Latvia: 6 things to do in and around Jurmala

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History bathing wagon at the Old Fishing Village of Jurmala / photo:

Latvia is much more than its capital city of Riga. This Baltic gem is a feast of rich nature and the stunning Kemeri National Park is an excellent example. But you will also find lovely beaches and seaside atmosphere just 30 minutes from the capital.

Jurmala is an elegant resort town that stretches for more than 30 kilometres between the Bay of Riga and the River Lielupe. This is an area where small fishing villages over time developed into what it is today – a spa town and beach resort with beautiful architecture, plenty of cultural events and lots of bars and restaurants to choose from.

Whether you come here to be healed, to destress, to be active or to explore, “The Riviera of Latvia” has it all. Check out my 6 suggestions of what to do when you visit Jurmala:

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This turtle sculpture is symbolizing long life at the beach of Jurmala / photo: 

Discover an almost endless beach
At the coast of Jurmala you will find no less than 33 kilometres of sandy beach facing the Bay of Riga which connects to the Baltic Sea. I visited Jurmala during autumn when it wasn’t that tempting to dive in, but in the summertime, the beach is bustling with activity and the golden sand has plenty of space for everyone. Why not try an alternative beach holiday on the Latvian coast?

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Castle-looking architecture in Jurmala / photo:

Explore the streets of Jurmala by bike
Jurmala’s broad streets and iconic wooden architecture are best discovered by bike and I really enjoyed my bike tour with Armands from who guided me around the town to give me an overview of the place. From the beach to the main street, the attractive residential areas and to the historic fishing village I mention below. On days with nice weather, you should definitely consider going for pedal-power when exploring Jurmala.

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An old fishing boat between the trees at Jurmala’s historic open-air museum / photo:

Travel back in time at the historic fishing village
One of Jurmala’s best insights into the area’s cultural history is the open-air museum in the form of an old fishing village. Nestled between tree-clad dunes, this place is like a journey back in time to learn how the local fisherman lived here in the 19th and 20th centuries. Take a look inside wooden houses and functioning workshops which is completely free 6 days a week (closed Mondays) from 10am to 5pm.

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No, not ice. This is a salt room at the rehabilitation centre of Jaunkemeri / photo:

Treat yourself with a natural boost
Jurmala is known for its spa hotels and sanatoriums where healing mud and mineral water is used to cure and ease everything from skin problems to aching bones. If you’re looking to try something new and natural to defeat your foes, the Rehabilitation Centre Jaunkemeri might just be the place you’ve been searching for.

Within this large complex, experts in their field offer treatments, recreation and a reboot of your health with everything from mineral waters, peat and therapeutic muds. Or what about a vitamin-bomb of a juice therapy? Check out their website for revitalizing and recreational weekend programmes, and you might just return from Latvia feeling brand new.

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A heron takes off from near Lake Kanieris / photo:

Go birdwatching along the Reed Boardwalk
Jurmala is neighbouring Kemeri National Park where you can experience the extraordinary bogs along the Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk or strap on a pair of bogshoes and head into the wild. But if you’re interested in birdwatching you shouldn’t miss a hike along the Reed Trail and its wooden boardwalk either.

A great place to set off is at the birdwatching tower of Riekstusala from where you get an excellent view as well as information about some of the 200 species of birds that have been spotted here. Look out for herons fishing in the shallow water and your best chance for the biggest variety is by visiting during spring and autumn.

From the tower, you can follow the 2,9-kilometre loop-trail which includes 600 meters of wooden boardwalk with several stretches floating on Lake Kanieris. A lagoon-type lake that hides 14 little islands and which is served by a boating house with rustic wooden boats for hire.

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A ‘lifesaver’ on a net hut of Ragaciema Sedums / photo:

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Smoked fish at the fishmarket of Ragaciems / photo:

Taste some delicious fish
Many of the birds hang around Lake Kanieris to catch some fish, and you should get a taste too. But first, take a moment to visit the traditional “net huts” that are used to store the nets and other equipment for fishing and that used to be meeting points for local fishermen. You can find some of these huts near the beach at Ragaciema Sedums.

Like your fish smoked? Then continue to the fish market at Ragaciems, where you can choose from a wide variety or just enjoy the sights and smells. You’ll surely get hungry, and you can fittingly finish your fishy tour with a lunch or dinner at Bermudas where they serve up some tasty meals in a fishing-themed restaurant with excellent service.

I visited Latvia on a sponsored press trip, but the idea for this post and the views are personal.

If you’re interested in visiting Latvia, don’t miss these posts:
First impressions of Riga’s highlights
A stay for all your senses at Valguma Pasaule in Latvia


By Brian Schæfer Dreyer