RIGA - a city break at Latvia's entrancing capital

At this moment, the Baltic states are in some sort of touristy limbo: Certainly not an insider tip anymore, Latvia is still far from being overrun by large tourist groups.


Riga Three Brothers
Two of the iconic Trīs brāļi, the Three Brothers, a historic building complex. 

Although Riga is a modern and forward-looking metropolis, Latvia's entrancing capital preserves proudly its cultural identity, traditions, and a melancholic charm.


Since Latvia, together with the other Baltic states Lithuania and Estonia, was part of the Soviet Union till 1991, these states stagnated pretty much unnoticed by the western world behind the iron curtain. 


Riga Latvian Academy of Sciences
Built 1958 Stalinist Building of Latvian Academy of Sciences

For the longest time, I had never heard of anybody travelling to one of these young republics - despite the fact that they had joined the European Union in 2004. During the first years after their independence, I even tent to get confused by what capital belonged to which country.

In 2016, however, I was for two weeks in Milan learning Italian and besides many, many aspiring artists from China who were learning Italian to study in Venice, Florence, or Turin, there were noticeably many middle-aged students from the Baltics, all highly educated, aspiring professionals.

It was clear that there was going on a lot at these countries still existing in the shadow of the prepotential western European states.


The Old Town


It's Wednesday before Easter when we board air baltic flight BT254 to Riga, Latvia's capital and with around 700,000 inhabitants the largest city in the Baltic region. 
We caught an evening flight and with the time lag, we lose an additional hour so that we just crash as we get to our apartment, located halfway between the airport and the city center.


Riga Latvian wooden houses
There is still a large number of traditional wooden houses even in Latvian cities.

The next morning, we take the bus at the stop where we got off the night before and head for the old town. We like what we see from our bus windows: Many trees lining the streets, parks, wooden houses - everything is a bit Slavic and at the same time a bit Scandinavian. And cozy.


Riga Latvian National Library
As the buses cross the Daugava River, we turn our heads to spot the National Library of Latvia 2014 Castle of Light by Latvian-born architect Gunnar Birkerts.

We have less than one hour till our walking tour begins, so we just drop in the next available café - and get lucky: We grab a quick breakfast at a café bar which is as trendy as expected.


Riga Latvian Kuuka Café
Kuuka Café on Grēcinieku iela 5 is a good breakfast spot when you need a quick start into the day.

With full stomachs, we are pacing to St. Peter's, Riga's tallest church, opened in 1746 and built from these red bricks that are typical for North German Baltic architecture. 
This won't be the only feature that deems familiar.

Riga Latvian Free Waling Tour Suitcase
You'll recognize the free tour-people by the yellow suitcase - which hopefully is empty since poor Liga was carrying it during the entire tour.

At the main entrance, we join one of these free walking tours, guided by Liga, a fine-boned blond in her mid-twenties. Guiding us through the narrow alleys of the historic center, she explains as brief as she can the everchanging and complicated history of her people that experienced independence only briefly from 1918 till 1940 and now again - and hopefully for good - since 1991.


Riga Latvian House of the Blackheads
Another epochal landmark is the newly rebuilt House of the Blackheads, originally built in the early 14th century.

Over the centuries, Latvia was under Swedish, German, Polish, and Russian hegemony. The city's predominant architecture stems from the grand times when Riga was an important member of the Hanseatic League - I wrote about this conglomerate in my post on the Mother of the Hanse, Lübeck. For centuries, the German upper classes represented Latvia's bourgeoisie and landowners. During the Reformation, Latvia became Lutheran, later, under the Polish, it became partly Catholic again.


Riga Roman Catholic Church Our Lady of Sorrows
Roman Catholic Church Our Lady of Sorrows.....

However, in 2016, Riga was awarded the honorary title of Reformation City of Europe by the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe - nonetheless, more than 40 percent of Latvia's population is confessionless.


Riga A nun and a priest in front of St. Jacob's Church
....and Roman Catholics with no sorrows in front of the St. Jacob's Church, built in the early 13th century.

