Riga is the biggest city, as well as the capital of Latvia. This city covers an area of one hundred and eighteen square miles with a population of roughly seven hundred and ten thousand resident. Riga is not only a popular tourist destination, but it is also a major commercial, industrial and cultural center of the Baltic region. It is also the third largest city in the Baltic region behind only Stockholm and St. Petersburg. The city is known for its deep history and its historical center has been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Due to recent improvement in the city’s infrastructure, it has experienced a significant increase in business and leisure travelers.
A popular attraction in the city of Riga is the Museum of the Occupation of Lativia 1940-1991. This museum was established in 1993 to display artifacts that relate to the occupation of the country by several countries during the latter half of the twentieth. It covers the periods of Nazi occupation and both periods of Soviet occupation. The mission statement of the museum is “To remind the world of the crimes committed against the people and the state of Latvia by totalitarian regimes”. Another prominent attraction in Riga is the Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum. This museum was founded in 1924 and was directly inspired by the open air museums that can be found in Scandinavia. It was opened to the public in 1932 and contains a collection of village houses from all over Lativia. Currently, the museum has a total of one hundred and eighteen buildings and an additional display of over three thousand objects that give visitors a representational view of most of the ethnic groups of Latvia.
Another prominent attraction in Riga is the Freedom Monument. This memorial is dedicated to soldiers that were killed during the Latvian War of Independence between 1918 and 1920. It is one of the most important national monuments of Lativia and was constructed in 1935. This monument rises to a height of one hundred and thirty-eight feet and is composed of travertine, copper and granite. It contains many bas reliefs and sculptures that are located in thirteen groupings and depict the history and culture of Latvia. The center of the monument is made up of tetragonal shapes put on top of each other and which decrease in size from the bottom to the top. At its pinnacle is a sixty-two foot travertine column that bears the figure of Liberty hoisting three guilded stars. When the Soviets occuppied Latvia in 1940, the monument was considered for demolition. It is believed that Soviet sculptor Vera Mukjina rescued the monument because of its inherent artistic value. The Riga Motor Museum is another attraction that draws a lot of visitors each and every year. This museum is the largest museum dedicated to antique vehicles in the Baltic region. It is operated by the Latvian Transport Ministry and was opened to the public in 1992. In 1994, it became a member of the Latvian Museum Association and in 2002, it became a member of the Latvian Transport Development and Education Association. The city of Riga also has an aviation museum that is aptly called the Riga Aviation Museum. It was founded in 1956 by Victor Talpa. The museum contains a variety of aircraft which include an Antonov An-24, Antonov An-14 Pchelka, Cessna-150, Kamov Ka-26, L-13 Blanik, Aero L-29 Delfin, Mi-1MU Soviet Helicopter, Mil Mi-2 Hoplite, Mil Mi-4 Hound, Mil Mi-6 Hook, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, MiG-21UM, MiG-29UB, Mig-23M, MiG-25P, Tu-22M1 Bomber, Yak-18T and a Yak-28R.
Riga Castle is another prominent attraction of the city and is situated on the banks of the Daugave River. It was built in the fourteenth century and was rebuilt between the fifteen and sixteen century. During the seventeenth century, Riga Castle was seized by the Swedish, who constructed annexes. It originally was a three floor structure that surrounded a rectangular courtyard. It had four rectangular towers, as well. It was demolished during the fifteenth century and was rebuilt with two round towers. During the seventeenth century, Riga Castle was in a state of constant renovation and construction. It also contained an arsenal that was constructed during this time, but it was demolished in the eighteenth century. Today, it serves as the home for the President of Latvia and also contains several museums. One of the more popular museums in the castle is the Latvian Museum of National History. This museum was originally founded by the Riga Latvian Society in 1869, but was moved to Riga Castle in 1924. It has since attained state museum status and its primary purpose is to collect, research, preserve and popularise Latvian cultural materials from its ancient history to the modern day. The museum contains over four hundred thousand archaeological items, eighty-four thousand ethnographic items, one hundred and sixty thousand coins and almost three hundred thousand historical documents.
Other tourist attractions located in the city of Riga include Old City Riga, House of Blackheads, Musee Art Nouveau, Salaspils Memorial Ensemble, Jauniela Street, Brothers’ Cemetery, St. Peter’s Church, Riga Zoo, Cat House, St. Mary’s Dome Cathedral, Central Market of Riga, Jewish Museum, Town Hall Square, Latvian National Theater, St. John’s Church, Latvian War Museum, St. Saviour’s Church, Swedish Gate, Bastion Hill, Sun Museum, Janis Rozentals and Rudolfs Blaumanis’ Museum and ESPA Riga. Riga is also home to many exciting bars, restaurants and cafes. Some of the more popular establishments include Vincents Restaurant, Rama, Alus Seta, LIDO Erholungszentrum, Lido Atputas, Fabrikas Restorans and XL Pelmeni. Of the hotels in the city, there is a great variety to choose from. Some of the more prominent hotels in Riga include the Reval Hotel, Hotel Garden Palace, Hotel Riga, Albert Hotel, Radisson Blu Daugava, Hotel De Rome, Konventa Seta and the Hotel Konventhof. The city also has a diverse number of festivals each year, as well as a number of cultural events that highlight the culture and the people of Latvia.