Ready For Riga?
Fairlady|May 2017

If you’re a caviar lover (or plan on becoming one!) head to Riga, capital of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltic States.

Ilse Zietsmann

It’s not just caviar that’s affordable in Riga. Once you’ve arrived – in what is admittedly a remote destination – absolutely everything in the Old Town and its outskirts, as well as in the New Town or city centre (called Centrs), is within walking distance. Accommodation and lavish restaurant meals cost a fraction of the price you’d pay in nearby Scandinavia. More than 800 years old, Riga lies at the mouth of the Daugava River and developed as a centre of the Viking trade during the early Middle Ages. A city canal (look for pilsetas kanals on town maps) divides the medieval Old Town from the glorious art nouveau buildings of New Town. At night, blue and pink lights all along the bridges of the city canal create a whimsical atmosphere.

The Old Town has a Parisian feel to it, sans the broad boulevards. The cobblestone streets and alleyways are narrow and pedestrianised, and the buildings – many with Gothic spires – seem to lean forward ever so slightly. In the big open expanses of the Castle and Livu town squares, elegant Latvians teeter in stilettos as they go about their business.

As you walk about the Old Town, look out for the Powder Tower, one of the oldest buildings (dating back to 1330) on Smilsu Iela (iela means ‘street’), one of Riga’s oldest streets. The tower was once used to store gunpowder.

The Swedish Gate was built when Riga was under Swedish rule and passes through a house. The Swedish king of the time entered the city through this gate. Legend has it that it was also the secret rendezvous of a young Latvian woman and a Swedish soldier who’d fallen in love. As punishment, and as a warning to others, she was walled up near the gate.

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