Liga, dressed in existentialist black, tells us about the buildings and the history and everyday life in Riga and about the Latvian mentality and quirks and she does it in a laconic, almost sarcastic way and I can read the melancholy and the atrabiliousness of grey skies and long winters between the lines. 
Not only is she dressed in black, also her humor is as black as a raven's wing.


It's very hip to be a cultural traditionalist: Mural of three - nata bene: Estonian! - peasants, to be found at the restored Kalnciema quarter on the left bank of the Daugava river.
Actually, this is an art project by Estonian artist Edward von Lõngus who painted Estonians from the past 100 years in different European cities.

She’s singing and dancing traditional folkloric dances. 
No, of course not here in front of us on the Doma Laukums, the huge square in front of the cathedral where we are standing now.


The Doma Laukums, Riga's largest square, surrounded by many stately buildings.

No, in her leisure time, she's singing and dancing Lithuanian traditional. For young, hip Lithuanians, these traditions are the symbol of their very young freedom to express their ethnic identity. An ethnic identity which, however, does not lead to dull nationalism or a grotesque superiority complex. They just enjoy their identity – as Lithuanians and Europeans alike: Most youngsters speak at least three languages, Lithuanian, Russian, and English. Many speak further tongues – I’ve met some of them in Milan, remember?


Representatives of Riga: Roland statue, St. Peter's church tower, the Schwab house and the House of the Blackheads.

We get to the iconic House of Blackheads and the neighboring Schwab House, designed by Karl Johann Felsko at the end of the 19th century. In front of these prestigious buildings stands the statue of Roland, the symbol of Hansa trading cities, with the Riga coat of arms on his shield.
Traces of Riga's German influence and heritage, ironically, completely destroyed in WWII during a German air raid.


Another remnant from the German epoch is the Roland statue which represents freedom and independence of a city. 

I'm surprised that despite the long German hegemony and the German occupation during WWII, there seem to be no hard feeling towards Germany; in contradistinction to Russia: While I keep asking how things were when Latvia was part of the Soviet Union, Liga answers willingly, but keeps referring to that period as the time of occupation
Semantic matters.


This intimidating granite statue was originally dedicated to the Latvian Red Riflemen, some of whom even became Lenin's personal bodyguards. Some despise the monument as a symbol of the old communist system, others believe it's a necessary tribute to Latvians who fought in the early years of WWI.
Politics aside, it's an impressive monument.
 Riga Technical University is the oldest technical university in the Baltics established on October 14, 1862.

So for us, Liga doesn’t either dance or sing, she's walking'n'talking and showering us with information until the tour is over: We've reached the backside of St. Peter's church where in front of St. John's church we encounter a well-known sculpture, namely the Bremen town musicians.
It was a gift from the city of....Bremen. It is an interpretation of the original statue, since unlike the Bremen original, this animal formation here is arranged between two massive metal bands: The animals seem to be surprised by this gap in the Iron Curtain.


Town musicians: Cousins from out of town.

While in Bremen, you have to rub the donkey's hooves - actually, only one, here you have to try to reach as high as you can; yes, jumping is allowed.


Handmade souvenirs sold at small stands between St. Peter's and St. John's.

So the tour comes to an end, I hand Liga a 10 €uro bill and we check out the shopping opportunities right on this square and eventually the very touristy yet nice market Suvenīru tirgus on Tirgoņu iela.


Russian influence cannot be denied. Although today, the Matrjoski also come in updated shapes....

Here, too, the traditional handcraft is presented right next to Costa Coffee and other international chains. So after a global Latte Macchiato, we browse at the stands offering all kind of beautifully carved wooden toys and kitchen appliances, colorful embroidered aprons; and gloves, lots and lots of gloves.


Wool to the left, woolen products to the right - just take your pick.

Knitting is an important handcraft in a region with long winters and the artistic, traditional gloves are sheer masterpieces - colorful and unique.
We are torn between buying gloves and socks and oversized shawls and purchasing loads of wool to knit them ourselves.


