🌎Currency: Euro €
🌎Zone: +2 GMT
🌎Phone Code: +371
🌎Best time to visit: April-Sept
🌎Must eat: Karbonāde (pork chops)
🌎Must drink: Kvass
🌎Don't miss: Canal or river boat ride!
Flying to Latvia is quick and affordable from most major European cities. There is only one airport connecting the country, Riga the capital, acts up like the hub. The host airline for the Baltic States is Air Baltic, basing it's aircraft here and flying to major European destinations across Europe. However with the evolution or low cost travel, other airlines offer competitive fares like Ryanair or Wizzair.
Arriving to the capital by international Train rail is possible from Russia mainly. However travelling from Europe, Eurolines, the international coach company offers many connections from Berlin, Hamburg, Warsaw, Prague, Kiev, Vilnius, Tallinn, St Petersburg, Moscow, Minsk, and many other international cities.Last there is the possibility to travel from Sweden to Riga by Ferry, Tallink offers daily connections from the Swedish capital.
As with other Baltic states Latvia enjoys sunny summer's but cold frozen winter's. Ideally would suggest to visit from May to September. July and August, being the warmest up to 30C. As well it's the high season and prices would always be more expensive for both flights and hotels. Spring and Autumn can be nice times of the year to visit Riga, but weather is very unpredictable, so expect either warm sun days or non stop rainy days.
During the Winter, it's very beautiful to visit with a white coat of snow over the city. It gives it a magical feeling. However temperatures can plummet below -15C. so have to dress up warmly and be prepared for cold winds and icy conditions.
Latvians diet is a very healthy one, and this reflects in it's traditional cuisine, dishes and local produce. Natural products including potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms, wild berries and many vegetables form traditional dishes in Latvia. As well meats, pork mostly and fish is a big part of the diet. Smoked fish is a particular speciality.
Main dishes you can find when visiting Riga and within Latvia are : Soups with mushrooms, berries, nettles etc many of the ingredients are seasonal being picked at certain times of the year. Skābi kāposti, like a Sauerkraut, vegetable salad accompanied by meat and potatoes dishes. Karbonāde , grilled pork chops. Grey Peas, Latvian original product served with bacon, eaten specially at Christmas. Rupjmaize ,dark rye bread. Skābeņu zupa, Beetroot or sorrel soup. Pīrāgi pastry filled with bacon, onions, mushrooms or even cherries.Desserts are popular such as Starchy Fruit pudding which can ve served with milk, Rye Bread Pudding and Kartupeļu pankūkas (potato pancakes).As for drinking, Beer is very popular as well as for spirits (Vodka or Whiskey). Also a fermented Rye Bread drink, Kvass is very tasty.
Despite its relatively small size, within Riga there is plenty to see and do. Walking around its streets and visiting the old city is good way to start your first day. Local markets, museums, authentic Latvian restaurants, and nice quaint cafes are all within walking distance and makes this city a very relaxing experience.
Once arriving at the airport there are busses that take you into the city centre for a cost of €2. Bus 22 takes you directly into the city centre. If you buy the tickets from a Press Kiok they will cost you even cheaper than buying onboard the bus. For an unlimited travel there is also a €5 ticket valid for 24 hours. From the main bus station you can walk to the old town and surroundings where most hotels are located.
Within Riga the local transportation is cheap and convenient. There are plenty of Trams, Busses and Trolley-busses but for a tourist staying in the city centre there is not much need for their use.
Riga is considered a cultural centre and is home to many museums and concert halls. The city is also known for its wooden buildings, art galleries, architecture and a medieval Old Town. The pedestrian-only Old Town has many shops and restaurants and is home to busy nightlife. Culture highlights of the city worth visiting are:
The House of the Blackhead, the centre of the city, it's a venue for exhibitions, concerts and other events. Is the Latvian president’s temporary residence.
The Freedom Monument, is a memorial monument, honouring soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence in 1991.
St. Peter's Church, a Lutheran church.
The Powder Tower, It's the only remains of Riga's original fortification system in which gun-powder would be stored.
The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, showing the turbulent history the country from 1940-1991, important for its historic educational reference.
The Nativity of Christ Cathedral, built in a Neo-Byzantine style between 1876-1883, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire.
The Latvian War Museum, a military museum dating back to 1916 when it was established.
TIP: Whilst in Riga take a Canal boat or a Riverboat ride! Take a rest from walking and get into one of these scenic boat rides which take around the old city and the river Daugava. Start the journey at Bastion Hill and the trip takes an hour before it returns to your original embarkation point, but you can get off at any of the other stops along the way between. Price ranges from €7 to €18 depending on the type of ride you choose. For more information visit: rigabycanal
Alternatively pedal boats and row boats on the Riga canal can also be rented by Bastion Hill for €3 - 5 for a 20 min ride.