Earth : Europe : Baltic states : Latvia : Kurzeme : Liepaja
Liepāja, a wonderful city of about 90,000 residents, is a gemstone, located on Latvia's Baltic coast. It is Latvia's third largest city (and arguably the next most important city after the capital Riga) and the former capital of Latvia during World War I. It is important for tourists to know that Liepaja city consists of two main areas of interest - 1) the city center, and 2) Karosta, the northern part of the city, which used to be a secret military town for the Russian Empire (hence many Tsar-time buildings) and the Soviet Union (brutal blocks of flats from the 1970s just next to a 110 years old orthodox cathedral). Both the city center and Karosta have great beaches, and you will be surprised how unspoiled and beautiful the central beach is, and how white and soft the sand is! Karosta is essentially another city, because it really has a different history and look from the rest of Liepaja; Karosta is worth a separate visit. In Liepaja there is no place to be called `the old town`, but the center and surroundings are full of old, beautiful wooden buildings, lots of Art Nouveau - both wooden and in bricks, little irregular streets, etc. The center also includes the Seaside Park (Jurmalas parks) area, which has a fantastic white, soft sand beach; the park itself is great, too, with many nice buildings. Liepāja is known as the city where wind was born (it`s part of the lyrics of a song of the same name, which was officially chosen as the anthem of the city, and characters of these lyrics are represented in 5 monuments in Kūrmājas prospekts street). It is also known as the capital of music of Latvia, many famous Latvian musicians are exactly from Liepāja. It is a major center of culture, education, industry etc. Despite being relatively small, it is one of Latvia`s largest cities and has rich history, hence it`s very diverse architecture and rich heritage.
Liepaja is connected by bus service with Riga (many times every day, €9, 3.5 hours), Ventspils, Kuldiga and other towns and villages in Liepaja region, as well as Klaipeda (2 hours) and Palanga in Lithuania. To get from the bus station to the center, take the tram at a tram stop which is on your right side when you exit the bus station building. Do not cross the tram tracks, which is the wrong direction! The Liepaja region bus terminal is in the southern part of the center, at Sienatirgus. All buses also go to the main bus station.
The Liepaja railway station is located in the same building as the bus terminal. A nice and relatively quick train runs every day to and from Riga (€8.80). It leaves Liepaja at 6:00, and arrives at Riga railway station at 9:10. The train from Riga leaves at 18:30 and arrives in Liepaja at 21:37. These trains also stop at Skrunda, Saldus, Dobele and Jelgava. On the train, you can watch a movie or buy coffee from a machine. Despite the fact that the train actually takes a longer route – about 240km compared to 220km if you go by bus – because it goes through Jelgava, it takes a bit less time to go to Riga by train than by bus.
A ferry service connects Liepaja with Travemünde (near Lübeck) in Germany. The ferry terminal is in Ziemelu priekspilseta, 15 minutes from the center by bus 10, 11, or 15, or minibus 3. If you have a yacht, you are welcome to Liepaja yacht harbor, located in the center, in Tirdzniecibas channel.
It is pretty popular to hitch-hike in Latvia and if you want, you should try it for Liepaja, too. To get out of the city to go somewhere else, go to the north tram terminus, cross the railway crossing, and you are in the best spot to hitchhike to Riga or Ventspils, or go to the south terminus, walk some 400 meters until the city ends completely, and you are in a good spot to hitchhike to Klaipeda!
There are currently no scheduled air services to Liepaja Airport. Palanga airport in Lithuania is 65 km to the south and has scheduled services year round. Riga International airport, which is the largest airport in the Baltic states with many direct flights to Europe and Asia, including cheap Ryanair, AirBaltic and Easyjet routes, is 220km east of Liepaja.