They sure are into knitted goods: Cups'n'vases in a knitted design.

I reminisce on the 1980s when knitting was really big and I had more handknitted sweaters than any other garments in my closet, so I opt for 20 different balls of wool in bold colors.
Later, I’ll download some traditional patterns from the internet.

The Central Market


Now that we are so in this rural, traditional swing, we swing underneath the arterial road Satekles iela to the Centrāltirgus, Riga’s central market.


Graffiti in Riga
Three more Estonian peasants painted on the walls of the dull underpass between the market neighborhood and the city center.

Built from 1924 to 1930 in art deco style, it is Europe's largest market and one of the most notable structures in Latvia and has even made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage Site list together with Old Riga in 1998.


Market in Riga
Sweets'n'Treats.

Here, again, tradition and modernity: While you can get all kind of local produce – arranged in a very instagrammable way – the food stalls are rather globally oriented: There are some artisan burger joints and also some Asian eateries – no Latvian dumplings or cabbage soup.


Bread on the Market in Riga
Dark Latvian rye bread adorned with lavender.

Well, it's a real market, not a tourist place faking authenticity.


Fishes on the Market in Riga
Great catch: Whole dried fishes.

We order burgers made from some special beef and refined with some truffle sauce and are pretty happy with our choices.


Cake on the Market in Riga
Pastry comes in different shapes.

The market is adjacent to the Moscow District, a neighborhood that once used to be populated by Russians and Jews. In WWII, a part of this area was fenced and transformed into the infamous Jewish Ghetto.


Choral Synagogue Holocause Monument in Riga
The memorial, standing where once the Synagogue of Riga was found, honors those Latvians who granted Jewish people shelter from persecution. Sadly, in the Baltics, the Nazis had encountered strong support from locals in persecuting and murdering the Jewish population.

Today, you can pay the Choral Synagogue Holocaust Monument a visit as well as the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum right next to the Spīķeri district.

The Spīķeri warehouses are looking back at an everchanging history. After having served different purposes, it now has been transformed into one of these hip'n'creative neighborhoods housing startups and agencies, galleries, and restaurants.

This area east of the central market is certainly not the most touristy attraction and exactly for this reason definitely worth a visit.


Heart of Jesus Evangelic Lutheran Church in Riga
Rīgas Jēzus evaņģēliski luteriskā baznīca, the Heart of Jesus Evangelic Lutheran Church - very unusual structure for a Lutheran Protestant church.

The New Town


While the most famous landmarks are scattered around the old city center, a visit to the so-called New Town to the northeast will allow you to discover some spectacular sights.


Coat of Arms on Wall in Riga
The Powder Tower from 1650 is a remnant of the former city fortification and standing next to the Latvian War Museum. Here you can spot it behind the beautiful wall depicting the colorful coats of arms of Latvia's municipalities.


Coat of Arms on Wall in Riga
Just a few of the many beautiful coats of arms on the wall at Smilšu iela.

Between the Zigfrīda Annas Meierovica bulvāris and the Raiņa bulvāris you can respire'n'relax while strolling along the Bastion Hill and Park.


Freedom Monument in Riga
Aiming high for freedom.

Right in the center is a 19-meter high obelisk, the Freedom Monument, created by Kārlis Zāle and finished in 1935.


National Opera in Riga
Riga's National Opera wasn't this national all the time: Constructed in 1863 by St. Petersburg-born German architect Ludwig Bohnstedt, it was built for the then German-speaking City Theatre. However, in 1912 -already a couple of years before the short period of independence - a Latvian opera was founded.


Art Nouveau


As you continue for the Bastion Park out of the center, passing the Esplanāde square, you'll reach Riga’s treasure box, the art nouveau district.


Bastion Park in Riga
Difficult to see the wood - and the freedom statue - for the trees.

But wait, don't you just pace across the greeneries; take your time to stroll around, admire the Orthodox Cathedral which was built end of the 19th century in a Neo-Byzantine style.


