- Tour the ruins of the stone Bauska Castle
- Explore the elegant Rundale Palace
- See the crypt at Jelgava Palace
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|Day 1||Tour Bauska Castle, and Rundale and Jelgava Palaces||Riga|
Day 1: Tour of Bauska Castle & Rundale and Jelgava Palaces
Get ready to immerse yourself in Latvia's past on this full-day tour of some of its most fascinating castles and palaces. The first stop is the medieval Bauska Castle, built as a 15th-century fortress with a royal residence for the Dukes of Courland and Semigallia added on in the late 16th century. Bauska is an excellent example of the defensive stone castles erected during the Middle Ages to protect Latvia's territory from attacks by Christian crusaders. See the cannons and other defenses used by medieval Latvians, and learn about the social customs and fashion sense of the royal court.
The two palaces you'll tour today were built in the 18th century for the same family, the Dukes of Courland and Semigallia, by Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who also created Russia's ornate Winter Palace and Tsarskoye Selo Palace for the tsars. Rundale Palace is like a time capsule of 18th-century royal Latvian life, with beautifully preserved and restored Baroque architecture and Rococo art. Don't miss a stroll through the massive French-style gardens outside the palace!
You'll make a final stop at Jelgava Palace, which was burned down during the War of Independence in 1919 and heavily shelled during World War II. The Baroque-style palace was reconstructed in 1961 and is currently home to the Latvian University of Agriculture. Make sure to visit the crypt for members of the royal family who once lived here, which houses their ornate sarcophagi, before heading back to Riga.