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Weekend in Riga
Riga is one of the largest cities on the shores of the Baltic Sea. It stands not only at a geographical, but also cultural, cross-roads. Visitors from the east and the west alike can find suitable recreation, entertainment and impressions here. It’s no wonder that Riga has been declared the European Culture Capital of 2014.
Riga is a very close destination from any European city. It can be easily reached both from the U.K. and Scandinavia, Russia and Germany.
The heart of Riga - its Old Town!
Of course, the Old Town of Riga, its heart, is its pearl! It is the part of the city that is most cherished and protected by the inhabitants of Riga. The city, growing through centuries, has become architecturally rich and diverse.
Riga is characterised by one of the largest complexes of Art Nouveau buildings concentrated in one location in the world, as well as testimonies to the architectural development of Riga from its origins in 1201 to the present. Because of this Riga has been included in the UNESCO list of cultural heritage. While wandering in the Old Town or in the blocks of Art Nouveau architecture, you will find numerous restaurants and cafés. Riga is a stronghold of a mix of regional cultures, so, naturally, restaurants of various nationalities and styles are found here which will bring pleasure to the most sophisticated gourmets. Excellent and friendly bartenders work in the bars in Riga, and at restaurants one can enjoy wine and liquors recommended by professional sommeliers. Museums, exhibition halls, souvenir and art shops, and cafés with the delicious smell of freshly baked pastries are abundant. And, one must say, they offer an excellent price-quality ratio.
Extensive cultural life
Riga, being a European metropolis, offers a rich cultural life. Almost every weekend various festivities, concerts and festivals are held in Riga or in the nearby resort town Jūrmala (the most popular: light festival "Light up Rīga", "Museum Night”, The Opera and Ballet Festival, decorating of the 500 year old Christmas Tree, Riga City Festival, "Go Blonde", Līgo Festivities, "The New Wave " etc.). Music connoisseurs will be enraptured by the Latvian National Opera which organises an opera music festival in summer. One can listen to sacral music in churches. The concerts of organ music at the Riga Dome Cathedral deserve special mentioning – one of the largest and oldest organs of the world is found in the cathedral, capable of stirring very poignant emotions. You will also find night clubs in the Old Town of Riga , offering the possibility to spend time in the company of various styles of music and entertainment.
Sites to visit
The magnificent churches of various denominations in Riga, the unique hangars of the Riga Central market and the cultural centre Spīķeri are worth visiting. Pārdaugava is an interesting site for walks; its wooden architecture will lead you into hundred year old history and a small town atmosphere. A defence fort, seldom found today, is found in Bolderāja, it used to protect Riga against attacks coming from the sea. Riga also has splendid and unique water towers.
After walking, you will feel refreshed resting in the parks located in the centre of Riga, however, if you wish, a 20 minute tram ride will take you to Mežaparks which is not only a popular site of recreation for the inhabitants of Riga, but also the home of the Riga Zoo, with an outstanding collection of animals. Also, at the Latvian Ethnographic Open-air Museum a nice walk on the shores of the Jugla Lake can be combined with a visit to old Latvian farms and learning ancient crafts.
Don’t forget that Riga is a city on the water – the sea is on one side (the sandy beaches of Jūrmala are quite close to Riga), several lakes on the other side, and the Daugava River flows through the middle of it. And it is worth taking advantage of the water – taking a cruise on a wooden ship along the Daugava and the Riga Canal! Riga offers a wide range of accommodation from hostels popular among young people and camping sites (some are very close to the city centre), to designer hotels with the highest quality SPA centres where the day “vanishes”, wrapped in exquisite aromas and touched by the hands of professional masseurs and beauticians.
It should be kept in mind that Riga, by presenting itself as “the Capital of the North” has ambitions of a European city, and that applies also to expenses. However, compared to tourism metropolises, the capital of Latvia offers high quality services for a good price. Moreover, everybody working in the tourist and service sector speaks foreign languages – English, Russian and also German. All the information useful for tourists is also available in these languages.
Of course, while in Latvia you should not limit yourself only to visiting Riga and its centre. If time permits, day trips outside Riga are possible – to Sigulda, Cēsis, Kuldīga, Rundāle, Jūrmala, or one of the nature parks in the area. You won’t regret it! But it is better ask for information about these trips at Tourist Information Centres. Information about Riga City transport is found here, and here you can information about current events in Riga.