The capital city of Latvia is situated at the Daugava River. Riga draws from its multicultural atmosphere.
More than 80% of the inhabitants are the Latvians and Russians. Additionally the city is also home to many Poles, Belarusians, Ukrainians and Lithuanians. Although it is rather small, the restored Old Town and boulevards attract many tourists. LOT Polish airlines enables to reach it by flights to Riga from Warsaw. Riga is charming at any time of the year, but the best seasons to enjoy it are spring and summer. The most interesting way of Riga sightseeing is to have few long walks without any guidebook, since most of the major attractions are within the walking distance from each other.
A little bit of history
Riga was founded in 1201 as a base for the Livonian Order. For the next centuries its history was quite turbulent. Through the years it belonged to Poland, Sweden and Russia and it grew as a Hanseatic port. In 1949, 42,000 Latvians were deported to Siberia by the Soviet authorities. This complicated history can be felt on the streets of Riga's old town, which flows around the Daugava River and city canals. The urban architecture also shows the history by the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. Riga is also one of the European Route of Gothic, tourist routes covering 34 cities in seven countries around the Baltic Sea, boasting a brick Gothic architecture.
Riga Old Town
Thanks to many Art Nouveau buildings Riga’s Old Town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Within the market square there are several of them, but most of them is on the Albert and Elizabeth streets. Supposingly Riga has around 700 Art Nouveau buildings. It is worth to start Riga sightseeing from City Hall Square where in its center you can see the monument of Riga’s patron- Roland designed to symbolize the power of the medieval town.
Certainly one of the most interesting buildings in the Old Town is home of the Brotherhood of St. Maurice, called Blackheads. The house was built in the fourteenth century, during the war it was destroyed and rebuilt in the late 90's. It was also a house for wealthy German merchants. Today (and also in the past) this historic building hosts many banquets and celebrations. On the opposite side of the square is the town hall.
A modern accent of Town Hall Square is black building housing the Museum of the Occupation, in front of which stands a monument of Latvian Red Riflemen.
Other interesting places
One of the most interesting monuments of the Latvian capital is the church of St. Peter which dates back to 1209. It was built in the Romanesque style, then rebuilt in Gothic. There is an amazing view of the city skyline on the 72 meters high tower. For the amateurs of museums there are many interesting places. In Automobile Museum we can admire a large collection of Mercedes from the 30s. The building was designed by Viktors Valgums. The other museum is Museum of Occupation which has over 25,000 exhibits. These are mainly photographs, documents, secret files, newspapers, films, etc.
Riga Airport [RIX]
Riga Airport is the largest airport of the Baltic states. It is located around 13 kilometres south-west of the city center. Annually, it handles over 5 million passengers and it is an important economic hub in the country. It is possible to reach around 80 destinations in more than 30 countries. One of it is a direct flight to Riga from Warsaw. It is offered by LOT Polish Airlines and it takes 1h 20 minutes to get there.
Airport History and growth
The airport was built in the early '70s and it was renovated after almost 30 years in 2001. At the same time the city has been celebrating 800th anniversary of its founding. After 5 years in 2006 the new extension of one of the terminals was opened. Currently the airport consists of 3 terminals A, B and C. Terminals A and C are for non-Schengen departures and Terminal B for Schengen departures, while Schengen arrivals are in Terminal A and non-Schengen arrivals in Terminal C.
How to reach the airport
If you would like to get to the city by a car, the airport is located within 15 to 20 minutes from the city center.
Of course there are several car rental companies available in the arrivals area, so it is easy to get one. It is also possible to take a taxi, which is very comfortable. Taxi rank can be found outside terminals and the journey takes around 15 minutes. Single fare to the city center cost 8 LVL.
It can be order by phone or at the office which is located on the first level in the arrivals hall.
If you prefer to use a public transport there is bus line number 22. It runs every 10-30 minutes and connects directly the airport with the city center (Abrenes Street). The bus stop is right opposite the terminal. It takes around 30 minutes to reach the center and it cost 0.4 LVL. There is also an additional fee for luggage 0.80 LVL. The center can be also reached by mini buses number 222 and 241. The drivers have a good English knowledge and can advise you on choosing the most appropriate final stop. Buses leave every 30 - 60 minutes between 8:20 and 18:50. Journey time is 30 minutes, a ticket costs 1 LVL and luggage is for free. There are also buses running to Lithuania and Estonia.
If you would like to know more about the airport, there is 1 hour tour available. It should be booked in advance in Welcome to Riga office, 1st Floor, Arrivals Area E. There are numerous regular facilities, that can be found at the airport. For those traveling with children, currency exchange offices, banks, ATMs. Free Wi-Fi is unlimited in the whole building. There are also some restaurants and cafes, but only in public or Schengen areas. It is not possible to grab something to eat or drink in non-Schengen zone. You can also do some shopping in both Schengen and non-Schengen area, as well as public one. There are also very convenient printing point, post office and conference centres. The lounges area enables to take a shower and relax after a long journey. There are also facilities for disabled people and a chapel.
Riga is a city where there is no problem finding an accommodation. Although prices slightly grow in summer and in a few more times of the year, it is always possible to find something for every budget. The variety of options will satisfy most of the tourists. You can choose from luxury hotels, cheaper apartments and hostels for budget travellers. Most of good hotels are located in downtown and within the city center.
Large accommodation range along with cheap air tickets to Riga offered by LOT makes it a perfect place for a weekend trip.
There is no problem with finding a cheap hostel in Riga, you can choose from many of them in the whole city. Unfortunately standard of most of them is very poor. However, if sleeping in big dormitory for over a dozen of people is not a problem for you, you should like Riga hostels. Those kind of facilities have usually one bathroom for the whole floor and no additional services, but they are often located close to train stations and major attractions. The obvious advantage of hostels is also very low price and if you will look carefully you may find one with quite good standard.
The capital of Latvia is known from its best quality accommodation. Riga hotels are located in the best locations in the city. Recently prices have slightly increased, but it is still possible to find hotels both in great standard and price. There are numerous large, 4 star hotels with conference and leisure facilities, as well as smaller ones. They are usually situated in one of many, beautiful Art Nouveau buildings. In many narrow streets of Riga you can find hidden boutique hotels. In some of them you can feel medieval atmosphere with different room styles. Those central locations are perfect for a short stay. It gives you a possibility of walking to every major attraction in the city. Additionally you can feel the old soul of Riga and enjoy its great nightlife.
Other accommodation options
Recently it is very popular to rent an apartment. This option is very convenient for both short and longer stay. It gives the comfort of a hotel for much lower price, especially when you are travelling with group of people. The apartments are usually very well equipped with kitchen supplies, so it is possible to cook there. Latvia has much more to offer than just its capital city. If you enjoy staying outside the city and you look for a little bit quiet and relaxing atmosphere of the countryside, you should search for renting some country house there. They are often very comfortable, but quite basic. Sometimes you can find facilities with saunas or laying on the lake shore.
The best area to stay in Riga is of course downtown, since here you will be within the walking distance to almost everywhere. Also the choice of hotels, hostels and apartments here is the biggest. It is also near to the train station from where you can reach most of destinations, as well as the airport. It is rather small city, but thanks to direct flights to Riga it is a perfect place for a weekend journey.
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