Riga, Latvia sklyine
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Photo Credit: iStock / toxawww | Riga, Latvia
Riga, Latvia Flower and Produce Market
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Photo Credit: iStock / mustafa6noz | Flower and Produce Market
Riga, Latvia, House of the Blackheads
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Photo Credit: iStock / castenoid | House of the Blackheads
Riga, Latvia, Cafes in Downtown Riga
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Photo Credit: iStock / villorejo | Cafes in Downtown Riga
Riga, Latvia, Herring on Brown Bread
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Photo Credit: iStock / ruhrpix | Herring on Brown Bread
Latvian National Opera
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Photo Credit: iStock / SirJ_Po | Latvian National Opera

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia, Art Nouveau Architecture Photo credit: iStock / Borisb17 | Art Nouveau Architecture

Founded over 800 years ago, this old Hanseatic port on the eastern Baltic experienced a renaissance after Latvia broke away from the Soviet Union a quarter century ago. The city's splendid riverside location and mix of medieval and art nouveau architecture make it a feast for the eyes — and camera.

What We Love

Sidewalk Cafés: Grab a table in the Doma Laukums (Cathedral Square) or Livu Laukums (Livu Square), order an ice-cold Aldaris, ogle the architecture, and watch the world go by.

Melngalvju Nams: Like no other building in Europe, the exquisite House of the Blackheads is a medieval guild house destroyed by the Nazis — and exquisitely rebuilt after Latvian independence.

Best Known For

The Old City: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Riga's Old City (Vecriga) offers a mosaic of cobblestone squares and narrow streets flanked by boutiques, cafes, churches, and museums.

Art Nouveau: With more than 800 buildings dating from Riga's golden era before World War I, the city boasts the world's largest collection of intact art nouveau structures, concentrated in the Centrs neighborhood north of the Old City.

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Who It's Best For

20th-Century History Buffs: The Nazi and Soviet eras endowed Riga with infamous modern landmarks like the old KGB headquarters, Holocaust Museum and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia 1940-1991.

Culture Vultures: Rigans flock to classic performing arts at venues like the Latvian National Opera House, Liela Gilde Koncertzale (Great Guild Hall), and Ziemelblazma Cultural Palace.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Shady Clubs and Bars Abound: Riga's underworld nurtures a number of dives notorious for scamming tourists with huge (unexpected) tabs at the end of an evening.    

Many Taxis Aren't Much Better: The city is also renowned for "gypsy cabs" that try to rip off visitors. Ask the restaurant staff to call you a cab or hail one in front of a large hotel.

Joe Yogerst

Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.

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Itineraries Including Riga, Latvia
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