Visiting one of the Baltic countries, was something I always wanted to do. There is so much information out there about the West European countries, but there is not much to read about the Baltics. I was thrilled to visit Riga and explore its corners. Not knowing much about the city, I was so excited to experience the city's vibe and the country's culture. After a couple of days walking down the streets of Riga and with a day-trip to the Baltic sea, I'm happy to present what I've explored in the Latvian's capital city.
The New Riga
My hotel was located in the new part of Riga. While stepping out of the hotel for the first time, I got to see these huge historical buildings, churches, many coffee and some clothes shops. But apart from that, there were quite many construction works on the roads, so it all appeared quite grey and depressing :) I wasn`t really blown away. After seeing this, I hoped the old town will show its treasures.
The Old Town of Riga
Yessss! The old town of Riga offered exactly what I was looking for. It delivered that kind of a fairytale feeling, of which everyone is talking about when visiting the city. The most fascinating for me were the shapes of the buildings with its colourful facades. In every corner of the old city, there were cozy cafes and modern restaurants. There were also many cute little souvenir shops, just waiting for me to set my foot in.
I enjoyed observing all the cute houses and exploring all corners of the old town of Riga. I did a break for having lunch and I thought... it would be nice to have someone to talk to! :) I like to travel solo but maybe Riga is much better to enjoy if you are sharing your trip with someone else. And this is especially due to its many cafes, restaurants and clubs. Definitely a city with a great nightlife! Party animals, you should be here!!
Other Parts of Riga
The Daugava Promenade
After lunch, my shoes took me to the famous Daugava Promenade. It is a calm place and less crowded than other spots in the city, which made it a great place for a rest. I could only imagine how it is to stroll along the river on a warm day in the middle of the summer. The view over the Daugava River and its spectacular bridges was a perfect setting for my camera.
.. What I really liked ..
Since I'm more of a nature person, my attention always get cities' parks. I must say, in Riga the parks are carefully maintained and to its visitors very welcoming. With its autumn touch, they made it a great place to take a break of the city's hustle and bustle.
Without doubt, Riga is for gourmets! Especially in the old town of the city, there are numerous restaurants with different price levels. Dear vegetarians out there, I didn't starve, I easily found something for my stomach. I had many delicious soups, a risotto, a potato meal etc. However, it is good to know that the traditional local food generally contains meat and also many times potatoes.
Coming from Slovenia, where coffee culture is widely spread, makes me want to try coffee in every country that I visit. I realized quickly that Latvia will meet my expectations - there are cafes in every corner and especially the old part of Riga offers a great coffee experience in some lovely decorated cafes.
Probably one of the best located tea house in Riga with some nice views over the city's river, can be found along the Pilsetas river canal. I didn't go for tea, I had my coffee of course! :) On the first floor, there are some cozy pillows which you can seat on. Forget about chairs and tables. The vibe was fantastic! I went there twice and I liked it there every minute of it.
A Daytrip from Riga
Kemeri National Park
As much as I liked to stroll down the old streets of Riga and sit in one of the cafes, I was even more fascinated by the Kemeri National Park, which can be accessed by a 1-hour train ride from Riga. Wooden paths leading through the pine trees and several lakes, all with a touch of autumn colours, suddenly turned out to be the highlight of my trip to Latvia. How to visit the must-see national park is outlined in my blog post The Kemeri National Park.
I wanted to visit a town at the seaside, so Jurmala was the perfect choice. I was looking forward to see the beaches. Prior to this, I was wondering if the Baltic beach would somehow impress me. Well, the truth is, the beaches in Latvia were nice but to say it frankly, not really a paradise. But don't get me wrong - it is still a nice place to go where you can easily forget about your daily worries!
Jurmala, the town itself, was cute, many cafes and restaurants to set your feet in, and the residential houses with its special designs and facades somehow impressed me the most.. I had quite fun taking photos of them!
Although Riga is rich in historical buildings, different shops and international restaurants and has this impressive Kemeri National Park, not all is as great as it seems. I don't know if I just stayed too little time in this country, but I kind of expected the atmosphere to be friendlier. I guess I will have to pay another visit to double check my feelings :)
Tips for visiting Riga:
- take the bus 22 from the airport to the city center
- book a room in the old town of the city (much nicer)
- 1 day is not enough to explore Riga, so plan at least 2 or 3 days
- the best time to visit Riga is in the summertime (June, July, August), however I went there in fall (October) and enjoyed pretty much the colourful leafs
- not everyone understands English so plan your trip well and have a look at bus and train timetables in advance
- public transportation is good as far as frequency, connections and price are concerned but it is not very modern
- go visit the Kemeri National Park in the morning (because you will walk a bit and you will have enough time to spend some time there)
- if time for another daytrip, visit Sigulda
- if you want to visit Tallinn (Estonia) or Vilnius (Lithuania), they are approx. 4 hours away by bus
- Swiss Airlines fly direct from Zurich (Switzerland) to Riga, check also Air Baltics, Wizzair and Ryanair
Did you like your stay in Riga? Would you go back? Please let us know in the comments below!