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(Get in)
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Buses from Riga 45-60min 2.30 EUR  
Buses from Riga 45-60min 2.30 EUR  
Goes several times in hour
Goes several times in hour
Timetable []
Timetable []
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Electric train line from Riga is just 50min away
Electric train line from Riga is just 50min away
2.05EUR (Jul/2014)
2.05EUR (Jul/2014)
Timetables: []   
Timetables: []   

Revision as of 10:36, 22 July 2014

Jelgava [6] (German: Mitau) is a city in Latvia about 41 km southwest of Riga.

Symbols of the City

Jelgava coat.jpg As approved by the National Heraldry Committee on the 11th of July, 2002, the Coat of arms of Jelgava depicts elk head on crimson red background, wearing the Small National Emblem.

Jelgava flag.gif Approved on October 28, 1938. A law regarding the flag of the city was issued by president Kārlis Ulmanis, on October 29, 1938.


It is useful to understand that although from 1940 to 1991 Latvia was a constituent republic of the USSR, the official language is Latvian. However, a significant minority (up to 40% nationwide) is Russian speaking. The majority of ethnic Latvians living in the city, not only those old enough to have attended school during Soviet times, can also speak and understand Russian. However, many prefer to converse in Latvian. English and also German are widely understood at places regularly visited by tourists and foreigners but you may be out of luck when leaving the city centre or visiting places off the beaten track.

History of Jelgava

Jelgava Castle near River Lielupe.

Prehistory Jelgava is situated in Zemgale plain, which formed by the end of Ice age in the place of Baltic ice lake. Thus, one can say that 6-7 thousand years ago Jelgava was under the water. The oldest camp of wanderers, hunters and fishers, is found 8km to the South from Jelgava; it was a shore of the sea at that time. Gradually, as the sea sank, Zemgale plain, the river Lielupe, its affluents and marshes were forming.

A tribe called “zemgaļi” (Semigalians or Zemgalians) came from South and settled here about 4 thousand years ago, also giving the name for this region. This tribe practised agriculture and farming, crafts and trade. They built the first fortified castle mounds. A harbour that is mentioned is chronicles might have been situated by Lielupe, near Jelgava. However, Tērvete, Mežotne and Dobele are mentioned as the administrative centres of that time.

Middle ages For the first time in written sources Jelgava is mentioned in the 13th century. At that time crusades, instituted by the pontiff took place all around the Latvia. In 1219 Zemgalians living in Mežotne accepted Christianity, but Zemgalians living in Tērvete launched war against bishop of Riga – Alberts and Livonian Order.

Later, in 1265, Conrad fon Mendern, master of the Livonian order, according to the chronicles “ordered to build a castle on Lielupe, four miles up from Zemgalians, and they were not glad about it. The castle was named “Mitove””. This castle was an essential supporting point for Livonian order during the conquest of Zemgale. And later, when all the Zemgalian tribes were conquered, the castle served as an administrative centre and support base in war with Lithuania. Gradually, on the left bank of Lielupe a small living area was developing. A document from 1522 mentioned that this village had its own church.

Time of the Duchy of Courland and Zemgale In November 28, 1561, in Vilnius, the last master of the Livonian order Gotthard Kettler signed capitulation agreement with the king of Poland and Lithuania Sigismund August, thus ending the Livonian war. By doing so, Gotthard Kettler received feudal rights for some parts of the lands in Zemgale and Latgale, formerly owned by the Livonian order. He also received the title of Duke for himself and his descendants. In March 5, 1562, this capitulation agreement was executed, Gotthard Kettler resigned from his post as the master of the Livonian order, and the Livonian order was secularised.

Courland and Zemgale duchy (Ducatus Curlandiae et Semigalliae) was established. In 1566 the Duke chose Jelgava palace as his residence, and in 1568 he and his court moved to Jelgava. In 1576 there were 113 persons in the court, 42 of them were Latvians. As the Duke moved to Jelgava, craftsmen and tradesmen followed. Jelgava of that time was encompassed by woods and the majority of houses were built along two streets. There were around 80-90 permanent lawful residents and more than hundred inhabitants. Gotthard Kettler, being the patron of the town, gave rights of the city and coat of arms to Jelgava. At that time the coat of arms depicted crowned stag’s head on red background.

