Liepaja Travel Guide
Liepaja is no ordinary coastal town. Sure, its beaches and sea breezes draw thousands of Latvians each summer. But, it has a wealth of cultural assets that more prominent Baltic cities lack.
From its history (not all of it cheery) to its museums, you’ll find plenty of attractions during your visit.
Come check out our Liepaja travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Liepaja, Latvia.
Start your visit to the region with a visit to the Liepaja Northern Forts. These crumbling edifices of concrete are a legacy of the time when Liepaja was part of Tsarist Russia. When they were whole, it was a massive fort that encircled the entire city of Liepaja.
In 1908, improvements in artillery rendered these battlements obsolete. Work began to level these structures, but the quality of their construction made this task difficult. In the end, army engineers abandoned work on many pieces of the fort.
Over the decades, Mother Nature has done a better job. Constant wave action has stripped many parts down to their foundations. Even so, you’ll be able to explore many parts of this attraction safely. As you walk amidst this concrete bulkheads, keep your eyes peeled for local street art.
The beaches of Liepaja haven’t always been a happy place. In fact, during the Second World War, it was hell on Earth for thousands of Jews. Shortly after being occupied by Nazi Germany, officers organized the Jews of Liepaja into ghettos.
Then, Hitler began to implement his “Final Solution.” On his orders, Nazi soldiers rounded up the Jews of Liepaja and led them to the Skede Dunes. There, they were stripped and made to assume degrading poses before being shot en masse.
After the war, local authorities erected the Skede Dunes Memorial to honour the memory of the fallen. Granite pillars inscribed in Hebrew tell the story of the horrific massacre, and stones lie scattered all around. The latter aspect is an old Jewish tradition done to honour the dead. If you feel so inclined, feel free to do the same.
Learn more about the city and surrounding area by visiting the Liepaja Museum. This institution has an impressive collection for a regional museum, with 100,000 pieces overall. However, you’ll only 1,500 items on the floor at any given time.
As you might expect, the focus is on the history of Liepaja and the culture of South Kurzeme. As you walk its hallways, you’ll find things like vintage bicycles, stained glass, and wood sculptures. Bring a Latvian friend or fire up Google Translate – there are no English captions in this museum.
Visitors looking for a church to explore in Liepaja will want to check out St Nicholas Naval Cathedral. As the name suggests, its builders created it for the Russian Navy in the 18th century. Don’t be fooled by its designation – it is not Catholic, but an Orthodox church.
Feel free to come inside, but leave your camera holstered. Despite its attractive interior, authorities strictly forbid photography.
Ever wonder what it would be like to be enprisoned in 20th century Liepaja? Experience life in a Soviet-era jail by booking a stay at the Karosta Prison Hotel. Despite its name, there is nothing “hotel-y” about a stay here – you’re treated exactly like a prisoner, circa 1950.
Your stay opens with a rough interrogation. The warden gives you prison clothes, and then, a guard takes you to your cell. At every turn, you get harassed, often by guards who don’t speak English. This fact catches many tourists off-guard – this experience is the real deal!
Those looking for another church to explore will want to swing by the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Consecrated in the mid-18th century, this Lutheran church was once home to the largest mechanical organ in the world.
Have a culture craving during your visit to Liepaja? Take in a show at the Great Amber Concert Hall. This performing arts venue takes its name from its stunning amber glass coating. Within, the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra makes this place its home, playing dozens of shows per year.
Are you tired after a day spent sightseeing around the Liepaja area? Relax and unwind on a visit to Liepaja Seaside Park. This municipal park protects three kilometres of coastline in Liepaja. The beach here is exceptional, drawing many visitors to its white sands every summer. You’ll also find several fountains nearby, one of which was built in the Art Nouveau style.
That’s not all, though – pine forests behind this beach scent the air with their delightful fragrance. It creates an amazing atmosphere in which to relax or play.