Rundale Palace is one of the most attractive sights of Latvia, so when planning a journey to Riga, you should spare a day for a trip to Bauska where the palace is located. The palace is as magnificent as the imperial palaces of St. Petersburg.
The construction of the Rundale Palace was begun by the Duke of Courland Ernst von Biron in 1736. He was the favourite of the Russian empress Anna Ivanovna (1730-1740), who had little interest in the state affairs, and so during that decade the Russian Empire was actually ruled by Biron.
Considering his unlimited access to the Russian treasury, Biron wanted to build in his native land (Duchy of Courland and Semigallia) a magnificent palace equal to the imperial palaces of Russia and entrusted with the task the famous architect Francesco Rastrelli. It was the same architect who built the following palaces: the Winter Palace, Peterhof Palace, and the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.
As the construction of the huge palace was amply financed, it took only 2 years to complete it. Already in 1738 the finishing work began, but Biron had no time to enjoy his palace. In 1740 Anna Ivanovna died. Biron was appointed regent during the minority of the baby emperor, Ivan VI of Russia, but three weeks later, as a result of coup d`etat, he was arrested and banished for life to Siberia. 22 years later, in 1763, the Empress Catherine II allowed Biron to return to Courland and returned him the Rundale Palace. By that time the works on the interior decoration and park beautification had been completed.
Biron died in 1772, and bequeathed the duchy to his son Peter. After Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was absorbed by the Russian Empire Catherine II gave the palace to the brother of her last favourite Platon Zubov. Then the Rundale Palace was owned by the family of Shuvalov. In 1933 there was established a museum, which is open for tourists.
At the Rundale Palace you can see the state-rooms and private chambers of the duke: the Golden (Throne) Hall and the White Dance Hall. Totally, there are 138 rooms in the Rundale Palace.
The Rundale Palace was surrounded by a big and very beautiful French-style park. The park with alleys and flowerbeds of symmetric form was also designed by Rastrelli. 10 years later a similar park was created at Tsarskoye Selo near St. Petersburg.
The city of Bauska is 70 kilometers to the south from Riga. Apart from the Rundale Palace, two more interesting sights are in Bauska: the medieval castle of Bauska, and the Mezotnes Palace, so you can spend a very interesting day in this city.