Thanks to the proximity of the country, less than 3 hours flight time, you can go to R?ga for the weekend, or even 3 or 4 days. It is an opportunity to discover a rich architectural cultural heritage, taste a good beer or listen to an opera.
Start visiting Riga with its historic and medieval heart dating back to the 12th century, the old town (Vecriga) almost completely restored today, with its cobbled streets, churches and old buildings with Germanic influence inherited from the Hanseatic period. Of these 590 buildings, 79 are classified as historic monuments! Vecriga is a very lively district with many restaurants, concert halls, terraces, offices, banks and theatres. The capital is full of bars and restaurants of all kinds for lively evenings. It is possible to attend an organ concert in the Cathedral of the Dome or a concert given on a terrace on the Place de Dôme. You can also familiarize yourself with the art of ballet: if Riga does not have Moscow's reputation, the city's opera house still offers many high-quality classical ballets or hosts well-known troupes. With such a good program and such cheap tickets, don't hesitate to make yourself an opera or ballet evening.
On the outskirts of the old town, the Freedom Monument stands between Basteja Park and the opera house. This monument is a perfect starting point to explore the city centre. So take Raina Boulevard in the opposite direction to the station. Stop in front of the French Embassy and continue straight ahead to get closer to Elizabetes and Alberta streets where Latvian Art Nouveau masterpieces are concentrated. Take Elizabetes Street, this time in the direction of the station, to the Latvija Hotel. Not far from there, on Brivibas Boulevard is the Orthodox Cathedral. If the weather is fine, the afternoon can be spent visiting the Museum of Outdoor Ethnography and the evening will start at the Latvian restaurant Le Lido on Krasta iela (minibuses serve the Lido; departure point in front of the bus station on Janvara iela). Shopping stopover also at the central market, next to the bus station, unique because nestled in three former airship garages. This is where you can find organic products that come directly from Latvian farms and are sold by farmers. It must be said that Latvians have never stopped favouring local products and that the central market remains an excellent place to buy vegetables, fish or dairy products.
On the shores of Lake Jugla in Bergi, about ten kilometres from the northeast entrance to Riga, there are typical Latvian villages from the 18th and 19th centuries, restored on a 100 hectare site (Museum of Outdoor Ethnography), in the middle of the forest. These farms, wooden houses, churches and windmills offer an interesting panorama of the different aspects of rural life in the Latvian provinces. When the sun comes out, folk dance festivals and craft fairs (the first weekend in June, the Gadatirgus) are held within the confines of this open-air museum. Take a getaway to Jurmala, to walk along the beach and enjoy the calm of the Baltic Sea out of season. In summer, take your towel and come and swim or sunbathe. For a stay away from the crowds, join the coast and the rocky beaches of Vidzeme, in the north. Pass through Limbazi to contemplate its charming Orthodox church. Then go down to Riga along the coast and its pine forests.
© Dominique Auzias & Jean-Paul Labourdette