Rundale Palace and Zemgale Region


RUNDALE PALACE AND ZEMGALE REGION

Zemgale is a region in southern Latvia, located south of Riga and stretching to the Lithuanian border. Large part of the region is occupied by fertile farmland, which is why Zemgale is often considered the breadbasket of Latvia. There is a dense network of rivers in the region, which flow into Latvia’s largest rivers of Lielupe and Daugava to reach the Baltic Sea. Zemgale is made up of several regions and two cities – Jelgava and Jekabpils. The region is proud to have multiple cultural and historical monuments, some of the most impressive palaces and manors in Latvia, various nature parks, and a number of international festivals are held in different places in Zemgale. One of the most beautiful and important tourist attractions in Latvia, Rundale Palace is also located in Zemgale. At Rundāle Palace, one of the most outstanding architectural monuments in Latvia, one can relish the luxurious interiors of the 18th century, grow dizzy from the fragrant rose garden, enjoy the fountain sparkling in the colours of a rainbow and experience the carefree everyday life of the court of Duchy of Courland. The palace of Ernst Johann von Biron, a favourite of the Russian Empress Anna Ioannovna, designed by the legendary architect Francesco Rastrelli of the Russian Royal court is one of the most outstanding monuments of Baroque and Rococo art in Latvia. Appreciate the magnificent exterior, the luxurious interior and Baroque rose garden with the largest collection of roses in Latvia. Also high-quality concerts and art events are often held here. Visiting the rooms, exhibitions and learning about the history of the palace and the park, a whole day can easily be spent here. Bauska Castle with medieval castle ruins and expositions of antique clothing is located just 15 km away and the majestic Mežotne Palace – the most outstanding monument of Classicism architecture in Latvia, is also nearby. In Bauska, on the strip of earth between the Mūsa and Mēmele rivers and not far from the place the two converge to become the Lielupe river, you’ll find two medieval castles. One of them indeed has turned into ruins, but from its tower the view of the wonderful Bauska city appears along with its surrounding panorama. In the second castle you’ll find a museum where you can not only get acquainted with the castle’s history, but arranging an appointment in advance, you’ll be able to try on medieval outfits, dance a few renaissance dances and enjoy medieval foods. The castle surroundings are as if they were made for leisurely walks. Following Lielupe upstream you will reach Jelgava where, on Pils sala (Palace island), one of the last remaining floodplain natural grasslands is a protected reserve. A valuable and important habitat for birds recognised by many international organisations, the island is also home to two herds of wild horses. Jelgava’s Holy Trinity Church Tower has had an eventful history. A rare survivor of the city’s destruction in world War II, the tower was used by the Soviet military. Now wonderfully renovated and hosting historical expositions, you can enjoy the panorama from the 9th floor or eat in its stylish restaurant. The Zemgale region offers much more to see like the Hanseatic city of Koknese. The ancient Hanseatic city of Koknese lies 100 km from Riga along the historic trade road of that time – along the Daugava river shore. Products would be stored, evaluated, weighed, packed and loaded in Riga and then would be sent to Koknese to be further distributed to the West by road. The city is usually noted for its natural beauty – especially for its rare shimmering dolomite river banks, which are interrupted only by the imposing hydroelectric station. At the place where the Daugava river converges with the Perse river, the Koknese castle stood on the cliffs guarding the city behind it, while today the castle has been reduced to ruins that spark anyone’s imagination. It has transfixed many a passers by, and is so beautiful that this landscape has been recreated by all of Latvia’s most celebrated artists. Take a walk down the nature trail and end up at the castle ruins by the Daugava to hear a tale from the local fishermen. Legend has it that the biggest catfish can be found right here. The Daugava catfish is elusive and mysterious, which is why every spring the locals participate in a “catfish awakening” celebration where you can enjoy the medieval feel and watch the locals at work, keeping the ancient traditions in tact in this heritage site. Not far from Koknese you’ll find the “Zemitāni” nature safari, where by car you’ll be given a tour of the park to observe deer, wild boar, bison, and other animals in their natural environment.

Source: Latvian Tourism Development Agency

Here’s a sampling of major yearly recurring events in the region:

Bauska Country Music festival

This is one of the four regular international festivals of its kind in Europe gathering leading country music artists of Latvia, Europe and sometimes guests from the USA. The festival has become a major leisure event for families. During the festival, attendees can live in a tent town, enjoy the picturesque surroundings of Bauska, as well as visit Bauska Castle and participate in various amusement and recreational activities.
Period: July
For more info visit the official website www.countrybauska.lv

Bauska Old Town Courtyard Festival

During the festival, visitors can take a look at more than twenty courtyards in Old Town; there are activities for children and adults, markets, musical performances, and the chance to learn facts about Bauska as the former capital of the duchy of Kurzeme-Zemgale. Through visiting the courtyards and collecting stamps on their events map, visitors can take part into the festival’s closing lottery where they have a chance of winning prizes that have been provided by the entrepreneurs who support the festival. In tandem, the Porridge Eating Festival and the Big Murza Garage Sale are also held.
Period: September
For more info visit the official website www.bauskasvecpilseta.lv

Jelgava International Ice Sculpture Festival

Visit the park which has the largest exhibition of ice sculptures in the Baltics, and where musical shows, demonstrations of sculpture creation, and various activities for children will be organised. With the fall of night, visitors will be treated to synchronised ice sculpture, music and light performances.
Period: February
For more info visit the official website www.festivali.jelgava.lv

Jelgava City Festival

The biggest festival of the year in Jelgava with a wide range of activities, including performances, shows, exhibitions, concerts and parades.
Period: May
For more info visit the official website www.jelgava.lv

Jelgava Summer Signs International Sand Sculpture Festival

The oldest and largest sand sculpture festival in the Baltics. More than twenty recognised sculptors from all over the world will be creating from 14,000 tonnes of sand. Live music is a key part of the festival, as are sand workshops for children. Be on hand and catch the process of sculpting. When darkness falls, the sculptures will appear in a different light, in a shadow play of sorts.
Period: June
For more info visit the official website www.festivali.jelgava.lv

Jelgava General Latvian Milk, Bread and Honey Festival and Milk Carton Boat Regatta

150 craftsmen, farmers and entrepreneurs present their products and goods made in Latvia. During the festival take part in or observe cooking, milking cows, and eating competitions, tournaments and workshops for tots. As part of the festival, in Lielupe, the one and only Milk Carton Boat Regatta in Europe. The boats participating in this regatta are made of 40,000 air-filled cartons.
Period: August
For more info visit the official website www.festivali.jelgava.lv

Rundale Palace Garden Festival

Held when the rose bloom reaches its peak; thousands in attendance, including foreigners and gathers together thousands of interested visitors not only from Latvia but also from other countries. Every year the festival’s theme has something to do with fruit trees and bushes, flowering bulbs, roses, and historic partners. This year is devoted to the tenth anniversary of the rose garden. It has already been a decade since it was first laid out and planted.
Period: July
For more info visit the official website www.rundale.net

Rundale Palace International Early Music Festival

Stands among the most sophisticated cultural happenings in Latvia; the concerts are held in the Medieval Riga churches and concert halls, as well as Rundale Palace. The festival brings back the masterpieces by Purcell, Vivaldi, Telemann, Gluck, Handel and other Baroque masters. There are gorgeous outfits, authentic instruments, all performed among Baroque architecture and interiors. Thousands usually flock to the closing concert in Rundale Palace Park – in the fragrance of blooming roses.
Period: July
For more info visit the official website www.smf.lv