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If you want to enjoy nature, there is not only the serene Gulf of Riga and the open Baltic Sea, but also nature parks, lakes and beautiful forests. Old Riga offers not only fabulous architectural monuments, but also various nightclubs and pubs. According to legend, once every 100 years the devil rears his head from the waters of Riga’s River Daugava and asks whether Riga is ‘ready’ yet. If the answer is ‘yes’, the now nearly 900-year-old city will be condemned to sink into the waters. For now, however, there is no chance of Latvia being ’ready’ to sink. Long the Baltic favourite, Latvia is now also beginning to emerge as a tourist destination further afield, championed as one of Europe’s hidden treasures.

Practical Information

Area: 64 589 km² (24 938 miles²)

Capital: Riga. Population: 727 578

Population: 2.3 million

Currency: Latvian Lat (LVL symbol Ls) = 100 santims

Government: Republic. Gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Tipping: Restaurant bills usually include a tip. It is customary to give a little extra for good service.

Legal drinking age: 18

Time zone: GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Languages: Latvian

Additional descriptions

Latvia: Social customs

Handshaking is customary. Normal courtesies should be observed. The Latvians are somewhat reserved and formal, but nevertheless very hospitable. They are proud of their culture, and visitors should takeRead more care to respect this sense of national identity.

Latvia: Food and local specialties

Hors d’oeuvres are very good and often the best part of the meal. Overall, cuisine can be heavy but almost always tasty and nourishing. The national specialties are: Kotletes (meat patties). Skabu kapostuRead more zupa (cabbage soup). Alexander Torte (raspberry- or cranberry-filled pastry strips). Sweetbread soup with dried fruit. Piragi (pastry filled with bacon and onions). Riga’s Black Balsam is a thick, black alcoholic liquid which has been produced since 1700. The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, but some of the ingredients include ginger, oak bark, bitter orange peel and cognac. It is drunk either with coffee or mixed with vodka. There are several good local beers, including the dark beer Bauskas Tumsais and the pale Gaisais. Kvass is a refreshing summer drink. Sparkling wine is popular.

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