Riga is a city of contrasts. Its gleaming office blocks, sleek airport and western hotel chains speak of the strides it has made since breaking away from the former Soviet Union in the early 90s – a confidence driven in no small part by thriving tourism, one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy.
Large numbers of visitors are drawn to Riga’s medieval Old Town, a maze of spiral churches, cobbled streets, quaint cafes – stocked with Black Balsam, the renowned locally produced liqueur – vintage shops and the occasional serendipity. My favourite was a Leica shop, an hommage of sorts to the country’s little-known claim to fame: the invention of the sub-miniature Minox camera. Yet venture out to the suburbs and the Soviet legacy of the Latvian capital is evident, with sprawling, faceless apartment blocks remaining a prominent feature of the landscape.
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