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Baltic state, Latvia


The enchanting city of Riga, capital of Latvia and the biggest city in the Baltic States, 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.

Riga attractions

Dom Cathedral

Dating back to 1211, the red brick Dom (or Dome) Protestant Cathedral is a highlight of the historic centre of Riga. The cathedral is situated near the Western Daugava River and boasts an incredible organ with over 6,500 pipes built in 1844, stained-glass windows and a beautifully whitewashed interior. There are regular concerts held on the organ, and the cathedral also has its own boy's choir that gives regular performances. A great historical sight in Latvia, that earns rave reviews from all who experience it.


Jurmala is the main holiday resort town in Latvia, the place locals go to when they want to relax, catch a tan and enjoy a spa treatment. The beaches are very good, including the Baltic's only Blue Flag beach, and the seafood restaurants are excellent, too. The main attractions of Jurmala (apart from sand and sea) are its spas, which offer a range of therapies and treatments at a fraction of what they'd cost in Western Europe. Getting to Jurmala from Riga is easy: by train or bus, the journey takes 30 minutes. Jurmala is fast becoming one of Eastern Europe's best spa destinations, and tourists are urged to check it out before the secret gets out and prices begin to sky-rocket.

Riga Castle

Riga Castle (or Riga Pills) was built in 1330 on the site of the original settlement of the city as a residence for the master of the Livonian Order, and later it served as the base for the city's occupiers throughout its history. The distinctive yellow castle was destroyed and rebuilt over time, and today it serves as the offices and home of the Latvian president, as well as the Latvian Museum of Foreign Art and the Rainis Museum of Literature and Art History. The castle is strategically placed on the banks of the Daugava, originally in order to oversee all ships entering the city's port, and has four towers and an inner courtyard.

The Freedom Monument

Affectionately called Milda by locals dates from 1935. It's a national shrine for Latvians in memory of people who were deported to Siberia in Soviet times. Milda is the symbol of the freedom of Latvian people and the three stars in the maiden's hands represent the three historical regions of the country: Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale.

The Open Air Ethnographic Museum

The Museum is a fascinating reflection of the traditional Latvian way of life. Set on 247 acres (100ha), the museum consists of farmhouses, fishing villages, windmills and other historic buildings that have been relocated here to create an outdoor exhibit. Visitors to Riga can watch craftsmen at work, sample traditional Latvian cooking and ales, and learn more about the history of this deeply interesting country.

Great and Small Guild Halls
Both buildings dating back to the 14th century; it was the home of the merchants and the city's artisans. Today the Great Guild hosts the Philharmonic Orchestra (the Small Guild is now a youth disco).

The Cat House

The story goes that 100 years ago, the Latvian owner of the building was "not welcomed" into the powerful Great Guild across the road. To be insulting to his enemies, he ordered the cats to be turned around, ... backside up... A lengthy court battle ensued, "the cats" were eventually turned around and he was admitted to the Guild.

The Old City Walls and the Swedish Gate

This is the oldest remaining portion of the Old Town "fort type" walls. The Swedish Gate dates back to 1698 to celebrate the Scandinavians' occupation while the walls were built between the 13th and 16th centuries. Including to these Old town fortifications, The Powder Tower, below is also famous.