Riga, Latvia’s capital and the most populous city in the Baltics, dominates most travellers’ itineraries, almost to the exclusion of other destinations in the country. Famed for its historic old town (a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1997) and a particularly generous clutch of Art Nouveau houses, the city’s range of hotels ticks most boxes. But, look a little closer to Latvia’s coastal towns of Liepāja and Jūrmala, and you’ll uncover opportunities to combine city and sea, discovering wholesome beaches known only to regional visitors – and, now, you, too with these hotels in Liepaja and beyond.
Strait-laced businessmen might just unleash their “inner bohemian” at the Grand Poet, the first five-star design hotel in Riga. The lauded Latvian poet in question is Rainis, a 19th-century literary prodigy, who’s name is remembered here, on city-centre Raina Boulevard (a variant of his pseudonym). Opened in 2018, the hotel’s goal was to inject bohemian pizzazz into this smart but staid neighbourhood. Almost every inch of its interior drips with striking design, from zigzag carpets, herringbone parquet and tiled floors to elaborate lighting and furnishings swirling with patterns and colour.
One for the bourgeois in the heart of Riga’s charming Old Town, this former Bank of Latvia building, built in 1877, oozes almost Tsar-like grandeur and finesse. No surprise it’s been voted the leading hotel in the country for over a decade. Rugs, vases, chandeliers, candelabras, framed wall paintings and vintage wallpaper dominate its theatrical public areas. Bright commodious rooms have a more modern feel, tempered with maritime-themed prints depicting a 19th-century cityscape and dark retro furniture, including travel-chest cabinets and drawers.
Art Nouveau aficionados will readily connect with the striking façade of this imposing Old Town mansion, its entrance topped with a sculpted face and flowing tresses, segueing into a pillared archway. An award-winning post-Independence restoration by the original owner’s descendants saw the building’s apartments reconfigured into a 55-room boutique hotel. Subtle Art Nouveau touches in the interior – stucco coving, parquet floors and arched windows – are melded to contemporary furniture, groovy ceiling lamps and graphic wall art. All accommodation features a kitchenette.
Opposite the city-centre Vērmanes Gardens near Riga’s Old Town, the Elisabete’s avowedly modern architecture exudes a cool hipster vibe. Its steel-and-glass façade (emblazoned with calligraphic Latvian poetry) and large atrium (filled with shrubbery and patio-style furniture) lend a sophisticated edge. A remarkable 200-plus rooms and suites fill this TARDIS-like property. Expect stripped floors, contemporary styling and floor-to-ceiling windows, some with pleasing park views. The gargantuan buffet breakfasts might keep you going all day.
Overlooking central Riga’s Opera Park near the train station, the Opera’s late 19th-century façade and gently updated interiors have genteel upscale travellers in mind. Its superior rooms are a cut above the standards, with mustard-yellow decor and burgundy accents, while the top-floor mansard suites feature exposed beams and trusses. Panoramic Old Riga prints above the beds and on the ceilings lend further character.
Opera-lovers, take note: you won’t find a grander or more stately hotel this close to the National Opera House. The original building was virtually destroyed in WWII, quickly rebuilt and opened as Hotel Riga, where, it appears, history was made by having Latvia’s first bar and serving the first cocktail in the Soviet Union. In these less heady days, Kempinski’s major refit is making happy, if not history, with live piano in the lobby lounge, a cigar and cognac lounge and notably large rooms and suites.
The Promenade’s brick façade stands testimony to its 18th-century heyday as a shipping warehouse, when the coastal town of Liepāja was a thriving Baltic port. Overlooking a canal barely a kilometre (0.6mi) from the sandy beach, the hotel’s warehouse-chic look – all weathered-timber flooring and lofty arched brickwork – is handsomely paired with elegant wood panelling, chandeliers, rugs and paintings, along with tufted armchairs and sofas. Rooms and suites feature attractive retro-styled furniture and an appealing palette of mustard-yellow, gold and amber.
Beach bums will love the glorious stretch of sandy Baltic coastline at Jūrmala, around 25km (16mi) west of Riga. A resort town for centuries, whose visitors ranged from early German settlers to Imperial Russian officers and diehard Soviets, its curative mud and healing mineral-rich waters remain as appealing as ever. Bathed in the locality’s pine-scented sea-tangy air, the Amber’s wellness resort features contemporary rooms and suites with subtle Art Nouveau touches. Guests have free pool and gym access as well as Russian-style banya, or bathhouse, facilities.
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