After discovering the Kemeri National Park and the wine region around the historic town of Kuldiga, my trip to Latvia continued with the discovery of Rundale Castle, nicknamed the “Versailles of the Baltic”, which can be easily visited. on a day trip from Riga, or on the road between Vilnius (in Lithuania) and Riga.
COSTUMED VISIT TO RUNDALE CASTLE
Rundāle Castle is one of the most visited places in Latvia. Former summer residence of the Duke of Courland Ernst Johann von Biron, the palace has been very well restored, and even if its gardens are not worth those of the real Versailles, the visit is nonetheless magical, especially if you choose the theatrical guided tour in costumes (to be booked in advance at +371 29108396), very interesting and interactive. I would even say more: this is one of the best guided tours I have ever done, it makes the history of the castle really fascinating!
Let’s talk about its history… This opulent baroque castle was built in the 18th century by the Russian Empress Anna Ioannovna, of whom the Duke of Courland Ernst Johann von Biron was a favorite. We owe its architecture to the Italian Francesco Rastrelli, who is also the architect of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. The interior decoration was carried out by the German sculptor Johann Michael Graff and by the Italian painters (also from Saint Petersburg) Francesco Martini and Carlo Zucchi.
When the Duchy of Courland was annexed to the Russian Empire at the end of the 18th century, the castle became the property of a series of local nobles, before being occupied by the Germans during the First World War, then by the Russians. after the Second World War. Very damaged, the castle returned to the Latvian government after the independence of the country, but it was not until 1972 that the castle became a museum and the rehabilitation works really began (these were not completed until 2014). . Today, Rundale Castle has regained its former splendor!
During the theatrical visit, we take a tour of the visitable parts (only part of the 138 rooms that make up the castle in total!), Whose presentation is embellished with historical anecdotes, a demonstration of how the ladies of the court communicated thanks to their fan (very funny!), and even a little dance session in the castle’s large ballroom. The most beautiful rooms in the castle, with a very rococo interior, are for me the bedroom of the Duke of Courland, and the boudoir of Duchess Dorothea.
As we were there in the middle of winter, we did not take the time to explore the French formal gardens of the castle, but they must be very pleasant in the summer …
In short, a visit that I really recommend to you during your trip to Latvia or the Baltic States.
WHERE TO SLEEP AND / OR EAT NEAR RUNDALE CASTLE?
As I told you above, it is quite possible to visit Rundale Castle on a day trip from Riga. But if you fancy spending more time in southern Latvia, here is a good place to eat and/or sleep near Rundale Castle: Mazmežotne Manor (Mazmežotne Muiza), a recently renovated hotel and restaurant located in the Lielupe Valley, where we ate after our visit to the castle. The hotel rooms located in the old mansion, with their four-poster beds and claw-foot tub, are very romantic. You can also visit a small museum that recalls the agricultural history of the manor, which was a farm for many years before being transformed into a hotel-restaurant.
This day trip was organized by Latvia Tourism on the occasion of the Women in Travel Summit 2019 in Riga. My opinion remains, as usual, entirely independent.