There are four types of public transport in Liepaja city - tram, bus, minibus, taxi. Trams, buses and minibuses now have the same tickets, which you can purchase from the driver (0,50 Ls - about 0,73 EUR) or in many shops and small newsagents` boutiques such as Plus Punkts or Narvesen, which can be found in many place throughout the city. There are also 1 DAY PASS, week, month etc. passes. 1 day pass costs 1,50 Ls and gives you unlimited number of rides, but you must validate it when you first use it. This ticket is then valid on that specific date, printed on your ticket once you validate it. (Important - it is valid until midnight, not for 24 hours!) The center and the Seaside park / Central Beach areas can be easily seen on foot. Karosta is far from the center. And when you are IN Karosta, the sightseeing objects can be far from one another. There are almost no bicycle paths in Karosta, but it CAN be explored very well by bike, which you can rent from the tourist office in the center. To see public transport routes on the map, consult the schedules etc., visit marsruit schedules or liepajastransportes
The Liepājas Tram is very popular among locals and tourists. It started operating in 1899 as the first and only electric tram in the Baltic states (in some other cities it was drawn by horses). It has seen many changes, currently has only one line, however it was recently extended and now operates to Ezerkrasts-2 (lakeside-2) residential district. It is the south east of the city. As the name suggests, there is a lake nearby, fifth largest in Latvia. The tram line runs from the lakeside, then along the residential districts next to the beach, two shopping centers, then goes through the center, right next to the Rose square, the University building, Kurzeme shopping center, crosses the bridge, goes to Jaunliepaja, a place with diverse old architecture, passes the bus station/ railway station and then ends near the metallurgic factory. It operates from 5AM till midnight and costs 0.40 Ls if ticket is bought in a kiosk, or 0.50 Ls, if you buy it from the tram driver. Ticket must be validated in one of three yellow validators in the tram, which will print date and time on the ticket. The ticket is valid for one ride. Tram is the best transport to get to/from the Railway / Bus station to / from the city center. If you are going to catch the morning train to Riga, do so, because trams operate in early morning, but not as frequently. A ride from the center to the station takes approximately 8 minutes. An electronic tram ticket is also available by sending SMS, but this might be complicated for those who don't have local mobile phones.
has many lines, the most important for tourists being 1,3,4,7,8 to get from the center to Karosta, 2 for the airport, 1, 2, 6 for the Seaside park area / Central beach - with these you can get anywhere within the city and 912 even takes you to the neighbouring town of Grobiņa with a Livonian castle ruins and a nice promenade next to it. You can get to the Southeastern part (Ezerkrasts) to see Meynard`s church and Liepaja Lake by 3, 4, 10. Costs 0.50 from the driver or 0,40 Ls in shops and newsagents` boutiques. Buses stop at bus stops throughout the city. Tickets can be bought in kiosks or from the driver. Tickets must be validated in the bus by inserting them in an electronic validator just like in trams. Some, but not all, buses have audio announcement system for next stop and a LED screen in front of the bus displaying next stop name. In case of going to Karosta you will most likely want to go till the last stop, so don't worry. An exception might be bus number 8, which terminates far north in summer house and garden district Skede near the sea, which is kind of too far for Karosta, however is the best bus to get as fas as the Jewish holocaust memorial or the Northern fortress.
number 22 and 23 also serve Karosta, however 23 only goes to Karosta swing bridge and you can end up waiting by a closed bridge for an hour or even more. It is therefore recommended to choose route 22, which will take you further into Karosta and in case the bridge is closed, will sometimes go around the channel to get there anyway. They cost 0.40 Ls from a shop or 0,50 Ls from the driver. Tickets must be validated just like in trams or buses. To stop a minibus, you have to wave your hand. You can stop it only at bus stops. To stop a minibus when you are in it, you have to demand the driver to do so.
is relatively expensive compared to other types of transport, but still cheaper than in Western Europe. This is, however, the only public transport available at night (approximately from 12:30AM-5AM). There are some places in the city center and near the Bus/Railway station where Taxi cars use to assemble, but you can call (+371) 63422222, (+371) 63466666 or (+371) 63488888.
Liepaja city is relatively big for Latvian city sizes. For example, to go from the center to Karosta by bus 3, you will need approximately 35 minutes and the distance you go would be around 10 km.
Some Latvian phrases will be admired by locals, such as Paldies (Thank you). Latvian is spoken natively by more than half of Liepaja's population and is the only official language. Written signs and labels are mostly in Latvian. However, you will also hear Russian in the streets of Liepaja, which is by far the most widespread minority language since the Soviet times, when lots of Russians immigrated into Latvia`s main cities, including Liepaja, to work in industries.
In summer there are many German tourists and German can be heard in most touristic areas. Latvians, especially younger generations, speak good English.