Orthodox Cathedral in Riga
The majestic Orthodox Cathedral...

Orthodox Cathedral in Riga
....with its shimmering domes covered with copper. 

On the Esplanāde's opposite end,  you'll spot the Art Academy of Latvia and next to it the National Museum of Art, housing mostly Latvian artists but also different temporary exhibits.


Statue of Janis Plieksans
Raiņa, aka Jānis Pliekšāns, was a Latvian poet, playwright, and translator - i.a. Goethe's Faust - was living from 1865 to 1929 and is now watching over the beautiful Esplanāde.

Even if you are not that much into art, the building as such is interesting and from the top floor, you have a grand view of the city.


National Museum of Art in Riga
Visiting the Museum of Art's upper galleries, you're walking on a glass floor.

National Museum of Art in Riga
View from the museum's observatory.

Latvian National Museum of Art
Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1
Rīga, LV-1010
Phone: +371 - 67 32 44 61
Email: lnmm@lnmm.lv

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m., Fridays till 8 p. m. and weekends till 5 p. m.

North of the Esplanāde, nearly every building is a piece of art and proves Riga’s economic grandezza at the beginning of the 20th century.


St. Gertrude Old Church in Riga
St. Gertrude Old Church is a Lutheran church in Riga, the capital of Latvia. It is a parish church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. The church is situated at the address 6 Ģertrūdes Street. It has a long association with Riga's German ethnic community, and the congregation worship in the German language.

Strolling through the streets north of Elizabetes iela is like visiting an outdoor museum. Mainly at the streets Elizabetes iela and Alberta iela, every building flashes an impressive Art Nouveau facade.


Art Deco building in Riga
Look at these two, leaning lasciviously against the gable.

Here, the houses - mostly built between 1904 and 1914 -  are showing amazing decorative details such as sculptures, stained glass, and majolica. Much of these were made by local companies.


Art Deco building in Riga
Adorned lavender-colored house on Ģertrūdes iela.  

Actually, these Art Nouveau structures make up about one-third of the buildings in Riga's center - mind you, the city has the world's highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture.


Art Deco building in Riga
A fine example of Riga's precious architecture.


A Compact Country Tour


Yes, there is a lot to see at Riga's center. However, to us, one of the most impressive venues was the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, located about 30 minutes northeast of the city center.


Church at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
The splendid interior of the Usma Lutheran Church on the premises.

Especially since Riga was the only place in Latvia we had the chance to visit, this wonderful outdoor museum was a great opportunity to learn more about all the other regions….which we will visit on our next trip.


House at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
A roof completely covered in moss'n'grass.

Lady in Latvian attire at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
A lady in traditional Latvian attire.

About half an hour by bus north of the city center is one of Europe's oldest and largest open-air museums: Located on the banks of lake Jugla, incredible 118 historical buildings from all four of Latvia’s provinces have been assembled in a spacious wood. The oldest of these buildings stems from the 17th century!


Russian Orthodox Church at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
Russian Orthodox church from the Rogovka village in the Latgale region.

Wind MIll at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
Can hardly spot the mill for all the trees.

This place, too, proves the awakened national identity: During the Soviet hegemony, places like this museum were considered ideologically incorrect.

Therefore, today, the museum is not only a touristy place: While we were there, most of the other visitors were locals, many of them families with kids. The museum promotes traditional Latvian culture and lifestyle by organizing concerts and traditional craft fairs.


Music Group at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
A music group playing all the Latvian folk songs....

Dancers at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
....brings the audience in full swing.

We were very lucky visiting on Easter when a big traditional market was on which allowed us to witness how Latvians are celebrating their culture by singing and dancing, eating and playing - everyone was having a great time.

Food at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
Sausages, bacon, and meats - at least it's low in carbs....

Food at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
Look what I've found: There are hardboiled eggs hidden in these bread rolls.

Food at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
Four varieties of potatoes on the grill.

After strolling through the small woods and over the meadows, we got to a small farm. A middle-aged man was sitting on the doorstep amidst an array of beautiful, obviously handmade ceramic goods. As we approached him, he grabbed a small ceramic flute and intoned Strangers in the night. He did not only give us a taste of his talent, he played the entire song...I would even say it was an extended version.


Wind Mill at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
An old windmill.


Dwelling at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
This is the dwelling where we ran into the stranger in the....daytime.

We bought the most beautiful ones of his cups and saucers and I kept humming Strangers in the Night for the rest of the day; very much to Mimi's chagrin. 

As we finished our tour, we took seat on one of the rough wooden benches and ordered from the waiter with an almost caricaturish British accent potato fritters with pickles and sour cream. 


Latvian Food
Sometimes simple peasant's delight is the best: Potato fritters with sour cream and some fixings - sooo good!

We were amazed how reasonably priced the food is here, but then we realized again that this is not some sort of Disney world for foreign tourists, but a place where Latvians get informed on their history and its value. We were paying local prices.


Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum
Brīvdabas iela 21
Rīga, LV-1024
Phone: + 371 - 67 99 41 06
Email: info@brivdabasmuzejs.lv

If you are interested in learning more about Latvia's history, I recommend a visit to at least one of these two museums:

National History Museum of Latvia
Brīvības bulvāris 32,
Rīga, LV-1050
Phone: + 371 - 67 22 13 57
Email: museum@lnvm.lv

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. till 5 p. m.

Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation
 alasta iela 4
Rīga, LV-1050
Phone: +371 - 67 35 66 76
Email: direkt@rigamuz.lv

The museum is open daily from 10 a. m. till 5 p. m.


What to know when you visit:


How to get there....


There are a couple of airlines serving Riga's international airport including Latvia's national one, air Baltic.


Sign at the Airport
Latvia's national airline airBaltic caters to many destinations at a good price. However, their luggage policy is quite rigid.

A cab from the airport to the city center should cost you about 15 €uros. However, Riga has a reliable bus and bus number 22 is running between 5.40 a. m.  and 11.20 p. m. and set you back only 2 €uro.

Of course, Riga has also a train station. However, a pretty comfortable way of travelling is by bus: The long-distance busses are clean and punctual and almost equipped like planes with reclining seats and a great entertainment program - on our way from Tallinn to Riga, which took only four hours, by the way - we were able to listen to the latest hits and watch films that made to the movie theaters only recently; and all this for about 15 €uros.


Riga Alley
Walking the picturesque alleys in Riga's city center.

If you are planning on travelling within Latvia or paying the other Baltic states a visit, make sure to check out their schedules and offers.

Ecolines
Prāgas iela 1 (Riga International Coach Terminal)
Phone: +371 - 67 21 45 12
Email: info@ecolines.lv

....and around


As stated above, public transportation in Riga is as excellent as in any other European city. Although there is no subway, the tram as great and even the many busses are very reliable.


Town Hall Square Riga
Major parts of the inner city are pedestrian - like Riga's Town Hall Square.

You can buy your ticket from the driver which is a bit more expensive. The better option is to get them at the machines that you'll find at many stops. Here you can also buy a couple of tickets in advance and validate them only as you need them - in case you need to take the bus at a stop where there's no machine.

There is a day pass for public transportation that you can get at the tourist information

Like in many other European cities, there are also bike rentals all over the city, e.g. by the car rental company Sixt and Riga Bike Rent.

Where to stay....


There is all kind of accommodation in Riga, okay-priced in the city center and very reasonable in the outskirts.
Since our itinerary was a bit busy and we arrived quite late and had an early morning flight back, we opted for staying halfway between the airport and the center which turned out to be the perfect location: 15 minutes downtown, 15 minutes to the airport.
We stayed at two different guest apartments that were very well equipped and maintained and cost us between 30 and 40 €uros a night.

If you like the location, but prefer to stay at a hotel, there is the Rex Elephant very nearby.

