Riga is a fascinating city and has plenty to offer the city break traveller. It stands not only at a geographical but also at a cultural crossroads between eastern and western Europe. The city’s history can be traced in its architecture right through from its beginnings in 1201 to the present day. In 1282 it became a member of the Hanseatic League and remained an active member until its disintegration some 300 years later.
A good place to start any exploration of the city is in Old Riga, the historical and geographical centre of Riga on the right bank of the Daugava. Old Riga covers a relatively small inner area of the 13th-18th century fortifications. Here are concentrated medieval monuments which have survived the two world wars. The Cathedral which dates back to the 13th century is a “must” and also the Gothic style St. Peter’s Church, the beautiful Synagogue of Old Riga, the yard of the Convent of the Holy Spirit, the Dannenstern House, the complex of old stone houses known as “The Three Brethren”,Riga Castle, and many other interesting buildings.
Riga is particularly remarkable for its Art Nouveau buildings – 40 percent of the buildings in the centre of Riga are in the style of Art Noveau, hence Riga is justly considered the capital of Art Noveau architecture. There are about 800 Art Noveau buildings in Riga, most of which are concentrated right in the centre, especially in Alberta Street and the so called Quiet Centre or embassy district. When walking around in Riga you have to make sure to look up at the surprising architecture!
Also in the very heart of Riga, a few dozen steps away from the OldTown, is Riga Central Market, one of the largest markets in Eastern Europe. Here you can find a huge range of products including many Latvian specialities – fresh and smoked fish, various meat products, fresh and marinated vegetables, fruit, berries, milk and cheese, country bread and honey. You can also buy products made by the local craftsmen here – hand-made knitted socks, scarves, caps and other souvenirs. Moreover, you can haggle for the best price!
Riga is at a cuisine crossroads in Europe, demonstrated by its wide range of restaurants. Here you can find the best of contemporary Latvian cuisine, excellent seafood restaurants as well as Armenian, Georgian and Uzbek restaurants. Slavic food, including blini with sour cream, red caviar and a shot of ice-cold vodka and stuffed sturgeon or pike, is on the menu of many restaurants. Prices are generally very reasonable for travellers from the UK.