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We had done our research on Riga and found the best places to visit. But the sole purpose of this visit was to get away before Christmas and enjoy the festive feel of the Christmas Markets. You can imagine our disappointment when reading, that if you were just going to Riga for the Christmas markets you will be sorely disappointed. It just goes to show that you should not always believe what you read.

We came across these markets at Doma Square, at the Esplanade, and on Līvu Square to name but a few. All enticing visitors with their pleasant scent of mulled wine and roasted almonds, gingerbread, and merchandise by Latvian craftsman such as aromatic wax candles, woollen socks, hats and scarves, eco-friendly wooden toys for children and teddy bears made with love, as well as amber products and silver jewellery.

Locals rave about Riga Black Balsam, a vodka based herbal liqueur, to which we tried at one of the Christmas Market stalls in Doma Square along with some roasted almonds with onion and garlic.

We have visited a few European Capital Cities and each one has been the best. It was no different with Riga, I think because you are in the here and now, that it becomes your favourite. It is the capital of Latvia, somewhere that doesn't't't get talked about. I feel now that it doesn't't't get the love and attention that it deserves. It certainly was a beautiful city, with UNESCO World Heritage listed architecture. You only have to look skyward while walking around and you are rewarded with glimpses of fanciful Art Nouveau style buildings. A photographers dream.

Some of these stately stunners have seen better days but still beautiful in their own right.

 

 

If you are into History then this is the city for you, with lots of tours and museums. Shopping was ample with the many designer shops, markets. Amber jewellery being the one thing that stood out in my mind. What I also noticed and loved, there was blissfully few tourist crowds.

The Historic Centre of Riga is one of Latvia's two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and you can see why it received that designation.

People watch, is something that we love to do, wherever we are, here was very interesting, with elderly ladies walking arm in arm wrapped in their furs, gorgeous young women looking stunning in their well matched designer outfits with their well groomed very long hair with beautiful manicured nails. The men …... well you had best ask my wife.

Riga's Freedom Monument is the anchor of the city. It's a memorial to the soldiers killed in the Latvian War for independence (1918-1920). Time your visit right and you'll see the changing of the guards.

I think that having central green spaces is essential to a city, and Riga is dotted with several parks. The major one is Bastejkalna Park, which is close to the Freedom Monument and surrounds the canals. I loved these parks with the snow and the canals iced in places. It looked beautiful, can only imagine how much more beautiful it would look in the summer. But we were here now in December, listening to the crunch of the snow beneath our feet. Here you will find Bastion Hill and many sculptures.

Cafe culture seemed important to Riga as there was such a choice of tea houses, coffee shops, and Chocolate Houses. Much to our delight as we needed to warm up every now and then. Martina Bekereja serving Cakes and Pastries at Valnu iela 28 in the Old Town, just had to be our favourite. I had read that you must not visit here without trying their cheesy croissants and I reiterate this statement, they are so yummy, along with the cinnamon pastries. All baked fresh on the premises, often still warm when purchased. You will not be short of places to find your afternoon caffeine boost.

I can imagine that it would be all too easy to fall into the trap of only discovering the Old Town of Riga but our research told us to visit the Latvian Academy of Science which was located in the suburb of Maskavas Vorstadt. Here we climb to the 17th floor and step out onto a balcony that went around the bottom of the spire which gave you a 360°view of Riga's cityscape.

We also ventured out to the Brāļu Cemetery, having read it was truly a scenic place. I wouldn't go as far to say that but it did give us a ride on the No. 11 Tram.

The massive Central Market, which consists of five imposing structures incorporating the frames of World War I hangars, having read that this is possibly Europe's largest bazaar.

This was more for the locals to buy their fresh produce such as meat, cheese, fish etc. Didn't deter us, love to see how the locals live and enjoyed the atmosphere, again having places where you can grab a coffee with a pastry. What is not to love.

There are many Churches and Towers, all worth a visit, but the one that captured my attention was the 'Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral'. Coming across it with it's many domed roofs with the sun shining and the sky blue as its backdrop.

Kalnciema Quarter, this was a huge backyard surrounded by 120 year old wooden architecture, with the snow that had fallen the night before and the Christmas Decorations, it was a must on our to do list.

Overall, I had such a wonderful time in Riga and I really think if you haven't already done so then you should consider it as a future European destination. There is so much to love about this little city.