Sigulda, Latvia – An Outdoor Family Paradise
We didn’t think to take a trip to Sigulda, Latvia. Instead we were planning a trip to Riga, the Latvian capital, and wondered what day trips we could take from there. Sigulda kept coming to the top of our list for day trips. Jeff thought it would be really cool to ride down the bobsled track in Sigulda and I thought a forest walk from castle ruins to a cave then to a rebuilt castle would be great in Sigulda. So just like that, we planned one day in Sigulda.
While we make lots of mistakes while traveling, spending only one day in Sigulda was one of the bigger mistakes we’ve made. We had uncharacteristically terrible weather (early September is normally a lovely time to visit Sigulda) and still had a great time.
You reach Sigulda along the A2 motorway, just 50 km from Riga. We rented a car from a downtown rental car location. It was a steal for a one-day rental. We added a toddler seat to our rental so we didn’t have to bring as many car seats with us on the flight from AMS to RIX. (The car seat was not rear facing despite the car rental companies assumption that it was. We made it work, but this is a down side of renting instead of bringing ours along.)
Plan for a one-hour drive from Riga to Sigulda. Make your first stop the Sigulda Tourism Information Center because there’s a lot of information there and the staff are wonderful (excellent English). The staff can help you with bookings too.
If you’re thinking you’d love to see Sigulda but don’t want to rent a car, that’s no big deal. The Riga-to-Sigulda train takes only an hour and runs quite often. Everything is walkable in Sigulda from the train station with a bit of planning so you don’t make seven loops around the city. The tourism info center occupies the same building as the train station.
We recommend two days in Sigulda to fully appreciate its charm. Stay at Hotel Sigulda in one of their well-appointed family rooms.
Your big day out could look like this: Walk (1.2 km) or drive to the Sigulda Cablecar (closed in high winds, like on the day of our visit). Take the cablecar across the valley to Krimuldas Pilsdrupas, picturesque castle ruins where you can walk about and pretend to be knights (free). Continue your walk to Gutman’s Cave, which is said to be the oldest tourist attraction in Latvia. There isn’t much to see as it’s not a big cave. What you come to see here are the inscriptions on the cave walls from travelers from long ago.
Continue your walk to Turaida Pils. We expected this castle to be, well, just a castle. It turns out that Turaida Pils is a castle that sits in a giant park that also contains a handful of old buildings and a chapel.
Plus, there’s a sculpture park. You could easily spend a full day at Turaida Pils, punctuated with snacks from the Mr. Biskvits, known for their cakes. Bring a picnic to enjoy among the sculptures.
Unfortunately, we were woefully underprepared for our visit to Turaida Pils.
We didn’t know of all that was on offer and only devoted a few hours to touring the castle, its exhibits and its tower.
The castle has many rooms to explore. You do move between the rooms outside so on a rainy day, like our visit, you’ll want your rain gear.
Tip: Take a stroller to Turaida Pils because the walk from the parking lot is pleasant but far. You can park your stroller outside the castle. Also, parking at Turaida Pils is 1.50 EUR – payable to the lot attendant.
If you walk back to the cablecar, you’ll have a nice but long afternoon adventure. Take the car if the weather looks iffy.
Back in Sigulda, ensure you get to dine on the three course lunch special at Hotel Sigulda. This weekdays-only special is an amazing deal.
At 6.50 EUR per person, we found it delightful. Bring activities for your kids like coloring or a sticker book so you can enjoy the whole experience.
Jeff had the tomato soup for his starter, then got the roasted pork with local vegetables and chose the chocolate custard for dessert.
I had the vegetarian option, which was some sort of amazing vegetable burrito.
I also opted for a local sparking wine, which was quite yummy.
The kids menu was also excellent.
Sigulda is small enough that you can walk from your hotel to anything you want to see.
Be sure to find the Walking Stick Park and ask for directions to the big playground in Raina Park, filled with items for all sizes of kids. We checked out as much as we could between rain storms.
Jeff’s big thrill in Sigulda was seeing the bobsled/luge track. For just 0.60 EUR per person, you can take the elevator to the sixth floor of the tower to see the track laid out in front of you. You can even walk down the track, through a couple of curves on your way back down.
If you go on a weekend, you can pay 10 EUR per person to ride in a bobsled down the track. In the summer, the bobsled is on wheels. Little kids aren’t allowed. In the winter, however, the bobsled goes on ice and littles are allowed. The word I got was that it’s safer in the winter because it’s less bumpy. I’d ask a few questions and watch a few other groups go down before I’d take one of my toddlers in the sled.
Sigulda was a surprise hit for our family. It has enough small town charm to make it a 1-2 day visit. There is a massive amount to do in the forest not covered in this article, so click over to the Sigulda Tourism Information website to discover some gems on your own. There is a Soviet era bunker you can tour (and enjoy a period lunch down below), there is a waterfall, there is plenty of hiking and there’s even a thriving foodie scene in the region.
The Sigulda Tourism Office sponsored our visit and provided access to local attractions for us. As always, our opinions are our own.