The largest city in the Baltic States and capital of Latvia. Bordering Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania as well as the Baltic Sea, gives it an average December temperature of -5 degrees when I visited back in 2008.
Although not by choice, Latvia was a part of the USSR between 1940 and 1991 and there still remains a decent sized Russian population in the city, about 45% of the total population of the capital.
Shuttle buses frequently leave from the airport and drop off at various destinations in the Latvian capital for 3Lats. Our friendly driver even gave us a map, pointed out some sights and helped us with a few polite Latvian phrases on our 30 minute journey into the heart of city.
The entire historic city centre is designated a UNESCO site, and with very good reason!
The city is filled with cobbled streets and squares and is steeped in history. About 800 years old, Germany originally established Riga as an important trade route between the East and the West and has been fought over and ruled many times since, by Poland, Sweden and of course Russia. This all results in amazing Art Nouveaux architecture, Churches, and a Cathedral or Dome, the spire of which, providing a great reference point for getting your bearings when wandering around, as it can be seen from all over the city.
The bars and restaurants show another great example of its rich history, with Russian, German and Swedish cuisine among the many on offer, especially around the Livs Square part of town. It is easy to see why this city is known as the Paris of the Baltics.