Turaida Castle, Sigulda, Gauja National Park, Vidzeme Region, Latvia

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Turaida Museum Reserve

Top choice in Latvia

Turaida means ‘God’s Garden’ in ancient Livonian, and this green knoll capped with a fairy-tale castle is certainly a heavenly place. The red-brick castle with its tall cylindrical tower was built in 1214 on the site of a Liv stronghold. A museum inside the castle’s 15th-century granary offers an interesting account of the Livonian state from 1319 to 1561; additional exhibitions can be viewed in the 42m-high Donjon Tower and the castle’s western and southern towers.

The rest of the reserve features a variety of buildings that have been transformed into small galleries and exhibits. It’s worth stopping by the smith house, where you can try forging metal. There is a real blacksmith on hand who sells his crafts, and guests can try pounding Liv pagan symbols into small chunks of iron.

In the graveyard of the pretty wooden church (1750) is the grave of Maija Roze, an ill-fated beauty known as the 'Rose of Turaida' and the subject of a tragic legend. Look for the onyx headstone bearing the inscription ‘Turaidas Roze 1601–1620’.

The nearby Folk Song Garden is dotted with 26 sculptures dedicated to epic Latvian heroes immortalised in the dainas, poetic folk songs that are a major Latvian tradition.

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