The central square of Kuldiga with the Old Town Hall visible at the bottom, Source: Depositphotos

Kuldiga: meet Latvia’s second city with UNESCO protection

Kuldiga: meet Latvia’s second city with UNESCO protection

There’s more than the glorious Riga when it comes to this small Baltic country

When tourists go to Latvia, they usually arrive (and stay) within the confines of its capital – Riga – admiring its Hanseatic architecture and fairy-tale-like history. For the longest time, the medieval quarter of the capital was also the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the Baltic country.

But now, following the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee, which gathered two weeks ago to decide on expanding the list, a new Latvian site was added – the picturesque town of Kuldiga.

The name is the local variation of the German Goldingen, which points to its origins as a Baltic German city and unique history as the administrative centre of the Renaissance Duchy of Courland. Its glorious history is well documented and preserved in its meticulously restored historic district.

Kuldīga is the only city that fully depicts the traditional architecture of the Baltic states, merging Latvian and German traditions. The particularly well-preserved 16th-18th century city structure, harmonious urban environment and the charming landscape of the river valley are clear evidence of the traditions in the region of Kurzeme (as Courland is known in Latvian).

Kuldiga’s attractions

The UNESCO recognition will probably bring more awareness to the Duchy of Courland, a small but fairly powerful state which existed until 1795 in the western part of today’s Latvia. The preserved and restored old quarter reflects the golden age of this small state, which although paid tribute to the Polish kingdom managed to amass its own merchant fleet.

In fact, the Duchy got powerful enough to even briefly attempt small colonization efforts on par with the more powerful European states. Courland had two colonial outposts: one in the Gambia River (Africa) and the other on Tobago Island in the Caribbean, between 1651 and 1689.

As for Kuldiga itself, visitors can enjoy the Baroque wooden architecture and narrow streets. There's the Old Town Hall, built in 1670, and St Catherine’s Church, which features a wooden altar. The town also features natural attractions, such as the Venta Rapid, which is the widest waterfall in Europe (240 metres).

More than 20 years to gain recognition

Latvian politicians, including President Edgars Rinkēvičs and the mayor of the town Inese Astaševska were quick to praise the achievement, emphasizing the hope that it will boost the image of Latvia as an interesting cultural tourist destination.

There was also gratitude to all the people and organizations that made it possible to achieve the high distinction. It took more than 20 years since the municipal government officially expressed interest in being granted the global status.

During that time a lot had to be done in order to reach the desired success, including the creation of a heritage management system, scientific research and arrangement of cultural heritage sites, public education in matters of heritage protection, as well as arrangement of building regulations.



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU