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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Top 5 things to do in Riga, Latvia

With the launch of a new direct route between Abu Dhabi and Riga this week, we look at the Unesco-listed city's best draws

An aerial view of Riga's old town at night. Photo © Aleksandrs Kendenkovs
An aerial view of Riga's old town at night. Photo © Aleksandrs Kendenkovs

Riga, the 800-year-old capital of Latvia, is best known for its Unesco-listed historic centre, to which the cultural body attributes "universal human value" thanks to its historic, "spatially harmonic urban environment with relatively few destructive transformations." Here are our top 5 places to visit.

The old town's medieval centre is complemented by neoclassical wooden structures in the suburbs, as well as over 300 Art Nouveau buildings.

The House of Blackheads, Riga. Latvia Travel
The House of Blackheads, Riga. Latvia Travel

1. The old town

The city's medieval core reflects the prosperity of the city when it was a major trading centre between the 13th and 15th centuries. One of the classic landmarks is the House of the Blackheads, which was originally built in 1334 to cater to a brotherhood of banquet caterers who called themselves Blackheads. The buildings were rebuilt after being destroyed by German bombing in the Second World War.

2. Art nouveau architecture

An Art Nouveau staircase in Riga, Latvia. Live Riga
An Art Nouveau staircase in Riga, Latvia. Live Riga

According to Unesco, Riga has the finest collection of art nouveau architecture in Europe, with 50 notable examples in the medieval part of the old town and more than 300 in the rest of the historic centre. The style is characterised by both linear designs and flowing curves and was popular between 1890 and the First World War.

3. The Freedom Monument

The Monument of Freedom in Riga, Latvia. Live Riga
The Monument of Freedom in Riga, Latvia. Live Riga

This 43-metre high granite monument was unveiled in 1935, though Latvia gained independence on November 18 1918, making next year the centenary. The structure is made up of 56 structures depicting the country's history and culture.

4. National Art Gallery

A gallery at the Art Museum Riga Bourse, part of the Latvian National Museum of Art. Live Riga
A gallery at the Art Museum Riga Bourse, part of the Latvian National Museum of Art. Live Riga

The Latvian National Museum of art comprises five sites. The Art Museum Riga Bourse occupies a palazzo-style building opened in 1855 and has four permanent displays with impressive colections from the 16th century onwards.

5. St Peter's Church

St Peter's Church, Riga. Live Riga
St Peter's Church, Riga. Live Riga

This Gothic-style Lutheran Church dates from 1209 and is the tallest in the old city.

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