Walking in and out of the picturesque streets, it would be hard not to think you were living in a medieval fairytale.
Riga, the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the baltic states, is a city that may not be the most popular destination for tourists. To be honest, before I left for Riga my parents had to ask me about 4 or 5 times where it was and what it was like and still never had a scooby about it prior to me leaving. However, for those who have experienced it’s beauty and charm would argue the case all day long that visiting Riga should be up there at the top of your bucket list and after visiting I couldn’t agree more.
The city that boasts a population of over 640,000, was voted European capital of culture in 2014 alongside Umeå in Sweden. With so much to see and do with such little time, I decided to stay in the old town for the 3 nights that I was there and man am I glad I did!
The old town is honestly like something out of a fairytale, with an eventful history spanning over 800 years it’s a place you can feel the history in every street that you walk down. The streets are filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels and shops and a landmark is never more than a 5 minute walk away. Famous for it’s Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture It’s easy to see why the old town is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
I stayed just round the corner in a hostel from St Peter’s church, a Lutheran church dedicated to saint Peter. With a great view of it from my room I honestly couldn’t help but stare at it, even in passing I would stop for a minute or two to check it out every single time I passed it. It truly is a remarkable and astonishing building.
Another landmark which overlooks the old town is the freedom monument. A monument that honours the soldiers who were killed in the Latvian war of independence. Again, this was another landmark I couldn’t help but stop and stare at every time I passed it. Even for someone who has no ties to Latvia in anyway whatsoever I still felt a great amount of respect and pride for the Latvian people whilst looking at the monument, although perhaps being a Scotsman who longs for independence could have played a part in that.
One of the things that stood out for me about Riga was how cheap everything was. €7 for a decent meal at a restaurant, €3 for a pack of cigarettes and €2 for a beer! Ill say that again, €2 for a beer! Absolutely magic. To put it into perspective I read that if you want to save money you should buy a bus ticket for €1.15 at a designated area before getting on a bus, as you will then have to fork out €2 for a ticket if you buy it on a bus. When I read that all I could think was that people think that €2 for a bus is dear? That’s a bargain compared to back home. I also got a taxi from the airport to the hostel when I arrived aswell which cost me €12, for the same journey length back home it would have cost me more than double, potentially treble that. So it was happy days!
With so many landmarks, museums and gorgeous streets, there is so much to see and do in Riga. To be perfectly honest though I believe that if you’re travelling yourself, then 3 days is the perfect amount of days to visit. If you’re travelling with friends however I’d recommend staying a bit longer.
If you ever get the chance to visit then do it, I honestly can’t recommend Riga enough to you. It’s one of those cities that leaves a smile on your face when you think about it and it’s one of those cities that will always be with you.
Oh and for smokers, at Riga International Airport (RIX) after security there are plenty of smoking areas for you to enjoy a wee fag so you don’t have to wait ages for a cigarette. Hope this helps.
As usual, happy travels!
Cùm gàidhlig beò!