One Of The Most Underrated Beach Resort Towns In Europe Is Full Of Historic Charm

Few travelers would associate a European beach vacation with the Baltic countries. However, one of the most underrated beach resort towns is located in Latvia: Jūrmala. Stretching over a 16-mile coastline, Jūrmala is a haven for sun-seekers and anyone drawn by historic charm. The town's name, translating to "seaside" in Latvian, encapsulates its essence. Despite its high-quality beaches and unique cultural heritage, Jūrmala remains untouched by mainstream tourism — making it a perfect getaway for those seeking tranquility, natural beauty, and local hospitality. 

Jūrmala's history as a resort destination dates back to the 19th century when it was frequented by Russian and Latvian elites for its therapeutic air and mineral waters — it was known as the "Baltic Riviera." The architecture of Jūrmala showcases this history with an eclectic mix of styles. Walk along Jūras iela to see wooden cottages built in the Art Nouveau style. If you have a fascination with communist architecture, Latvia used to be part of the USSR — Soviet sanatoriums (healing spa facilities) are the remains of that bygone era — some are still functional, like Sanatorium Belorusija and Jaunķemeri.

The town's reputation as a spa destination is well-founded, with its natural resources offering many unique health benefits. Jūrmala's location between the Gulf of Riga and the Lielupe River creates a unique microclimate characterized by clean air rich in sea ions and pine scents from the surrounding forests. If you're looking for some R&R, Jūrmala is an ideal wellness destination. 

What to do in Jūrmala, Latvia

The beaches of Jūrmala are a Baltic treasure. The stretches of white sand — awarded the Blue Flag for environmental management and water quality — are vast and welcoming. Majori, Dzintari, and Bulduru are some of the most popular beaches. The waters of the Gulf of Riga are warm (with some cold pockets), not too salty, and, most importantly, shallow. This makes it a safe spot for families. You can also visit Jūrmala's Līvu Aquapark, the largest waterpark in Northern Europe. 

The town's museums and galleries, like the Jūrmala Open Air Museum, offer a glimpse into the local history and art, while Jomas iela, Jūrmala's oldest main street, lined with shops and cafes, provides a slice of modern Latvian culture. The culinary scene in Jūrmala reflects Latvia's distinct heritage, offering traditional Baltic flavors and contemporary gastronomy. There are some 150 restaurants to choose from, but the most popular ones include 36.line Grill RestaurantKūriņš, and Cafe 53.

Jūrmala hosts a variety of fun festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating everything from music and art to local traditions. The Dzintari Concert Hall, an architectural marvel in its own right, is a central venue for many of these events, showcasing performances from classical music to modern pop and jazz. To really kick off your vacation, partake in the Resort Festival of Jūrmala, which marks the start of the summer season with concerts, markets, and activities.

Tips for your visit

For a slice of nature, escape to Dzintari Forest Park, which abounds with playgrounds, skating paths, and beautiful walking trails. The Kemeri National Park is another popular destination in Jūrmala. Walk along the winding Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk to experience the hallmarks of this ecosystem: moss, pine trees, and dark lakes. Take the longer arc of two miles to the observation deck and enjoy stunning views of the bog while breathing in the aroma of wild rosemary.

Getting to Jūrmala from Riga is a convenient and scenic trip. The train is one of the most popular means of transportation — a 30-minute $1.60 journey departs frequently from Riga's central station (Rīgas Centrālā stacija) and arrives at several stops within Jūrmala, such as Majori. You can also drive along the A10/E22 road west from Riga towards Jūrmala. However, finding a car parking spot during the high season can be challenging. If you're feeling adventurous, a 12.4-mile bicycle route will take you all the way from the capital to the beach.

The best time to visit Jūrmala is in the summertime, between June and August. The weather is warm, and the chances of rain are low. There are plenty of seaside resorts, quaint B&Bs, and villas available for an overnight stay. Spend a day or two to fully enjoy everything Jūrmala has to offer; this will give you enough time to explore the surroundings and enjoy the beach in this underrated European country.