We were recently lucky enough to find ourselves in Riga, Latvia for two weeks. It’s a gorgeous city with tons to do (which we wrote about here), and you’ll likely want to spend at least a couple of days exploring Riga Old Town and the city centre.
But we also recommend getting out of the city to experience the countryside of Latvia. Over 50% of all Latvian territory is forest, so there are no shortage of breathtaking hikes awaiting once you get outside of Riga.
Sigulda is a charming town located only about 1 hour outside of Riga by train. It’s the perfect getaway for fresh air and hiking trails. Located in Sigulda is the Gauja National Park, which features castles, a cave and so much more.
About Sigulda and Gauja National Park
Not far from the busy capital city of Riga is Sigulda. This charming town with a population of about 17,000 people sits at the southwest part of Gauja National Park. It’s the perfect day trip from Riga!
Sigulda is tucked away in the Gauja River Valley. Just north of the city center, there are several medieval castles dating back to the 1200s. On top of these amazing ruins, there are picturesque walking trails, outdoor adventure parks, and even a bobsleigh track.
How to Get There (And Back)
The best way for tourists to get to Sigulda is by train. It’s a quick and easy ride, and it’s very affordable. Tickets are €1.90 per person each way and the journey takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. Trains leave from Riga Central Station and arrive at Sigulda Train Station.
No need to book train tickets ahead of time, it’s best to get to the station about 20 to 30 minutes ahead of your train leaving a buy the tickets in person. Check the train schedule from Latvian Railways website here.
Buying tickets in Sigulda is very easy too. There is a ticket booth inside the station as soon as you walk in. From our experience, the attendant spoke English so there wasn’t any worry about miscommunication.
Both stations allow tickets to be purchased by credit card, which is a nice convenience. It’s worth noting the last train back to Riga leaves around 9:30 PM, so plan accordingly.
If you’re planning to drive, that’s pretty easy as well. Head to Sigulda from Riga by car, hop on the A2 Motorway and head northeast. It’s about an hour drive from city center to city center.
11 Things To Do in Sigulda & Gauja National Park
1. Have a Coffee and Pastry from a Local Shop
If you’re heading to Sigulda for a day trip, the first thing you’ll probably want to do is get some coffee and breakfast. We recommend Elkers, which is a great bakery right across from the train station.
They have decadent pastries and fresh, strong coffee. We tried their banana eclair and fell in love. It’s every bit as delicious as it sounds and has a chocolate mousse in the center.
Hours: 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM
2. Visit the Castle of the Livonian Order
The Livonian Order was a collection of German military-monks whose mission was to protect Livonia from outside invaders. During medieval times, Livonia encompassed modern-day Latvia and Estonia.
In 1207, the Livonian Order built the castle and used it as a stronghold for the next 300 years. During the medieval wars between Poland and Sweden, the castle was damaged and subsequently abandoned.
It wasn’t until after the Republic of Latvia was formed after World War 1 that restoration really began. Today, restoration is complete and visitors can walk through different towers and parts of the ruins for only €2 per person. Every summer, the castle is host to the International Sigulda Opera Festival.
Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM Saturday and Sunday
3. Stroll Along the Gauja River
There are plenty of trails just north of Sigulda which are along the Gauja River. On the north side of the river, there are also park benches and picnic tables to stop at and enjoy the scenery.
While walking along the river and through the valley, it’s impossible to not stop and admire the beauty of the natural Latvian landscape.
4. Go to the Bobsleigh, Luge, and Skeleton Track
The bobsleigh track is one of the coolest parts of Sigulda and is worth a visit regardless of the season. The track itself is 1,200 meters long (0.75 miles) and drops 111.5 meters (366 feet). It’s possible to hit 120 km/h (75 mph) going down the track!
Never been bobsledding before? No worries! For €10 per person (€7 per child up to 14) you can go down the track on a bobsled with wheels during the summer, and a very padded traditional sled style in the winter.
Hours: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
5. Check out Gūtmaņala Cave
Also called (more appropriately) Gūtmaņala Grotto, it’s the largest grotto in the Baltics and has carvings dating back to the mid-1600s. The spring water coming out of the grotto is said to having mystical healing powers. For us, it was a nice way to fill up our water bottles with some crisp cold water before continuing our hike.
Hours: Open 24 hours
6. Turaida Castle
Turaida castle was built in 1214 by, you guessed it, the Livonian Order. It’s in impressive condition considering its age, and visitors today can climb the tower to take in the panoramic views over the surrounding forests. It’s more expensive than other castles in the area, as admission is €6 per person.
Hours: Open 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM (tower is open until 8:00 PM)
7. Spend Some Time at Tarzan’s Park
Tarzan’s Park is an outdoor adventure park that has obstacle courses, rope swings, zip-lines, hiking, and all other types of outdoor fun.
It is expensive by Latvia standards, though. Prices are a bit confusing as they do mostly package deals. Check out their website here for more information. In general, it’s about €20 per child and about €30 per adult.
Hours: 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
8. Take in the Views from the Sigulda Cable Car
The Sigulda Cable Car carries passengers 1,200 meters (0.75 miles) at a height of 43 meters (141 feet) across the Gauja River. While on the cable car, you can see great views of the Gauja River Valley, including the Bobsleigh Track and Turaida Castle.
For adults, it costs €8 for a one-way ticket and €12 for a round-trip ticket. For children, the prices are €5 for one-way and €8 for a round-trip.
Hours: May 1 to October 31 – 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM. November 1 to April 30 – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
9. Stop in at Krimulda Castle
Finally, a castle that wasn’t built by the Livonian Order! This one was built by the Riga High Council in 14th century, but it was destroyed in 1601 during the war between Sweden and Poland.
The cable car drops off about 100 meters from the Castle so it’s easy to visit if you’re already riding the cable car.
The ruins have not been restored so it’s a nice place to enjoy a quiet moment in nature, but don’t expect a tour guide or any of the amenities that the other castles have.
Hours: Open 24 hours
10. Have a Picnic
Grab some food in Riga or Sigulda before you head off into Gauja National Park so you can have a picnic along the way! We like picking up bread, cheese, pepperoni, and grapes to snack on. There are plenty of benches and picnic tables to stop at throughout the park and along the trails. Alternatively, pack a blanket and setup a picnic at a spot of your choice.
The forests are incredibly beautiful and you can’t go wrong with stopping anywhere.
11. Recharge after a busy day with some yummy pizza
If you’re like us, then you’ll probably be craving some carbs after a day of hiking and exploring. Lucky for you, La Pizza Veloce is located right across from the train station. They serve up fresh pizzas with every topping imaginable.
Going to Sigulda is a lovely day trip from Riga. It’s incredibly easy to get there by train, and since the tickets are only €1.90 each way it’s an affordable day trip too.
Being out there and exploring the Latvian forests is a peaceful way to spend any day. After being in the busy capital city, it’s great to get away and spend some time in nature.