Where to eat, shop and stay in Riga, Latvia

Jan 16, 2018

With its medieval past, multicultural presence and myriad tourist attractions, compact Latvia is worthy of a closer look.

Latvia’s capital Riga is the largest city in the Baltics – it serves as a gateway to the Baltic Sea and is the logical starting point of any visit. Without a doubt, the heart of Latvian tourism is the historic Old Town, with its charming cobblestone streets and buildings that date back 800 years. Those interested in bone-chilling temperatures and activities such as ice fishing are advised to visit during winter.

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The historic skyline at this UNESCO World Heritage Site is characterised by church spires and examples of modernist Soviet architecture. Beyond Old Town in the city centre, along Alberta Street (above) and adjacent Elizabetes Street in the neighbourhood known as the Quiet Centre, architecture buffs will find some of the most interesting and alluring Art Nouveau buildings in the world. During Riga’s golden age as a trading post in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, wealthy individuals built apartment blocks – many in the decorative Art Nouveau style – with elaborate stylised facades of gods and humans, flora and fauna.

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On the far side of Gauja National Park, not far past Sigulda, the medieval town of Cesis beckons. Apart from nature-related activities such as hiking and mushroom-picking in the forest around the Erglu Cliffs (a sandstone escarpment beside the Gauja River), the main attraction is Cesis Castle, a complex of ruins dating to the 13th century around which the town was originally built.