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Riga and Latvia are exciting destinations for LGBT travellers . Within a day, you can visit a world class art museum, snap up some local designer goods, try fine dining Latvian style, attend an opera and finish the night at a chilled out city centre nightclub.
During the day
Latvia’s galleries host a number of exhibitions every year that revolve around themes from traditional jewellery to contemporary grafiti art. Although most galleries are concentrated in Riga, throughout the year Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre welcomes visitors with a keen eye for world class art, and in July, Cesis Art Festival makes for a great reason for art lovers to venture outside Riga.
All throughout Latvia, fine examples of the country’s architectural heritage have opened their doors to visitors.
Many former manor houses now operate as spa hotels and house fine dining restaurants, and palaces and castles like Rundale Palace and Ventspils Castle function as museums.
For those with a passion for shopping, Riga provides a great selection of boutiques and shopping centres where you can snap up both international brand goods and local designer items like clothing, wooden and leather accessories, eco cosmetics, handmade earthenware and linen soft furnishings. Outside the city it’s always a pleasure to discover the best of Latvian produce at town fairs and markets.
In the evening
After a day of exploring, a nice meal always goes down well. Fortunately for gourmets, Latvia has an excellent and constantly changing restaurant scene offering both hearty traditional fare and the most creative of contemporary cuisine.
All restaurants are welcoming but a couple in Riga are particularly well known among the LGBT community. Nestled in the serene surroundings of Bergs Bazaar is Garage wine and tapas bar with wide windows and a summer terrace making it the ideal spot for lapping up the sunshine in summer and watching the world go by in chilly winters. On one of Riga’s central streets is Osiriss, an establishment with a long history as being a popular choice for leisurely meals in a pleasant setting a mere 10-minute-walk from Riga’s Old Town.
After dinner, an excellent way to continue the evening is attending an opera performance or a classical music concert – both regular features in Latvia’s cultural calendar. The world renowned Latvian National Opera adds new performances to its programme every year, as do concert halls like the Great Guild and Spikeri Concert Hall. Look out for big local names like Maija Kovalevska, Inese Galante and Gidon Kremer!
For a nightcap and a dance, visitors can rely on the welcoming Golden, a central bar and club that deems itself heterosexual friendly. Also in the city centre is XXL, one of the oldest gay clubs in the Baltics. The dance floor and bar pay host to DJ nights, shows and beauty contests.
For more LGBT-friendly tips and advice for tourists, Mozaīka – the local LGBT alliance - welcomes everyone at its offices in central Riga. In case of serious discrimination or discriminatory violence, you can also turn to your country’s embassy or consulate.
Good news: in 2015, Riga will host the annual EuroPride! The jam-packed programme promises a good time.