When visiting Latvia, one of the best things to do is basing yourself in Riga and exploring the country on day trips. From here, you have the choice between seeing many different parts of Latvia. Do you want to visit the seaside in Jurmala? Or do you prefer strolling through the medieval town of Cesis?
Or are you expecting outdoor adventures, while also seeing a few castles along the way? Then you should head to Sigulda.
Here, you can hike through the Gauja National Park, explore caves and castles or seek out adrenaline rushes on the bobsleigh track. And the best part is that it only takes an hour to get here from Riga.
Our favourite things to do in Sigulda
#1 Sigulda Castles
If you like castles, you are in luck. On a day trip to Sigulda, you can visit up to three of them, four if you count the giant manor house in Krimulda.
In Sigulda, you will find two castles just next to each other. The first one you’ll walk past is the Sigulda New Castle. The Russian prince Dimitri Kropotkin started building this castle in 1878 but never lived to see its completion. A year later, a revolutionary terrorist killed him.
While the New Castle is not open for visitors, you can find lots of craftsmen and artists in the manor houses. If you have enough time, you should participate in one of the many workshops offered there. How about making your own walking stick for a hike later on, for example?
After passing through the New Castle, you will get to the Sigulda Medieval Castle. It also runs by the name of the Castle of the Livonian Order in Sigulda, and it dates back to 1207. For centuries, it played a significant role for the region until gradually, it lost its importance. In addition, it got destroyed during the Northern War in the 18th century.If you like castles, you should visit Cesis. In this cute medieval town northeast of Sigulda, you can
Today, only the ruins remain. You can walk through them and climb the former castle walls. Make sure to also go to the top of the Northern tower, from where you have a fantastic view of the valley. From here, you can see as far as the Turaida Castle Reserve!
#2 Hike through the Gauja National Park
Sigulda is perfect if you want to spend a day hiking. From here, you can walk into the Gauja National Park and explore a vast range of trails.
We decided to combine hiking with sightseeing and followed an easy tour that we highly recommend. From the Sigulda Castles, take the cable car across the valley and go to see Krimulda Manor. Then, continue to Gutmana Cave before eventually ending up in the Turaida Museum Reserve. You can now take a bus back to Sigulda, or hike back if you still have the energy.
The Sigulda Tourism Information also has tons of information on hiking trails and can provide you with maps if needed. You can find them next to the train station, and you can also look up hiking trail information online.
#3 Explore Gutmanis Cave
While in Sigulda, you should make sure to visit Gutmanis Cave. This cave might be the highest and widest in the Baltics, but we didn’t find it impressive for its size. Instead, the cave is famous for the graffiti you can see here, some of which dates back to the 17th century.
Yes, people have been leaving graffiti in this cave for that long. You’ll see inscriptions all over the walls. Plus, the cave famously features in a local legend.
The story goes that in the early 1600s, after a battle, the record keeper of the Turaida castle found a little girl on the battlefield. He decided to name her Maija and took her into the court. She grew into such a beautiful woman that everyone called her the Rose of Turaida.
Even though Maija had many suitors, her heart belonged to Viktor, a gardener at the Sigulda Medieval Castle. In the evenings, they would meet in Gutmanis Cave.
One day, a soldier who was desperately in love with Maija sent her a forged letter to lure her to the cave. When she arrived, he kidnapped her. Maja pleaded to let her go and offered her red scarf, a gift from Viktor, for her freedom. She claimed it had magical powers and that no sword could cut through it.
So her kidnapper took his sword, swung it at her and killed her in Gutmanis Cave.
And while this might sound like a legend, court documents from the early 1600s prove that this story is true. In the end, the soldier was captured and hanged for his crime.
#4 Visit Turaida Castle
Close to Sigulda, you can find the Turaida Museum Reserve. If you’ve visited the Sigulda Castle, then you’ve already seen this one from the top of the tower.
The Turaida Castle is a large red-brick structure that dates back to 1214. The archbishop of Riga ordered its construction back then, in the position where the wooden castle of Liv once stood. The Livonian Order, who built the castle, called it Fredeland – Land of Peace, but the Livonian name Turaida is the one that survived until today.
While visiting the Castle, you can go into the reconstructed buildings and visit a museum. Here, you can learn more about the history of the castle as well as about the Liv people in the area.
