Riga Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- There are multiple languages Most residents are bilingual; Latvian is Riga's official language, but Russian is also very common. English-only speakers should be able to converse with some of Riga's young people as well as those in the tourism business.
- Bring your walking shoes Since cars are not permitted in picturesque Old City, you'll have to walk along cobblestone streets to get around. Dress comfortably; this can be tiring at times.
- You have to try the local drink Riga Black Balsam is a locally made liqueur, composed of plants, flowers, roots, fruits and a few mystery ingredients. It's often served on ice or mixed with everything from soda, coffee, juice, and even more liquor. We recommend you ask bartenders for their own special black balsam concoction.
Many people don't know what to expect when they head to the Baltic states; is it going to be more like Russia or more like Germany? Riga, Latvia answers its inquisitors with a fusion of both. Germans and Russians occupied the city for decades (centuries for Germany), and fostered explosive growth under their regimes. The predominant architectural style in the Old City is Jugendstil or "German Art Nouveau," characterized by eccentric ornamentation and pastel-colored buildings. Soviet presence is also apparent, in the strikingly plain and communist design of the suburbs, or in the cube-like Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.
But since the country has thrown off its foreign rulers, Riga has taken its own shape. You'll find museums like the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum and a youthful population invigorating the city's bars, clubs and cafés. Best of all, this preferred summer vacation spot of the Russian and German elite is also welcoming to the tastes and pocketbooks of Western visitors.