Urban Gems Amid a Wilderness

With its Baltic coastline and vast expanses of woodlands, wilderness and water, Latvia is a small country blessed with more than its fair share of natural charms. Its cities are mostly compact, with the capital city, Riga, being the largest and most cosmopolitan. With its historic buildings and exuberant nightlife, Riga is a popular choice with European holidaymakers looking for a place to spend a long weekend. But beyond the boundaries of the capital, the rural areas provide plenty of opportunity for outdoorsy activities, from hiking and cycling to wild swimming.

As it is a member of the Baltic Sea EU macro-region, it makes perfect sense that the two cultural routes that run through Latvia prioritise aims laid out in the strategy for this macro region. The Hansa cultural route strengthens existing bonds between the many European cities that once made up the Hanseatic League, while the Réseau Art Nouveau Network route promotes the shared values that caused the Art Nouveau Movement to be such a major aesthetic force in Europe at the turn of the last century.

How to get there?

There are many options for getting to Latvia, including by car, bus, or plane. Ferry routes run from Sweden and Germany to ports in Riga, Ventspils and Liepāja. The main international airport is in Riga but some international flights also land in Liepāja. Cycling is popular in Latvia, with close to a quarter of citizens owning a bike. There is a growing network of cycle paths in urban and rural areas, and EuroVelo routes 10, 11 and 13 run through the country.

  • Time Zone
    GMT +2
  • Population
    1.93 million
  • Capital
  • Official language
  • Currency
    € or EUR

EU citizens do not need a visa to visit Latvia

Cultural Routes in Latvia

There are two cultural routes with itinerary points in Latvia. The country belongs to the Baltic Sea macro-region – which also includes Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden – and one of the routes that passes through it is The Hansa, which has a heavy focus on this region and connects 190 cities, mostly in Northern Europe. The Réseau Art Nouveau Network route also has stops in Latvia.

The Hansa

The 13th century saw the beginning of an era of economic prosperity and political power for around 225 Northern European cities, as they joined together to form the Hanseatic League. This was a network that was extremely powerful in trade in Europe for hundreds of years. The Hansa cultural route connects many of these cities today. There are eight Hanseatic cities in Latvia: Cesis, Koknese, Kuldiga, Limbaži, Riga, Straupe, Valmiera and Ventspils. The Hansa website notes that: “The objective of [The Hanse] is to make a contribution to economic, cultural, social and civic unity in Europe, and thus to strengthen the self-awareness of the cities and municipalities so that they can fulfil their role as a home of living democracy.”

Réseau Art Nouveau Network

The Art Nouveau movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a major force in European aesthetics and culture. Despite falling out of favour for much of the 20th century, the movement and its principle of integrating fine art with design is nowadays greatly appreciated. The Réseau Art Nouveau Network today exists to connect 20 cities that played a major role in the Art Nouveau movement and are home to striking examples of Art Nouveau art or architecture. Riga is an important stop on this cultural route. According to the official Réseau Art Nouveau Network website: “Research, conservation, and proper exposure are the key objectives of the ambitious programme which the Réseau Art Nouveau Network has set itself for the coming years.”

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