Gotthard Kettler also has to be mentioned as a person who ordered renovation and construction of 70 Lutheran churches, 28 had to be open in Zemgale. Thus, two churches – Holy Trinity Church and Church of Saint Ann were built in Jelgava. Holy Trinity Church was the first newly constructed Lutheran church in whole Europe, since traditionally Lutherans used catholic churches at that time. To facilitate communication between German priests and Latvians, the first book of Latvian for Lutheran priests – “Enchiridion” was published.

According to the provisions of the agreement, the throne could be inherited by male descendants, the duke had to admit the supremacy of the Lithuanian grand duchy, later – supremacy of Poland. The duke also had to participate in wars initiated by the Polish king and give 300 cavalrymen to the king for that matter.

The times of Courland and Zemgale duchy are entwined by many events. Jelgava was affected by all the wars in which Polish kings took part. The most devastating war was between Poland and Sweden in the 17th century. Jelgava was destroyed several times; many citizens were slaughtered or pillaged. Consequences of this war were long-lasting, for Duke Friedrich, Wilhelm and even duke Jacob had to struggle with the results of the war.

Duke Friedrich created and established the constitution of the Duchy – Statutes of Courland. This constitution was proclaimed in March 18, 1617, so it can be called one of the most ancient constitutions in Europe.

Rule of Duke Jacob (1642-1682) The son of Duke Wilhelm, Jacob (1610-1682) is the most known representative from Dynasty of Kettlers. Despite the wars between the Poles and the Swedes, he did his best to enliven mercantile system and such policy during his reign from 1642 to 1682. He owned colonies in Gambia, Tobago, mines in Norway; he also opened many manufactures in Zemgale and Courland.

In 1648 bastions and ramparts were built around Jelgava palace; boarders of Jelgava were fortified as well. Moreover, the territory of the city was surveyed and drinking water canal was built. In 1660, the first book printing house, managed by Michael Karnal was open. During the reign of Duke Jacob the population of Jelgava grew rapidly and by the 70-ties of the 17th century, there were already 5000 citizens. Yet frequent epidemics in different times have taken their toll, for instance in 1710, during the Great plague epidemic 1300 citizens died (almost 1/10 of the population). At the end of the 18th century Jelgava had about 10 000 citizens.

Since Duke Jacob’s times Jelgava was not just a warehouse of goods – the city was an important centre for diplomacy that linked Western Europe and Russian empire in the East. Owing to geopolitical situation, the city has always been of interest to neighbouring countries – such great men as Peter I, Gustav Adolf, Karl XII and Alexander Suvorov have visited Jelgava both as conquerors and guests. French king Luis XVIII even lived in Jelgava palace for a while.

Industrialization in Jelgava In 1817 Kurzeme province was one of the first to abolish serfdom in the Russian Empire where the overall abolishment started only in 1861. This rapidly accelerated the growth of the city and industry. After Jelgava was connected to Riga by railroad in 1868 Jelgava became the fourth biggest centre of industry and trade in the territory of modern Latvia by the end of 19th century. There were 67 factories in the fields of textile, wood, brick, and food production, chemical and metal fabricating industries as well as polygraphy employing a total of 7020 citizens in 1913. The population of Jelgava reached 30 000 by the end of 19th century.

Get in

Public transport in Jelgava is made convenient for everyone. Commuting to Riga is easier than ever. Owing to well developed train system and buses network you can get anywhere at any time.

By bus

Buses from Riga 45-60min 2.30 EUR Goes several times in hour

Timetable [7]

By train

Train leaves almost every hour, so it is the most easiest way to get there.

Electric train line from Riga is just 50min away 2.05EUR (Jul/2014)

Timetables: [8]

By car

A8 highway connects to Riga. 40-60 min ride from Riga Centre.

Get around

  • Taxi
  • There are no trains, trolley buses or metro in Jeglava. There is a very good bus line. Line 1 will take you from one part of the city to another.


Jelgava Tower - now Tourist information center and restourant.

For a long time Jelgava is not just a city in a low and wet place with a Palace and a market. Jelgava is a city, which we call the capital of Zemgale, educational and cultural centre. Demolished, burned and rebuilt in the twentieth century, it still locates in Zemgale plain by the river Lielupe side. Jelgava is a hospitable city, which wants and knows how to host guests. Despite all last century war destruction, there are still architectural, cultural, history and nature monuments as well as modern buildings. Jelgava has formed as various nationalities populated administrative centre, and has become a city with dynamic development in the sphere of economics, education, and culture. Jelgava visitors can get here whatever they want, namely, chance to relax, to enrich oneself culturally, as well as to find place for business activities development. Jelgava wants to share with others with its riches. Museums, parks, resting grounds, cultural events and enterprises are waiting for you!

