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Riga is the capital of Latvia. Riga is famous for its Old Town and city center in which over 800 buildings are of the Art Nouveau style of architecture. The old town of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Riga is also popular due to its nightlife and discount airlines that offer cheap flights to/from much of Europe.
The official language of Latvia is Latvian; however, in Riga, the majority of the population speaks both Latvian and Russian. English is widely spoken by younger people and by people in the tourism industry. German is also commonly spoken by tour guides.
Riga International Airport (RIX) is located 10km southwest of Riga. The airport serves approximately 5 million passengers per year.
Most flights to/from Riga are operated by the discount carriers Air Baltic, Ryan Air, and Wizz Air.
There are designated areas in the airport where smoking is allowed.
To travel between the airport to the city:
A bus and minisbus run between the airport and the old town, with a stop near the central bus and railway stations. These run every 30 minutes but only take 20 minutes to get to the old town.
There are international bus connections to anywhere in Europe, including frequent service to Tallinn and Tartu in Estonia, and Vilnius and Kaunas in Lithuania.
Ecolines - operates service between Riga and most major cities in Europe.
Eurolines Simple Express - operates service between Riga and most major cities in the Baltics, as well as a few other European capitals.
Tallink operates a daily ferry service between Stockholm and Riga. The journey takes 17 hours. Prices are usually around €100.
Latvian Railways operates service to many cities in Latvia, including the suburbs of Riga, as well as a few cities in Russia, Belarus, and Estonia.
Riga has good road connections with Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, and Belarus. Riga is on the Via Baltica and ~300km from both Tallinn and Vilnius. Note that in the city center, you have to pay a fee for public parking which varies depending from distance to center.
Cars are not allowed in Old Town (although enforcement is somewhat lax at night), but vehicles making "deliveries" are. Therefore, you can take a taxi to the Old Town, but you cannot park a rental car there.
Old Town is comprised mainly of rounded cobblestone streets that may be hard to walk on if you are not wearing proper shoes. Outside of Old Town, most streets are paved with asphalt, although some smaller streets may be unpaved. Sidewalks are predominantly concrete everywhere. Old Town is best explored on foot. Due to the neglected drainage system, the streets may be flooded during heavy downpours.
What to see in Riga
The areas usually most interesting to tourists are the Old Town and the area around the nearby Freedom Monument. However, Old town is not the only place worth visiting.
Very old and well preserved city districts unvisited by tourists are Agenskalns and Tornakalns, just over the Stone bridge. The residential areas outside Riga center are largely made up of gray apartment blocks built in the typically Soviet style. These areas are nearly identical to those all over Eastern Europe.
The tourist office, located inside the House of Blackheads, offers both guided tours and free pamphlets, complete with detailed descriptions of many buildings, for independent walks.
These walks cover the old town and the nearby city center sights as well as the Art Nouveau district. It's all pretty small scale so it's easy to do each of these in around an hour, or linger and read every detail in the booklet - in the absence of any signs or plaques around the city, the booklet gives you an insight to what you are seeing.
Historical buildings and monuments
Statue of Roland, (In the center of the Town Square).
House of Blackheads, kalku iela. The House of Blackheads is where the merchants-to-be had their guild. Part of this building is the tourist information office, the rest is a fascinating museum.
Town Hall. Pretty to look at, but not open for visitors.
The Big Guild, Amatu iela. Housed the guild of the tradesmen, who would join after being a member of the Blackheads.
The Little Guild, Amatu iela. Another pretty building just behind the Big Guild, this one housed the craftsmen's guild. Like the Big Guild, you can't go inside except for a performance.
Wagner Concert Hall, Vāgnera iela. Wagner once lived in Riga, on the street now named after him. This hall where he performed occasionally holds concerts.
The Three Brothers are the oldest dwelling houses in Riga. One of them has a small architecture museum inside, along with changing exhibits about Latvia.
Swedish Gate, Btw Torna and Aldaru iela. The last remaining gate from the old city walls.
Art Noveau Buildings. *Alberta and Elizabetes streets (iela) are the best place to see the creations of Art Nouveau architect Eisenstein, famous of his splendid style. Other Art Nouveau buildings can be seen in the area around the Freedom Monument, including the embassies on Raina Bulvaris and on Strelnieku iela.
St. Jacob's Barracks, Torna iela. The primary attraction here is the last remaining stretch of city wall directly opposite the barracks.
Laima Clock. Laima is a Latvian chocolate manufacturer and means good luck in Latvian.
Andrejsala. An artists' island is starting to emerge behind the passengers port a short distance north from the Old town.
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