Riga, the Latvian capital and largest city in the country, is also home to one third of Latvia's population. The city functions as an important seaport and a major financial centre for the whole of the Baltic Sea region. But this diverse city is also well known as a cultural hub, having drawn influences from Latvian, German, Russian, Swedish and Jewish cultures amongst others.
There are many ways to get in and around Riga as the public transport involves an extensive network of trams, buses and trolleybuses. As an alternative minibus services to the city are also provided by many private companies or consider hiring a car when you arrive for a cheap and effective way of getting around the city.
It is possible to get to Riga by ferry, by rail and via the Riga International Coach Terminal, which provides both domestic and international connections. To get to Riga International Airport takes just under three hours from most airports in the UK.
Take your pick from three main options when it comes to choosing your accommodation in Riga: hotels, hostels and apartment rental. You'll find that most of the hotels in Riga are comparatively new, a sign that Riga has only recently emerged as a tourist hotspot.
Most of the places to stay in Riga are located in the city centre, within walking distance of the city's restaurants and attractions. Hostels are ideal for students and backpackers, and prices start from £8 per person for space in a dorm room. Apartment rental can be an option for both short or long term stays, if you want to have more freedom - and your own kitchen!
First time visitors to Riga must check out the Central Market. This instantly recognisable structure was constructed using old German Zeplin hangers during the 1920s. It has been recognised with a place on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, and inside you'll find more than 3,000 stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, clothing and accessories.
If you want to find out more about Riga and Latvia's history during the Nazi and Soviet eras visit the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. The House of Blackheads is another popular Riga attraction. The ornate building is a replica of the original which served as the base of the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a German merchant guild. Today the upper levels house grand ballrooms, sometimes used for exhibitions, whilst the basement is home to a wine cellar.
Make sure you sample some traditional Latvian cuisine whilst you're in Riga, for example duck with caramelised apple or boiled ox tongue. Riga is also a brilliant place to party until the early hours of the morning, with a wide range of bars and clubs offering a variety of music and cocktails.
posted by bcherry
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