Straddling a narrow strip of land between the sea and a lake, Liepāja began as a humble fishing village, eventually becoming a major trading port under the leadership of Jacob (or James) Kettler (1610 - 1681), Duke of Courland and godson of England's King James I. The burgeoning city suffered heavily during the Great Northern War when the population was decimated by an outbreak of the plague in 1710. The city only regained its importance as a port and mercantile centre in the 19th century as a part of the Russian empire. Its significance was further buoyed by the creation of the Naval Port from 1890 - 1904 when it was home to the first Baltic fleet of Russian submarines.
The city’s prosperity was at its zenith in the early 20th century when many of its beautiful parks and Art Nouveau buildings were constructed.
Even Latvians from other parts of the country weren’t allowed to visit it and yet another Iron Curtain descended behind the one that already divided the captive nations of the East from the rest of Europe. Despite their unfortunate situation, the citizens of Liepāja managed to cultivate their traditions and were among the first to begin the independence movement in the 1980s.
Today, Liepāja is known as a progressive city with beautiful architecture, an internationally recognised Blue Flag beach and a raging nightlife that just won’t quit. Considered the cradle of Latvian music and art, galleries have mushroomed all over town and even the smallest corner pub seems to employ a local musician to entertain its patrons. Visitors will be stunned to discover that locals wouldn’t dare provide standard accommodation for their guests. Boutique hotels have become the standard, not the exception, in a city where nearly every guesthouse, hotel and hostel provides completely renovated rooms with interesting interior design.