Riga, The Paris of the North
Nearly one in three of Latvia’s two million residents live in the capital, Riga, sometimes described as the Paris of the North. It’s the largest city in the Baltic States, built on natural harbour. It’s also one of only 14 capital cities that consists of only four letters. I will leave you to work out the others.
Riga, like Estonia, is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the historic centre (more for Art Nouveau rather than medieval buildings though) and a magnet for stag and hen parties. There are a huge variety of bars and there’s a female wearing a bridal veil sitting in almost all of them. There’s even a Beer Spa, where you can ‘immerse yourself in a warm beer bath… while simultaneously quenching thirst with a glass of cool beer, which will open not only pores, but also will give a totally new outlook on life.’
There are sprinkling of notable wooden houses and some fetching stepped gables in the medieval Old Town alongside a vast Central Market with five huge hangars and aforesaid art nouveau architecture. Roughly one third of all buildings in the centre of Riga are designed in this style, making it the city with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture anywhere in the world. According to UNESCO it’s also the finest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the world. A bronze circular marker in the middle of Cathedral Square celebrates this achievement. We can see it from our hotel window.
Eating out is a little fraught. There’s not so much choice in all the cocktail bars, other than few fancier more expensive establishments. Most of the time we frequent a small cafe where you pile your plate up from the buffet and pay by weight. It’s a cheap and fun way to sample all the local food - lots of dumplings!