Jelgava town is located in Zemgale region about 45 km to south from Riga. More than 66.000 inhabitants live in this historically significant town in the area of 60 square km. Jelgava is situated on banks of beautiful and wide river Lielupe, that is mouthing into the Gulf of Riga. Although though WWI and WWII destroyed 90% of the town, some historical monuments were preserved and rebuilt. Jelgava Palace, situated on the bank of Lielupe river, is one of the most visited sights in Jelgava. In winter, Jelgava becomes a land of ice, as in January-February monthes there is held an International Ice Sculpture Festival that attracts artists even from 26 countries from all over the world.
Jelgava town began developing in 1265 when Livonian Order Grand Master Konrad von Mender started building a new wooden castle on the Island of Lielupe River where today Jelgava is located. This place was named Mitau. At these days biggest enemy of Mitau was Lithuania. In 1345, Lithuanian duke Algirdas conquered Jelgava. Later in 1376, Lithuanian duke Kestutis attacked the land again.
Not many evidences remained about Jelgava from times when Livonian order or the Lithuanian Duchy ruled the land. It’s only known that around the castle then there a Jelgava village started formatting, which was an important administrative unit of Zemgale region regarding fights against Lithuania. The 16th and later centuries are clearer. In 1522 the town has already had its own first Catholic Church. In 1561, Livonian Order Collapsed and the last Master Gotthard Kettler became the duke of Kurzeme and Zemgale Duchy. In 1565 he moved his residence from Riga to Jelgava palace. In 1573 The Duke granted the city rights to Jelgava and after five years Jelgava became the capital of the Duchy of Kurzeme and Zemgale. On the second part of the 16th century, Jelgava became an important town which included a school, churches, hospital, drugstore and even pubs. Moreover, in 1575 Jelgava started to mint money and in the town there were working 12 artisans and 18 craftsmen. In 17th century Jelgava started outliving manychallenges as wars between Poland, Sweden and Russia began. Marched troops of enemies destroyed the town, but every time it raised up, restoring its` buildings and daily life of citizens. In 1710, the Duke Frederick Wilhelm married Anna Ivanovna – daughter of stepbrother of Russian Tsar Peter I. After a year, Wilhelm died and Anna became a duchess of Courland and in 1730 she became Empress of Russia. Her reign was continuing until 1740 though German Duke Ernst Johann von Biron inspired by her attention continued the unfinished works later after her death. In the 18th century some essential works there were made for further development of Jelgava. There was built the famous Jelgava palace under a project of famous Italian architecture Bartolomeo Rastrelli, also - Duchess castle and St. Anna Russian Orthodox Church, what is more, the first public library and theatre were opened, finally, Duke Peter founded here a university called Academia Petrina. In 1795 Jelgava felt in arms of Russian Empire and stayed there until the WWI. During this time Jelgava survived good and bad, worm and cold, bet the city still managed to survive attacks and at the same time to develop infrastructure of the town. After the WWI Jelgava became a main battle field between Bolshevik Red Guards, German paramilitaries and Latvian freedom fighters. Though the town was destroyed, it became a very important city in an independent Latvia. WWII was even more crucial for Jelgava as even 90% of the town was burned, ruined, people exiled or killed. After the WWII Jelgava lost it`s importance, but never stopped to be visited by local and foreign tourists.
Today Jelgava is beautiful and independent city. Due to its location near country capital Riga and on the transit junction road, Jelgava is economically strong and attractive. About 50% of total output is exported to foreign countries. The main industries are food products, metal products, wood products and furniture. Moreover, Latvian Agriculture University is preparing the best Agriculture specialists in all Latvia. Jelgava is very popular among domestic and foreign tourists. Today Jelgava`s architecture itself is talking about stages of its old, rich and long history. Many cultural and historical monuments survived or partly survived crushing centuries and today they are renovated and adjusted to nowadays needs. Baroque style spectacular Jelgava Palace located on the bank of Lielupe River today is serving as Latvian Agricultural University. However, some part of it is used as Jelgava Palace Museum that is open for public visits. Holly Trinity Church Tower is taking back visitors to 1522 when the first Catholic Church was built in Jelgava. The majestic and marvelous St. Anna’s Orthodox Church is taking back to the 18th century, the time when Empress of Russia Anna Ivanovna was rulling the region. Monuments and cemeteries raised in honor of fallen remins about Latvian century-long fight for freedom and independence. During your day trip around the city, take a brake and have a nice picnic in Jelgava Palace Park or nice lunch in cafes in city centre. Since 1786, when the first hot air balloon hopped off to the sky, Jelgava is still suggesting romantic trips above the city enjoying marvelous views flushed with the rays of setting sun. Moreover, Jelgava has its own small airport where you can order a skydiving class. Situated along Lielupe River, Jelgava town has always had many water activities to offer: canoeing, boating, yachting, swimming and other water attractions. If you are in Jelgava and it’s raining, don’t worry, you can relax and have a great time in recreation and sport centers, play bowling, pool. At a night time you can wreak your energy in night clubs and cafes.