object of protection is the characteristic sandstone phenomenon – the “rocky sandstone town” of Etrschowické and Dečinské Stena, and the associated biological diversity. Tourists love to visit observation decks with unique views of sandy cliffs, bridges and castles created by nature. The park is popular with fans of active sports: climbers, cyclists, rafting and hiking enthusiasts.
Wild nature, which for a long time developed without human intervention, was discovered at the end of the 18th century by two Swiss artists of the Romantic era – Adrian Zingg and Anton Graf. Depicting this land in engravings and describing in poetry, they quickly spread the fame of it throughout Europe. The sites along the Elbe River canyon have become the cradle of modern tourism, becoming one of the first actively visited tourist attractions in Europe.
Not only artists came here for inspiration. Forts of robber knights, rock towns, legends about gnomes and fairies influenced the storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, poet R.M. Rilke, composers K.M. von Weber, Richard Wagner and others.
And today the Pravcicke Gate is a symbol of “Czech Switzerland”, conquering artists, for example, the snow-covered Silent Rocks became the scenery for the film “The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. It was here that Lucy visited the cave of the faun Tumnus, and all four brothers and sisters crossed the rocky bridge for the first time and looked at the endless forests of Narnia.
This was once a serious obstacle for the inhabitants of local villages. Once in 1877, at the U Zeleného stromu tavern in the town of Hřensko, five brave souls made a bet that they would sail on rafts from the Dolskoy mill to what was then called the “end of the world”. On rafts 4 meters long, they really safely reached Hrzhensk, in fact, becoming the founders of the tourist water route. The local prince Clari-Aldringen invited specialists from Italy, under whose leadership, through the labor of over two hundred workers, these sites became available to the public. Suspended bridges were thrown here, tunnels were built with the help of explosives. On May 4, 1890, the grand opening of the “Quiet” (“Edmond’s”) canyon took place. Since then, “at the very end of the world”, in fact, nothing has changed much,
The Moravian Karst, or Moravian Karst, is a nature reserve, one of the largest karst massifs in Europe, located in the Czech Republic, 30 km north of Brno.
The area stretches 25 km in length. Its width in some places is 6 km. The natural park covers an area of 92 sq. km. The highest height of rock formations in reserve is 734 m. The lowest place of Kras is the Macokha abyss, which has 138 m with the Punkva River at the bottom. For tourists, unique bridges (Upper and Lower) were equipped over the abyss, from which a stunning and, at the same time, a terrible panorama of the gorge opens up.
The most popular among tourists are the caves of the Moravian Kras, of which there are about 1,100 pieces. Only five underground cavities are equipped for excursions in the Moravian Beauty, among which it is worth mentioning the Punkva cave, through which the Punkva underground river of the same name flows; deep cave Macokha; Katezhinskaya cave with unique limestone formations – helictites growing horizontally; the Balcarka stalactite cave and the Stolbsko-Shoshuvsky caves with spacious underground corridors. Other attractions of the Moravian Karst include the Empty Trough and Dry Trough karst canyons and the White Water Gap.
Unique flora and fauna protect the reserve. Many species of plants and animals are endemic. In some caves, ancient rock paintings have been found on the walls.
On the reserve territory, the so-called “ecological trains” run, delivering tourists to remote points of the park. Tourists should remember that it is stably cold even in summer in the caves, so it is worth bringing a set of warm clothes with you.
Dancing House in Prague
The Dancing House in Prague is the image of a couple in dance, expressed in urban architecture. The house consists of two towers called “Ginger and Fred,” referring to the famous Hollywood dancer and actor couple Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The comparison is indeed justified: one tower is straight, has the shape of a cylinder, expanding upward, and symbolizes a man. And the second tower – glass, depicts the figure of a woman with a narrow waist. In the dance, she seemed to lean against her partner. The building’s less flattering nickname is The Drunk House.
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