Taking a day trip from Riga to step back in time into a world of Manor Estates to discover Magnetic Latvia was magical. The Rundāle Palace is one of the most impressive Baroque architectures in Latvia. Touring the palace is like being transported back to the 18th century, a time of political intrigue, where ladies secretly communicated with fans, and men wore ruffles. Come and take a look inside this beautiful estate.
Rundāle Palace is located at Pilsrundāle, 12 km west of Bauska. Built-in 1736-1740 and from 1764-1768, it became the summer residence of the Duke of Courland, Ernst Johann Biron. The palace has 54 rooms, and after 50 years of renovation work, they have been restored to their original splendor that you can walkthrough. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m (May-October) and closes at 5 p.m. November to April. Tickets for the tour are 8€. To get to the palace, it is a little over an hour from Riga, and public transportation is available.
These lovely ladies and gentleman were are tour guides throughout the Palace. Our tour took us through the State Rooms – Duke’s Throne Room, The Great Gallery (the Ballroom), then the Duke’s private rooms, and the Duchess’ suite. The museum on the ground floor has exhibits to showcase and works as a research center for Latvia history. Currently, there is an exhibition of decorative art that follows the Gothic style to Art Nouveau during the 15th century to World War I.
Our guides were decked out in period costumes of the 18th century and play their roles perfectly. There is the French design with detailed rosettes and a huge birdcage bird included for a hat. The gentleman wore his best finery in coat and breeches, including the ruffles at the neck and hands. He even had the artificial beauty mark placed on his face that could hide smallpox scars. The English design showed its wealth by the intricate embroidered design on the coat and dress. Seeing them in theatrical costumes make the tour and the atmosphere within the palace more authentic of the 18th century.
The Duke’s Throne room is opulence personified. Gold stucco covers the walls and part of the ceiling. The ceiling is painted by Francesco Martini and Carlo Zucchi and depicts the apotheosis of Duke Ernst Johann. Greeting an audience in this room makes a statement as it is intended to do.
The White Hall, a.k.a the ballroom, is a beautiful collection of Rococo designs on the ceiling. Rococo is characterized by soft colors and curvy lines (scrollwork) and depicts scenes of love, nature, romantic encounters, light-hearted entertainment, and youth. This can be seen throughout the ballroom with the children displayed in scenes covering the four elements fire, water, air, and land, and the four seasons are even represented. The ceiling has a storks nest that represents life, and a portion of a real nest was used to create the design. Our guides were so gracious to show us what dance would look like back in the 18th century (see video).
At the end of the ballroom, there is a room dedicated to porcelain vases. This room is part of the State Rooms. Forty-five rocaille consoles are supporting a collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain vases. I would be so afraid of having this room next to the ballroom. I can imagine the servents hovering by to make sure nothing gets broken.
The Formal Dining Room of the Duke and Duchess set for visitors. The dining setting is simple but elegant with its gold trim and flower motif. I wouldn’t mind being invited to dinner here. It could happen 🙂 As the Palace does accommodate notable guests and leaders of foreign nations to this day.
The Duke’s private apartments include two studies, a dressing room as well as three bathrooms and toilet-rooms. And the Duke of Courland, Ernst Johann Biron’s, loved to show off his bedroom as he was known to have meetings while in bed. The Duchess seemed to have more elegant bedrooms. She had a Boudoir that has a niche made of a shell. And her bedroom has two secret doors, one led to the toilet room and the other used by servants.
There were several bathrooms and toilet rooms within the Duke’s and Duchess’ apartments. Some were basic, while others were more elaborate. The Duchess’s bathroom had a lower ceiling because it hid the servant’s room directly above.
There were so many rooms that we were able to see restored. From the Billards Room to the Studies and everything in between. What I found fascinating was that the wallpaper wasn’t paper, it was fabric and in some rooms embroidered. You can see more photos of the palace on SmugMug.
The decorative details that have been restored from the paintings to the stucco art on the ceilings and sometimes on the walls are magnificent. Each room within the castle has some little detail that makes this palace so unique. I have visited a lot of castles and palaces, but haven’t been in any of them that have had the amount of art and artistic details as Rundāle Palace has. Truly a masterpiece of art!
The gardens of Rundāle Palace are extensive, consisting of over 85 hectares. The park of Rundāle Palace is the most important historical garden in the Baltics. The French Baroque Garden retains the original layout designed from 1735. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the gardens. Only enough time to walk into it and realize how massive it is. I want to come back here when it is sunny to see the flowers and roses in bloom.
Exploring the Baltic region is filled with surprises, and Rundāle Palace is one of them. From beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings, amazing stucco art, and rooms designed with period furniture with fantastic guides in period costumes, it is a magical experience. And being one of the most impressive Baroque architectures in Latvia, this should be on your bucket list to visit and take a trip back to the 18th century.
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If you are coming to Latvia for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:
- Exploring the Riga Central Market
- A Brief Visit to the KGB Museum in Riga – The Corner House
- A Somber Walk Through the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum
- Remembering the Forgotten at Salaspils Memorial Ensemble and Rumbula Forest Memorial
- Learning the Secret Language of Fans
- The Top Ten Things to do in Riga, Latvia
Thank You to the Magnetic Latvia and WITSRiga for offering this opportunity to tour the Rundāle Palace. As always, opinions are 100% my own.