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Liepāja : The city by the sea

By Inese Timuka . 29.07.2008

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Take in the sun lying on its Blue Flag beaches, experience the night in a prison cell, try different kinds of shopping at the local market or climb up to the clock tower of the Holy Trinity Church for breath-taking view over the city, Liepāja is full of enjoyment and contrasts, so be ready to fuel up your emotions.

History

Liepāja has developed from its days as a small fishing village, located near the Liva river. This Līva village was first mentioned in documents in 1253. And then in 1263 Līva's port was first mentioned in documents as well. In the 15th century, through the Līva passed a trade route extending from Amsterdam to Moscow. In 1625, Duke of Courland (nowadays - Kurzeme) Frederich signed the document granting Liepāja city rights. The peak of the city’s development started with the construction of the Liepāja – Ukraine railway. A trans-Atlantic ferry line Liepāja – New York – Halifax was opened in 1906. At the beginning of the 20th century, Liepāja had a very active cultural and arts community; there was opera, theater, the philharmonic and Liepājas own city museum.

Nowadays

It is the third largest city in Latvia, located on the coast of the Baltic Sea in the southwest of Latvia with industries covering developed metal processing, textiles, food and polygraph production, with both local and foreign investment. The city is sits between the Baltic Sea and Liepāja Lake, with this trade canal connecting both, and dividing the city into two, which are often referred to as the Old Town (Vecliepāja) and the New Town (Jaunliepāja). The city center is located in the Old Town and is bit more developed as here are most of the administrative and cultural buildings as well as the main leisure spots. Recently, there has been noticeable development in the city – it has become tidier, public facilities are improved and the local community takes pride in their city with thoughts about development in the long term. You might be surprised at the large number of different kinds of pubs, restaurants and cafes all around town. We discovered that locals wouldn’t dare provide standard accommodation for their guests. Almost all hotels, guesthouses, and even hostels provide completely restored rooms with kitschy interior design.

Highlights

Meet at Rose Square!

Rose Square is a perfect place to start your tour around the city center as it is in the very heart of Liepāja. Historically, here was the market, but after it was moved, a garden was established in its place, in 1911, which now features 500 roses. Right next to the square is the Tourism information office, Rožu laukums 5/6, open Mon-Fri 9.00-19.00, Sat 10.00-18.00, Sun 10.00-15.00. Just round the corner you’ll find a building with loads of glassy windows and a pseudo-industrial look - Latvia's 1st Rock Café which offers not only vibrant nightlife, but also delicious meals for very reasonable prices in this city. Open daily 08.00-06.00, at Stendera 18/20. Latvia’s Music Walk of Fame and the country’s largest guitar lie outside the café.

The spiritual side

Even if you are not very religious it is worthwhile to see the oldest church in Liepāja - St.Anna’s Church - because of its baroque wooden altar. This impressive masterpiece was crafted in 1697 and is 5.8 m wide and 9.7 m high. The church is on E.Veidenbauma 1. Another of the top tourist attractions is the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, which houses one of the world’s largest organs. As well, you’ll be impressed by a dazzling gilded rococo interior, but for a more powerful impression climb the steeple up to the clock tower, where an excellent view of the city awaits. Holy Trinity is located Lielā 9.

Pearls of Architecture

If you are curious about the history of this area then you should visit the Liepāja Museum. Housed in a historical building which itself is an architectural treasure, the museum has managed to maintain its original early 20th-century interior. Paintings, ethnographic costumes, black and white photos and centuries-old bibles as well as an excellent collection of weapons and jewellery is displayed there. Find it Kūrmājas prospekts 16, open Wed.- Sun. 10.00-18.00. Kūrmājas prospekts itself is a street with impressive architecture from the 19th and 20th centuries. Once the tramway carried the upper class residents to the city’s swimming areas along this street. On the left is a splendid Art Nouveau building - Liepāja’s first school.

A walk along the channel

The Promenade. It was off-limits territory during the Soviet decades, now it is an attractive place for walks along the canal. Take a slow stroll while looking at the ships and yachts moored here. Other sites of interest include a huge hourglass filled with amber, instead of sand, and a fountain made in the shape of a wave cascading into the canal; it looks amazing, even more so in the evening. Another noticeable building with a bizarre name is the Black Ball, historically a fish market and when there were no fish to be had, such as when there was a serious storm at sea and the fishing boats stayed in port, a black ball was hosted on a high pole at the house. Unfortunately, the fish market is not there anymore, though the nickname for the house remains. The building has been restored recently and now it houses an exquisite recreation center – the hotel “Libava”, on Vecā ostmala 29.

Whitest sand

While traveling to Liepājait is highly recommended to warm up your feet, and soul, in one of the four Blue Flag beaches. Blue Flag is the most popular eco-certificate in the world, which guaranties a high quality water, environment, and service. Be there for a brisk morning swim, a leisurely afternoon or romantic sunset. Right next to the beach is one of the largest landscaped parks in the Baltics. The park was created in the 1870s, nowadays you can see a lot of grand Art Nouveau wooden summer cottages, the open-air concert stage “Pūt, vējiņi!”, children's playground, mini golf and skate park.

 

 

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Population: 85,132

Total area: 60.4 km 2

Distance from Riga: 215 kilometers

How to get there: from Rīga, take Highway A9, buti f you want to save your time there are direct flights from Riga to Liepāja.

 

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