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Title: Limbaži  
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Subject: Salacgrīva Municipality, Limbaži Municipality, Ainaži, Miķelis Ežmalis, Limbaži
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Limbaži old town
Limbaži old town
Flag of Limbaži
Coat of arms of Limbaži
Coat of arms
Limbaži is located in Latvia
Location in Latvia
Country  Latvia
District Limbaži municipality
City status 1385
 • Mayor Juris Žūriņš
 • Total 9.021 km2 (3.483 sq mi)
Population (2008)
 • Total 8,705
 • Density 989/km2 (2,560/sq mi)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code LV-4001
Calling code 640

Limbaži ( pronunciation  , Estonian: Lemsalu, German: Lemsal, ) is a town in the Vidzeme region of northern Latvia. Limbaži is located 90 km northeast of the capital Riga. The population is 8705 people. During the Middle Ages, as part of Livonia, Limbazi was a fortified town with stone walls, second in importance only to Riga.


The name Lämmist nīn is believed to be Livonian word meaning "wide isle in a forest swamp". The German Lemsahl is derived from the Livonian name.

According to folk etymology, the name Limbaži originated sometime in the 17th century. A recently arrived Swedish minister overheard some gibberish, "limba" and "aži". Mistakenly, he assumed this was the name of the village, and so the town was called "Limbaži".


In ancient times, Limbaži was a Livonian settlement known as Lemisele, part of Metsepole. In the early 13th century, Bishop Albert and the Teutonic knights destroyed the village while conquering Metsepole, and built a castle, around which formed the new city, Lemsahl.

Medieval Limbaži

Until the beginning of the 16th century, Lemsahl could be reached by seagoing vessels travelling up the Svētupe. Ships came from as far as Lübeck and Copenhagen to trade for honey, wax, lumber, grain, and furs. The small trading camp surrounding the castle grew into a large town, and was admitted to the Hanseatic League. Each year, Lemsahl hosted a conference attended by barons from all over Livonia, and the city hosted at least three other fairs throughout the year as well. During these fairs, the town may have held as many as 20,000 people at once. In addition, the Bishop of Riga made Lemsahl his spring residence, which became a walled city to protect both the bishop and the trading center. In population, Lemsahl was second only to Riga.

By 1500, however, the Svētupe became too shallow to navigate. Goods were sent elsewhere, and Lemsahl began a century long decline. During the Livonian War, Ivan the Terrible's forces burned down Lemsahl in 1558, while its residents fled to the nearby forests and marshes for shelter. The city was burned down by the Swedes in 1567, and again by the Russians in 1575. In 1602, the Swedes and Poles fought yet again for the city, completely demolishing its fortifications and walls. By the time the wars had ended, the city was so demolished, only three houses and a handful of residents remained.

18th and 19th centuries

While under Swedish rule, the village was renamed Limbaži sometime in the 17th century. During the Great Northern War, Vidzeme was totally ravaged by Peter the Great's forces. But as the story goes, while searching for Limbaži, the Russian army got lost in a heavy fog. After stumbling in circles, the soldiers began to believe such a village may not exist after all, and moved on. Limbaži survived the war unscathed.

The city completely burned down again in 1747, after which today's city layout began to develop. In the 19th century, the city began to grow again. In 1821 there were 674 inhabitants, but by 1900 there were about 2000. In 1876, hat-maker A.Tīls opened "Limbažu Filcs", the town's oldest company, which also secured jobs for generations of the city's inhabitants. The first town library was built in the late 19th century, and several publishing houses were opened, the largest of which was K.Paucīsis Press.

Twentieth century

After World War I Limbaži continued to grow. The long-awaited rail line to Riga opened in 1934, and a 50-bed hospital opened in 1936. In Soviet times the population jumped to 8,000, with many five-story Soviet-style apartments appearing in the 1960s. During the Soviet period, Limbaži became a factory-town with "Lauktehnika" farm machinery, "Limbažu Filcs" hats, and "Limbažu Piens" one of the largest milk processors in Latvia, all based there.


1385 1622 1773 1800 1840 1863 1881 1897 1914 1920 1925 1930 1943 1959 1970 1979 1989 1997 2004
Population 6000 12 549 600 877 1134 1814 2412 4700 2501 3085 2935 2806 4823 5791 8257 9985 9522 8934

Notable residents

Monument to Kārlis Baumanis in Limbaži. Composer of the Latvian national anthem

Notable locations

  • Limbaži old town, with remains of the town wall
  • Ruins of the Archbishop's castle
  • Limbaži museum of history
  • Livonian hill-fort at Ķezberkalns
  • "Svētais Jānis" Lutheran Church
  • Kārlis Baumanis grave and monument
  • Limbažu Lielezers (Lake Limbaži)
  • The national Olympic training center for canoeing and kayaking is situated in Limbaži

Sister cities


  • Limbaži history (Latvian)
  • Turlajs, Janis, ed. Latvijas Celvedis. 2nd ed. Riga, Latvia: Jana Seta, 2007. 200-01.
  • Latvijas Pilsetas. Riga, Latvia: Preses Nams, 1999. 284-291.
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