When arriving in Jelgava, one can see the magnificent Jelgava Palace, which can be seen from the bridge across the Lielupe River. At present, the Latvia University of Agriculture is located here, but earlier it was a residence of the Duke of Kurzeme. For some time, it provided shelter even to the King of France when he was a refugee. The first palace was a wooden one – it was built in Jelgava by the crusaders as far back as in 1265.
The foundations of the current building were laid by the Duke of Kurzeme Ernst Johan Biron, who in 1737 ordered the Russian Court architect Rastrelli to design a new residence in the baroque style. Rastrelli also designed the famous Rundāle Palace, the Peterhof Palace and the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. In 1919, the Jelgava Palace was burned down by soldiers of the Bermont-Avalov army troops who fought against the independence of the young Latvian Republic.
The palace was restored, but later destroyed again in the flames of World War Two. After the war, the palace was restored and now the Latvia University of Agriculture is located here. Excavations have been done in the palace, during which coins, Dutch pipes, tiles and cast-iron columns have been found. Although the palace was handed over to students, the former owners rest in peace here as well – one of the palace buildings is the Dukes’ sepulcher, where 24 persons from the Ketlers dynasty and six persons from the Biron dynasty are buried.