Latvia is a small country sandwiched between Estonia and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea and it’s joining its neighbors in becoming a very popular destination for travelers looking for the next big thing. It shares much of the culture and wonderful architecture of other Northern European countries, but the costs to the visitor are still far below those of nearby Scandinavia. Having been part of the Soviet Union, Latvia also has many East vs. West influences that set it apart from those more expensive countries.
What To Do
The coastal capital city of Riga is the entry point for most travelers and it doesn’t disappoint. The historic town center is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site itself so plan on spending some time just wandering the old cobblestone streets. Riga’s Central Market dates back to around 1200 and contains just about anything you can think of with around 1250 sellers. And St. Peter’s Church is the most popular gothic structure in the city center and is well worth a visit.
The town of Sigulda is a very worthwhile destination if you’ve got time to get out of Riga. It sits on the edge of the forested Gauja Valley, which is home to a group of medieval castles and ancient caves. This area is known as the Switzerland of Latvia for not only the topography, but the fact that it’s a popular winter sports and resort destination for locals.
Latvia is easy to reach by train so it’s a good stop of Eurail Pass holders, but if you aren’t coming from an adjacent country you’ll want to fly into Riga International Airport. It’s served by most major airlines so competition keeps prices reasonable most times. You can get from the airport into the city center on an inexpensive local bus.
Where To Stay
There are several hostels in Riga and quite a few hotels in Riga as well. The city center is compact and amazing while the outer areas are rather stark so it might be worthwhile to pay a bit more for a charming place near the center so you can enjoy the ambiance around the clock. There are accommodations in Sigulda of course, as well as reasonably priced places in many other Latvian cities of note.