When in Liepāja, one must see its diverse architecture, art nouveau, definitely go to the former secret military town of Karosta (northern Liepaja), the Fortress of Liepaja (its parts are located all around the city, the most spectacular ones are on the Baltic shore in Karosta in Krasta street and Jatnieku street), Liepaja city center with many old art-nouveau and wooden building and cobblestone streets, and the seaside park with its white sandy beach, as well as Liepajas lake - fifth largest lake in Latvia, are nice places with lots to see. Streets not to be missed in terms of architectural values include - Liepu, Dzintaru, Uliha, Kurmajas, Diku, Graudu, Kr. Valdemara, Rozu, Peldu, Toma, Republikas, Palmu, Veidenbauma, Kursu, Barona, Fr. Brivzemnieka, Ludvika and many others in the centar/seaside, and Katedrales, Atmodas, Lozmetejnieku, Imantas, Cesu Rotas, Krasta in Karosta. For best Liepājas lake views head to Reinu meza street or Eduarda Tise street. There are two bird observation towers next to the lake - one on the corner of Tise and Lauku streets, another in Zirgu sala island, get there through Ezermalas street, cross the island and walk on a jetty in the lake. To find all these streets and places, take a look at a map, zoom in, street-view it and enjoy when here.
Churches of Liepaja will surprise you nicely with the huge variety of architecture styles they are built in. This depicts very well the religion situation in Latvia - it is very mixed. It is mostly within Christianity, but several branches of it, and this can be seen in Liepaja, because there are Lutheran, Protestant, Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Russian Oldbelievers and other religious groups` churches and these vary from tiny wooden churches to huge towers and cathedrals. There are about 20 churches in Liepaja.
Many other churches are scattered throughout the city, the most important being St. Nicholas maritime cathedral in Karosta (see Karosta).
Open air markets
They are always something special for western tourists, but part of daily life for local people. There are many markets throughout the city, but the two most important and largest are Peter’s market (Petertirgus) and Anne’s market (Annas tirgus). Petertirgus is in the city center. It has big indoor and outdoor sections. In both you can find food and non-food items. There is a fish market in the basement of the indoor market building. Some craftworks can be bought outside, such as amber bracelets etc. This is the best place to buy local, ecologically clean fruit and vegetables, and July is strawberry time! Everything is relatively cheap. Annas tirgus is located one tram stop closer to the center than the bus/railway station, in Jaunliepaja. It is smaller, but has a big flea market section, where you can find many things from the Soviet era.
Liepaja is surrounded by water. There are the Baltic Sea coast, two big lakes, some smaller ones, four channels in the city. The city, especially the southern part (Vecliepāja) is almost an island. Liepaja Lake is the fifth largest lake in Latvia. It is lagoona-type, meaning it was part of the sea in ancient days. It is not deep, and is relatively narrow - up to 3.5 km (2.2 mi) - and long - about 15 km (9.3 mi). Liepaja city is on the north-western coast of the lake. If you go to Ezerkrasts (Lakeside), you can see the best lake views from Tise iela (Tise street). On one side are apartment buildings, and on the other, a meadow; behind the meadow is the lake. The lake, together with surrounding meadows, is a nature protection area, mostly because of some rare plants growing there and many species of birds that live or come across this place regularly. Swimming in the lake is not as nice as in the sea (but warmer), because the bottom is sometimes swampy. There is, however, a special place for swimming at the very end of Vainodes street, where the lake `comes` very close to blocks of flats. It`s right next to the southern terminus of the tram and most busses - M. Kempes street.
There is an interesting, yet a bit dirty and untouristic place called Zirgu sala. It is the biggest isle in the lake and is very close to city center, where it is connected by bridge. Take Ezermalas street to get there. From the island, an approximately 1 km (0.6 mi) long jetty, accessible on foot or by bicycle (a very bad road though) built of metallurgical factory oven-burned metallic stones, goes into the lake, providing nice views. It is sometimes called Golodova dambis or Zirgu salas dambis, but does not appear in many travel guides, however, a bird observation tower was built there in 2013 and the place is becoming more and more popular now. Another bird observation tower is located in the previously mentioned meadow next to Tise streets, at the end of Lauku street - the terminus of bus number 1.
A former secret Soviet military town. If you are in Liepaja, you must go to Karosta. It is the northern part of the city, about 10 km (6 mi) from the center. Karosta translates as War Port (or Navy Harbor) from Latvian. It used to be a secret military town for Russian empire, and later also for the Soviets. Latvia became independent, and some years after that, in 1994, the Soviet militarists had to leave Karosta. The population dropped dramatically from 25000 to 6000, leaving many empty houses behind. Then Karosta experienced something like a war without guns. Many houses where turned into ruins. Everything was taken away. Brick by brick, many historic, beautiful buildings disappeared forever. Now, Karosta has a population of 7000 and a dream of renaissance, which has already started. It is now a popular tourist destination and also home for international artist’s center, called K2. Many places of Karosta still look like after a war. Some places remind the abandoned towns of Chernobyl nuclear disaster area.
