Built as a grand residence for the Duke of Courland, Rundāle Palace is a monument to 18th-century aristocratic ostentatiousness, and is definitely the architectural highlight of rural Latvia. The palaces 138 rooms where built in two phases, between 1736 and 1768 and was designed by the Russian court architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli who also designed its beautiful gardens.
Driving from Vilnius, Lithuania where I stayed recently, it took me a little over two hours to get to where the palace is situated in Pilsrundāle, 12 km west of Bauska and 77km south of Rīga. It is a great day trip to take if you find yourself in this beautiful batic state and also want to check another country and one of its top tourist attractions off your travel list. The drive itself was a mixture of highway and dirt roads which took us through some beautiful countyside, giving us real insight into how some of the locals live outside the big city of Vilnius. Once you cross the border in to Latvia from Lithuania, it is a very short drive (about 15 km) to reach Rundāle Palace.
When we arrived to the palace, I was in awe. I guess I was not sure what to expect since I had never been to a real palace before this, but I was definitely impressed by the both the exterior and interior of Rundāle Palace. After taking a some photos outside, we headed inside to grab tickets and do the palace tour. When you enter, you will first head to the guest services area to buy tickets for the tour. For 13€ we opted for the combined tour, giving us access to the longer interior tour route and the french gardens. The extra rooms you see on the long tour are different from those seen on the short tour. If you have the time, I recommend you take the long tour.
Walking throughout each of the different rooms in the palace was just breathtaking and inspiring. I had read that some of the architecture and design was one of a kind at this palance, with some of the halls designs truly comparable to that of Versailles and other top French palaces. I was delighted to find those rumors to be true, as I walked the halls of the palace slowly, trying to take it all in. I imagined what it was like for royalty to live here back when the palace was active and how amazing that must of been. The rooms in the eastern wing of the palace, the Gilt Hall, the White Hall, and the Great Gallery, are open to the public. The central blockof the palace accommodates the Duke’s suite with reception parlours and private rooms, and the eastern block is a fully restored suite of Duchess’s rooms. There is so much to see, especially if you choose to take the longer tour route.
The palace also offers visitors a wonderful on site resturant, museam, and a great gift shop where you can purchase a souviner and take a piece of Rundāle Palace home with you. Visit the palaces official website for any upcoming events, pricing and new information on additional services or tours.
If you find yourself exploring Latvia, or anywhere near this region in Europe, I highly suggest adding a visit to Rundāle Palace to your list.