Latvia is one of Europe's Last hidden treasures. The country is plotted with small picturesque medieval towns, country castles, museums and folk parks, ruined fortresses and, occasionally, grand palaces. Everywhere you will find intriguing evidence of distinctivelLatvian customs, crafts and culture, and of a determination to preserve and restore the best of the nation's heritage. The access to the Baltic Sea and the important Daugava River made early the area to an important point on the trading routes from North Europe to Russia and Byzantium. But the location brought not only wealth but also strive and throughout the centuries the area was subjected to foreign rule - all or various parts of country were governed at different times by Germany, Sweden, Poland, Russia and Soviet Union. As a matter of fact Latvia has only existed as an independent state for two short historical periods - during the 2 world wars in the last century and again from August 1991 when Latvian independence was restored in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. After centuries of foreign domination, Latvia is again transforming herself into an economically and politically stable democracy, ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
From most European cities Riga is close both time-wise and geographically. Within Riga too, everything is close and compact - next to the medieval Old Town you will find the New Town build in the 19th century after the city fortifications were taken down with green parks and broad boulevard and the Art Noveau districts. Riga is the capital of Art Nouveau. No other city in Europe can boost such fine examples of Art Nouveau and buildings in this particular style occupy more than one third of downtown Riga. Miraculously the medieval Old Town has been neither badly damaged by war nor disfigured by high rise development. You'll fall in love with these cobbled narrow streets. Wherever you turn you'll find a wealth of historic buildings such the Dome Cathedral with it's world famous organ, St. Peters Church built back in 1209 with first clock in the city or Guild Square with the Large and the Small Guild that represent a former glory of Riga as a Hanseatic City. Today vast reconstruction works, new comfortable hotels, modern office buildings, cozy restaurants and fashionable shops help makes Riga to recapture its former beauty and to become the New Baltic Metropolis.
The cities of the Baltic countries were some of the wealthiest and most important cities in medieval northern Europe. Estonia and Latvia can boast a glorious Hanseatic and Livonian legacy, while Lithuania was a vital component of the biggest state in medieval Europe, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. However, for most of the 19th and 20th centuries interrupted only by the interwar period, the Baltic countries were forgotten treasures incorporated into Imperial Russia and later into the Soviet Union. Since the Baltic countries regained their independence at the beginning of the 1990s, the cities have regained their past beauty and glory and have recaptured their natural position on the European map. This tour takes you on a thrilling journey through the three Baltic countries’ millennium of history with remarkable contrasts between the medieval past and the modern present and with plenty of beautiful unspoiled countrysidein between.
The Ligo festival, dedicated to the shortest night of the year when the nature and fertility are praised, has been celebrated in Latvia since ancient times. Bonfires, beer and cheese, flower crowns and singing are part and parcel of the festival. Celebration of the traditional Latvian pagan Līgo! festivity at the shortest night of the year dates back centuries, and its main idea is to praise the nature and fertility. Bonfires, beer, caraway cheese, flower crowns, and Līgo! songs are the key features of the festival. Nowadays, you do not have to go to the countryside to greet the sunrise the following day — Jani Day. A large-scale celebration will take place in the Old Riga, by the Daugava River.
New Years in Riga is beautiful and exhilarating, and 2016 New Year’s Eve definitely brings some additional magic. With a great number of traditional, magnificent architecture, churches, splendid New Year decorations, markets, inspiring music and delicious food and drinks, Riga will make your 2016 NYE unforgettable, no matter whether it’s a pre- or post-NYE time.