5-6 August – Riga (Latvia)

Riga was the closer we could get to a city where the Russian influence was most visible. Besides the beautiful Art Nouveau buildings and some timid examples of modern high-rises, the city is predominantly styled by the modernism which was the norm until 1990. Riga is home to several “pearls” of Soviet-era modernism, but there has long been a widespread reluctance to preserve them — in part on account of the period they symbolise, and in part the likely expense involved. As a result, it is not rare to see crumbling buildings and entire areas of the cities resembling abandoned construction sites.

Despite this, there is a lot of charm in Riga, which is more international than many other European cities and has a lot to offer in terms of getting real value from your travel experience.

We enjoyed the stunning Art Nouveau neighbourhood, and the equal impressive, albeit for entirely different reasons, Central Market. As in other Baltic cities, the city centre proper, with the pretty square and the meandering streets around it, is a very disappointing collection of souvenir shops and bars/pubs with music, all catering to tourists. Once you’ve seen one, you can imagine all others and devote your time in these cities to other more interesting areas.

Finding one of the best gluten-free bakeries with great cappuccino earned Riga a lot of points in our book.

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