Riga is the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltics (the collective name for the 3 countries Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) with a population of 700,000 in the city alone. It is arguably the most popular of the Baltic States for tourism, with a beautiful historic old town, a wealth of cultural attractions, and a thriving restaurant and bar scene right across the city. Read on for a selection of areas and tourist hot spots not to miss during your stay in this enchanting city.
Riga Old Town
The vast majority of Riga’s major tourist attractions are within the old town, therefore this is almost certainly where you will spend the majority of your holiday. The old town is a beautiful area of large squares and narrow streets, all cobbled and flanked with excellent buildings of varying architectural heritage. At the heart of the old town is the extremely large and impressive Riga Dome Cathedral, the structure which the city originally grew out from. This sits right on one of the main squares which contains a variety of cafes and bars offering views of the Cathedral. Nearby you can find one of the more interesting museums, the “Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation” which houses a great number of books, artworks and relics pertaining to Riga’s expansion as a city. Also worth seeing in the old town are The House of the Blackheads, the Latvian War Museum and Saint Peter’s Church however the simple pleasure of walking the streets of this ancient part of the city is an experience in and of itself.
Latvian Academy of Science
This building, constructed in the early 1950s, may not seem like the most obvious of tourist attractions, but once you reach the top you’ll understand why it is so popular. Offering a complete 360 degree panoramic view around the city looking out over the old town, river and all the way to Riga TV Tower in the distance it really is breathtaking. The building itself is of interest too, being the first skyscraper ever built in Latvia – at its time it was one of the tallest reinforced concrete buildings in the world at 108m in height.
Soviet War Memorial
Slightly outside the old town (but still within comfortable walking distance) lies the impressive Soviet War Memorial. Constructed in 1985, it was built to commemorate the Soviet Army’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. An vast monument, it stands at 79m tall and is a single grey concrete obelisk with two groups of large sculptures on either side.
Riga Radio & TV Tower
The tallest structure in the whole of the European Union at 368m, the Riga Radio & TV Tower can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The reason this is a real tourist attraction, like the Academy of Sciences, is thanks to the viewing platform at 97m from which you can see for miles around. The tower is built on a small island in the middle of the River Daugava which runs through the city.
All in all, Riga is a varied, attractive city with a huge amount of things to do. It has a thriving luxury market, with a number of excellent 5 star hotels, but can equally be enjoyed on a budget, as day to day costs are low.
Kristi Rorison is Director of Outgoing Business at IntoRussia.
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