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Experience winter in Latvia like a local
Typical winter temperatures in Latvia don’t require residents to huddle under their duvets and stay at home all day. In fact, really cold weekends can be one of the most popular times to hit the beach!
There are plenty of ways to keep yourself busy and entertained, even in the coldest months of the year in Latvia.
Swap your heavy winter boots for a pair of glittering heals at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet where world-renowned stars like Elina Garanca and Marina Rebeka began their careers.
Each year, an average of six new productions are staged, and a total of over 200 performances are held in the opera house which has been in operation since 1919.
Go early before the performance and enjoy a glass of bubbly at the inhouse bar – a great spot for people watching.
What we eat can certainly affect our health and wellbeing, and keep the cold away. Stay warm by eating hearty Latvian meals like pelēkie zirņi ar speķi (grey peas with bacon), putraimdesa (black pudding), bukstiņputra (potato-barley stew) and kartupeļi ar siļķi un biezpienu (potatoes with herring and cottage cheese).
Winter menus at contemporary Latvian restaurants might feature the turnip, rye bread and rowan as key ingredients. Rowan is an excellent source of vitamin C, and rye bread is high in B vitamins.
#3 Museums and galleries – an intriguing world
Museums range from the classic Latvian National Museum of Art to the weird and wonderful Pauls Stradins Museum of the History of Medicine. Riga alone has museums dedicated to chocolate, cars, fashion and firefighting while areas outside the capital boast a Moonshine Museum, Bread Museum and Milk Museum. Basically, we quite like a good museum in Latvia.
In terms of galleries, popular names include kim? Contemporary Art Centre, Riga Art Space and Arsenāls.
An interesting alternative to museums and galleries is the annual student and graduate art fair, NewMark, at the Art Academy of Latvia in December.
Lie back, relax and test your limits at a Latvian bathhouse where professional sauna masters are trained to provide a cleansing ritual like no other. The ritual is designed to cleanse both physically and mentally. It involves tea, temperature changes, natural scrubs and massages.
A real sauna experience can take up to three or four hours. It’s a blissful experience for couples, families or close groups of friends.
No Christmas market would be complete without kiosks serving steamy mugs of aromatic mulled wine but have you ever tried hot blackcurrant juice with a dash of Riga Black Balsam? The popular Latvian spirit is claimed to have healing properties. As a cocktail, the juice and balsam is a warming, sweet and sticky seasonal hit.
Enjoy an evening at Riga’s Christmas markets with a mug of juice and balsam and other gourmet delights, like wild boar sausages and homemade gingerbread.
Looking to pick up some special Christmas gifts this year? Contemporary Latvian design makes use of sustainable materials like linen, wood and leather.
Wooden bow ties, leather earrings, linen towls, birch sap cosmetics, amber soap and handmade pottery are just some items that you can find at Latvian design shops and gift markets. Drop by stores like Riija, Baltic Space, Pienene and BOLD Concept Store.
3, 2, 1, go! Whoosh… Zip down the only bobsleigh track in the Baltics at speeds of up to 80 km/h. In winter, rides are done by "vučko" or the so-called soft bob. Once you’ve caught your breath, drop by the viewing platform and admire the views over the ancient Gauja River Valley. Rides are available at weekends.
Got a fur coat and a pedigree pooch? Jūrmala is the place to be seen in winter when the beach becomes quite the catwalk on cold, sunny days, particularly when the sea freezes over.