Latvia is a small country in northern Europe, adjacent to Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Lithuania. Over the last few centuries it has been ruled by various different countries, which has created a confluence of many cultures in the country - hence within Latvia you can find the cultures of countries as diverse as Russia, Germany and Sweden.
The capital of Latvia is Riga and it contains many tourist attractions, such as 'Old town', freedom monument etc. This city is also famous for its nightlife. It has plenty of options for shopping, dinning and sight seeing. This city has something for everyone - whether you are happy to spend a decent amount of money or are travelling on a tight budget, you will surely find something according to your requirements in the city.
Some of the other big cities of Latvia are Sigulda, Bauska and Daugavpils. These cities also have their own share of tourist destinations and monuments. Although Latvia is not too big and does not have much natural heritage, the rulers of this country over time have given it much to cherish and preserve. So if you do have the opportunity to visit this country just try to visit these sites which depict the true culture and nature of Latvia.
Things to do in Riga
The centre of Riga is now a listed UNESCO world heritage site, above all for the unique range of Art Nouveau architecture which the city contains. Riga offers you plenty of tourist attractions. But there are some things in Riga which you simply can’t miss even if you are short on time.
Riga Central Market: The first thing on our to do list is to visit the central market. You should go there because apart from the shopping this market reflects the ages old tradition and practices of Latvia. It is a great place to explore the Latvian culture and to learn more about the city. This market is divided into pavilions, and the locals here are very helpful and will you guide you about the various aspects of the market.
Swedish Gate: The second place on our list is the Swedish gate. It is the last standing gate of the original city, and was constructed in 1698. At that time Riga was under the Swedish rule, and the gate reflects the combination of Swedish and Gothic architecture.
Cat House, Riga: The next place on our list is the so-called Cat house. The story behind the construction of this house is quite hilarious. It was built by a man who was not given access to the guild and hence he built this house on which he made two cats with their backside to the guild and their tails standing up to add to the insult. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Riga.
St John's church: The next place on our list is St. John’s church. It reflects the history and culture of Latvia and is a sacred place for the people of the city.
The above are the few things which you should never miss out in Riga even if you are short on time. These are my personal favourites and you will surely be disappointed if you miss them.
More Places to visit in Riga: history and culture
As explained above, Riga is around 800 years old and has been ruled by different countries like Germany, Sweden etc from time to time, as a consequence of which it has become a convergence of various cultures which is reflected in its cultural heritage.
Freedom Monument: The first destination on our list is the freedom monument. This is the symbol of the price paid by the citizens of this country to attain their freedom. It was constructed in 1935, and is regarded with highest honour by every citizen of this country.
Riga Cathedral: The second place on our list is the Riga cathedral. The cathedral is a splendid specimen of gothic and Romanesque architecture. Its foundations were laid during the 12th century. The cathedral consists of museums which depict its story during the two world wars and contain some memorials of that period. If you want to explore the history of the city then this is the best place to do that.
Latvian War Museum: The next place on our list will take you way back in the history of the city and will present to you various relics of the past - the Latvian War museum. This museum contains various evidences of the atrocities that were conducted on the people of this country when it was ruled by other rulers. The museum is the source of many controversies within the country.
Some less known destinations in Riga
St Saviour's Church: The first unexplored destination on our list is St. Saviour’s Church. It was constructed in 1857 by the British and is made from red bricks. The church was turned into a disco during the soviet rule. Today this church has developed a great following and is very popular with the tourist and locals alike.
St Peter's church: The second unexplored destination on our list is St. Peters Church. It is a landmark on the skyline of Riga with its spire standing tall and wide. It has been renovated many times during its lifetime. Due to the numerous renovations the interior is wearing off, but nevertheless it is s must visit.
Rita Ghetto: The next place on our list is Rita Ghetto. It an interesting place for you to learn about the Jewish history in Latvia. It also has many memories of the atrocities that were committed by the Germans on the Jews.
Gauja National Park: The next place on our list of unexplored destination is Gauja national park. This is very different to other parks which you will see around Europe. It is very quite and calm and is still unspoiled.
Another great way to find out some of the unexplored destination in Riga is simply to take a walk through the city during which you will come across many places which do not feature in the travel guides but do deserve your attention.
Top restaurants in Riga
Riga is famous for its vibrant nightlife and delicious food, and you will find hundreds of restaurants in Riga claiming to be the best, but not all are of such high quality.
Vincents: The first restaurant on our list is the Vincents. It located outside the old town of Riga. It has become very popular and now has become a celebrity hangout in Riga. It couples exotic food with great ambience.
Dickens: The next restaurant on our list is Dickens. It is one of the best English restaurants in town and is situated in the old town. The atmosphere and food here are of authentic English style. The staff here are also quite helpful. The big attraction at this restaurant is its the wide collection of beers available, which have been picked from the best breweries in the world.
