Riga is the capital and largest city in Latvia, and it’s also the largest city in the entire Baltic State region. Even still, it only has about 800,000 residents so it’s not overwhelming at all. This city on the coast of the Baltic has a charming and historic town center, but also some notable modern architecture further out. The citizens speak Latvian and most speak Russian as well, but English is common enough among people travelers will be encountering.
What To Do
The Old Town in Riga has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and time should be set aside just to wander through the area. Take note of the Three Brothers, which are the oldest houses in the city. St. Peter’s Church is the most famous thing on the Riga skyline. Originally built in the 17th Century, this Gothic cathedral today has an elevator to the top for great views of the whole city.
The Central Market is also an attraction unto itself. With over 1200 vendors this is a place where you can get nearly anything you can imagine, including local food specialties. The Occupation Museum is where there used to be displays dedicated to Soviet heroes, but now the museum documents Latvia’s troubled history including the Soviet years.
Riga is centrally located in the Baltics so it’s a popular stop on the trains and particularly for Eurail Pass holders. But if you are coming from further away you’ll want to book a flight into Riga International Airport. It’s a major airport and is served by cities all over the region as well as New York City and Tel Aviv. A local bus can cheaply take you from the airport into the city center and back again.
Where To Stay
Riga is not a huge city, but still the center of town is probably worth paying a bit more for instead of saving a bit with a far out location. There are several hostels in Riga as well as the usual variety of hotels in Riga as well. Being as far north as it is, summer is obviously the peak season so during these months it really pays to plan ahead as many of the better places can book up well in advance.