A city, which is decorated with Baroque pearl – Jelgava Palace – and with Kurzeme – Zemgale dukes vault? Maybe Jelgava is a city, which we call youth, schools, and student’s city. Maybe it is a city, which makes us to remember sharp war facts and conflagration, when things that were legate from knights, dukes and czars time were destroyed.

Despite all war damages and soviet times constructional manner, our city is beautiful, green and hospitable. A lot of surprises are here which our city new guests should discover. Where in the centre of Jelgava protected nature territories with floodplain meadows are? We can show you also three islands between river Lielupe and river Driksa. About Courland (Kurzeme) and Semgallen (Zemgale) dukes good offices show Jelgava Palace and the oldest scholastic institution in Latvia “Academia Petrina”. A fresh Holy Trinity Church tower reminds about the fact that first Lutheran church in Europe after reformation developments was built in Jelgava.

Architectural monuments from the Baroque, the Classicism and Renaissance can be found in the city. And only in Jelgava You can find Love Alley – monument to loyalty, friendship and beautiful dreams about past and future. There are beautiful parks, secular trees, architectural and history monuments, memories about eminent countrymen near factories, roads, rail-roads and water surfaces. Rainis, Jānis Čakste, Ādolfs Alunāns, Māteru Juris, duke Jacob, Jānis Bisenieks, Elizabeth fon der Reke, Severīns Jensens, Francesco Bartholomeo Rastrelli, Ernsts Johans Bīnemanis and thousands of other eminent or not so eminent people have lived and worked in our city, creating this, what always in our hearts will stay as Jelgava

Palace on the island of river Lielupe. Similar palace to Rundales and Winter Palace in St.Peterburg, created by Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Academia Petrina — currently museum. Several interesting churches.


Parachute jumps

It's possible to do tandem or solo skydives at Jelgava airfield.

More information at Latvian FreeFly Peppers website [9]


"Brainstorm", probably the most popular rock-band from Eastern Europe, has emerged from a cradle called Jelgavas 1. vidusskola (Secondary School No 1), where also such National talents as A. Skrastins, A. Vaznis, E. Radzina, A. Skele, E. Repse have made their first steps in the world of fame.

Latvijas Lauksaimniecibas Universitāte — University of Agriculture of Latvia is a well recognized university.



Jelgava special dishes

Jelgava Crafts' High school Food Laboratory has developed special dishes of the city – Duke’s sail and Charlotte's kiss. The taste of these dishes reminds of the history of once mighty capital of Courland Duchy. Recipes were created by Cooking specialty teachers Aina Tāluma and Ligita Ziemele together with their pupils.

You have the opportunity to delight yourself with the special cuisine in restaurant "Hercogs" (3 Krišjāņa Barona Street), restaurant "Tami Tami" (19a Lielā Street) and bistro "Silva" (9 Driksas Street).

Duke’s sail (Hercoga bura) is a main course, made of oven-baked pork that has been prepared in a special marinade. It is served with caramelized sauerkraut, a variety of roasted vegetables and roots, red bilberry sauce and horseradish.

Dessert Charlotte's kiss (Šarlotes skūpsts) is made of egg-curd cream and jelly mousse sorting made of two kinds of juice. Its mild taste is refreshed with fruit-berry mash sauce.

Duke Jacob of Courland and Semigallia ruled from 1638 to 1681 which is known as a time of modernization in the Duchy. During this period he created 70 manufactories, built more than 135 vessels, developed urban crafts, built churches and schools. Duke had the biggest merchant fleet in the Baltic Sea that delivered the produce of Courland and Semigallia to many countries around the world. Duke Jacob married Princess of Brandenburg-Prussia Louise Charlotte in 1645. She was a learned woman and excelled with her sharp mind and skills in financial operations. The marriage of Jacob and Charlotte was happy and they were blessed with nine children.

  • Tami Tami, 19a Lielā Street, [1].
  • Hercogs, [2].
  • Silva, [3].


There is few clubs/pubs.

Most popular are Jelgavas Četri Balti Krekli — club where play Latvian music

Tonuss — club, with several halls. Place with a lot of young people.


  • Hotel Jelgava, Lielā iela 6, Jelgava, +37163026193, [4]. Biggest hotel in Centre of Jelgava
  • Hotel Zemgale, Skautu iela, Jelgava, +37163007707, [5]. On the other side of river, aprox 3km from Center

Get out

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