VIs­IT­INg LATVIA

Rich in his­tory, with a bur­geon­ing cre­ative scene, the Eastern Euro­pean na­tion is only start­ing to hit the radar of global trav­el­ers. The per­fect week­long visit com­bines four days in the cap­i­tal, Riga, with three more in the nearby coun­try­side.

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GET­TING THERE

A va­ri­ety of Euro­pean car­ri­ers such as KLM (klm.com) and Lufthansa (lufthansa.com) will get you to Riga via a stop in a ma­jor hub.

LODG­ING

When I vis­ited Riga pre­vi­ously, I stayed at the Neiburgs (neiburgs. com; dou­bles from €140), a bou­tique ho­tel with rooms over­look­ing the mansard roofs of Old Town, a li­brary that dou­bles as a show­case for lo­cal tex­tiles, and a spa that can be re­served for pri­vate use, as I did ev­ery night. This time, I opted for the con­tem­po­rary sleek­ness of the Ho­tel Bergs (hotel­bergs.lv; dou­bles from €215) and the sump­tu­ous old­world style of the Grand Palace Ho­tel (grand­palac­eriga.com; dou­bles from €150). With a sub­dued palette, high-de­sign flour­ishes and re­fined restau­rant, the Bergs, which neigh­bors a lux­ury-shop­ping ar­cade, would not be out of place in Mi­ami. The Grand Palace evokes Vi­enna: chan­de­liers, soar­ing ceil­ings, and staff in bow ties. The An­nas Ho­tel (an­nashotel.com; suites from €120), an hour and a half from Riga, of­fers 10 apart­ment-like suites.

EAT & DRINK

You could visit the Riga Cen­tral Mar­ket (rct.lv/en) be­cause it’s housed in five of the last eight World War I di­ri­gi­ble hangars on the planet, or be­cause you’ll find the full bounty of Lat­vian food pro­duc­tion, from the coun­try­side to the wa­ters. You will never have straw­ber­ries and cher­ries this sweet any­where else. Both 3 Pavaru (3pavari.lv; mains €20–€30) and Restorans 3 (restau­rant3.lv; tast­ing menus from €42) serve mod­ern Lat­vian cui­sine and should be first on any gour­mand’s itin­er­ary, but for an en­tirely dif­fer­ent yet equally heady ex­pe­ri­ence, visit Val­tera (val­tera restorans.lv/en; mains €12–€24), which pre­pares up­dated ver­sions of tra­di­tional food in a rus­tic set­ting. We had an ex­cel­lent dessert of rhubarb purée, hazel­nut meringue, rhubarb sor­bet and milk foam.

EX­PE­RI­ENCES

No trip to Riga is com­plete with­out see­ing the former lo­cal KGB head­quar­ters, the Cor­ner House (kg­b­build­ing.lv), so named be­cause it sits at the in­ter­sec­tion of two ma­jor streets down­town. Lat­vians joked grimly that the Cor­ner House was the tallest build­ing in the coun­try— you could see from it all the way to Siberia. The English-lan­guage tours are of­ten led by a guide for whom the en­deavor is clearly per­sonal.

Riga’s Old Town is a war­ren of mostly un­ex­pected de­lights. For shop­ping, I sug­gest brows­ing for avant-garde jew­elry at Art Gallery Putti (putti.lv/en); body-care prod­ucts de­rived from Lat­vian flora (ju­niper shower gel, milk-this­tle eye cream) at Pienene (lat­vian­green. com); and house­hold items and ac­ces­sories—linens, kitchen­ware, hand­bags—at Ri­ija (ri­ija.lv).

For a tra­di­tional pirts (sauna) ex­pe­ri­ence in the coun­try­side, head to Brūveri (hotel­bru­veri.lv; pirts €50 per per­son), a ho­tel com­plex near Sigulda, which is the scenic gate­way to Gauja Na­tional Park about an hour from Riga. Sigulda is sur­rounded by cas­tles and hik­ing trails—for lo­cals, it’s the Switzer­land of Latvia—and has a small cot­tage in­dus­try of ad­ven­ture sports (bungee jump­ing, bob­sled­ding). And while you have to be ven­ture­some to seek out car­pen­ter Ja­cob Dimiters’s prop­erty and the work­shop of the North­men guild of ax- and watch­mak­ers (north­men.com), you won’t re­gret it. He may re­ward your ef­fort, as he did ours, with home­made blini with fresh cream and lin­gonberry pre­serves or a pizza from his wood­burn­ing oven. — B.F.

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