Kuldiga (Kuldīga) is a town on the Venta River in the Kurzeme region (formerly Courland) of western Latvia. With the smaller Alekšupīte River running through its old town centre, it is known as "The Latvian Venice". Indeed the river flows alongside the walls of many of the town’s houses.
Local authorities aim to make the old town of Kuldiga an important international tourism destination, to attract domestic and foreign tourists and contribute to the sustainable development of the town. The tourism resources of the town are based on its historical and cultural heritage and the Venta River which is one of the largest and most picturesque rivers of Latvia.
The historic and architectural heritage of Kuldiga is well preserved. In the park near the Kuldiga district museum fragments of the stone wall and the cellar of the first Kuldiga castle, built in 1242 by German knights, have been preserved. Later Duke Jacob’s castle (ruined in 1701) was situated there as well. Today it is a sculpture park. The old brick bridge across the Venta, built in 1874, is one of the longest of its type in Europe.
The Old Town Hall was built in the 17th century. The cellar of the building was the first prison in Kuldiga. The oldest wooden building in Courland was built in 1670 near the Town square on the banks of the River Alekšupīte.
The town square was an old assembly place for people. Traditional cultural heritage is part of everyday life in Kuldiga with textile workshops and celebrations of national festivals. There are also more contemporary events such as the annual running competition on the Alekšupīte (River of Aleksis) and the ‘naked people run’ over the historical bridge on the Venta River at Midsummer night.
- Tourist information centre, 5 Baznīcas iela (town hall square).
Most of the main attractions are close to each other and easily reached by foot.
- Historical Centre of Kuldīga. Kuldīga is a small and attractive town that has always been admired and praised by poets and painters. The city centre, which developed in the 17th–18th centuries, has still preserved the old wooden buildings which form small and narrow streets.
- Kuldiga Museum. On the site of the old castle. Only fragments of the castle remain. There is a sculpture park around the ruins.
- Brick bridge across the Venta, Baznīcas iela (near the museum). At 164 m, this is the longest road bridge of this kind in Europe. It was built in 1874 according to 19th century standards – 500 feet long and 26 feet wide, allowing two carriages to pass each other. It consisted of seven spans of brick vaults. Two of the spans were blown up during World War I, and rebuilt in concrete, rather than brick, in 1926.
- Venta Rapid (Ventas rumba). This 240-meter wide waterfall is the widest in Europe. It is easily viewed from the brick bridge, 200 meters downstream. Its 2 meter height is not impressive when viewed from the bridge – you need to get down on the river bank to appreciate its height. The naturally formed waterfall is associated with a number of legends and historic events. In ancient times, due to Duke Jacob’s invented devices for catching fish on the waterfall, Kuldiga was considered the place "where salmon were caught in the air". Flying fish shows (salmon jumping up over the waterfall) attract visitors to the town in springtime.
- Alekšupīte River. This small tributary of the Venta runs through the old town, right alongside the walls of many buildings, which is why Kuldīga has been called the Venice of Latvia. Initially the buildings of the town centre were constructed as a suburb to Kuldīga Castle. In 1701, during the Great Northern War, the Swedish army invaded Kuldīga Castle and in 1709 it became uninhabitable, but in the 19th century the castle ruins were relocated.
- Aleksupite Waterfall (Alekšupītes ūdenskritums), Kuldīga, Baznīcas iela (The dam and waterfall is located next to the unused mill building.), ☎ +371 63322259, e-mail: email@example.com. Highest waterfall in Latvia, 4.5 m high, the first paper mill in Kurzeme, dam, view over the River Venta. A dam was built here in the 17th century to use the stream to operate the first paper mill in Kurzeme. The waterfall is artificial.
- St Catherine’s Church. A Lutheran church built originally in 1252 and later rebuilt with baroque style wood carvings on the altar. The church was given the name of St Catherine, the patroness of the town. Duke Jacob's baptism and his wedding to Princess Louisa Charlotte of Brandenburg took place here.
- Liepājas street, Liepājas iela. An pedestrian street with several 17th-20th buildings, interesting doors and special windows.
- Sculptress Livija Rezevska’s sculpture museum, Mucenieku iela 19. Founded in 2003. Visitors may see more than 15 sculptures characterizing Latvia, its strength, unity and love.
- Riežupe Sand Caves (5 km from town. There is a road sign close to Venta's brick bridge). The longest underground cave labyrinth in Latvia (about 2 km – 460 m can be toured). During Duke Jacob’s reign the sand from the caves was taken by ships abroad for glass production. The site is in good order, there is a parking and some attractions for kids. Tourists walk with guides (the older lady is spiritual and entertaining).
- Get a free massage from Venta Rapid. You can sit under the waterfall and the water will fall down onto your back providing a free massage. Just find a flat stone (i.e. close to the river bank) that is suitable to sit and give it a try.
- Walk the town park. The park is very nice, with hills, winding paths, flowers, sculptures and water.
- Hotel Metropole Kuldīga, Baznīcas iela 11, ☎ +371 63350588, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers 14 furnished rooms. Each room is equipped with cable TV, bathroom with shower or bath and a phone. From the windows, a sight to the busiest pedestrian street of Kuldiga, Liepaja Street, opens, but in case you want more quiet view, hotel has rooms with view to the river Aleksu that cranks though the very heart of Kuldiga.
- Kolonna Hotel Kuldīga, Pilsetas laukums 6, ☎ +371 63 322 430, e-mail: email@example.com. A budget hotel in the centre of the town, close to the old town, the park and the river. In the early 70s a hotel "Kursa" was built in the new center of the town.
- Guesthouse/camping "Ventas Rumba" (Go down from the car parking towards the waterfall and you'll find the place), ☎ +371 263 77 683. Good place to stay if one wants the sound of the river or to go for a free waterfall massage in the morning. 12-22€/person.