City break in Riga - attractions that are worth your while
A weekend city break in Riga can make a fantastic alternative to a day's sightseeing of the city, w standard element of "Vilnius-Riga-Tallinn" trips. There are so many attractions and historic monuments that it is a good idea to give yourself some more time to reach various corners of the Latvian capital in a leisurely fashion.
A glance at the Old Town
Naturally, start you sightseeing from the historic Old Town, and when you have seen all its valuable sites, take one more look at the whole quarter. Near the castle you will notice a modern hanging bridge called Vansu. At its bridgehead opposite the Old Town, near a glass skyscraper, there is an excellent viewing point from which you can see the castle and the spires of all three Gothic churches.
An elegant park
There is a park running along the former bastions and moat of the Old Town, where you can find several grand buildings, e.g. the Latvian National Theatre with a finely decorated façade, giving the city a metropolitan look. In the central part of the park, you will find an immense monument to the Latvian war of independence, which by some kind of miracle survived the Soviet occupation of the country. Behind the monument, there is a memento from the tsar era – the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ Nativity. Built in the second half of the 19th century and rising to 40 metres, the imposing and decorative Neo-Byzantine temple is the largest Orthodox church in the Baltic States. It seems an odd sight given the Riga's clearly western aesthetics, but it is an important witness to the city's history. And it was so twisted that the Russian minority account for 40% of Riga's population.
Riga's Art Deco
The Latvian capital is famous for its nicely preserved city centre, with beautiful townhouses of different architectural styles. A walk down those streets is a real pleasure with plenty of opportunities to admire the skill of old masters. Of all those delights, one thing deserves special attention – it is, naturally, Art Deco! Although the rough North is not your immediate association with the sophisticated Central and Western European style full of plant themes, Art Deco bloomed in Riga like the finest of flowers. The city's Art Deco townhouses were built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and their highest concentration is at Albert Street. You will get more and more enchanted with every step and every glance at one finely ornamented façade after another! The finesse would not be out of place in the world's leading art capitals. That unique complex is something you must see in Riga.
Now that you have seen a memento from the turn of the centuries, it is time to discover the legacy of the Soviet times. Built in the 1950s, the imposing edifice is 107 metres tall and was modelled on Moscow's Seven Sisters. Poles, particularly residents of Warsaw, will notice the resemblance to the Polish Palace of Culture and Science. Today, the huge building houses the Latvian Academy of Sciences.
Situated behind the railway station, the marketplace is a complex of five impressive halls that together comprise a majestic edifice if the style of Functionalism with elements of Art Deco. Interestingly, the halls had been originally built elsewhere in Latvia during World War I as airship hangars, and it was only after the Great War that they changed their purpose and location. The site is worth a visit not only for its interesting architecture and history, but first of all for the opportunity to rummage among the 3,000 stalls packed there! You can buy virtually everything there: from clothes, to household chemicals, to foodstuffs. We suggest that you focus on the latter, for they sell lots of delicious things, including local delicacies that can be a fantastic souvenir from your city break in Riga. Beware of the one where they sell fish and seafood only. If your sense of smell is sensitive, that may be a challenge that you will be unable to meet.
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