The "Old Town" is the medieval heart of Riga, a maze of winding cobblestone streets, stony churches and public squares. Most of the city’s main tourist sights are located inside the Old Town, including the Cathedral, St. Peter’s Church, House of the Blackheads, Parliament and the city’s Castle.
The Old Town is unsurprisingly also home to a wide range of restaurants, bars, shops and hotels. We focused our hotel hunting here, as this is the middle of the action. During peak summer months, the streets will be noisy with nighttime revelers, so light sleepers may wish to ask for rooms off the street—or book a room in another neighborhood.
The "Center" is a confusing name for tourists, who tend to spend the majority of their time in the Old Town. The Center surrounds the Old Town to the North, East and South, and is set off by parkland and busy streets. A massive grid of grayish, bustling streets, the Center is the commercial hub of the city, home to shopping centers, some boutiques and lots of regular old stores and offices.
Happily, the Center is also home to Riga’s impressive Art Nouveau district, which makes for a wonderful afternoon walking tour. The busy train and bus stations are also located in the Center, with transit lines stretching out to serve the rest of the city. Hotels here are usually quite a bit cheaper than those in the Old Town, but will also require a tram ride or a 10- to 15-minute walk to reach the Old Town.