Check out availability and prices of accommodations in Riga here.

....and what to eat


As I explained, the market is great to awe and browse and to get some fresh produce but it's not worth the visit if you want to dine out.


Black Current Liquor
A traditional drink - and also a nice souvenir. But remember that liquids have to go in your check-in luggage.

For this, we'd found the perfect place right in the city center: It's a traditional, rustic, dark, and noisy restaurant in a cellar, stone walls, wooden chairs, benches, and tables, Latvian classics blaring from the speakers.


Ox cheek with mashed celery
Braised ox cheek on mashed celery - melted in my mouth.

Roasted Pumpkin
Mimi's vegetarian option: Roasted pumpkin and cheese with many different fixings.

Dessert at Riga
Small donuts, served with fresh fruits - you know, for the vitamins - and whipped cream.

Friendly, English-speaking waiters bring you the quite small menu from which you can choose a variety of typical Latvian delicacies. Latvian cuisine at last! Latvian cuisine at its best!
Choosing the right beer with your food as almost more challenging than picking the right dish: There are so many great options.

Folkklubs ALA Pagrabs
Peldu iela 19
Rīga, LV-1050
Phone: +371 - 27 79 69 14

Open daily from noon till at least 1 a. m., from Wednesday to Saturday even till early morning.


What to buy


The markets in the city center are quite nice and you find all kind of woolen'n'wooden handcraft there.

Great Latvian things to shop are wooden kitchen appliances and toys.


Riga Latvia - Gentlemen selling wooden goods
A gentleman selling wooden utensils and darling toys at the Ethnographic Museum.

However, if there is something special on at the Ethnographic Museum, it's totally worth going there. Although it's about 30 minutes by bus, it's a wonderful, serene place - and the handicraft at their stands was cheaper than anywhere downtown.


Riga Latvia Ceramic and Wooden Souvenirs
My favorite souvenirs from Latvia are this handmade cup and saucer - and I love these wooden fasteners that can be used to keep coffee, flour, sugar and much more fresh. They are so much nicer than the plastic clips I used to use.

If you like to knit, you can get high-quality wool in beautiful colors at a really great price - I paid less than 3 €uro for a 100 grams ball. If you're looking for a unique souvenir, they have these cute boxes containing wool, needles, and the pattern for a pair of gloves - these boxes come in many different styles, your biggest problem will be to pick one. And in case you and your loved ones are all thumbs, you can just get the handmade gloves; and stockings; and shawls...

If you want to test your knitting skills, there are two great places to buy wool at the historic center:

Hobbywool
Mazā Pils iela 6
Rīga, LV-1050
Phone: +371 - 27 07 27 07

The store is open every day from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m., Sundays only from 11 a. m. to 5 p. m.

Tines
Riharda Vāgnera iela 5
Rīga, LV-1050
Phone: +371 25 42 44 77

Tines is open every day from 11 a. m. to 7 p. m., Sundays only till 4 p. m.

Language


Most people speak Latvian - which might seem obvious, but is actually quite a big deal since the language was pretty much banned during the Soviet hegemony.
During the Soviet policy of Russification, the percentage of Latvian sank from 80 to about 50 percent.
The Russian minority speaks, obviously, Russian and especially the young people speak at least English as a third language. Will say, you'll be fine.

Money

 
In 2014, Latvia, as member of the European Union, replaced its previous currency lats by the €uro. The exchange rate is 1 US$ = 0,89 €UR (August 2019), but you can check the conversion on this page.

Money and Credit Cards
Besides €uro, credit cards are widely accepted in Latvia.

Credit cards are widely accepted, and there are ATMs all over the place.

Tourist Information and Deals


It's pretty amazing that there is a tourist information at Riga's airport open 24/7 - I've never seen this at any other city.

However, if you arrive really late, you might just want to go to sleep and have a fresh start only the next morning.
No problem, there are three more info centers, and one is very centrally located at the Schwab House right next to one of Riga's most famous landmarks, the House of the Blackheads.

