Riga is the capital city of the Baltic state of Latvia and is easy to explore on foot or by tram in a single day.
There is plenty to see but the highlights are all within walking distance of the attractive ‘Old Town’.
A good start is probably to visit one of the many coffee shops in and around the main square of the city.
Café culture is popular, the coffee is usually good and they are great places to plan out the day over a map and Danish pastry. There are also a large number of restaurants offering outside seating so it’s an ideal opportunity to scout out somewhere to dine in the evening.
The Dome Cathedral square is the best option as the nearby art gallery can then be explored before heading away from the centre. The spire of the Cathedral provides a great reference point as it can be seen all over Old Town making navigation easy.
Riga is perfect for walking but if the coffee and Danish haven’t done their magic then opting for a bici-taxi tour or hopping on a tram will be less taxing. The trams skirt around the Old Town while the many bici-taxis are harder to avoid than miss.
Taking a stroll up to the war memorial provides plenty of opportunities to see some of the highlights of Riga. There are two Merchant’s Guild halls; a grand and smaller one, originally membership to which one depended on status and nationality. Fortunately anybody can visit and the smaller guild which still trades in traditional handmade costumes is a short wander from the tourism office on the main thoroughfare to the memorial and park.
Those that look up will see the famous black cat on top of a spire close by. Apparently there were originally 3 cats all which were facing in the opposite direction. The story is that a trader when refused entrance to the merchant’s guild purchased the building opposite. He commissioned the 3 cats all with their backsides facing in the direction of the guild building and refused to change this until he was accepted. The insult obviously worked as the direction was eventually reversed.
The park is a pleasant addition to the walk and a short cruise along the river is another good option. This provides some good views and is relatively cheap so well worth the hour it takes. As the Opera House is located closeby it would be a shame to miss out on this major attraction.
If by this time hunger has set in, there are plenty of options for a quick snack, ranging from the ridiculously cheap backpacker style eateries to stylish little bistros offering meals for the more discerning palate.
Suitably nourished a diversion to the Central Market is recommended; although it can be reached by tram it is also easily within walking distance. Arriving well fed will ensure that the many sweet treats on offer aren’t too tempting. The market is quite large with stalls located indoors and outside. It is split into several parts for meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, confectionary, clothing, leather goods in fact just about anything is available. It probably is the ideal place to buy a kitchen sink.
On the way back a visit to the Museum of Occupation is almost impossible to ignore but be warned it is not a light breeze through these periods of Latvian history. It records in great detail the hardships and atrocities of the various occupations by Russia, Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union. There are a few displays but most of the exhibition is in the form of written scripts with illustrating photography. It is heavy going but is an important part of Latvian history.
Passing through the Town Hall Square and past Roland’s Statue will allow a few more Kodak moments. There is probably still just enough time to make a trip to “The Barricades” a memorial to the singing protest which the citizens of Riga made to prevent the Communist tanks re-entering the city. It is much more uplifting story and the ideal antidote to the museum.
The beauty of taking a walking tour through Riga is that the visitor will pass plenty of attractive buildings and numerous other interesting sights such as religious ceremonies or quirky street performers. There are guided walking tours available too; catering for those requiring general city guides or specific buildings such as the market or cathedral. Though in common with most places ensure the guide is officially licenced.
There are a number of other cool and quirky tours available including segways, AK47s and a club/bar tour. More details are available at Live Riga website.
Hopefully a place to dine for the evening has already been chosen before setting off to sample the lively nightlife of the city. Including a was cocktail on the terrace of the chic Bar Terrasse is the final tip for today.
Travel tip shared for Traveldudes by MalloryonTravel
Thank you to Hotel.Info for inviting Traveldudes. The pictures, words, and opinions are entirely our own!