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Rundāle Palace


Country cottage.
Country cottage.

This 18th century vanity project looks totally out of place in the flat Zemgale countryside. But that only gives the palace and its rose gardens, sculptures, paintings and antiques even greater impact. The baroque masterpiece was designed by architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli (the creator of St. Petersburg's Winter Palace) for Ernst Johann von Biron, an obscure Baltic German aristocrat who through untamed ambition became ruler of Russia, and nearly bankrupted the state with his megalomaniac schemes. Almost as impressive as that chutzpah, over many years dedicated restorers have turned the palace from a war-and-communism-scarred ruin into the treasure of today (and a certified tourist trap). Concerts and festivals held at the palace are another way to enjoy it all.


Food & Drink: For starters, tuck into Foie gras with butter-fried spinach and apricot sauce in the Palace Restaurant, then head to the budget eatery in the tavern house for Fish fillet in horseradish sauce, and finish off back in the palace in Ozollāde cafe with Pears in Daugmale Bee Keper Jānis's honey with ice cream

Sleep: No princess, you can't stay in the duchess's boudoir. But Vīnkalni guesthouse (Hotel Rundāle) has views of Rundāle. And Baltā māja Hotel in the 250 year-old palace servants quarters is cozy too. But if you absolutely must sleep with royalty, Mežotne Palace 20 minutes' away will do the job.

Fun: If winter (or life generally) is getting you down, commune with the banana and citrus tress in the Rundāle greenhouse.


Transport: It takes two buses to get to Rundāle from Riga via Bauska. Driving is easier.

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