The Best Things to do in Sigulda, Latvia

This post is about the best things to do in Sigulda, Latvia. Sigulda in Latvia is an ancient town just 55 kilometers northeast of the capital Riga. It is in the Vidzeme region and is located within the borders of Gauja National park.

Among locals it is already a popular adventure and outdoor destination. Foreigners also increasingly visit Sigulda, but mostly as a day trip from Riga.

This gives you just enough time for the things to do in Sigulda itself. However, to truly see the natural beauty of Gauja National Park and the Gauja river valley I recommend staying longer.

Things to do in Sigulda Latvia
Gauja river valley

Why visit Sigulda Latvia

At first sight Sigulda is an average Latvian rural town with beautiful wooden houses, some Soviet flat apartments and the occasional dilapidated building. From it’s small center you wouldn’t say that Sigulda has a history of more than 800 years.

It’s the sights around Sigulda that truly show the rich history of the area. Sigulda is surrounded by several medieval castles, fortifications, ancient caves and majestic manors.

Sigulda is within Gauja National Park. This park of forests and sandstone cliffs has extraordinary natural beauty and a unique flora and fauna. From Sigulda there are plenty of walking and cycling trails to explore the incredible nature of the Gauja river valley.

Sigulda is therefore a great destination for outdoor lovers that could easily spend a week hiking and biking in the area. 

I already said that Sigulda is a popular holiday destination in Latvia. As a result there are plenty of things to do in Sigulda. There is a cable car, an adventure park and a bobsleigh.

Plenty of manors in the area are now hotels or spas where you can feel like a king or queen. In addition, there are excellent restaurants offering the chance to taste Latvian cuisine. 

Things to do in Sigulda Latvia
Turaida castle

Things to do in Sigulda

Sigulda’s old castle

The castle ruins of Sigulda’s old castle date back to 1207 when it was built by the Livonian Order.

It was damaged in the Polish-Swedish wars and the Great Northern War and saw plenty of renovations and fortifications. By the 19th century the castle lay in ruins and the Kropotkin family who owned the land built a new castle to live in.

The last renovations to the ancient castle walls were in 2012. You can visit the castle ruins and see the walls and inner courtyard. There are some nice viewpoints over the Gauja River valley too.

Sigulda castle
Sigulda castle

Sigulda new castle

Sigulda’s new castle was the project of Olga and Dimitry Kropotkin. It was built in Neo gothic design and its new location offered beautiful views on the old castle and the river valley.

On a beautiful day you could see the Krimson manor and Turaida castle on the other side of the river.

The castle was destroyed in the First World War and it was the Latvian Union of Writers and Journalists that rebuilt it. It then became known as the Writers house. It is now a museum about the history of the castle.

Sigulda cable car

The best way to cross the river to see the Sigulda sights on the right bank of the Gauja river is by crossing the Sigulda cable car.

The cable car offers splendid views and brings you to the Krimulda manor estate from where you can start a nice hiking trail to further sights such as the Gutmanis cave and the Turaida castlre. .

Gauja river vallley
Gauja river valley

Krimulda manor

The Krimulda manor was built in 1848 by the von Lieven family. The main building was in neo classical style and is now a rehabilitation center.

The Krimulda estate also has beautiful gardens and additional buildings that had different purposes to serve the Krimulda household. 

There is also a hotel and hostel with dormitory beds for 12 euros making it possible to sleep at a manor on a budget.

Krimulda manor
Krimulda manor

Krimulda castle ruins

Before the Krimulda manor there used to be another medieval castle from the Livonian order. This 14th century castle was burned down in the Swedish Polish wars and was never restored.

There are some ruins right next to the Krimulda estate that you can visit.

Krimulda castle
Krimulda castle

Gutmanis cave

The Gutmanis cave is one of the oldest and largest caves in Latvia. The result of melting ice from the latest ice time and a spring with healing waters surrounded by myths.

One story is that a man buried his unfaithful wife in the cave and that the spring is her tears of regret. The other is the story of the rose of Turaida who let herself be killed in the cave by the man who kidnapped her.