While visiting the Turaida Castle, you will notice that it is part of the large Turaida Museum Reserve. The castle might be its highlight, but you can find many other noticeable structures here. Take a look at the church, for example, which is one of the oldest wooden churches in Latvia. Nearby, you can find the grave of Maija, the “Rose of Turaida”. You can also see many preserved buildings from the Turaida Estate.
#5 Take a cable car across the Gauja River Valley
While hiking to the Krimulda Manor, you have the choice between crossing the river valley on foot or taking a cable car across it.
We highly recommend the cable car, not only because it’ll save you from having to climb up on the other side of the valley but also because you can get fantastic views. The ride lasts 7 minutes in total, and you’ll cover a distance of more than 1 kilometre.
The company operating the cable car also offers lots of adventure and adrenaline sports. If you’ve always wanted to go bungee jumping, this is your chance!
#6 Visit Krimulda Manor
The Krimulda Manor also goes by the name of Krimulda Castle, a confusing name as you can also find the real Krimulda Castle Ruins nearby. The beautiful manor house dates back to the 19th century and currently houses a hotel and rehabilitation centre.
While walking around the manor grounds, you will see a large wooden structure opposite the main building. Back in the early 1900s, when this house served as a tuberculosis sanatorium, the patients would sit here and enjoy the sun.
Besides looking at the building from outside and exploring the gardens, you can also join guided tours to learn more about Krimulda Manor. As the prices are calculated per group, this is especially worth it if you arrive with multiple friends or family.
In addition, the manor has its own winery. A wine tasting offers you the unique chance of tasting the wines produced at the estate and learning more about local history and traditions.
1/2-2h, depending on if you join a tour
#7 Climb to the top of the Sigulda Evangelic Lutheran Church
Close to Sigulda Castle, you can find the Evangelic Lutheran Church. The first church in this area dates back to 1226, and historians assume that it was a wooden structure. The church, as you can see it today, was first mentioned in writing in 1438.
If you want to get an overview of Sigulda, you should go inside and climb to the top of its tower. You can find many viewpoints overlooking the Gauja River Valley, but this is one of the few from where you can see more of Sigulda.
Bonus: Ride the bobsleigh track
We didn’t get to do this one, as we ran out of time, but it’s at the top of my list for when I come back. In Sigulda, you can find a bobsleigh and luge track. Not only can you visit the structure, but you can also ride down in a bob! Going down the trail, you’ll reach speeds of around 80km/h.
Doesn’t this sound like lots of fun? If you have the time, you should check it out. And please let us know in the comments below if you’ve been there and how you liked it.
When to visit Sigulda
You can visit Sigulda at any time of the year. However, if you are looking for decent weather and beautiful views, we recommend that you come here in spring, summer or autumn.
We went to Sigulda in winter and loved our trip. The region is beautiful at any time of the year. However, with all the trees without leaves, it looked a bit desolate at times. Therefore, you might enjoy spring to autumn more, with autumn being especially gorgeous as all the leaves turn yellow and red.
If you visit in summer, you can enjoy great weather and fantastic hikes. Be aware, though, that all Latvians know about the beauty of Sigulda. Therefore, expect to run into lots of other tourists during your visit.
How to get to Sigulda
The easiest way to get to Sigulda is from Riga. You can either catch a bus or a train. Both will take around one hour and cost approximately the same. The main difference is that buses leave more frequently so you might find them slightly more convenient, but in the end, the choice is up to you.
If you’re coming from Tartu in Estonia, you can arrive by train. Be aware that you will need to change trains at the border, so most people prefer going by bus to Riga first and then continuing to Sigulda.
How to get around Sigulda
If you look at a map of Sigulda, you will notice that everything is quite spread out. This is a fantastic hiking destination, but that also means that, unless you have a rental car, you will be walking a lot. If you get tired, catch bus number 12, which connects Turaida Castle and Sigulda.
If you’re visiting Latvia, you are in luck because we have a few other resources for you. Check out the following posts to help you plan your trip:
- The best things to do in Riga
- Visit Cesis and explore this cute castle town
- Travelling on to Estonia? Check out the best things to do in Tartu!
- Expand your trip and find out about the best things to do in Lithuania
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