Riga Latvia

City Guide: Riga, Latvia

Located in northeastern Europe and on the shores of the Baltic Sea, Riga is the capital city of Latvia and the largest metropolis in the Baltics, with roughly 600,000 inhabitants. And yet, it’s also a city with a human scale that can be easily discovered on foot.

Two to three days are enough to get a feel for its vibrant corners and get a good look at its must-see hotspots. Even better is to visit during summer when you can enjoy 20 hours of daylight and book a guided tour, in English, to help  make the most of your stay in charming Riga.

From Gothic cathedrals to world-class Art Nouveau architecture, from a UNESCO-listed Old Town to Europe’s largest covered market, Riga is full of surprises big and small and is much more than just a city crush, it’s a true love affair.

Here are our suggestions for a city break to make you swoon.

Riga Latvia

The colourful buildings of Old Town are full of cafes, restaurants and shops

UNESCO-listed Old Town

Until WW II, Riga was one of Europe’s most important port cities. It has been a wealthy town since its foundation in 1201 and its amazing old district remains living proof of this golden age. Here, Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architectural jewels make it a real pleasure to stroll through the small cobbled streets and admire the colourful facades that harbour lively shops and café terraces.

Start your visit on Ratslaukums Square, the Old Town Hall Square and pick up map at the Tourism Office located in the House of the Blackheads. The original building was built for a German merchant guild in the 14th century but destroyed during WW II. It was beautifully rebuilt in the early 2000s and is now a history museum. Every May, the area comes alive with costumes and color at the popular Count of May Festival.

Close by is one of the loveliest squares in Riga, Livu Square, a popular summertime meet up spot thanks to plentiful outdoor cafes and beer gardens. This is where you will get to St Peter’s, the city’s tallest church, where regular concerts are held. Don’t miss a visit to its bell tower for a 360° view across the city and the Dagauva River.

Best of all —there are no cars allowed in the centre of the old Riga, making it a wonderful place to wander at your leisure.

 

Riga Latvia

Riga has highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the world 

Art Nouveau in Riga

If you like Prague you’re gonna love Riga! This is the city with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the world and one of the few European cities where Art Nouveau architecture, art and design objects have survived in such great numbers.

It’s estimated there are more than 750 Art Nouveau buildings. If you have little time, stroll down  Alberta Street, an eye-catching stretch showcasing Riga’s Art Nouveau prowess. A large number of these houses were built by Mikhail Eisenstein, father of the famous Russian film maker Sergei Einsentstein.

Another famous architect of the time was Latvian Konstantins Peksens who built over 250 buildings in Riga. One of them is now a museum where you can visit a vast apartment decorated and furnished in Art Deco style. Simply extraordinary!

 

Riga Latvia

The massive Riga Central Market welcomes between 40,000 to 100,000 visitors per day (photo by Nenea hartia – CC BY-SA 4.0)

Riga Central Market

Riga Central Market is truly one of a kind, and is located in five huge hangars built during WWI to shelter Zeppelin airships. It’s also Europe’s largest covered market. Inside you’ll find more than 3,000 sellers and purveyors offering a wide choice of fresh local products. Each building is dedicated to a certain type of food: meat, fish, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, cheese, breads, cakes. Try some Sauerkraut, a Latvian staple, and pelmeni dumplings, a cross between Polish pierogi and Italian. tortellini

As Latvians are nature lovers and most products are organic or wild, this is the market is a perfect place pack up you picnic basket for a great lunch in one of Riga’s many beautiful parks, such as Bastion Hill in Central Riga.

 

Riga Latvia

A 1-hour boat tour around Old Town makes for a relaxing way to see the city (Photo by Captain Raju – CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

Riga Canal Boat Tour

The ancient fortifications between Old Town and the new town were destroyed and replaced by vast green spaces, while the old moat was transformed into a canal leading to the Daugava River. Several companies offer rides in charming, perfectly maintained old boats that hold around a dozen passengers.

During the one-hour sightseeing tour you will see several iconic spots of Riga from a different angle and at a slow pace.  These small boats take off from the pier at Bastion Hill Park, which is also close to the Freedom Monument.

You will sail the northern part of the canal, before going up the Daugava River, and then enter the Southern section to the canal, for a complete circle tour of the old city.

Where to stay?

Grand Palace Hotel Riga,  luxury 5-star boutique hotel and member of Leading Hotels of the World , with 56 rooms and suites.

Located in the heart of Riga’s Old Town, the hotel also offers  24-hour room service, complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi internet and air-conditioning.

Getting to Riga

AirBaltic offers two direct flights a day from London Gatwick to Riga.  A dozen of other UK airports are linked to Riga, directly or with one stop.

 

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Be Seeing You In: Riga, Latvia

Good to Know: Latvia is member of EU, and the money is Euro

WOW! Factor: Riga is like Janus with two fabulous faces: the Old Riga and the Art Deco district

Tip: Try the amber beer. The amber that is found on the beaches of Baltic Sea is a typical Latvian gift to offer to your loved one

 

Author bio: Annick Dournes Photographer bio: Frederic de Poligny

Find more travel inspiration at BeSeeingYou

Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Annick Dournes and Frederic de Poligny are two French tourism journalists who travel the world for many years. They will share with you their very favorite experiences of worldwide travels. Those about France, their native country, will be found on a regular basis in their chronicle “Meanderings through France”.

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