Welcome to Latvia! Our second to last stop on this quick-paced tour from Northern Europe through to Eastern.
If you’ve missed any of my earlier posts about this trip, catch them here or in the ‘Travel’ tab up there.
Out of the four capital cities that we visited, Riga was the one I had extremely high expectations of, as multiple people had hyped it up. Did it live up to those? Not as much as I had hoped, but Riga is still a beautiful city to spend a couple of days in.
So what is there to do?
Latvia is an amazing country for craft beer, there’s no shortage of it and it’s a little bit more affordable than the UK. Your staple pints are most definitely cheaper, but you’ll still save a bit on the crafts.
Our Airbnb was just around the corner from one of Riga’s best beer specialists, Beer Fox. Ran by an American immigrant, Beer Fox combines his love of craft beer with Riga’s amazing breweries. I’m not mad on beer, but this was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.
GET LOST IN THE STREETS
Riga’s old town is a beauty, fairytale land. It’s your little slice of Hans Christian Anderson without the actual murdery parts of his stories, just the nice beautiful, timeless places.
From hidden alleys full of street art, to colourful cobbled roads, there’s a lot to be found around Riga’s Old Town.
WALK AROUND BASTEJKALNA PARKS
Slap bang in the centre of the city, you’ll find a winding park full of beautiful trees and a river cleaner than 99% of the one’s you’ll find in England. You can find yourself a slice of nature without having to leave the city, plus there’s a ton of interesting statues and architecture surrounding the park.
VISIT A MARKET IN AN AIRCRAFT HANGAR
Riga Central Market is the largest market and bazaar in all of Europe, and it’s housed in five German Zeppelin Hangars reused to create this bizarre (pun intended) place. The market sells everything from fruit and veg to all forms of art. You won’t end up spending too long here, but it feels authentically Riga and is something so completely unique.
WATCH THE CATS ATOP THE CAT HOUSE
Cats have become a bit of a symbol of Riga, especially amongst tourists. There are multiple legends about the cat house, one being that the man who ordered there to be two angry cats did so because he was rejected from the Riga Tradesmen’s Guild, and so the tails face towards the Guild. Another is that the cats are facing with the tails towards Riga Town Hall following a dispute with the city council.
No one knows the truth, but the cats are cool.
VISIT THE THREE BROTHERS
These three unique buildings attract quite the crowd. They’re just fun to look at, and they’re the blending of 1500’s to 1700’s architecture. Though due to Riga’s thin streets, you’ll find it very difficult to get a good shot of these without a wide lens. It’s clear to say I did not have a wide lens.
VISIT THE ART NOUVEAU DISTRICT
Riga’s most famous area is probably the Art Nouveau district. There’s actually multiple Art Nouveau streets, but we only visited the main one. Over one third of the buildings located in Central Riga are Art Nouveau, so you’ll be kept busy. Walk around these streets with your head held high. If you have the chance, make sure to go in the Art Nouveau Museum and take a peek at the famous staircase. Sadly it’s shut on Mondays, which was our only chance to visit. Feast your eyes on these pretty buildings.
SPY THE CITY FROM ABOVE
Riga’s a city of many spires, take your pick of where you’ll climb high.
In the first picture is St. Peter’s Church, for €9, €7 if you’re a student, you can view the city from above. This seems to be the most popular due to it’s location in the centre of the Old Town. There was a bit of filming going on during our visit, so we couldn’t heard to the top.
The second photograph was taken from the Academy of Sciences, located in a different part of Riga to the previous. This building is also known as Stalin’s Birthday Cake, it’s incredibly Soviet. For only €4 you can head to the 17th floor viewing platform. This one is a bit quieter due to being out of town and in a University building. The views from each side are completely individual sides of Riga, I’d definitely recommend the view from here.
VISIT THE MUSEUM OF THE OCCUPATION OF LATVIA
Latvia is a country that has been invaded and occupied a great deal of times in it’s recent history. The USSR, Nazi Germany and then the USSR once more. The Museum of Occupation is one of the most popular tourist attractions, but what you’re looking at here isn’t the main branch. This was actually a KGB prison that was repurposed for an exhibition. The Museum really seeks to educate, and you’ll find some pop ups around the city.
and after you’ve conquered all of the above, treat yourself to a margarita for breakfast.
That’s Riga! Next time we move onto wonderful Lithuania and one of the most incredible places on the planet
Catch up on the other posts in this series: