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I was invited to tour the Rundale Palace on a press trip. All opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced by this collaboration.
With gravel crunching under my feet, I made my way toward the yellow palace that was mostly hidden by the dense fog and mist. In front of me was the Rundāle Palace, also known as the Baroque Pearl, one of the most impeccable baroque palaces in Europe.
The throne room at Rundale Palace is lined with floor length mirrors and windows. The ceiling has immaculate stuccos of cherubs and angels. Crystal chandeliers hang low from the ceiling and light up the room.
On the guided tours of the palace, guests may even get a glimpse at experiencing a ball or gala. Dressed in traditional period garb, my guides took a twirl around the room to demonstrate how dances were performed.
In-depth history of Rundale Palace, Latvia
Building of Rundāle Palace
Rundale Palace is named after a Germany’s Ruhenthal, which means Valley of Peace.
The Rundale Palace began construction in 1736. The palace was one of two being built for the Duke of Courland Ernest Johann von Biron.
Ernest Johann von Biron was a Russian nobleman with complicated ties with other Russian royalty. Although Biron was not liked among most Russian nobility, he was in favor of Anna Ioannovna (Anna Ivanovna) who later was crowned Empress of Russia.
Biron commissioned Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli to design and oversee the construction of the palace. Rastrelli was a famous Italian architect who is famous for his baroque designs in Russia. One of his most famous builds is the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. Rastrelli also constructed Biron’s second palace in nearby Jelgava Palace in Latvia.
During the construction of Rundale, Biron was exiled from Courland, which halted construction. The palace stood vacant and unfinished until 1762, when Biron was allowed to return to present-day Latvia. After 1762, artist Johann Michael Graff created the immaculate stucco decorations under the supervisor of Rastrelli. After six years, the Rundale Palace was finally finished in 1768.
Residents of Rundale Palace
After its completion in 1768, Duke of Courland Biron moved into the palace. Biron was infatuated with his palace and spent the majority of his time there until his death in 1772.
In 1795, the Rundale Palace was bestowed by Catherine the Great of the Russian empire to new residents Count Valerian Zubov. Zubov lived in the palace until his death. While living at Rundale Palace, Zubov refurnished the interior of the palace. The library in the palace was a gift from Catherine the Great.
After Zubov’s death, the palace was passed to Count Shuvalov and remained in his family until Germain occupation during World War I.
Count Shuvalov was the last person to reside in the palace before it was occupied by foreign forces and troops over the years.
Rundale Palace’s ruin to restoration
Over the centuries, Rundale Palace suffered much distress and ruin from wars. The first of which beginning during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon and his troops used the palace as a hospital.
During the German occupation in WWI, 1915 to 1918, the Rundale Palace was used as a commanding post and infirmary. In 1919, the Bermondt-Avalov army was stationed at Rundale Palace and vandalized the palace.
In 1923, the palace was renovated to house a primary school for the Rundale Parish.
How to get there?
The Rundale Palace is located 1.5 hours south of Riga, Latvia. My tour took a bus from Riga to the palace. If you are looking to visit the palace without a tour guide, public transit runs to the palace and nearby areas.
I was invited to tour the Rundale Palace and grounds on a press trip. All opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced by this collaboration.