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Visiting Riga, the Heart of Latvia

They call it the Paris of the Baltics, and for good reason. This Latvian city is a cultural hotspot, full of incredible restaurants, galleries, shopping, and inspiring architecture. Check out our guide to visiting Riga and get ready to fall in love.

It’s Still (Relatively) Undiscovered
While tourists are wising up to the fact that Riga is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, the crowds are nothing compared to say, London, Paris, or Berlin. When you visit Riga, you don’t have to surrender to uncomfortably crowded hotspots or unbearably long line ups. Restaurants typically don’t require reservations months ahead and you won’t have to worry about missing out on your must-see spots.

The Architecture is Amazing
More than 800 Art Nouveau buildings come together to form Europe’s largest collection, an accomplishment recognized by UNESCO World Heritage. You’ll find yourself awestruck by the beautiful lines, adornments, and everything else that comprise these incredible structures. Should you decide that you’d like to know more about Art Nouveau, don’t miss out on the Riga Art Nouveau museum.

It’s Easy to Live Like a Local
No trip to Latvia should go without a trip to the Riga Central Market. Far from being a tourist trap, this is the spot to pick up local foodstuffs (Latvian butter is like no other), household goods, and a myriad of other odds and ends. What you won’t find are touristy tchotchkes or inflated prices. Be forewarned—this isn’t the type of market where you are expected to bargain down prices.

There is Plenty to Do
Old town Riga is where the action is and chances are, you’ll find yourself spending a lot of your time taking it all in. Bars, pubs, restaurants, and museums all set within fairytale surroundings offer plenty of ways to keep busy. Narrow streets lead to hidden squares that pull double duty as markets, concert spaces, and general gathering areas. At night, you’ll find yourself wishing you never had to leave… it’s that beautiful.

Riga is Green
Not just winding roads and impressive buildings, Riga also boasts plenty of green spaces that are perfect for impromptu picnics, burning off excess steam (we’re looking at you, toddlers), or just soaking it all in. Stately trees, impeccably manicured gardens, and burbling fountains make these areas the perfect urban retreats. Planning on visiting in the winter? You’ll still find that there’s plenty to do, such as perfecting your snowball skills or attempting to replicate one of those gorgeous Art Nouveau buildings out of snow.

The Food is Great
Don’t expect molecular gastronomy or restaurants rivaling Taillevent. That’s not what Riga is about. What they do best is hearty comfort food that will stick to your ribs and keep you warm on the coldest of Latvian winter days. Fresh fish, caraway cheese, hearty soups, and flavorful breads are all irresistible and easily found in restaurants scattered throughout the city. No matter what you do, don’t leave Riga without trying Piragi, bacon stuffed buns that will leave you weak in the knees.

images ©istockphoto

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