The cave itself is not the most impressive cave. The first thing you notice are thousands of inscriptions. The red sandstone cliffs from the Gauja river valley are easy to write on and so many people did. 

Don’t expect prehistoric petroglyphs. The oldest name is from 1654. Lots of others are from the 19th and 20th century and although it is now forbidden there are some recent ones too.

Gutmanis cave
Gutmanis cave

Turaida castle

The Turaida castle is the most beautiful castle around Sigulda. A large part of the castle is renovated including the tower that offers sweeping views over the Gauja river valley.

The Turaida castle was also built by the Livonian Order in 1214. Making it slightly newer than the Sigulda castle on the other side of the river. Unlike the other castles it was not damaged during war, but left abandoned after a fire in 1776.

The Turaida Museum Reserve includes not only the castle, but also an open air museum with an old wooden church and other historic buildings. 

Turaida castle
Turaida castle

Paradise Hill

Paradise hill is quite a climb and the stairs are very tricky in winter, but you will be rewarded with the most beautiful views in Sigulda. 

You will be able to see the Sigulda and Turaida castles as well as the Gauja river valley

Gauja river

The Gauja river runs through the valley of the National Park. The sandstone cliffs formed more than 10,000 years ago by melting glacial waters.

In summer the best way to explore the natural beauty of the Gauja river is by canoe. There are several agencies where you can rent a canoe

Gauja river
Gauja river

Latvian pirt experience

Sigulda is also home to a number of spas where you can relax and experience a traditional pirt. The Latvian sauna ritual is somewhat similar to the Russian sauna, but has its differences too. 

In Sigulda you can book a professional pirt master that guides you through the rituals.

Things to do near Sigulda

Hiking in Gauja National Park

Gauja National Park is one of the best places in Latvia to go hiking. The tourist information center has a number of well marked trails in and around Sigulda.

You can find the trails on Enter Gauja. There are challenging day hikes of around 20 kilometers as well as easy going hikes of less than 10 kilometers. 

Gauja National Park
Gauja national park

Ligatne Soviet bunker

About 30 minutes away from Sigulda is the small village of Ligatne. Hidden in the forests north of Ligatne is an old Soviet Bunker that gives tours during the weekends

How to get there: the best way to reach the Soviet Bunker is with your own transport. There are a few buses from Sigulda with a change near Ligatne

Cesis

Cesis is an old Hanseatic town with one of the most impressive castles in the Gauja National Park. 

Like the Sigulda and Turaida castles it was built by the Livonian Order at the start of the 13th century. It was one of their largest and most important castles. The castle alone makes Cesis worth the trip, but it also has a nice small old town

How to get there: Cesis is about an hour by train or bus from Sigulda.

Cesis Latvia
Cesis castle

Where to eat in Sigulda

Kaku Maja

For a decent budget restaurant with Latvian food I can recommend Kaku Maja. It has a buffet style canteen where you can point and choose what you like to eat. You pay per item. 

Great for vegetarians as they have a wide choice of salads.

Kungu Rija

Kungu Rija is a great midrange restaurant that is unfortunately located a bit outside Sigulda. We went there after our visit to Turaida castle and then took the bus back to Sigulda.

The food was delicious, so in my opinion it is worth the effort to get here. I can recommend the venison meatballs or the domestic trout.

Aparjods

Aparjods is one of the best restaurants in Sigulda. It’s a bit of a fine dining experience, but well worth the price 

Even in winter we needed to make a reservation to get a table. We could see why, because the food is great. They have a few vegetarian options too. I can recommend the venison medallions.

Where to stay in Sigulda

Kaku maja

City center Kakis or Kaku maja means the cat house in Latvian. It is a great budget place to stay not far from the train station. Rooms are a bit outdated and noisy, but are good value for Sigulda. For sure the cat Adolf will welcome you.

Kaku Maja cat in Sigulda Latvia
Adolf from Kaku maja

Krimulda manor

If you would likle the experience of staying in a manor you can stay in the krimulda manor. It is one of the few manors with a dormitory that allows budget travellers the experience of staying in a manor.

