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15 September 2019Riga - Latvia's Cultural Capital
17 September 2018The Art & History of Urbino, Ravenna, Sansepolcro & Gubbio
31 August 2017The Cultural Heart of Germany

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Riga - Latvia's Cultural Capital


The Arts Society Greenwich continued its programme of annual cultural holidays in 2019 with a six-day trip to Riga, Latvia. It was the first visit to the country for most of the twenty two participants and, as anticipated, Riga and its immediate environs delivered a wealth of art, architecture and heritage sites.

Our local guide was outstanding with superb organisational skills (essential on these holidays) and a sound knowledge of the places on our itinerary. Latvia has had a turbulent past and his understanding of current affairs coupled with detailed historical knowledge brought everything to life and helped set things in context. The historic centre of Riga (a World Heritage Site) is a diverse mixture Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque and Neo-Classical styles but it is the Art Nouveau architecture which steals the show. Our morning walk revealed street after street of stunning apartment blocks, mostly built between 1904 and 1914, and in remarkably good condition. Finishing up at the Art Nouveau Museum we then had an opportunity to see how these wonderful buildings would have been furnished.

A visit to the 13th century Turaida castle provided a very different setting and gave us en route a chance to see rural Latvia with its farms and fields nestling amongst dense forests. For sheer grandeur one would have to travel north to see the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to find a rival to the sumptuous 18th century Rundale Palace – these buildings had the same architect. The gardens at Rundale were modelled on Versailles and our guided tour of the interior revealed a remarkable collection of paintings, furniture, woodwork and stucco decorations.

The trip provided something for all artistic tastes and included an organ concert in the Cathedral, a boat trip around Riga’s canal system (taken in good spirits in spite of inclement weather!) and even a bracing walk along the beach at the historic seaside town of Jurmala.

We stayed in a comfortable hotel in the centre of Riga and found a wide range of restaurants nearby serving quality food. Breakfasts, one lunch and two dinners were included in the cost of our holiday. The pace of the trip was measured with time available for members to pursue personal interests.