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Riga's Freedom Square holds
perhaps Europe's richest store
of Art Nouveau architecture.

Bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and the Baltic Sea on the west, the former Soviet province - and today a proud member of the EU - is one of many Eastern European countries enjoying a thriving tourist boom.

Besides the cosmopolitan pleasures and architectural wonders of its capital, Riga, Latvia is also a land of spectacular wild and natural beauty, seen in its abundance of lakes, rivers and nature parks.

And, of course, no summer trip would be complete without an excursion to Latvia's pristine beaches, lying along a sea coast that winds 200-plus miles along horseshoe-shaped Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea.

The country's capital, Riga, is by far the most visited city in all of Latvia, and where most travelers first set foot inside the country for a fascinating look at Latvian history and culture.

Two of the more popular districts include the Old Town and nearby Freedom Monument area for a trip back in time to visit ancient churches and guild halls combined with an eye-popping mix of beautifully preserved early 19th century Art Nouveau architecture.

Also don't miss a colorful walk around Riga Central Market, the biggest in Latvia and one of the largest in all of Europe.

For more stunning contrast take a walk around the residential area (just outside the city center) chock-a-block with gray Soviet-style apartment buildings.

Latvia must-sees

For nature in the wild, take a tour of Gauja National Park offering naural springs, sandstone outcrops,
nature trails, caves to explore, medieval castles and other historic places to visit, and very picturesque views.

Day trips from Riga during the summer might include a dip in the Baltic Sea eight miles out of town by train at Vecaki Beach, or take the bus to tour the gardens and historical exhibits at the richly decorated Rundale Palace which once served as a countryside retreat for local Russian nobility.


More about Latvia travel & tourism around the Web:

Welcome to Latvia - The official guide with helpful information on what to do, where to go and how to get there including photos, event calendar and suggested itineraries, hotel and lodging search.

Latvia travel guide - Wikitravel - Good overview of Latvian history and culture with information on major attractions, how to get around, plus practical travel advice and safety tips.

Latvia Travel - Lonely Planet World Guide - Fast facts, feature attractions, when to go, how to get there plus maps, typical travel costs, photo galleries, and special features on Riga, Gauja National Park, Cape Kolka, and more.

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