Do you like traveling off the beaten path? Do you enjoy visiting European cities that are less famous than, say, Paris or London ? Then a trip to Riga, the darling capital of Latvia, is perfect for you. This little jewel has tons to offer despite its small size and is fun. Lots of fun.
One: See Riga’s Art Deco
Riga has some of the most incredible art deco in Europe and the best part is, it’s all concentrated in one neighborhood, so you will easily find it. The houses are beautiful from the outside, but even more so inside: the Art Deco Museum is defintely worth a visit, as it shows life as it used to be in the 1910s.
Two: Take a canal cruise
I know it sounds corny, but hear me out: a canal cruise in Riga is fun, and it only takes about one hour to take the whole tour, so why not? It’s a beautiful city to be seen from the water and going down the canal in the main park is incredibly charming!
Three: Wander the streets
Riga is one of those cities where you can walk aimlessly all day just for the sake of wandering and taking pictures: every house is painted a different color, every window has pretty curtains, every roof is steep and quaint as if it belonged to a castle. There are photo opportunities virtually everywhere and the cobblestone alleys, all of which are pedestrian-only, are ideal for walking: thankfully, they are also dotted with bars and cafés, so you can stop every now and then and recharge with coffee or beer (I definitely recommend the beer… Latvian beer is amazing, while coffee… well, let’s just say that is nothing to write home about!). If you want to see the city from above, the belltower at St. Peter’s is the place for you:
Four: Learn more about Latvia’s history
Unless you are very, very young (in which case lucky you!!!) chances are you didn’t get to study the history of Latvia in school, as the country used to be part of the USSR up until 1991. Its history isn’t one that is pleasant to study either: Latvia was occupied by Russians in 1940, by the Nazis in 1941 and again by the Soviet forces in 1944 up until 1990… needless to say, neither of the two treated Latvians very well (to say the least) and the population suffered all kinds of supruse for many decades. In Riga’s main square you can learn more about the country’s history at the Museum of Occupation, which is small but very informative. In the same square, you can also admire some of Riga’s oldest houses, which are quite incredible as they are all painted in different colors and have a very distinct architecture. The most famous is a red brick house which used to be home of the unmarried German merchants that lived in Riga centuries ago… did you know that they are said to be the ones who invented the Christmas tree? Neither did I. So there, you learned something new today!
Five: Visit Riga’s Central Market
Love local food markets? I absolutely love them and I have to say that Riga’s Central Market is AMAZING, much better than any other food markets I have seen in European cities! The market is housed in three very large airplane hangars super close to downtown and it showcases some incredibly fresh food, from plump produce to great looking locally caught salmon. As I walked through the market I would have loved to buy pretty much everything, but since I was staying at a hotel and had no kitchen I couldn’t. But next time, and believe there will be a next time, I will stay at an apartment just so I can shop for groceries there!
Six: Eat (and drink) at Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs
Looking for a great place to have dinner in Riga? Look no further than Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs. We loved this place so much, we went back three times! This restaurant and bar serves great local fare, tasty beer and awesome vodka and is ridiculously cheap. Added bonus: after dinner some kick ass bands play live until closing time!
Seven: Get out of town and see the Baltic Sea
Last but not least, getting out of town is definitely something I reccomend to do when in Riga. We cought a train, which brought us to Jurmala on the Baltic Sea in only 30 minutes. Jurmala is Riga’s best loved seaside resort, with a beautiful white beach, blue waters and the prettiest cottages I’ve seen in a long time.
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