Jūrmala is full of cultural markers and events. The city’s visual character contains elements of German and Russian, National Romanticism and Soviet Modernism, Postmodernism and contemporary style. The best place to learn the story of Jūrmala is at the Jūrmala City Museum, which contains 50,000 artefacts.
The presence of artists, musicians, literary ﬁgures and architects has always contributed signiﬁcantly to Jūrmala’s aura. In fact, the city itself has served as a creative springboard for many of them. This phenomenon dates back at least to the Tsarist Russian era, when celebrities of the Russian literary scene such as Ivan Goncharov, the author of Oblomov, arrived to spend the summer in Jūrmala.
In the late 19th century the contractor and philanthropist Kristaps Morbergs built a Neo-Gothic-style summer home complex in Dzintari, which has now been carefully restored. The famous Baltic-German architect Wilhelm Bockslaff designed the Dubulti Lutheran Church, which is a ﬁne example of Jugendstil architecture and one of the tallest and most monumental buildings in Jūrmala. During Latvia’s ﬁrst period of independence, Rīgas Jūrmala was the home of Latvia’s most famous literary couple, the poet Rainis and his wife, the feminist writer Aspazija.
Two of the properties belonging to them have now been turned into memorial museums. Rainis’ poem Lauztās priedes (Broken Pines), which holds such emotional signiﬁcance for Latvians, inspired contemporary sculptor Kristaps Gulbis to create a large-scale work of art full of symbolism. Titled after the famous poem, the sculpture is located amongst the pines growing in the dunes by the beach in Pumpuri.
During the Soviet era, a number of “creative houses” existed in Jūrmala. Like the Dubulti railway station, it also serves as a contemporary art space. Iconic witnesses to their time, some of the sanatoriums built during the Soviet era are still in operation and open to the public today. But the most visually impressive mark of Jūrmala’s history as a spa is, of course, the Ķemeri Sanatorium, designed by architect Eižens Laube and built in the 1930s. Like a giant white ship, it stands in the romantic resort park. In Majori, the house that belonged to the local Benjamiņš family of media tycoons is steeped in legend. It was once considered the most modern building in the Baltic States.