It is generally recognised that Riga has the finest and the largest collection of art nouveau buildings in the world. This is due to the fact that at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, when Art Nouveau was at the height of its popularity, Riga experienced an unprecedented financial and demographic boom. In the period from 1857 to 1914 its population grew from 282,000 to 558,000 making it the 4th largest city in the Russian Empire (after Saint-Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw) and its largest port.
The bourgeoisie of Riga used their wealth to build imposing apartment blocks around the former city walls. In that period around 800 Art Nouveau buildings were erected. With its narrow cobble-stone streets, Old Town features gorgeous buildings built in various architectural styles – Romanticism, Gothic, Mannerism, Baroque, Eclectic and Modernism to name a few.
Like most cities I visit it felt like I only scratched the surface with regard to what Riga had to offer. One day is never enough to spend somewhere new but it does force you to get out there and explore. For anyone who is thinking of visiting Riga I suggest doing a little bit of research so the city surprises you throughout the trip. Booking an apartment through Airbnb would be ideal as you can walk around the city centre by day and indulge in the local culture by night. As a personal recommendation make sure to visit the Latvian National Opera or see the Dinamo Riga hockey club in action at the Arena Riga.
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