Soho: The next place on our list is a restaurant named Soho. If you love Chinese cuisine then this is the place to be. The main quality of this place is that it has maintained the original Chinese taste and flavor in its food unlike some other Chinese restaurants in the city. The taste of this restaurant is so good that it has also catered to the Chinese president when he visited Riga.
Charleston: If you want to try international cuisine and then the next restaurant on our list is just right for you. It is named as Charleston and its menu is not inclined towards any particular cuisine. This restaurant couples great food with some lively music and great service, which makes it a great experience.
So the next time you are in Riga instead of just going to any restaurant I would advice you to check out one of the above places and can guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed.
Cheap eateries in Riga
Riga offers you many options to dine out and contains many restaurants which serve you quality food. However if you do not want to spend big bucks on dining out but still want to enjoy some good food and quality taste then the hotels discussed in this article are the right choice for you. In this article I will discuss with you some of the hotels in Riga which provide cheap but quality food.
Mazie Balti Krekli: The first restaurant on our list is Mazie Balti Krekli. If you enjoy having some fun while dining then this is the place for you. It serves Latvian cuisine. The food is coupled with some great music. But if you like your dinner in a quiet atmosphere then you should avoid this place. My tip for you would be to order less because the quantity offered by this restaurant is quite generous.
Plameni: The second place on our list is Plameni. This place serves Russian cuisine. This restaurant is quite popular with the club goers as it is open till 4 in the morning. Also if you are in a hurry then I would recommend this place to you because it serves quality food at rock bottom prices in very little time.
Staburags: The third restaurant on our list is Staburags. This restaurant offers authentic Latvian cuisine with some great drinking options. Here you can find locals and tourists alike.
Rozengrals: The next place on our list is Rozengrals. It is a tad more expensive then the other options but overall it is quite reasonable. It located in the heart of the city in the old town. The food here is great and the staff is also very friendly. If you are new to Latvia and want to experiment some Latvian cuisine then this is the place for you.
There are many options in Riga as far as dining goes but quite few of them are less than satisfactory. Instead of going to any unworthy restaurant just head over to one of these which offer great food at reasonable prices.
Shopping in Riga
Riga is a city in which you can get everything for cheap. The prices in the markets here are reasonable and if you have a lady with you, you can easily give her a shopping treat. In this article I will discuss with you the 3 most famous markets of Riga.
The first market on our list is the central market of Riga. It was constructed in 1930.It is divided into pavilions which sell different things. In this market you will mostly find day to day things and it mostly caters to the locals. It sells things like meat, fish etc. One of the unique things about this market is that it contains five hangars which are used as marketplaces. The timing of different pavilions is different.
The second market on our list is Latgales market. This market has a reputation for selling stolen and counterfeit things and despite the lower prices charged you are probably best advised avoiding this market. (Note: the original article as submitted to us by a Latvian stated 'this market sells stolen things and the sellers here are thieves and crooks. You will mostly find here the things which are stolen from locals as well as tourists.' I thought I'd word it more diplomatically.)
The last market on our list is Vidzeme market. If you love food then this is the place for you. It mostly sells food items and you can find a wide variety of foodstuffs here.
Another street where you can find quality stuff is the Audeju Street. It is the oldest shopping street in Riga. This street is lined with various brand stores. If you are planning to shop here then be prepared to lighten up your wallet by considerable sum of money.
So the next time you are in Riga enjoy some shopping too along with the nightlife. The above options are the best options for shopping in Riga.
Where to stay in Riga
There are lots of options for hotels in Riga. The below are a few personal recommendations:
The first hotel on our list is Hotel Centra. This hotel offers you the modern luxuries in a traditional atmosphere. The furniture of the hotel is of traditional style but when it is blended with the modern amenities that this hotel offers, it offers a memorable experience. The hotel is ideally located at the center of the old town.
The next hotel on our list is Albert hotel. This hotel has a modern look and offers the most modern amenities. It consists of 246 rooms with free internet access as well as free parking. It is located near the most famous street of Riga which is Albert lela.
The third place on our list is Grand Palace hotel. This is one of the most famous and luxurious hotel in the country. If you are visiting Riga for sight seeing then this is the best option for you since it is closely located to many of the tourist attractions like dome square, Riga palace etc. It is also closely located to the shopping and business districts of Riga.
If you are on a tight budget and do not want to spend much on accommodation then the next hotel is just right for you. The budget hotel which we are talking about is The Monte Kristo Hotel. It is located close to some of the attractions like St. Peters church and the rates start from around 50$.
Riga has all you would expect from a modern vibrant city - plenty of attractions and places of interest; the markets and regions of the city where you can see the traditions of the city; and places to eat and sleep to meet all budgets. Don't miss out - come and visit Riga soon!