Home to 63,000 inhabitants, Jelgava is a city in central Latvia and the largest in its region of Zemgale, located only 40 kilometres from the capital city of Riga, which lies in the north of the county. The land of Jelgava is known for its fertile soil due to being just over three metres above sea level, on the banks of the river Lielupe, causing it to be prone to flooding. Meaning “town on the river”, Jelgava contains a combination of natural beauty, historical architecture and cultural attractions, making it an appealing destination for visitors to Latvia.
In Jelgava, visitors can explore the old 18th Century palace that now acts as the campus for the Latvian University of Agriculture and still contains the tombs of the Curonian dukes who were buried in what was once the centre of the local aristocracy. Another landmark is the church of St Anne, a Baroque-style building, the old tower of the Trinity Church and the Academia Petrina, a modern museum and the oldest educational institution in the country. For an adrenaline rush, visitors can skydive at the Jelgava airfield, or relax in any of the restaurants and cafes and try some traditional Latvian delicacies. The Palace on the Island, an old piece of architecture on the river Lielupe, is now a museum, which visitors can enjoy for its local culture and unique location.
Although there are no trains or metros in Jelgava, visitors can easily navigate the city by using the public transport of local bus routes, which travel throughout the streets to different landmarks and neighbourhoods. Visitors can also take a taxi or walk around Jelgava, which is easy to navigate by foot.
The development of Jelgava began in the 10th Century when a settlement grew between the two rivers of Lielupe and Driksa, rising as a defensive structure against the Lithuanians and becoming an official city in 1573. Many of the cultural landmarks of the city date back to the 18th Century, under the ruling Duke Ernst Johann Von Biron, with the nationally important Academia Petrina opening in 1775. World War II heavily damaged Jelgava, with 90% of the city destroyed, but rebuilt in the following years to become a central destination for Latvian education, now known as the student capital of Latvia.
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