Built for Baron Ernst Johann Biron (1690–1772), Duke of Courland and Semigallia, Rundāle Palace is a monument to 18th-century aristocratic ostentatiousness, and rural Latvia’s primo architectural highlight. Ernst Johann started his career as a groom and lover of Anna Ioanovna, the Russian-born Duchess of Courland.
Even in its very centre, the town of Tērvete looks like a few buildings scattered around hilly forested terrain. In recent years it grew into a haunt for holidaying families and school excursions. The main pull is the Fairy Tale Forest, populated by whimsical woodcarved figures that almost come alive in the dark shade of ancient fir trees. There are two main clusters.
The small but perfectly medieval Jaunpils Castle is unique in the fact that it has largely retained its original look since 1301, when it was founded by the master of the Livonian Order, Gotfried von Roga. It also offers a unique chance to dine and sleep in the rooms that saw kings and knights do the same before your great-grandparents were born.
Provincial Dobele, in the far western corner of Zemgale, is the gateway to a vast acreage of mythical forests and meandering rivers. The town is centred around the impressive Livonian Order castle ruins, which date back to the mid-1330s. This brick bastion was built over the original site of an earlier Semigallian stronghold.