Riga Tourist Information Centre
Rātslaukums 6
Riga
Phone: +371- 67 03 79 00
Email: info@rigatic.lv

At your disposal every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Riga is not an expensive city so that the Riga Pass does not seem to be such a great deal, It costs 24h - € 25 48h - € 30 72h - € 35, but given that the entrance fee to the permanent exhibition of the Latvian National Museum of Art is 3 €uro and to the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum 4 €uro, just to give you tow examples, spending 25 €uro in 24 hours seems like a big challenge to me. Also, bus tickets are 2 €uro - or less when bought from a machine at the bus stop. But Riga isn't that big and you'll probably spend most of your day walking around.
As I explained, we didn't even stay very close to the center and bought only two or three tickets a day.


This map should help you to find all the wonderful places that I'm introducing in this post:




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9 comments:

  1. I would consider Latvia an off beat tourist destination and that is what sparks my interest, the fact that it won't be as crowded as other European cities overrun by tourists. I'd love to stroll the historical centre, have a nice breakfast at one of the cozy cafes, or get a view from the National Museum of Art's terrace of the city. Could be one for my bucket list, Riga!

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  2. Have to admit that I still get confused with capitals of these three countries as you did. :) But I guess that that changes after you visit at least one of them.
    Love the architecture in Riga. House of the Blackheads looks stunning, would love to see it in person. I do like that tour around the city you took, seems like it covers all the important landmarks.

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  3. Love reading blogs by other bloggers about my second home, Latvia and of course Riga. You got the description of the city and all areas covered right apart about the people being a bit Slavic. No, no, no...:D They are Balts. Totally different group to which Latvians and Lithuanians belong to (and is one of the oldest groups in Europe). Estonia don't belong to this group as they are more like the little sister of Finland, but Estonia is still classed as a Baltic country as its part of this area and the Baltic Sea (which you know very well from northern Germany :D ). Slavs are Polish, Czech etc. (I get this Balt/Slav thing thrown at me all the time and my wife is Latvian is well). :D The Scandinavia thing you mention is because Sweden did run the country for a while until Germany, Russians like to come over and play a little and run the area. ugh. Not a good bit of history. These days most companies and banks are from Sweden and Norway and finance the country. In a few years time, expect prices to be like Stockholm (which totally sucks but as I own property there...I hope to make a profit in a few years time when I sell, sell, sell). If the Nordic banks left Latvia, then the country would be bankrupt and all the locals might as well move to other European nations. Sigh....economics. love it. But seriously, otherwise fantastic blog post and a great tastier for anyone who is thinking of visiting Riga for the first time.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your extended comment, Danik, I really appreciate it. However, nowhere in my post do I call Balts Slavs. The only moment that I refer to Slavic culture is when I mention that the atmosphere and architecture on our way to the center deems between Slavic and Scandinavian - which makes total sense since this country, too, was dominated by austere Soviet architecture - just like the Slavic countries were.

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  4. As always, very detailed post and guide! Fascinating place, the Baltics. I drove all the way from Norway down through Finland and navigated my way through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania! Interesting contrast there and history with conflicts with the Soviet. I wish I would have stuck around longer and tried all the foods you mentioned!

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  5. I have wanted to visit Riga for a very long time. I’m a huge fan of art nouveau and would love to wander taking photos. Good to know about the central market, the rye bread with lavender sounds amazing. I did not know there is an open air museum, love them!

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  6. Visiting Capitols is our favorite activity. Looks like there are tons of great photo opportunities in Riga. I really love the architecture of that library! It's interesting that Latvian almost went away, but now it is the main language again.

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  7. I love off the beaten path places like Riga. I've wanted to go for ages. I love the look of the markets and also the street art with the Estonian peasants painted on the walls.

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  8. Riga is so gorgeous! walking around the city centers and seeing all of the different things that make Riga so wonderful! Walking through the markets gives you a little piece of the culture! I would love to try the Lavender bread, it sounds delicious! xo - Kam

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