Riga is currently one of the most exciting places in the Baltic, not only as a tourist destination, but because of its old town, its historical importance, and the current renaissance as many of the old buildings are being transformed with restoration projects. As the capital of Latvia the city has long been an important center for the region, and it is estimated that it has the largest collection of German Art Nouveau architecture in the world. The historical center itself is a World Heritage Site, and beyond St. Petersburg and Stockholm is the third-largest city in the Baltics. Between the architecture, the nightlife, and the current boom in popularity as a destination for travelers, Riga is the hottest of the hot.
Initially founded in 1201 as a base for the Northern Crusades, Riga was a major hub for the Eastern Baltic regions during the days of the Hanseatic League, a fact which kept the city’s heart beating after the fall of the Hansa when it moved eventually into Russian hands until it emerged after the end of the Cold War as the head of state for the independent state of Latvia. Sitting along the Daugava River, the city has long boasted a distinctly German population, although these days it is mostly Latvians. Still, remnants of the past can be seen in the architecture and language. Visitors spend most of their time in Old Town, largely because of the beauty of the architecture. There are literally dozens of churches and museums and various other buildings showcasing the unique style of architecture, but there are also things like the Mezaparks just outside the outskirts of the town, heavily-forested and interspersed with residential mansions that have been refurbished to their pre-war glory. Beyond that there is the Latvian coast, showcasing the Baltic coastline in all her splendor. With such a combination of sights and sounds is easy to see how Riga has transformed into a hotspot of the 21st century for travelers.