This time, the guide is about biggest city of Baltics and Latvia’s’ beautiful capital, Rīga!
Mixing medieval remains with Art-Nouveau makes it a unique destination for a city break, since there is not a similar city on earth. The city is indeed pretty big, with more than 1 million citizens but covering a wide extension, since is near the sea.
Although Riga was away from the mainstream tourism during great parts of XX century, due to Soviet occupation, now it is recovering its fame as the Baltic Pearl (or the Prague in the North as some travellers call it).
Obviously, the most touristic part is the Old Town, where the medieval setting of the city (ancient churches, castles, narrow streets) mixes with the Hansa League style (big waterfronts on the river) and the more modern Art-Nouveau.
About the Old Town there is little to say, since most tourist guides will cover it better than here, just make sure not to miss any specially beautiful narrow street or an interesting museum, the best guide for that is inyourpocket.
If you like modern history, Occupation museum and Barricades exposition are a must, if you want to learn about the Latvian struggle for independence. Also there are some weird museums like a Sun museum.
If you want the best picture of the Old Town you need to cross the main bridge and get down not in the very other side of the city but in the man-made concrete shore, since it is some kind of park with sculptures and the I<3Riga sign.
But this guide does not focus just on mainstream stuff that’s why now I will tell you about other gems of this city, while not really hidden or far, most tourist doesn't visit.
Although Art-Nouveau is present in most parts of the city centre (not just the Old Town) it reaches it maximum expression on Alberta Street (Alberta Iela) and its surroundings. It's just 10-15 minutes by walk from the Old Town and in the way you can check the beautiful Bastejkalna park (Bastion Hill), (where there are presents from several countries to Latvia as well as a real fragment of Berlin Wall) and the embassy street.
Once in Alberta Street you should definitely go to Art-Nouveau museum, where you will be teleported to a real home of those times and see one of the most beautiful staircases of Europe. In the way back, check some nearby streets since they follow same style.
But what if I tell you that Rīga host 2014's most hipsterish district? You read right, not far from centre there is Miera street, a non-touristic place where the average business is hairdresser shops where you can try different cupcakes and organic coffees.
To reach it, you will need to walk for 15 min from the Old Town, through Rīga centre where you can also see some beautiful buildings on the way. Miera street is unique due to several things, they say that it's the place where all Rīga citizens born and die (due to the fact that the main hospital is nearby as well as the city graveyard), also it is due to the very old architecture of its buildings, combining pre-WW2 red brick blocks and wooden houses, and finally, is where Latvia most famous chocolate maker has its main factory, which you can also visit as a museum or enjoy yourself in the cafe-shop.
In the end of the street there is a crossroads and not far from it there is a small shopping centre near an abandon factory, that’s where you should head because there is a nice surprise waiting for you there: You can find heaven for beer lovers... By double time! First you have Valmiermuiza shop and bar, one of Latvia's most famous beer brands, selling all their wide range of products for a great price and on the back side of the building, facing the abandoned factory there is Labietis, Latvia's most famous craft beer place with an amazing alternative vibe.
Do you need some time out of the city in contact with nature? Don't worry! Rīga has the PERFECT place for you! 30 minutes by bus (you can take it in front of the opera, in the border of the Old Town) there is the Open Air museum!
Which by that name doesn't sound very convincing, but let me explain, an Open Air Museum is a place where traditional national architecture, folklore, clothes and nature are kept intact and there is an extra fact: It's one of Europe oldest surviving open air museum, surviving both Nazi and Soviet bombings! Instead of explaining you why you should go, I will show some pictures.
Also entrance is really cheap and there is a restaurant inside, so you can spend long time there.
And finally there is a nice surprise for beach lovers: Rīga has northern Europe most famous beach!!! Jūrmala! Reachable in 30 minutes by train makes it a perfect plan for half a day.
Jūrmala itself is a rich town for rich Russian tourist, everything is very modern and well-kept as well as luxurious, but the main promenade is full of average tourist so it's great. The beach itself is amazing, of course featuring a Blue Flag. In a hot sunny day you can enjoy this wide white sand beauty not worrying too much about people (since it's huge doesn't get crowded) or the sea temperature (about 18 degree). Near Jūrmala there are similar towns which you can go walking with curious stuff like a tower in Dzintaru Mežaparks.
If you don't fancy mainstream beaches, there is another nice one in the other side of Rīga, Vecāķi beach.
I hope you liked the guide and got curious about Latvia! There are guides available for the rest of the country as well as Latvia's second biggest city, Daugavpils!
Most pictures from http://www.latvia.travel/en
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