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Valmiera, the northern gateway to Gauja National Park, delights visitors with its beautiful nature and its cultural and historic monuments, along with hosting interesting cultural and sporting events, and providing breathtaking stories and legends.
Valmiera main ‘street’ is the River Gauja that divides the city in two, one of which is called Pārgauja. Valmiera is located 107km from Riga. The River Gauja endows Valmiera with a naturalness that one can enjoy when walking along the Gauja’s banks; it takes just five minutes to reach the walking trails.
The city’s history
The city of Valmiera was first documented in historical sources in 1323, but its surroundings have been inhabited as far back as the third and second millennia BC. In 1224, the land around the Gauja was captured by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, and then by the Livonian Order. This location near the Gauja trade route contributed to the growth of the settlement. Valmiera is a former member of the Hanseatic League. The city was destroyed by wars and fires, and Valmiera was rebuilt from scratch a total of eleven times during its existence as a city. The eighteenth century was a tough period for Valmiera; it contained only sixty wooden buildings in 1784. The city centre’s historical buildings were built during the course of the subsequent century and-a-half, and these were destroyed during World War II. Afterwards, the priority for Valmiera’s governing authority was to remove the debris and rebuild the city. Thanks to this, a fresh wave of development started, and this still continues. A large number of enterprises provide jobs for the local population, and the only university in the Vidzeme region trains future professionals, providing them with the working knowledge necessary to continue the course of Valmiera’s development.
For the city’s visitors
The most beautiful and significant tourist attractions in Valmiera are as follows:
- Valmiera St Simon’s Church - built in 1283 or 1284; located in Valmiera’s city centre, it is the symbol of and witness to the history of Valmiera.
- Livonian Order castle ruins and Valmiera Museum - a testimony of the power of Valmiera as a medieval city. Valmiera Museum is a keeper of the history of Valmiera, located in the middle of Valmiera’s castle ruins.
- The Park of Senses on the steep banks of the River Gauja - a walking trail along which one can feel the touch of nature without leaving the city. There is the opportunity to experience all five human senses on this trail - hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste.
- The ‘Valmiermuižas alus’ brewery near Valmiera is known throughout Latvia thanks to its high quality beer and tourism activities. When visiting the brewery, it is possible to take a look into the process of creation for beer, which is popular in Latvia, and other drinks.
- Jānis Daliņš Stadium is a place in which the annual State President’s Cup is held, featuring track-and-field athletics and other large-scale sporting events.
Valmiera and its surroundings are the perfect place for enthusiasts of active tourism. In the summer, everyone has the opportunity to travel across the whole of Valmiera and its surrounding areas by bicycle, or go for a hike. The banks of the River Gauja are highly suitable for this purpose as they reveal a different landscape behind each bend. Valmiera is an excellent starting point for a boat trip on the Gauja because the Kazu Rapids form the best-facilitated rowing slalom track in the Baltics. Every year the best paddlers in Latvia and the Baltics come to Valmiera to participate in the ‘Abuls-Gauja Boating March’ event. In winter, enthusiasts of active recreation can go cross-country skiing both in Valmiera’s surrounding areas and on the ski track in the J Daliņš Stadium. Anyone who likes alpine skiing is welcome to visit the ‘Baiļi’ skiing and active recreation centre.
Culture and art
Culture and art enthusiasts can enjoy performances in the Valmiera Drama Theatre, and art exhibitions which are available both in Valmiera Museum and Valmiera Community Centre. The art gallery known as ‘Gallery Laipa’, in its turn, provides an opportunity for everyone to express themselves in a creative way by engaging in various master classes. A popular place of recreation in Valmiera is also the ‘Gaisma’ cinema, which regularly offers the latest film premieres and the chance of watching 3D films.
Valmiera is within easy reach for any traveller by car, train, or bus, and for more active travellers using boat or bicycle. The A3 highway and the Riga-Valka railway line will take you from Riga to Valmiera.