Riga, Latvia

The Baltic states–Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania–are booming. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the three countries have been undergoing major restoration projects, and their ancient cities are experiencing a renaissance. Tourists have been exploring these historical centers–the medieval forts, the castles, and the churches. Despite falling in love with the cobblestone streets, the main squares, and the café culture, something was missing. A great hotel.

Sure, there were plenty of places to stay. International hotel chains rushed in long ago, and more traditional lodging was always an option. A Soviet-era hotel didn’t exactly inspire confidence that you’d receive a good night’s sleep, though. So it makes Latvia’s capital, Riga, which has not one but two boutique hotels, an even more appealing destination right now.

Photo: Dome Hotel & Spa
Photo: Dome Hotel & Spa

On a quiet street in Vecriga–the Old Town–you’ll find a 16th century building that has been turned into the Dome Hotel & Spa. The Art Deco rooms overlook either the vertical green garden or the Dome Cathedral. You’re welcomed into the lobby with iced tea and cookies. Breakfast is served on the first-floor terrace. A top-floor spa offers a Finnish sauna, a Turkish bath, and champagne to drink while you gaze across the rooftops. But the best seat in the house is on the fifth-floor terrace after dark. Over baked Valmiera Camembert cheese, traditional sprat dumplings, and an earthy glass of red wine, you’ll look out over the Dome Cathedral’s illuminated tower. It’s one of the best views in Riga.

Photo: Hotel Bergs
Photo: Hotel Bergs

Prefer to stay outside of the touristy historical center? Hotel Bergs is only a short walk away. The hotel, which has a 19th century brick facade, is sleek, yet homey. It’s decorated with neutral oatmeal and mocha hues, Art Nouveau fireplaces, and wood carvings. Plus heated floors and a pillow menu. One of Riga’s best restaurants, Bergs, is right here. Take a seat by the courtyard fountain, and eat rainbow trout and braised rabbit leg for lunch. Then walk it off in the Bergs Bazaar. Known as “Little Paris,” the area’s buildings are linked by an open pedestrian walkway and filled with boutiques, art galleries, and cafés. Plus the Central Market, the largest open-air market in Europe, is only a few blocks away.

After sleeping like a baby, you’ll feel rested and ready to wander around the Freedom Monument, visit St. Peter’s Church, see a performance at the Latvian National Opera, and stroll through Bastejkalns, a park where newly married couples leave locks on the Bridge of Love. It’s easy to see why Riga has been designated a European Capital of Culture for 2014. And now all of the city’s visitors will have great places to sleep.

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