In the city center:
In Liepaja region: there are some nice towns, 100km of beautiful Baltic coast, lots of forests and it is worth to visit the Kalvene Zoo park, which is very big and animals have bigger space to live than usually in city zoos. Pape Nature Park is another option, if you want to see wild horses and wild boars. Same animals can be seen in Vitinu meadows, which is just the opposite coast of Liepaja Lake, not far from the airport. This visit must be guided and pre-booked in the tourism info center, because it is a nature protection area. Town of Aizpute has medieval atmosphere with little irregular streets, old wooden buildings and castle ruins, and it is on the way to Kuldiga, the medieval town with Europe's widest waterfall.
The city center and Karosta must be visited.
If you visit in summer, go to the beach and swim.
Windsurfing activities are popular and city has both the sea and the lake, so there are wide opportunities for this and equipment can be rented in Windsurfing club Rietumkrasts in Katedrales street, Karosta.
Liepāja has a University, many exchange students arrive each year www.liepu.lv Liepājas branch of Rīgas Technical University Liepājas branch of Stradina University of Medicine Liepājas branches of several other educational institutions.
Knowledge of Latvian language is essential in most jobs. Some permits are required, depending on your home country. It is easier for EU citizens. The average salary is about €500-600 per month, but it varies greatly depending on the area of activity.
Main shopping centres are located in the centre and in the South of the city and they are - Kurzeme, Ostmala, Rietumu centres, XL Sala, Baata, Ezerkrasts, DEPO etc.
In Liepaja you will find all shops you might want to find, except for expensive brand shops. DEPO is the largest DIY store in Latvia. Rietumu centres has JYSK, interesting and reasonably priced. Ostmala has a RIMI hypermarket and many clothes shops. XL SALA has MAXIMA XX and many other shops. BAATA is probably the trendiest shopping centre - it is not large, but has a nice selection of shops and a very good restaurant Olive. Go there by tram, one stop further to the south than XL Sala. And just 5 minutes from there is a wonderful white sand beach of the Baltic sea.
Amber, craftworks, souvenirs in Petertirgus (central market, the biggest and main one). Go to Annas tirgus - a smaller market in Jaunliepaja (open daily, except Sundays), or better to small markets in Silku/Kalpaka street corner and another one in Karosta for cool soviet-style souvenirs and other interesting stuff.
Visit the tourism information center; they have nice souvenirs, too. A good souvenir from little bays near fortresses in Karosta is little pebbles from the Baltic Sea. It's free and natural. Some tourists take a little jar of Liepaja central beach unbelievably white and soft sand as a souvenir.
Stendera ziepju fabrika produces interesting soaps and soap-related products for bathing, such as Burbuļbumbas - the bubble balls.
For more information on typical Latvian food, see Latvia#Eat
For a western traveler, Liepaja`s food prices might seem quite cheap, even for top-class restaurants. This is because the local average salary is about €400 per month.
Nightlife is active and good in Liepāja. The area around Promenāde is the place to go for good music, dancing, snacks, drinks etc.
In Liepaja you have all you need - choose a cheap and cosy hostel or a five star hotel - Liepaja has it all. Some examples:
Liepaja is a safe place. Some people think it is not safe at night, but it is all a matter of personal opinion. Avoid walking alone in darkness. Do not leave your belongings unattended in clubs and pubs, or on the streets. Be careful in Karosta - during the 1990s it was a criminal place; however, it is much better now.
Latvia is Nordic in its weather. The temperatures in July can reach 30ºC (86ºF). And they can also fall as low as -30ºC (-22ºF) in January... But both winter and summer has their beauty. Make two visits - one in summer, one in winter - and you will have two totally different experiences! And make yet another visit in mid October, when all the trees are colorful.
There is so much to see in the city that there is actually no need to get out. Nature is everywhere, even within the city: those are not just artificially planted city parks. There are also absolutely unspoiled and natural beaches, forests and meadows near the Liepaja lake. There are some swamps, but they are not that accessible. You can visit special swamp trails in Liepaja region, as well as even bigger and denser forests. You might want to go to other towns and villages. In addition to Riga (Latvia's capitol), an excursion to Kuldiga (about 100 km away) is highly recommended; there you will find Europe’s widest waterfall.