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Riga Travel Guide

About Riga

The protagonist in a rags-to-riches story, Latvia’s capital has embraced the vitality of the European Union, and the ensuing influx of money has transformed Riga into a wealthy, cosmopolitan metropolis with a big city buzz.

Much of what’s new is devoted to commerce, with glittering plate glass malls and towering department stores taking the place of Soviet blocks that once dominated the skyline.

The UNESCO-listed Old Town, almost unchanged since the medieval period, remains intact, as do many of the city’s extraordinary art nouveau buildings.

In the past decade, Riga accumulated tags such as ‘the new Prague’ or the ‘Paris of Eastern Europe’, attracting cheap airline deals. The attention brought hordes of tourists searching for beautiful architecture, chequered history and cheap beer.

A profusion of sleazy bars and strip clubs then cropped up, making parts of the city feel decidedly seedy. But a hefty hike in prices is slowly discouraging lager louts in fancy dress from visiting.

Still, there is much to recommend in Riga. Its harbour is a thing of beauty, while its museums and many art galleries have become increasingly excellent. Within striking distance of the city are the magnificent Venta Waterfall and the magical sandstone caves of Riežupe, as well as a smattering of quaint towns, including pretty Sabile and Kandava.

Riga might not be the new Prague, but that’s because it boasts a unique charm that is entirely its own.

Key facts

Population:
641,423
Latitude:
56.952449
Longitude:
24.123430

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Rixwell Centra

This boutique hotel in Riga is a stylish option handily located between Old Town and the bus and railway stations. The 26 minimalist rooms are elegantly decorated and all have satellite TV and internet connections. Some of the rooms on the upper levels boast great views of Old Town.

Dodo Hotel

Latvia’s answer to the Premier Inn, Dodo is the flagship property for a new chain of budget hotels. What the 100+ spacious rooms lack in individuality they more than make up for in comfort and value for money, making this a good choice for budget travellers. The breakfast buffet costs extra, and the hotel is about a 15-minute walk into town. Even so, this is one of the better value hotels in Riga.

KB Hotel

Located in a beautiful art nouveau building, the KB is a no-frills hotel ideal for budget travellers. The décor is a bit tired, but the room rates are cheap. Regular trams to the city centre stop right outside the hotel, although the walk is no more than 15 minutes. Situated in the UNESCO-listed art nouveau district, there’s just one catch – the hotel is on the top floor and the lift doesn’t work.

Hestia Hotel Jugend

The latest offering from this rapidly growing hotel chain offers state-of-the-art rooms with high-speed internet access, albeit a lack of soul. The location is handy, just on the edge of Old Town and within walking distance of most of the main points of interest.

Grand Palace

Regarded by many as the finest hotel in Riga, the Grand Palace is a supremely enjoyable place to stay. It manages to conjure up an old world feeling of luxury and decadence while also staying ahead of the game with Wi-Fi now available in all guest rooms. Slick service, a sauna and gym help complete the impressive picture of perhaps the best hotel in the country. First class.

Hotel Bergs

When it first opened it was ranked by Condé Nast as one of the world's best boutique hotels. This slick operation in the new town is indeed impressive, both in terms of the designer décor and the seamlessly smooth service. It’s easy to see why this Riga hotel has won so many awards. Still one of the most fashionable places to stay in the Latvian capital, Hotel Bergs also has an excellent restaurant on site.