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.
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
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 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. .
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
Where to eat in Sigulda
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 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 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
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.
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.
Sigulda travel tips
How to get there
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.
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
Sigulda is the perfect destination for summer, but spring and autumn are also good times to visit the city. Winters can be cold, but the snow makes the town even more beautiful.
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