Are you planning on traveling during the Easter holidays, but can’t decide where to go? If you are interested in Art Nouveau architecture, old towns, urban bars and lots of history, Latvia might be the right place to visit. Latvia is one of the three Baltic countries in Northern-Eastern Europe, with the capital city Riga. There are several places worth visiting, let me take you through them.
Riga and Art Nouveau
As the capital city, Riga is the biggest and most populated city in Latvia with a lot of history. Riga is the Baltic capitol of architecture so if you’re an architecture fan or just appreciate aesthetics then the Art Nouveau district in central Riga is a must-see. Did you know that Riga has been listed in the top ten best European cities for Art Nouveau? Riga has over 700 art nouveau buildings, more than any other European city.
One of the main streets, Alberta Iela, has rows of Jugendstil houses. And if you really want to experience the Art Nouveau style in its full beauty, you are in for a treat because one of the greatest architects of the period Konstantins Pēkšēns’s former home is now the Riga’s Art Nouveau Museum, which allows you to see a representation of the Art Nouveau interior, furniture and the staff even wear period costumes.
Medieval architecture and the best nightlife with the biggest bars and clubs. When it comes to Old Riga you can expect lots of cobbled streets and narrow alleyways stretching through Riga’s medieval core, you’ll find yourself walking past UNESCO World Heritage listed sites like cathedrals, monuments, city squares and castles. Riga was built in 1201 and is the oldest and busiest city in Latvia, and Old Riga is at the heart of it.
You’ll find the best restaurants, street food markets, bars and clubs in Old Riga: starting from karaoke bars, beer pong, skyline cocktail bars to more “edgy” bars like Kaņepe Culture Centre or Chomsky, which stand out with their craft brewery and frequent events with local artists, musicians and DJ nights. Worth mentioning is that a lot of bars are situated in former factories, warehouses and some are even impressive baroque architectural monuments.
Riga and museums
There are several very interesting museums in Riga. If you are interested in history and travelling back in time, I would suggest visiting the KGB museum in Riga. It is the former soviet KGB building where thousands of people were interrogated, tortured and executed during the Soviet occupation period. I would highly recommend paying a little bit extra and getting an English-guided tour through the cell blocks, interrogation rooms and the commander’s offices with real files from the soviet times, all left in their original state. However, if you are more into arts, I would recommend the Latvian National Museum of Art, which regularly hosts new exhibitions in the gorgeous recently renovated building. Every spring, the city organises an event called ‘Museum Night’ where the entrance to many museums is free and you get to see several cultural heritage sites that are closed to public viewing normally. Every year is based on a different topic, this spring’s topic is freedom. This could be interesting to people who are interested in some history and arts but aren’t big fans of regular museum visits because during Museum Night every museum puts on a little show and presents the theme in an extraordinary way. Be ready for grandiose light shows, plays, interactive games and more.
The currency of Latvia is Euros and the language spoken is Latvian, although most of the younger citizens freely speak English and the older generation - Russian. Even though the UK has now left the EU, the rules on travel will stay the same until the 31st December 2020, so you will not need a visa to travel to Latvia and your EHIC card will still be valid. However, if you wish to travel after 31st December rules may change. To keep up to date with those changes, check the UK Foreign Office Travel Advice pages before traveling abroad and the Travel Aware page for other useful advice on staying safe and healthy abroad.