Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking – 6.5/10
Riga has become the pretender to Prague for the crown of ‘Best Eastern European City for Stag Weekends’. So much so that the Latvian government have tried to put a cap on the number of Brits who can visit on such trips. This, though, is good news for the backpacking community as it allows the city to maintain its charm and character which is the reason people started visiting in the first place.
The fact it is so popular for stag weekends stems from the fact that it is so accessible for visitors. Not only can you fly there as cheaply as you can fly to almost anywhere in Europe but the city boasts excellent value when you arrive and no element of culture shock for even the most inexperienced backpacker. If you’re after an introduction to living out of a backpack and staying in hostels then this is a great place to start before working your way downinto the slightly heavier spots in the likes of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
One of the stand out attractions in Riga is the Freedom Monument which has a sacred place in the heart of every Latvian after it managed to survive four decades of Soviet rule. This sits alongside the cathedral as one of the most viewed buildings in the city and they both illustrate the beautiful architecture on offer in the city. This is further exemplified by the central market which is about as far from Oxford Street shopping as you can get. It is based in five old zeppelin hangers and still provides the locals with a place to come and get their cheap fruit and veg. It’s a great way to soak up the lifestyle of a local Rigan but some of the lower level citizens have latched onto this as an opportunity to get some freebies so keep your hands on your pockets!
Riga can be a great introduction to the backpacking lifestyle but is in danger of being overrun by rampant tourists heading over for a quick weekend of cheap debauchery. If this is kept in check and the city maintains its wonderful character then it will continue to be a fantastic destination to go backpacking.
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It might also be an idea to buy the Latvia Lonely Planet Guide