Rundale Palace is a true treasury of Baroque and Rococo art in Latvia. The palace and the adjacent French Regular park were designed by a famous Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli in the 18th century as a summer residence of the Duke of Courland Ernst Johann Biron, the favorite of the Russian Empress Anna Ioannovna. Although the palace suffered severe structural deterioration over the centuries, it’s restoration is a fine example of exceptional craftsmanship and dedication. At just over an hour drive from Riga, it’s a must when visiting Latvia.
If you’ve rented a car, the directions are simple from Riga or there are tour buses that will take you there as well. Just ask the front desk agent at your hotel. The drive is along a treed road with farmland and varied houses. Bauska Castle is only a few minutes away from the palace so consider adding it to your route.
The doors of the palace are now open to tours giving access to forty-four rooms over two floors. The east wing of the palace accommodates the staterooms for festivities: the Gold Hall (the Throne Room), the White Hall (the Ball Room), and the Grand Gallery (the Banqueting Room). There are also smaller rooms that exhibit collections of Chinese and Japanese porcelain. The first floor of the central building is occupied by the Duke’s apartments which include nine staterooms and eight private rooms. The west wing contains six apartments of the Duchess as well as period fashion collections and an exhibition depicting the Biron family.
When you’ve finished your tour, make sure you stop at the Balta Maja Restaurant and Guest House. This mother and daughter team will make you feel like family and provide a traditional Latvian meal that you’ll be talking about for days.
There are so many options in Riga that it’s difficult to leave the city. I could have spent a month in just Old Town and still felt like I had more to discover, but there is a world of beauty, culture, and tradition beyond the city as well. It would be a shame to travel all this way and miss it. Venture out and explore Latvia. It’s best enjoyed slowly.