Liepāja is a town on the Latvian coast, a couple of hours west of Riga. I visited in September 2015 as a stopover between Riga and Klaipėda, and visited for two reasons. Firstly to see Karosta, and secondly to see some of the beaches on the Baltic coast.
Karosta was built as a Russian naval base and army barracks in the late 19th century and, after Latvian independence in 1994, Karosta was largely abandoned with most of it falling into a state of disrepair. It is a bizarre place with a mix of abandoned military buildings, run-down housing blocks and, right in the middle of it all, a stunning Russian Orthodox cathedral, albeit one in a bit of a state. St. Nicholas’s Orthodox Naval Cathedral had scaffolding around some of the higher parts, and I’m not sure if this is part of a programme to repair it or just to stop parts of it falling down. The area had a “we don’t go to Ravenholm” feel to it.
Karosta is one of the most run-down places I’ve visited. This is partly the reason I wanted to go, since on the northern side there is a former Soviet fort where the fortifications are being claimed by the Baltic sea over time. This also showed why Liepāja is known as “the city where the wind is born”. A non-stop sea breeze.
The following morning I was up and about early to visit the beach, and it’s well worth it. It’s separated from the city by a small park, and the beach itself is a (seemingly) never-ending stretch of white sand. The Scottish side of me shone through, with the locals wrapped up in big coats, scarfs and hats and me wandering around in jeans and a t-shirt thinking it was quite a warm morning.
I didn’t see much of the town itself aside from a short walk to the Latvian Music Walk of Fame. I didn’t recognise any names on it.
The beach. Lovely.
Food and drink: I only had one night in Liepāja and didn’t stray too far to find food. Kafejnīca Darbnīca was nice for a snack and had a small but excellent selection of beers. The (highly-rated) Mexican restaurant was awful.
Northern Fort – If you have any interest in abandoned places then parts of Karosta are nice. It’s probably better to drive than walk through it, though. You can opt to spend the night in Karosta prison (it’s cheaper than a hotel).
If you’re leaving Liepāja for an international destination, like I was, don’t make the mistake of thinking your bus will be leaving from the stands near the train station. If you do that then you might have to hope there’s a taxi driver nearby who can motor it across town to the correct stop with 12 minutes to go. Not that I made such a stupid mistake. Definitely not. *cough*