Krimulda manor estate in Sigulda Latvia
Krimulda manor

Sigulda Travel Tips

How to get to Sigulda

Sigulda is very easy to reach from Riga. There are frequent trains and buses. The journey takes about one hour.

Trains leave from Riga pasazieru train station near the central market. You can buy tickets at the station or from the Latvian Railways online.

Train to Sigulda Latvia
Train to Sigulda

How to get around Sigulda

Most things to do in Sigulda are either centered on the right bank of the Gauja river valley or the left bank. There is a cable car to get from one side of the river to the other.

It is possible to hike in between the sights. There is a hiking trail that runs from the Krimulda manor to the Gutmanis cave and the Turaida castle that I can recommend.

It does involve climbing up and down some stairs to get from the top of the cliff to the bottom of the river valley and up again. The total hike will be around 5 kilometers.

If you are less mobile you might want to use a taxi. The taxi hailing app Bolt is not too expensive. 

When to visit

The best time to visit Sigulda, Latvia, largely depends on your preferences and the activities you want to engage in. Sigulda experiences distinct seasons, each offering unique attractions:

Spring (April to June): Spring is a lovely time to visit Sigulda when the weather starts to warm up, and nature comes to life with blossoming flowers and greenery. The temperatures are moderate, making it a pleasant time for outdoor activities.

Summer (July to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Sigulda. The weather is typically warm, and the days are long. This is an ideal time for hiking and cycling, but it can be crowded.

Autumn (September to November): Autumn brings colorful foliage to the landscape, creating a picturesque setting. The temperatures start to cool down, and it’s a great time for hiking in the crisp air. The fall foliage is particularly beautiful in the Gauja National Park.

Winter (December to February): Winter is considered off season in Sigulda. As you can see from my pictures, I did visit Sigulda in winter and absolutely loved it. Sigulda and Gauja National Park transform in a snowy winter wonderland. Some of the longer hiking trails are closed, but I was surprised how easy it was to still hike through the forests around Sigulda.

Sustainable Travel to Sigulda

Latvia’s national parks do not charge any entrance fees. Like in many Scandinavian countries, such as Swedish Lapland, there is free access to nature. You are free to wander in the forests and pick berries and mushrooms as you like.

The northern ecosystems are fragile though. Traveling sustainably to Sigulda and Gauja National Park is essential to minimize your environmental impact and preserve the area’s natural beauty for future generations.

Support the community: You can support the community by purchasing goods and services from local markets and restaurants. It is better to try Baltic cuisine that uses local ingredients rather than imported foreign foods.

Stay in small scale sustainable hotels: It is also better to stay in small-scale guesthouses or homestays to support the local economy directly. These accommodations often have a more positive impact on the environment compared to large hotels. You can also look for hotels that prioritizes sustainable practices.

Leave no trace principle: When hiking around Sigulda and Gauja National Park, stick to designated trails to protect nature. Straying off the marked paths can cause soil erosion and damage to plant life. If you are lucky enough to spot wildlife, observe quietly from a distance to prevent disruption to their habitats and help maintain their natural behaviors.

I encourage you to take all your trash back with you and dispose of it responsibly. In other words, leave no trace of your visit. Even better is when you bring something to pick up any of the trash that other people left behind.

To avoid single-use plastics, invest in reusable items. For example, you can bring your own water bottle with a filter. At last, use biodegradable and eco-friendly personal care products to minimize pollution of water sources.

DisclaimerThis post about the best things to do in Sigulda Latvia contains affiliate links. If you buy any service through any of my links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. These earnings help me to keep Backpack Adventures alive! Thanks for your support!



3 thoughts on “The Best Things to do in Sigulda, Latvia”

  • Hi Ellis ! I just discovered your blog, it’s a treasure of informations thank you ! I was wandering if you think Sigulda’s castle, Krimulda, the hike, paradise hill, and Turaida castles can be done in one day coming from and back Riga ?

  • Sigulda looks like an amazing destination for outdoor enthusiasts! I’m especially interested in the bike rentals and the possibility of trying the Latvian off-road motorcycle championship. Thanks for the detailed post, can’t wait to plan my trip!

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