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Head to Riga for a weekend of good food, cheap vodka and all the culture you can handle...

Day One: Morning

Riga is in vogue right now having emerged from a murky Soviet past, and is only just opening up fully to tourists. The city is divided into halves – the old town, which is where the main tourist attractions are, and the new town, where the art nouveau buildings are decorated with buxom naked women.

Start the day by taking the lift up to St Peter’s Church to get your bearings. The famous 13th-century building has been struck by lightning six times and rebuilt twice so keep this one for clear weather. From there you’ll see nearby Pelmeni, a great lunch spot where you can fill your bowl to the brim with as many dumplings as you want for just a few quid. Do as the locals do and wash them down with beer. Or if you’re feeling really hardy, get the afternoon swinging with an XL shot of Moskovskaya Vodka.

Afternoon:

If you’re going to Riga post-May, take in the city with a walking tour that will lead you past the beautiful House of Blackheads, which was built for unmarried German merchants, to Riga Castle where the president of Latvia lives, to The Swedish Gate, which is part of the old city walls. Here, there are lots of trendy shops and cafes to browse before heading to the nearby Museum of War which documents the violent history of Latvia with old photos and weapons. End at the impressive Freedom Monument, which is flanked by plazas and waterfalls. This walk can be done with a guidebook or you can book a tour.

If you’re visiting in the summer, a bike trip to the suburbs will show you the ‘real Riga’. Highlights include the crumbling Great Cemetery, which came close to being destroyed during Russian occupation and has since been pilfered by grave robbers, and the grungy Moscow zone, which has lots of character.

Evening:

Keep in step with the city’s history by dining at Austrumu Robeza – it’s definitely an experience as you slurp your soup below busts of Stalin in this Communist-style eatery where very little has changed since the dictator’s heyday. The food is good and you’ll never drink alone (the cheap vodka helps). Upmarket bars of Riga can be found in the old town, with more bohemian spots dotting the new town. The Radisson Blu was one of the coolest places in town during the Soviet era, and the heaving Skyline Baron the 26th floor is still an extremely popular place to prepare yourself for a big night out. Nautilus in the old town is one of Riga’s most happening nightclubs, blaring up-to-the-minute house music – and apparently it’s submarine themed. It’s also well-known for its audience of beautiful women.


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48 hours in Latvia: Get the most out of Riga
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