Kuldiga town in the Kurzeme region (formerly Courland) with its historical part and Valley of the River Venta is known as “The Latvian Venice”. Indeed the river flows along the walls of many of the town’s houses.
The vision of the local authorities is to make the old town of Kuldiga an important international tourism destination, with the potential to attract domestic and foreign tourists and contribute to the sustainable development of the town.
The tourism recourses of Kuldiga town are based on its historical and cultural heritage and the Venta River which is one of the largest and most picturesque rivers of Latvia. “Ventas Rumba” is the widest waterfall in Europe (240m). Many legends and historical events are connected with it. In ancient times, due to Duke Jacob’s invented devices for catching fish on the Venta waterfall, Kuldiga was considered the place “where salmon were caught in the air”. Flying fish shows (jumping salmons over the Venta Waterfall) attract, in springtime, visitors to the town.
The waterfall on the river Alekšupīte (4.5m) is the highest waterfall in Latvia. In the 17th century it was embanked to be used in conjunction with the first paper mill in Kurzeme.
The historic and architectural heritage of Kuldiga is well preserved. In the park near the Kuldiga district museum fragments of the stone wall and the cellar of the first Kuldiga castle, built in 1242 by German knights, have been preserved to this day. Later Duke Jacob’s castle (ruined in 1701) was situated there as well. Today it is a sculpture park. The old brick bridge across the Venta, built in 1874, is one of the longest of such type of bridges in Europe. The bridge was built according to the road standards of the 19th century (500 feet long and 26 feet wide), so that two carriages could pass next to each other on it.
The Medieval Historical Centre of Kuldiga on the banks of the River Alekšupīte is a unique area. Originally built as the suburb of Kuldiga castle, it is the only ensemble of buildings of this type, on the River Alekšupīte, which has remained in the Baltics, from the 17th-18th centuries.
St Catherine’s Church, was originally built in 1252. However, it was built anew with baroque style wood carvings on the altar. In this church Duke Jacob was baptized and later married to Princess Louisa Charlotte from Brandenburg. The church was given the name of St Catherine, the patroness of the town.
The Old Town Hall was built in the 17th century. The cellar of the building was the first prison in Kuldiga. The oldest wooden building in Courland was built in 1670 near the Town square on the banks of the River Alekšupīte.
The town square was an old assembly place for people. Traditional cultural heritage is part of everyday life in Kuldiga with textile workshops, celebrations of national festivals and also with more contemporary events such as the annual running competition on the Alekšupīte (River of Aleksis) and the ‘naked people run’ over the historical bridge on the Venta River at Midsummer night.
Kuldiga Town Council is aiming to establish a functioning complex of ‘live museum’ in the historical centre of the town, providing:
- restoration and enhancement of the cultural heritage and encouraging tourists to participate in it, with harmonization of cultural and natural tourism resources;
- quality tourism services;
- initiatives on including the town in the UNESCO world heritage list;
- environmental and landscape protection and usage to the educational work.
Several projects co-financed by the EU are running in Kuldiga, such as the ‘Development of the ecotourism infrastructure in the Venta Valley’ (NATURA 2000), the development of the cycling infrastructure in the Kurzeme region, including GPS system. In this context, an old red brick bridge over the Venta River will be renovated and pedestrian roads to the Venta Rapids and the town centre will be established.