Riga (map) is the capital and the largest city in Latvia, it is also the largest city in the Baltic States.
The city was part of many empires throughout history, each of which has left its mark on the city. It is famous for Art Nouveau and wooden architecture. Riga’s historical center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Almost all tourist attractions, historic buildings and hotels are contained within the borders of the relatively small and walkable Centra rajons district (map), which is made up of *Vecrīga (Old Riga, the old town, map) and Centrs (the modern-day business district, map).
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Riga has one of the largest collections of Art Nouveau buildings in the world, with at least 800 buildings, most of them outside the old town.
*Old Riga — Vecrīga in Latvian — is the old town of Riga (map). Town Hall Square / Rātslaukums (map), which contains the striking 13th-century House of Blackheads (map), the Town Hall (built in 2003 as a down-to-the-last-detail copy of the 17th-century original), and Riga Cathedral (map) and the square surrounding it.
*Centrs (map), just northeast of the old town, is the commercial centre of Riga, famous for its Art Nouveau architecture, parks and boulevards. It is also a place to go to for nightlife and hotels; the high-rise Hotel Latvija (map) with its Skyline bar on the top floor offers both.
Vecrīga is comprised mainly of rounded cobblestone streets that may be hard to walk on if you are not wearing proper shoes. Outside of Vecrīga, most streets are paved with asphalt, although some smaller streets may be unpaved. Sidewalks are predominantly concrete everywhere. Vecrīga is best explored on foot. Due to the neglected drainage system, the streets may be flooded during heavy downpours.
For budget accommodation, head to the eastern half of the old town and the surroundings of the railway station. Upscale hotels are to be found in the core of Vecrīga and around the Esplanade Park in Centrs.
Latvia is home to a number of fraud/extortion scams in bars, run by the local mobs. A common scam, which targets men, begins by having someone you meet randomly coax you into a bar.