The third time in the Baltics. I had visited Tallinn, Estonia, in 2011. Then Kaunas and Vilnius, Lithuania in 2012. Now it was time to see Latvia in 2013. I'm aware there's far more to see in the Baltics than just the cities. And I was quite impressed by seeing the forests from the train window, for example when I traveled from Kaunas to Vilnius and from Riga to Jurmala. There's a lot to explore and I would love to come back. All my experiences in the Baltics were positive. I loved the crisp, clean air and how the sun is up but you don't burn as fast. The people, who were so calm and civilized it made me think of Scandinavia. Their own cultures, which are often grouped together but are all quite different. So are the languages and so is the history. Although there are some shared events that unify these countries, they have their distinct history mostly and see themselves as separate, proud nations as well.
I liked Riga. It has a lot of contrasts, some of the most beautiful art nouveau buildings you'll find and some of the most remarkable socialist architecture. It blends in perfectly, although I bet many local people would probably not be a big fan of the socialist structures. Either way, Riga is a city with lots to see and it's obvious that there has been a very wealthy class in history. Even more so, the city is on the Baltic Sea and has therefore allowed for trade with other countries. It shows in the city's architecture, a rich past and seeing the way the buildings are maintained, a future full of more trade and tourism.
I stayed in the Radisson Daugava Hotel on the left bank of the Daugava river. It was just a short walk or tram ride to the other side and then the center's right there. I took a train to Jurmala as well. This is the perfect place to relax and when the weather's good, it would be a shame not to visit it. The central station of Riga has trains to Jurmala. Yet Jurmala has several stations, as it's over 35 kilometres in length. So take the train to Majori, which is the 'central part' of Jurmala. Then admire the fantastic wooden mansions, of which many are well renovated but some are in a state of decay. Enjoy the pine forests and the long beach. The first pictures below are of Jurmala, the album at the bottom has pictures of Riga. For a fantastic and regularly updated post on what to see in Riga, visit Wikitravel.