Ventspils is located in the northwest of Courland. Ventspils is a
historical city, in which there is quite a bit of history left. Now
it is better known as one of the largest ports in the Baltics.
However, Ventspils itself can be spent several hours, and it serves
as a good base for exploring northern Courland.
The city was founded in the XIII century, after the Christianization of Courland by the Riga bishops. Around the same time, the Livonian Order founded a castle here - this is the oldest and only surviving medieval building in the city. In 1378, under the name Windau, he received the rights of the city. From the very beginning, Windau was a major port on the Baltic coast, for a long time it was part of the Hanseatic League. In the middle of the 16th century, the city became part of the Duchy of Courland. Ventspils was its main port - ships were built here, and from here they went to the overseas colonies of the duchy - Tobago and Gambia. Ventspils suffered greatly from the wars of Sweden with Poland and Russia in the 17th and 18th years, as well as from the plague epidemic in 1711. As a result of the third partition of Poland, Ventspils ended up in the Russian Empire and, under the name Vindava, became the county center of the Courland province. For a long time it was a perfect backwater, until at the end of the 19th century shipbuilding began and Ventspils became one of the main ports in Russia. The Rybinsk-Vindavskaya railway came here, and the Riga station in Moscow was at one time called Vindavsky. Almost the entire First World War, Ventspils was occupied by the German army, then found itself in independent Latvia, and in 1940, together with the whole of Latvia, was annexed to the USSR. During World War II, the city was occupied by German troops, and at the end of the war it ended up in the so-called Courland cauldron - a surrounded group of German troops that was not evacuated in time, and which resisted until the last moment, so that the Soviet army entered Ventspils only on May 10, 1945 ... This, naturally, did not contribute to the preservation of the architectural appearance of the city. After the war, the city, whose population is now slightly less than 40,000, regained its importance as a major port, and in independent Latvia, trade flows from Russia also started here, for which Ventspils is one of the most convenient exits to the Baltic Sea.
The historical part of the city is compact and is located on the left bank of the Venta in the castle area (Pils iela street). The Ostgals area is located below, near the mouth, but also on the left bank. The entire right bank is occupied by port facilities. Ventspils does not go directly to the sea, although you can go to the coast on foot.
Until 1230, the mouth of the Venta River was part of
the state of Sagekar, the king of the Curonian king Lamech. Winda
was first mentioned as a castle of the Livonian Order in the Venta
estuary in 1290, and the church in 1298. During the Livonian Order,
Ventspils was a member of the Hanseatic League.
During the time of the Duchy of Kurzeme and Zemgale, especially Duke Jacob (1642-1682), it was an important port city and shipbuilding center. During this time, 44 warships and 79 merchant ships were built, some of which were sold to other European countries. The plague epidemic introduced after the Great Northern War in 1710 killed most of the city's population, the city collapsed and its main source of income was fishing. After the incorporation of the Duchy into the Russian Empire in 1795, it was the center of the Ventspils City Court (Hauptmannschaft Windau) and the administrative center of all of North Kurzeme. In 1904, the Ventspils-Ribinska railway line was opened and the export port was moved to the right bank of the Venta River, where a large grain elevator and a freezer for butter storage were built. The city's prosperity was interrupted by the First World War, when, due to the war, the Russian authorities hastily evacuated valuable port facilities and a large part of the population. After the Second World War, Ventspils became a transit and fishing port of the USSR, and later the largest export port of oil and oil products in the USSR.
Since the restoration of Latvia's independence, the city and the port have developed rapidly, Ventspils has become not only a developed transit trade, but also a popular tourist destination.
Venta embankment. In the center of the city, interesting
buildings do not overlook the embankment; they stand slightly to the
side of the river. However, it is well equipped and creates the
right atmosphere - across the river there are port facilities with
cranes, and although their aesthetic value is controversial, they
perfectly remind that Ventspils has always been and remains one of
the most important ports in Latvia.
Cows. There are a couple of dozen cow sculptures in Ventspils, most of them are painted by local artists. What they symbolize is now quite difficult to understand, but Ventspils twice, in 2002 and 2012, held the so-called Cow Parade, and some sculptures could be bought (most of the purchased sculptures, however, remained standing in their places). Look for them on the waterfront and in parks.
Town Hall Square (Rātslaukums). On the streets around the square, buildings of the 18th-19th centuries have been preserved on a moderate scale.
St. Nicholas Lutheran Church (Svētā Nikolaja luteriskā baznīca), Tirgus iela 2. The church from 1834-1835 is the oldest surviving church in Ventspils (not counting the chapel in the castle). This is a fairly pure classicism of the time, with a portico and a high bell tower with a hemispherical end.
The former town hall (Rātsnams), Annas iela 13. The building of the 18th century, in fact, gave the name to the square.
Concert Hall (Ventspils Jaunrades nams), Maiznieku iela 11. Good example of an Art Nouveau building. Specifically, the building of the concert hall dates back to 1912, but there is a lot of Art Nouveau in the surrounding area - for example, on the Pils iela street leading to the castle.
Ostgals, west of the center (between the Venta bank and Vasarnīcu iela and Locu iela streets). Near the mouth of the Venta is the village of Ostgals, whose name means "port end". Ventspils advertises it as a former fishing village, it is not entirely clear how this definition corresponds to reality, but the village is really pretty, with low-rise wooden and wood-paneled houses. Its central street is Livu. There are no tourists, despite all the advertising, the infrastructure is minimal, although almost every second house here has been converted into a hotel.
Open Air Museum (Piejuras brivdabas muzejs), Riņķa iela 2 (Ostgals).
House of Crafts (Amatu māja), Skolas iela 3.
There is an airport in Ventspils, but, as of 2019, there are no regular flights. Geographically, the nearest airport with passenger traffic is in Liepaja, but you can still fly there only from Riga, so it's easier to go to Ventspils from Riga immediately.
There is no passenger traffic by rail from Riga, the road to Liepaja has been dismantled.
The easiest way to get from Riga is via the A10. The P111 road leads to Liepaja along the coast, which then continues across the border to Lithuania to Klaipeda. You can get to Kuldiga by the P108 road. P124 goes to Kolka and Slitere National Park.
On the ship
There is a ferry twice a day to Nynäshamn, 50 km south of Stockholm. There is no shipping on Venta.