However, there are things you should try when in Latvia. First and foremost, you should pamper you taste buds.
Latvia is famous for its lampreys, sweet-and-sour bread, caraway cheese and beer –the beer made in Latvia is especially varying in its taste – no two brands are alike. Of course, one should not forget about the alcoholic drink produced for hundreds of years only in Latvia and according to a special and remedial recipe – the aromatic and strong Riga Black Balsam. And of course the cottage cheese dessert "Kārums", Emihls Gustavs chocolate, Laima sweets and Riga smoked sprats on black bread, which is made without yeast and is the symbol of Latvia all over the world. Taste all that and you will experience unforgettable feelings!
However, if you are lucky to visit Latvia during the annual festivities and open-air fairs, then use the opportunity to taste homemade beer, cheese, bacon rolls baked in old ovens and meat smoked according to ancestral methods. Such a variety of biological products can be hardly met anywhere else in Europe; moreover, they are not commercially manufactured.
Amber and Silver Jewellery
Of course, you should also think about the souvenirs. Traditional souvenirs are both hand-made crafts – silver and amber jewellery, linen and earthenware, knitted woollen socks and mittens – and also other manufacturing goods Latvia is famous for.
The traditional adornments of the ancient inhabitants of Latvia – the Balts and Fenno-Ugrians – impersonate both the elegance experienced through the years and the story behind it. The archaeological excavations testify to the craftsmanship of the ancient jewellers and have not been forgotten in modern times. The Namejs ring is considered a symbol of the Latvian people and bravery, though it is not the only type of ring. There are also other, even more interesting, rings for both men and women. Metal forged bracelets are also very elegant. You can get more information on the traditional jewellery of Latvia here and here.
Lielvārdes Josta (Lielvārde Belt)
The Lielvārde belt is especially unique – an element of the national folk costume which, according to researchers, contains information about the genesis of the cosmos and the Latvians. In one Lielvārde belt, there are up to 22 symbols (ornaments): God’s symbol, Mara symbol, Laima’s symbols, the Well symbol, the Sun symbol, the Fortune cross, Jumis, the Life symbol, the Cross of Crosses and others. The belt woven from the red and white worsteds creates the basis for the modern myth about the very ancient origins of the belts and about their special cosmic code.
The traditional, hand-knit woollen mittens and embroidered socks will not only keep your hands and feet warm – they also tell a centuries-old story with the help of symbols. The ancient tradition of knitting and wearing embroidered gloves is also one of the characteristics of the modern Latvian identity. Favourite souvenirs include national-symbol adorned woven blankets, laced and treated leather works, wooden household goods, amber jewellery and linen works. All of these can be viewed, tried on and even made yourself at any craftsmen fairs, such as those at the Open-air Museum.
If you travel to Latgale and visit potters, earthenware becomes a piece of art full of good energy. Earthen pots, vases, whistles and candlesticks – it's better to buy these items from the craftsmen themselves.
Hand-made soap from Stenders’ Soap Factory is sold by weight and makes for a small scented surprise, but women will be delighted by the high-value and ecological body care products of Madara Cosmetics.
Coins for Numismatists
Latvia is also famous for its special anniversary and commemorative coins, which are money in form, but are in fact pieces of art. Latvian coins have been valued both by local and foreign numismatists because of their high quality, and the majority of the coins have received the grand prix in leading numismatic exhibitions around the world. The coins are sold at the Customer cash desk of the Bank of Latvia and in the branches of the Bank of Latvia. For more detailed information on the coins, please go here.
These are classic Latvian souvenirs, but you should know that Latvia is a multi-cultural country and one can also find souvenirs typical for other nations. Don't be surprised if next to the amber works you will also be offered Matryoshkas (Russian dolls), while in addition to linen blankets one can also purchase the deer-stalker hats typical of the Soviet army. However, the most valuable thing you can take back from Latvia will be the brilliant experience from a green and relaxed vacation!