Riga, the capital city of Latvia, is a hidden gem for many international tourists, which is just dying to be discovered. Home to stunning architecture, one of Europe’s largest markets, zoos and parks, this Baltic city is slowly but surely becoming a famous destination for stag do’s. Although many of the attractions have become bustling tourist hotspots, there are still plenty of detours to take and exciting areas to explore. Riga is on its road to becoming a popular tourist hotspot, so if you are still in doubt, here are five amazing reasons why you should definitely include this city on your tourist map.
Riga is home to the finest Art Nouveau buildings in the world. The 800 houses designed by Latvian architects are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These buildings reflect various architectural styles such as modernism, baroque and gothic. Take a walk to Antonijas, Elzabetes and Alberta streets for the best architectural treasures. Climb the St Peters Cathedral for an amazing view of Riga’s skyline. Don’t forget to visit the Riga Art Nouveau museum located on Alberta 12 street for breathtaking exhibits. Afterward, you can stroll down to Dome Square for a coffee break at one the luxurious pavement cafes.
Riga Central Market is Europe’s Largest Market
This market occupies former Zeppelin hangars and hosts over 3000 vendors. These hangars were converted into market halls back in 1930. They have retained the old way of arranging the foods. The stalls are organized neatly, selling quality fish, dairy products, meat, and vegetables at your leisure. By the way, some of the old warehouses have been converted to a hip entertainment and arts quarter, too.
This giant market will give you a taste of how the local Latvian life feels like. You will even get the opportunity to sample different Latvian produce before buying. The hand rolled dumplings, local bread, and cheese are definitely worth a try.
Amazing Food Scene
You will find a lot of restaurants serving different sweet Latvian dishes. Some of the food is inspired by Russian and German cooking. It offers plenty of options to choose from for all price ranges. Many restaurants today offer happy hours and discounts, and if you are traveling on shoestring budget, self-service eateries are the best choice for you. Enjoy Russian filled dumplings, pancakes, meat, and other specialties at an affordable price.
These restaurants focus on natural ingredients, contemporary cuisine, and seasonal dishes.
Restaurant Hospital is one of the few hospital-themed restaurants in the world and definitely something you should check out if you get the chance. Why? Because you will be spoon-fed by nurses while being strapped in a straight jacket or you can eat in a gynecologist’s chair or dental cabinet. Neat, huh?
The recent financial crisis has hit Latvia to some extent. Although the government increased the value-added tax, accommodation and food prices are decreasing. Many businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy, especially hotels, which has prompted them to change tactics and business approaches to stay on the market.
A decent meal costs 5 Euros only! A dorm bed costs less than 20 Euro, while a middle-class hotel will cost over 30 Euro per night. Another good thing about Riga is that it can be explored by foot, meaning you can easily avoid extra transportation costs. And let’s not forget to mention the free WiFi. You can find an internet connection almost anywhere in Riga.
Stunning city parks and Museums
Finding a peaceful spot in Riga is not difficult. Bastejkalna is a 19th-century park close to Old Town and is home to flowery banks, winding canals, and lovely water features. Head to the North for the Esplanade Park where Riga orthodox Nativity Cathedral, National, The Latvian Art Academy and The National Museum flanks this grand area. Kronvalda Park, close to the nouveau quarter, occupies the former hunting ground. It features a Chinese pagoda, a dancing fountain, and rollerskating tracks.
The Ethnographic Open Air Museum is the main highlight when it comes to museums. The collection of historical workplaces and dwellings covers 87 hectares. Take a walk in the museum grounds to witness the ancient ways of life and work. Participate in traditional celebrations that date back to the old pagan times. Or just hit the Nouveau museum to examine the different residential interiors from the nation’s past. The Riga Motor museum hosts a collection of rare vehicles and visitors can see historical Soviet and Latvian cars as well as exclusive Mercedes and Rolls Royce models. WWII equipment and Kremlin cars are also on display at your convenience.