Situated on the banks of the picturesque Venta River in Kurzeme, Kuldīga is considered to be one of the oldest and most well preserved cities in Latvia. Although it was first mentioned in ancient documents in 1242, the quaint, cobble-stoned town is believed to be the site of an ancient Cour (Kurši) settlement described in a 9th century Viking saga. The original castle mound of the once fierce Latvian tribe lies roughly 3km to the northwest on the left bank of the river.
A waterfall, the widest in Europe, prevented ships from travelling any further than Kuldīga. This convenient circumstance allowed the city to flourish in the 13th century as a major port and trade centre. Two centuries later, the city was so prosperous that it joined the ranks of other great ports, such as Hamburg, Bremen and Riga by becoming a member of the prestigious Baltic trade organisation, the Hanseatic League.
In 1561, the Grand Duchy of Courland was founded and Kuldīga became one of its capital cities. In its golden age under Duke Jacob (1642 - 1682) the city was a centre for manufacturing and shipbuilding. The duke sold war ships to England and created his own personal fleet which gained colonies in Tobago in the Caribbean and at the mouth of the Gambia River in West Africa.
Tragically, this hub of trade and commerce was devastated in the wake of the Great Northern War (1700-1721) and the subsequent plague which decimated much of Eastern Europe's population. Kuldīga never regained its former grandeur, but its beautiful, historic streets and red-roofed buildings leave much for the eye, as well as the imagination.
Although Kuldiga is inaccessible by train, buses leave somewhat regularly from the Riga bus station. Unfortunately, the location of the Kuldīga station is not very tourist friendly. It lies a good 10 - 15 minute walk from the centre of town. A few taxis are usually waiting at the stop.
Kuldīga Info Centre
Baznīcas 5, tel. (+371) 63 32 22 59, www.visit.kuldiga.lv. Open 09:00 - 17:00. Closed Sat, Sun.
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