Day trip to Jūrmala beach town from Riga
Riga the capital of Latvia is located alongside the Daugava river and reaches all the way out to the bay of Riga and on to the Baltic sea. Considering Riga's coastal location one would expect the city to offer many beach options. However due to the geography and historical development of Riga its coastal areas are typically more industrialized or less desirable for beach going. Many choose to venture a little further to find more accessible and cleaner beaches than Riga along the beach resort towns that make up the 33 km coastal stretch called Jūrmala. Literally translated as Sea's Edge.
Jūrmala is easily accessible from Riga Central Train station and by bus, bike lane or car. The train runs very regularly and can bring you to the beach towns in around 30 mins, around the same by car from Riga and about 1 - 2 hrs on a relaxing bike path. There is a fee to drive into Jūrmala by car and in my opinion a bicycle or train is the best hassle from way to pop down to the beach for a dip. Just be aware these routes become very popular in peak summer as Jūrmala is famous for a summer getaway for tourists and locals alike. By train there are many train stops along the coast line and it can be worth trying some of the more further away towns before hopping back on the train to explore somewhere else. Some are more developed, some more run down. It is a very contrasting area full of old wooden architecture and rich history.
The beach resort time of Jūrmala was famous during the Soviet period, it could get so packed with visitors that photos of the time show no sign of sandy beaches, instead we see just a mass of bodies crammed into each square meter of the coast. Thankfully, Jūrmala today has a lot more space and with 33km worth of beaches to choose from you will have no issues finding your own spot. Sandwiched between the Lielupe river and the Baltic sea, Jūrmala actually has water on both sides of its stretch of land and towards the further end of Jūrmala you find nature reserves and lakes such as in the Ķemeri National park. Here with its virgin wetlands and fantastic boardwalks the National park offers some of the finest bird watching and unique natural beauty in Latvia.
Starting around the 18th century the area of Jūrmala was well known as a spa resort for the wealthy elite who wished to escape the bustle of Riga. With the opening of the Riga to Tukums railway line in 1877 the resort town of Jūrmala became a permanent fixture on the outskirts of Riga. Suddenly with the ease of access and la
te Imperial Russian wealth the coast flourished into a pleasure resort for people of all classes. Wooden summer houses were erected along the coast line and many can still be seen to this day.
Below I will give a quick insight to some of the main towns found along the train line in Jūrmala.
With a really nice 1930s train station, Priedane actually lies before the Lielupe river and is mostly a forested residential area with some nice small nature spots with very few visitors.
Dzintari & Majori
These two towns are connected via Jomas iela. A well known high street in Jūrmala. Full of cafes and restaurants, clothing and even street sellers, this part of the coast is quite developed and does get busy. Worth visiting but maybe not for too long.
Heading further away from the hustle of the towns closer to Riga, from Asari onwards you will find very open beaches, much less tourists and a totally different vibe.
Sloka & Kauguri
Welcome to blockhouse coastal life. Very developed during the Soviet times these towns are home to many permanent residents and it really has a different vibe in the last coastal stretch of Jurmala. Lots of concrete but lots of nature and interesting characters. The local market here is really good in the summer.
No longer on the coast, here the sulfur springs and swampy lands begin. Once a sanatorium town today Ķemeri is in between its rebirth and run down past. Plenty of nature trails and lakes close by. Great to visit the sandly wooded wetlands or just to explore the newly built park and soon to be renovated sanatorium.
Wherever you visit along the coast of Jūrmala one thing is certain. Plenty to do, eat, soak up the sun and a real mix of architecture styles, people, nature spots and attractions such as water parks, ethnographic museum, concert halls and events to be found. Well worth a 30 minute train ride from Riga.