Palaces, manors and town halls in Latvia

House of Blackheads

House of the Blackheads (Melngalvju nams) is a building situated in the old town of Riga. The original building was erected during the first third of the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried German merchants in Riga. Major works were done in the years 1580 and 1886, adding most of the ornaments. The structure was bombed to a ruin by the Germans June 28, 1941 and the remains demolished by ...
Founded: ca. 1334 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Small & Great Guild Hall

During the centuries of German economic domination, the guilds were Riga's power brokers. The former, dating from 1384, was the home of the merchants, while the latter held the city's artisans. These slightly different audiences are reflected in the respective usage of the buildings today: while the Great Guild is home to the Latvian Symphony Orchestra, its smaller cousin hosts conferences and the occasional disco. The ...
Founded: 1384 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Latvian National Theatre

The Latvian National Theatre (Latvijas Nacionalais teatris) was built between 1899-1902 by the design of architect Augusts Reinbergs, becoming Riga's second (Russian) theatre. It closed during the First World War; on the 18th of November 1918, Latvia's independence was declared in the theatre building. In 1917 the first shows in Latvian were held in the theatre. The Latvian National Theatre was founded 30 November, 1919, ...
Founded: 1899-1902 | Location: Riga, Latvia

National Opera House

The National Opera House was constructed in 1863 by architect Ludwig Bohnstedt from St. Petersburg, for the then German-speaking City Theatre. It has been refurbished several times; 1882-1887 (following a fire in 1882), 1957–1958, 1991-1995 (following independence). A modern annex was added in 2001 with a 300-seat New Hall.
Founded: 1863 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Rundale Palace

Rundāle Palace is one of the two major baroque palaces built for the Dukes of Courland in what is now Latvia, the other being Jelgava Palace. The palace was built in two periods, from 1736 until 1740 and from 1764 until 1768. It was constructed to a design by Bartolomeo Rastrelli as a summer residence of Ernst Johann von Biron, the Duke of Courland. Following Biron's fall from grace, the palace stood empty until the ...
Founded: 1736-1768 | Location: Rundāle, Latvia

Latvian Academy of Sciences

The Academy of Sciences edifice was built after World War II, between 1951 and 1961, collecting the necessary financing from the newly established kolkhozes in Latvia and - as further expenses increased, collecting the finances as 'voluntary donations' deducted from the salaries of the Latvian rural population. The building is decorated with several hammers and sickles as well as Latvian folk ornaments and motifs. The sp ...
Founded: 1951-1961 | Location: Riga, Latvia

Sigulda New Castle

The Sigulda manor center began to develop in the fore-castle area of Sigulda Medieval Castle during the 17th century. There are still a few remaining 18th and 19th century buildings built during the ownership of the Von Borghs and Kropotkins. These are the Summer Castle, the New Castle, the White Castle, the vagar's (supervisor of serfs) house, the servants' house, a barn, a laundry house and a vegetable and fruit basemen ...
Founded: 1878-1881 | Location: Sigulda, Latvia

Birini Palace

Bīriņi Palace was built by Riga architect Friedrich Wilhelm Hess between 1857 and 1860 for Baltic-German baron August von Pistohlkors. It has two floors with higher three floor risalit in the centre. All four corners of the building are adorned with towers - three of these towers are small, decorative but southwestern tower is larger. The palace is asymmetric as this was required by the rules of Neo-Gothic. It is surrou ...
Founded: 1857-1860 | Location: Limbaži, Latvia

Jelgava Palace

Jelgava or Mitava Palace is the largest Baroque style palace in the Baltic states. It was built in the 18th century based on the design of Bartolomeo Rastrelli as a residence for the Dukes of Courland in their capital - Mitava (today Jelgava). The palace was founded by Ernst Johann von Biron in 1738 on an island between the Lielupe river and its branches. The site had borne the residence of the former Courland dukes of th ...
Founded: 1738-1772 | Location: Jelgava, Latvia

Cesvaine Palace

Cesvaine Palace was built in 1896 for the German baron Emil von Wulf (not to be confused with the von Wolf baronial family). Authors of the project were architects Hans Grisebach and August Dinklage from Berlin. The palace is built in the late Tudor Neo-Renaissance style. It is located next to the old medieval castle ruins, remains from the old bishops castle. At the end of the 19th century, Germany abandoned the reprodu ...
Founded: 1896 | Location: Cesvaine, Latvia

