Central Riga at Christmas time
Situated at the mouth of the Daugava, the city of
Riga is the capital of Latvia and the biggest city in the Baltic
States. It has emerged from behind the Iron Curtain and is slowly
coming into its own as a major European tourist destination.
Situated on the south-western coast of the country,
Riga is split in two by the River Daugava, and served as a major
trading port and a crossroads between western Europe and the East.
The modern founding of the city dates back to the 12th century with
the arrival of German traders, mercenaries, and missionaries, while
its older roots date back to a settlement of the ancient Finnic
tribe, the Livs.
Riga boasts a collection of exquisite Art Nouveau
buildings that rival those in Vienna, Barcelona, and St Petersburg,
and the fairytale historic city centre is a delight to explore. As
the cultural and economic centre of the country, Riga is home to
plenty of top-class museums, galleries, and performing arts
centres. It also has a wide range of sophisticated bars, clubs, and
restaurants. The city is fast gaining a reputation as a party
capital, and its vibrant nightlife draws hundreds of weekenders
from all over Europe.
For a more traditional Latvian experience, it is well
worth braving the winter cold to enjoy a spot of ice fishing,
ice-skating on the frozen Daugava River, or a pirt - a
rigorous sauna involving being beaten with dried birch branches.
With over 800 years of history, a UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed
historic city centre, and a modern buzz, Riga remains a largely
undiscovered gem with plenty to delight and enchant the
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