Riga, the capital and largest city in Latvia, also serves as largest city of the Baltic States and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city was chosen to be Europe’s cultural capital in 2014 and is an active member of Eurocities, the Union of the Baltic Cities and Union of Capitals of the European Union. The city sprawls on an area of 304 km2, is at an elevation of 9 meters above sea level and has a population of over 643,368 inhabitants. The city was founded during the reign of Hanseatic League member in 1201 and has been serving as an important trade route, since times unknown. During the Second World War, Latvia was under the control of the Nazis who set their Nazi Construction Camp in Riga Ghetto and by the year 1942, more than 24,000 Jews of Riga were killed. Latvian is the official language spoken by most of Riga. German is also spoken.
All the flights to Riga land at Riga International Airport, which is the largest airport in the Baltic States. Located around 10 km from the city center, currently 2 airline operators fly to 80 destinations in 30 countries. Experiencing a humid continental type of climate, Riga has harsh winters with January being the coldest moths and average temperature can dip to as low as −5 °C with 8 days of continuous snow cover. The city receives very low levels of sunshine and irregular rainfall may occur during the winter season. Summer in Riga lasts from June to early September with July being the hottest month of the year. This is a goof time for tourists as average high temperature does not exceed 23°C. The city also receives its highest rainfall during this season and an average of 310 hours of sunshine is recorded. Riga Salsa Festival n September, Riga Music Festival in January, Bach Music Festival in Feb-March, Latvian Contemporary Drama Festival "Insight" in March, Riga Opera Festival in June, Porta World Music Festival in November and Winterfest between November and February are the major events celebrated in Riga.
Start your Riga tour by visiting the colorful and lively Central Market which is the largest in Europe and offers Rīga’s cheapest produce. It is a Soviet style market and a must visit destination in Riga. Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum is a top rated attraction in Riga that provides a glimpse of the history of the region. Made up of dozens of farmhouses, churches and windmills is displays all the five regions in a single place. The House of Blackheads in Riga Town Hall Square showcases the cultural heritage and is an architectural delight. Topped with a female Liberty in bronze holding 3 stars, Freedom Monument represents the three regions of Latvia and is a heritage structure.
Vecriga, the old city of Riga is truly an enchanting attraction filled with narrow alleys and boulevard that will give you a glimpse of the old times. Latvian National Opera (a unique architectural masterpiece), Gutmanis Cave (displays graffiti dating to 16th century), Peter’s Church Tower (offers panoramic views of the city) and Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (displaying the effects to Nazi occupation).
Eating and Shopping
The city has end numbers of restaurants the offer wide array of local as well as international cuisines. Mostly people in the city eat the traditional Latvian cuisine that includes agricultural products, with meat featuring in most main meal dishes. It is coastal town which implies that varieties of fishes are also consumed. Biezpiens, biešu zupa, maizes zupa, biezpiena sieriņš, Zefīrs, Laima, Skrīveru Saldumi, Rupjmaize, Kissel, Herring with quark, siļķu pudiņš, sklandrausis, asins pankūkas and maizes zupa are the local dishes which tourists can savor here. Uzbek Restaurance, Sveiks, Valmiermuižas alus, Mio, Kolonade, Mute, Steiku Haoss, 3 pavāru restorāns, Key to Riga and Old Shanghai are some of the top places for enjoying a meal in Riga. Riga Town Hall Square is the main area of the city and many cafes, mid-range hotels and high end restaurants are available for all kinds of travellers.
In Riga, while the price of imported goods can be high, but local crafts, food and alcohol are still relatively cheap. Shops are scattered throughout Riga, but the highest concentration can be found in the Old Town and the city center. Some of the major buys in Riga are – special amber candles, beautiful rugs mugs and glasses made from recycles wines and beer bottles, fashion, jewellery, accessories, Lativian jewellery in ancient Baltic design, folk music, sports gear and flowers. When in Riga, do not miss a visit to Art Nouveau Riga which is the only shop in the city to sell art nouveau merchandise like silk scarves and famous faacdes etc. Kalnciems Fair is the treasure cove for those interested in buying wooden architecture.
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