Mezotne Palace

Mežotne Palace was built in Classicism style during 1798-1802 for a teacher and governess of the grandchildren of Russian Empress Catherine II, Charlotte von Lieven (1742–1828). Architects of the palace were famous Italian Giacomo Quarenghi and Johann Gottfried Adam Berlitz, architect of the Durbe Manor and the Kazdanga palace. Simultaneously with the palace there has also been developed an English style landscape park ...
Founded: 1798-1802 | Location: Mežotne, Latvia

Durbe Manor

Durbe as was first mentioned in written sources as Šlokenbeka manor in 1475. Built in 1671, the manor was reconstructed in classical form between 1820 and 1823 according to the project of architect Johann Gottfried Adam Berlitz who rebuilt the façade with a wedding-cake portico and Ionic columns in the 1820s. From 1789 to 1808, Ernst Karl Philip von Groth used the property as a summerhouse. From 1818 to 1838 ...
Founded: 1820-1823 | Location: Tukums, Latvia

Gaujiena Manor

In 1818 the estate of Gaujiena was bought by Baron Adolf von Wulff. Gaujiena remained the in the possession of the von Wulff family for 100 years, during which more than 16 buildings were put up and the park laid out over an area of 12 hectares. The complete manor ensemble took shape during the 19th century and in the early 20th century, and consisted of 30 buildings and structures, 17 of which have been retained in good ...
Founded: 18th-19th century | Location: Gaujiena, Latvia

Aizupe Manor

Aizupe Manor (Latvian: Aizupes muižas pils) was built in late classicism style in 1823. In 1561 the estate was the property of the Duke, who granted the manor to his counselor Salamon Henning. In 1719, the manor became property of his heirs, and later von Koskulu"s, and von Mirbahu"s. From 1793 to 1920, the manor was in the hands of the Hahn family. The manor then remained a 19th century farm complex with resi ...
Founded: 1823 | Location: Vāne, Latvia

Vergale Palace

Vērgale Palace was originally built in the 18th century, it was remodeled for the owner Baron von Behr in 1837. The building currently houses the Vērgale school.
Founded: 1837 | Location: Vērgale, Latvia

Kazdanga Palace

The first manor house was made out of wood and the new palace was built in 1800-1804 in the late classical style, designed according to the project by the German architect J. G. Berlitz. There is stone bridge, leading to the palace. On the other side of the river there are remnants of the manor buildings; house of the servants, stables, house of the steward and barns. The palace was burned down by local peasants during th ...
Founded: 1800-1804 | Location: Kazdanga, Latvia

Kabile Manor

Kabile manor lands was originally owned by Heinrich von Soblech (around 1580). Duke Wilhelm gave this feud to Matthias II von der Recke in 1619. Manor became the property of Jochan Ditrich von Behr in 1687. Since 1810 it was owned by Count Heinrich von Keiserling, who sold this property to Otto von Lieven in 1854. After the death of his son Kabile manor was managed by widow Baroness von Wolf born von der Recke. She lost h ...
Founded: 1734-1740 | Location: Kabile, Latvia

Dikli Manor

Dikļi Manor was the property of von Wolf family in the 19th century. Dikli Palace was built for Baron P. von Wolf in 1896. Covering forms of the central facade are repeating type-lines of mansard roofs' side risalites. That kind of treatment of German Beo-Broque style is not a copy of abroad masterpieces, but unique creation using international language of style and adapting it to the local culture enviroment. Mansar ...
Founded: 1896 | Location: Kocēni, Latvia

Ezere Manor

Ezere Manor (Ezeres muižas pils), also called Lielezere Manor,was originally built in 1750, it has been remodeled several times by a series of owners. Since 1922 the building has housed the Ezere secondary school. Capitulation of Courland Pocket was signed here on 9 May 1945.
Founded: 1750 | Location: Ezere, Latvia

Firck Palace

Firck Palace (Firksa muižas pils) was built for Baron von Firck in 1883. The building currently houses the Talsi Regional Museum.
Founded: 1883 | Location: Talsi, Latvia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.