Travel postcard: 48 hours in Riga
By Aleks Tapinsh
RIGA (Reuters) - A city of the medieval Hanseatic league of trading nations with a mix of Latvian, Germanic and Russian cultures, Riga has a rich 800-year history and a vibrant modern buzz.
A trip to the Latvian capital is an opportunity to see world class art nouveau buildings, join trendy locals in top eateries and take a trip down the memory lane of Soviet history.
After arriving, you have a choice of several good hotels, from the top end Neiburgs Hotel (www.neiburgs.com) favorite of German tourists or the Grand Hotel in the medieval Old Town (www.grandpalaceriga.com/), the boutique Hotel Bergs in the newer center (www.hotelbergs.lv), which has hosted celebrities such as Lady Gaga, or bigger chain hotels like the Radisson Blue Hotel Latvija (here).
Riga is split into two central parts favored by tourists - the historic Old Town near the river, and the newer center, which includes the Art Nouveau district, as well as the main shopping streets.
5 p.m. - The first excursion is to the Old Town, starting from the square at the top end of the area nearest to the river Daugava. Here you will see a statue of French medieval epic hero Roland, who was a symbol of justice in northern German towns and which the German-dominated Riga burghers decided to erect in 1897.
Roland, along with several other buildings, was destroyed during World War Two and the city council has gone to great lengths and expense to try to re-create the pre-war feel.
The statue, City Hall and the House of the Blackheads, a guild house for unmarried German merchants when the Baltics were dominated by a German-speaking elite and ruled by the tsars in St. Petersburg, have all been restored. Today the House of the Blackheads is the temporary office of the Latvian president as Riga Castle undergoes reconstruction. Continued...