Jelgava [ pronounced Yelgava – see Language Tips ] , the capital city of Jelgava region, is situated only 42 km from Riga and is easily accessible by train, bus or microbus. Locals consider the microbus to be the fastest and most comfortable option, and these depart regularly from the central bus station in Riga. Many people choose to live in Jelgava because of its proximity to Riga.
For many centuries, Jelgava was politically the second most important town in Latvia. From 1574 to 1795 Jelgava (then called Mittau) was the capital of the Duchy of Courland, the previously independent western portion of Latvia. It was a major economic and trading centre. In the 17th century, Duke Jacob ordered water pipes to be installed throughout Jelgava, which testifies to the town’s prosperity, since water pipes were a rarity in Europe at that time.
During World War II, Jelgava lost two thirds of its population and witnessed the destruction of nearly 90% of its buildings. In the post-war period, the town was rebuilt according to typical Soviet design.
Luckily, the Jelgava Palace, designed by the outstanding Italian architect Franchesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli has managed to survive numerous wars. It is beautifully situated between two rivers, surrounded by a park. Palace construction took place from 1738 till 1772, and since then it has served many purposes. The Dukes of Courland were the first owners of Jelgava Palace, where they lived in great splendour. During the French-Russian War of 1812, the Palace became an army hospital. Nowadays it houses the Latvia University of Agriculture. The family vault of the Dukes of Courland remains open to the public. Every February an ice sculpture festival takes place in Jelgava, and both the city and its surrounding region offer a wide range of recreational and sporting activities. The city maintains an ice hall, a number of cross-country skiing tracks, go-carting and bowling, while Jelgava airport offers parachuting to more adventurous thrill seekers.
How to get there
By train: Trains to Jelgava leave every hour – see the schedule on the railway station link (LV, EN, RU)
By bus: Buses from Riga to Jelgava leave every hour – see the schedule on the bus station link (LV, EN, RU, DE)
By car: The drive takes 40-50 minutes.
Jelgava Tourism Information Centre Pasta 37, Jelgava, tel: +371 302 27 51, fax: +371 302 22 35