Riga is shedding its reputation as a weekend party town by luring Europe’s art-and-culture set. Here, four reasons to visit the Latvian capital.

By Brandon Presser
February 11, 2015
Art nouveau architecture in Riga, Latvia
Credit: © age fotostock / Alamy

Because it has the world’s best collection of Art Nouveau architecture.
Latvia’s early-1900s industrial boom gave birth to hundreds of Jugendstil structures, many by architect Mikhail Eisenstein. 10B Elizabeth Street (pictured) has the most impressive façade, with its white-on-blue goddesses and curling vines. Alberta Street is a parade of fantastical gargoyles, jungle animals, even robots. Get a map at the Riga Art Nouveau Museum for a self-guided walking tour.

Because coffee is an art here.
Five years ago all you could find was the add-water-and-stir variety. Today baristas are pouring perfectly brewed lattes in creatively converted spaces. Our picks: Miit, a café and bike workshop, and the art-filled Innocent Café.

Because it provides a fascinating lens on the country’s rich past.
Last year’s European Capital of Culture designation unleashed a flood of funds that helped develop programs at the National Library of Latvia and the Corner House, a museum in the former KGB headquarters that explores the brutal Soviet police system. Preservation efforts have also homed in on relics like the opulent Renaissance-style Art Museum Riga Bourse a national landmark.

Because today’s Latvian cuisine is a refreshing departure from Soviet meat and potatoes.
Simple seafood dishes dominate, with a nod to the New Nordic ethos that’s taken hold on the other side of the Baltic Sea. At Vincents, fresh river fish is rubbed with butter, oil, and a dash of salt and served with handpicked mushrooms and berries. Le Dome sources from local farms and fishermen; don’t miss the quark cheese with seared trout and caviar.