12 min read
After our CEO Greg spending 48 hours in Bordeaux and bringing you some amazing travel recommendations, our Travel Expert Ellis takes you on a journey to Riga, the capital city of Latvia.
Pronounced Ree-gah, Riga is the totally dreamy capital of Latvia. It may be a less well-known European city but that doesn’t mean Riga won’t blow your socks off! I’m talking architecturally breath-taking and culturally fascinating with a cheerful modern atmosphere. I dare you not to fall in love with this place!
Since gaining independence from Soviet power in 1990, Riga has flourished into a hopeful new city filled with creative people bringing style and innovation to the capital. Much of Riga’s charm is derived from its rich history which can still be seen and felt as you wander its stunning streets. Over the centuries, everyone from German knights to Swedish kings and Soviet commissars have left their mark on Riga resulting in a unique tapestry of architectural styles across the city. The centre has even been declared a UNESCO world heritage site for its historic significance and beauty. The pièce de resistance of Riga’s architectural landscape is its world-leading collection of Art Nouveau buildings. Add to this the city’s gorgeous riverside location, some cheap beer and soul-warming food and Riga is starting to sound like my idea of paradise!
Riga is quite a compact city meaning there is tonnes to explore all within a very walkable distance. Just what you want for a short break! Though do be prepared to wish you were staying longer. Read on to find out just what adventures you could get up to with 48 hours in the remarkable city of Riga!
After a 2 hour and 30 minutes flight from London Stansted, I land at Riga International Airport (the main airport in Riga). I want to make the most of my time in the city so I jump in a taxi and head straight to the 5* Grand Poet Hotel by Semarah to drop off my bag.
Located in the very heart of historic Riga, just steps from the Freedom Monument, Old Town Riga, Latvian National Opera and directly overlooking the Bastion Hill, Grand Poet Hotel is perfectly positioned with easy access to key business and diplomatic centres, historical sites, shopping and the city’s trendies landmarks.
Make sure to enjoy the gorgeous hotel spa after a long day and pamper yourself as you deserve it!
With an average rating of 5/5, I'm sure it's going to be a great stay!
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially when you have a day of exploration ahead of you! Make sure you do it right and spend a visit to BakeBerry. One of the most popular bakeries in Old Riga, BakeBerry serves up all sorts of deliciously naughty baked goods. You can’t go wrong by starting your day with one of their flaky pastries and a coffee!
Photo Credit: @supermann6874
From here make your way to the 800-year-old St. Peter’s Church where you can join a free walking tour of the old city – yes, you read that correctly, its free! You don’t need to book, just make sure you show up for a prompt 11am start. The knowledgeable and friendly tour guide will tell you all sorts of thrilling stories about the history, politics and religion of the area as you walk through its picturesque cobblestone streets.
Photo Credit: @kiryl.mazitau
You will visit the iconic House of the Blackheads, one of the most photographed spots in Riga. You’ll also get a chance to snap some pics in front of the pastel facades of The Three Brothers – three adjacent buildings which serve as a timeline of Latvian architectural trends. The 42m tall Freedom Monument is another stand out stop on the tour. It was erected in memory of the soldiers who lost their lives in the Latvian Independence War of 1918-1920.
Photo Credit: @futureview360
Other stops include the Swedish Gate (the only remaining gate of the medieval city walls), the Town Hall and the Dome Cathedral. The tour finishes back at St. Peter’s Church and before you go have lunch, hop on the lift up the church tower for some magical views of Riga’s skyline.
Photo Credit: @bctravelblogger
Replenish your fuel supplies with a hearty lunch at Valtera. This restaurant is a great place to get accommodated with traditional Latvian cuisine. Working with delicious local and seasonal ingredients, the kitchen serves up some truly terrific dishes.
Photo Credit: @kasparsmartin
Re-energised, walk across the formidable Akmens Tilts bridge admiring the views of the Daugava river.
Photo Credit: @0k.sana
From the bridge, you’ll be able to spot the striking building of The National Library of Latvia. A complete contrast to anything you saw in the old town, this modern structure resembles a steel iceberg. Home to 4 million Latvian and foreign publications, the library is well worth a visit. Simply ask for a visitor pass at the front desk and get lost amongst the stacks and stacks of books. Visit the viewing platform on the top floor for another spectacular view of the city.
Photo Credit: @nadiawbeard
Bring your afternoon to a close with the weird and wonderful activity of a beer bath at Beer Spa. This experience combines two important parts of Latvian culture, beer and bath houses! The naturally brewed beer is added to your bath water and is supposed to have restorative powers that will leave you relaxed and intoxicated with happiness. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity you just have to try!
As the evening rolls around, keep the weird and wonderful theme going by visiting Rōzengrals. Located in underground tunnels and caves, Rōzengrals is a medieval restaurant with authentic medieval recipes, crockery, waiters and even live medieval music. You’ll be transported back in time and truly feel like you’ve seen a slice of Riga’s past.
