UNESCO World Heritage Site in Latvia
One of my bucket lists is to visit one UNESCO World Heritage site each from all of the 167 participating countries.
WHAT AND WHY
The Historic Center of Riga is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site because it has the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe. Its quantity (50 Art Nouveau buildings of high architectural value plus 300 more scattered in the center) and quality is unparalleled anywhere in the world
I was there in January and it was really cold and it could get to double digit sub-zero temperate plus the biting meanness of the wind, so I recommend that you really gear up for the weather.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Kempinski Riga, well just in front of it actually. There’s this apartment called Apartamenti Twin Owls and it was spacious and very clean. The only concern we had was there were some steps we need to take toward our room where we had to drag our luggage. Plus, there are 3 levels of access by key after 7 pm which makes it too cumbersome.
As for the location, it was perfect. You are stones throw away from the Historic City Center and where all the shops are. They just close very early at 7 pm though. But the variety of shops are amazing and unique.
From Geneva, there is a direct flight to Riga via airBaltic so it is very convenient. Once you arrive at the airport, there are taxis everywhere. Be careful because the normal fare should only play round is EUR 15 – 20 to the center. Some take advantage of visitors who have no idea how to measure its reasonableness. What we thought was a one way EUR 40 taxi fare at night turned out to be onerously overcharged when we tried the cab on our return flight home.
I did not exactly experience Latvia’s culinary scene. We only tried one beer house because it was the only one opened when we arrived and they served American style food.
Riga was special because…
Most people know that Riga had ties with Russia historically but not a lot really know that the Swedish had a powerful influence too.
Surprisingly though during the course of our tour, our photographer, Katrina shared her sentiments on how disadvantageous Latvia has become since it joined the European Union. The reason was that the EU regulated too much its commerce that it bars Latvia from competitively leveraging its top product which is sugar. She mentioned that the general feeling of its people is that they do not really need the EU and they can be better off out of it than in it.
I was also stunned that she mentioned that it’s very expensive to live in Riga, the rent of an apartment ranging from EUR 1K – 2K in the historic center.
Back to architecture…Riga is famous for its art nouveau architecture. One may ask, what is it? Beyond being a movement in the past, it is a style in architecture that uses floral motifs as its center theme. It actually humanized the tall boxed shape structures of common architecture and it evokes nature’s beauty.