Central and eastern European cities have been enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years, and none more so than Latvia’s capital, Riga.
If you are in search of stunning heritage architecture and pumping nightlife, this is the ideal city to lose yourself for a weekend of fun and exploration. Riga is large enough to keep you occupied yet small enough that you can cover the key sites in a day or two of gentle sightseeing.
Choose a hotel in or close to the historic old town to make the most of all that Riga has to offer. This is a city to be explored on foot, a place to wander through the narrow medieval streets, through spacious city parks and past exotic Art Nouveau architecture.
Start your explorations in the medieval centre on the eastern banks of the River Daugava. This area is bursting with turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau architecture in typical Germanic style, where curving organic shapes and strong lines intertwine to create a unique style. The central market is the perfect place to wander amongst the many stalls selling low-cost clothing, cigarettes, household goods and colourful locally grown produce. Pick up some delicious fresh fruit, a good selection of local meats and cheeses, some fat, juicy olives and a loaf of freshly baked bread and head to the spacious park area to relax and enjoy a sumptuous lunch feast in the shade.
Russian influences meet central Europe in Riga and combine to create unique touches in the city’s food as well as in its architecture and language. The local food is big on flavour and as Riga’s popularity grows so too do the number of international restaurants offering dishes from all corners of the globe.
Riga is very much a city of two halves. Half the population speaks Russian while the other half speaks Latvian. Half the city sits on the right bank of the River Daugava and the other half sits on the left. And half the fun of exploring Riga is marvelling at its beautiful period architecture while the other half is discovering its fun-packed nightlife.
Head to the old town on a Saturday night to sample some of the most lively and varied nightlife in Europe. The cobbled streets are packed full of bars and clubs and whether you are in search of a quiet beer in a traditional pub or a late-night dance to the latest club sounds, you will not be disappointed.
If time permits after you have slept off the excess of the night before, there are several museums and monuments that merit a visit while you are here. Don’t miss the Freedom Monument, the treasured national symbol that marks Latvia’s first period of independence and survived the entire Soviet occupation intact. From here, take your pick between a visit to the rather sombre but enlightening Museum of the Occupation Latvia or a gentle boat trip down the Daugava River for another perspective on this delightful city before you head home to rest.