Photo Credit: @kandevaj
If you think this might not be your cup of tea, go for an equally excellent meal at Moltto. This chic eatery and wine bar has a friendly atmosphere and an excellent menu. Make sure to save room for dessert and try their speciality pavlova.
Photo Credit: @rigaoriginal
It’s not time to return to your hotel room yet, oh no! Riga has a vibrant nightlife for you to explore. If you love a dance til’ dawn situation, try One One for electro and techno beats or Kanepes Cultural Centre for emerging musicians and DJs.
Photo Credit: @santardtravels
If you prefer a more chilled style, Labietis Brewery is a great watering hole. High quality beer brewed on site is served in an effortlessly cool environment here. If you are more of a culture over clubbing type, book tickets to Riga’s small but beautiful Opera House which showcases Latvian music and ballet with good seats only costing about £17.50.
Photo Credit: @marianstresina
Begin your day with a wander around Riga’s incredible Art Nouveau district. Riga boomed in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and consequentially has one of the largest collections of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. Some of the finest examples of this ornate and decorative style can be found along the road Alberta iela. Just be careful not to trip over your dropped jaw as you gaze in awe at these majestic buildings! Pop into the entrance hall of the Art Nouveau Museum for a free glimpse of life inside these glamorous homes.
Photo Credit: @temola
The next stop on your itinerary is the beautiful, Neo-Byzantine style, Nativity of Christ Cathedral. Originally built in the 19th century, this cathedral is the largest orthodox church in the Baltics. The church was closed during the Soviet era and repurposed as a planetarium. Following Latvia’s independence, it was restored and is now open to all to admire. Its golden domes are mesmerising as they glint in the sun and the cathedral is a must photograph landmark!
Photo Credit: @sorinpetrof
Riga is a city full of surprises and one of the best is that it is home to Europe’s largest market! The Central Market, houses over 1,200 vendors and spreads across five enormous former Zeppelin hangars. You’ll be blown away by all the fresh, local produce and traditional goodies up for grabs here. Fill up by grazing on all sorts of treats as you wander around the stalls. Make sure to try some speciality Latvian black (rye) bread which is a popular staple here. Another must try is piragi, bacon and onion filled baked rolls which are absolutely sublime. If you need to put your feet up, there are sweet little restaurants you can stop at tucked about the hangars.
Photo Credit: @foodlineslatvia
Spend the remainder of your afternoon at the fascinating and emotional Museum of Occupation. In the mid-1960s, the Soviets built a Museum of the Revolution. In a post-independence act of revenge, the Soviet museum was transformed into the Museum of Occupation which documents the brutal history of German and Soviet control in Latvia. You can see holding cells, interrogation rooms, and the execution room as well as displays of personal keepsakes and heart-breaking, hastily scribbled notes thrown from trains by deportees to Siberia. It is a hugely moving exhibition but uncovering Riga’s difficult past will enhance your appreciation of the city.
Photo Credit: @wartime_images
As the sun begins to set, make your way to the Skyline Bar for an unbeatable view of Riga bathed in the evening light. Sipping on speciality cocktails, 26 floors up in this sophisticated bar is such a brilliant way to kick off your last night in the city.
Photo Credit: @idealkarl
For dinner, go to the fantastic restaurant Pagalms. A favourite of locals, this beguiling little eatery hasn’t quite been discovered by the tourist crowds yet. With flavourful food, smiley service, and a great selection of Latvian beer, you’ll feel so at home here.
Photo Credit: @fitme_ieva
Make the most of every minute you have left by whiling away the night at Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs. Located in a cozy cellar, this pub hosts regular live folk music nights. The space in front of the stage becomes a dance floor if you want to join in and have a boogie or simply relax at the bar and enjoy the heart-warming atmosphere. Raise one last toast to Riga and a holiday well done!
Photo Credit: @plateslv_riga
If like me you love taking short weekend breaks across Europe and spending 48 hours in cities like Barcelona, Prague, Porto, Split, Bologna, Stockholm or Venice, but if like me you hate wasting hours trawling travel sites to plan and research your next weekend break, only to be hit by increased flight prices just before booking, then BeRightBack is for you!
The team at BeRightBack believes that the mission of a travel company should be to save you both time and money.
With BeRightBack, you get three trips a year to three surprise European destinations, all for the monthly cost of £49.99, which includes your return flights and your hotel.
With BeRightBack, creating a trip takes 60 seconds. Simply tell us how you like to travel when you create your account, and our concierge service does everything else for you. You won't have to lift a finger.
Best of all, you always pay the same price for your trips, no matter when you go away and we help you spread the cost of your travel, thanks to our monthly subscription.
I hope you enjoyed my 48 hours city guide to Riga and do not hesitate to use our website chat or to email us if you have any questions!
Ellis King (Travel Expert at BeRightBack)
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