"Riga - A Baltic Capital" Riga by kit_mc
Riga Travel Guide: 1,709 reviews and 4,724 photos
Arriving in the middle of the day, shattered and having just missed the 22a into town, means we've time to sit down for a coffee at the airport. We waste our time trying to get a bus ticket from the tourist information office - just buy it when you board the bus and make sure you're not trying to use more than a 5 lat note.
We make our way into town, stepping off the bus next to the incredible Orthodox Cathedral, finding our bearings and checking into our hotel, the Albert.
After a bit of a doze, a flick through the guidebook, realising that museum visiting will very much be driven by which day of the week it is, we head out to find some food, ending up at one of the Lido cafeteria style restaurants.
Still exhausted from work and travel, we grab a couple of drinks on the rooftop bar before heading off to charge the batteries for the forced march, I mean before hitting the museums, the next morning.
We were staying on the edge of the Art Nouveau district so it made sense to follow the route outlined in our guide book after stocking up on a big breakfast at the hotel. One of those rare moments when I've found myself walking around looking up at the skies and getting the chance to admire the buildings around me. Well worth a couple of hours in the cold.
Then the 20 minute walk over to the Old Town, through the Bastejkelns park, passing the stones that commemorate the lives lost at the hands of Russian special forces in 1991. The long fight for independence will be a theme of the visit.
We walk through the Old Town, starting at the Arsenals Art Museum, past the President's home, Riga Castle, with a quick look into Our Lady of Sorrows RC Church, then the Anglican Church, followed by my favourite, St Jacob's RC Cathedral where a lovely little old lady helps me pick out rosary beads.
Our first museum of the trip is the Museum of the Occupation. An understandably highly emotional and politicised narrative of the years of oppression, under Soviet, Nazi and then Soviet occupation. The museum is free and is a must-see in my view.
The daylight has gone by the time we leave and it's time for food. We hit another Lido restaurant in the Old Town, this one has an area for smokers, quite a novelty for me these days.
Afterwards, stomach no longer grumbling, we make our way to the south end of Old Town to the Stockmanns department store where we grab some essentials from their basement supermarket before heading back to the hotel and a few quiet glasses of wine.
Day 3 involves a visit to the quirky Firefighters Museum in the north east, then into the Old Town again for the Photographic Museum and a look at Latvia in years gone by. On the way we check out the Laima Clock, meeting point for many a Rigan and the Freedom Monument, a gargantuan spired homage to independence. A wander through Old Town by night and back to the hotel to decide where to have dinner.
Quite late in the day we head across the road from the hotel to a funky looking bar and restaurant. And end up staying the rest of the night drinking the best cocktails I've had in many years!
Next day we head straight to the Arsenals Art Museum for an excellent exhibition of Latvian young artists, before the rather dry National History Museum in Riga Castle. From there we do a bit of a walking tour of the Old Town including the Swedish Gate and the Old Wall before heading down to Blackhead's House. We head into St Peters with it's tower above the city. Heading up the lift I hold my breath, not being a good one for heights, still impressed with its 360 degree views across Riga.
We wander a bit round the Old Town some more before returning to St Peter's for the incredibly popular, standing room only, Advent Concert.
Hunger eventually drags us away for a special meal at a place where I eat my first snails. Afterwards, a wander through the Christmas Market and back to my favourite bar for more cocktails. Never as good second time around though.
Day 5 involves a visit to the Jewish Cafe [great coffee] before heading round the corner to the Jewish Museum. This place offers another take on World War II occupation. Then I head for the main post office for some philatelic souvenirs before stopping by at the Orthodox Cathedral for evening prayer. As beautiful inside as I'd expected, a privilege to see a cathedral in use rather than simply as a place for tourists to wander.
Last day, we leave our bags at the hotel before a walk through the central market, fascinating as a museum in itself and then further south to get a view of the Academy of Sciences building that towers over the city. We stop off at the remains of an old synagogue and ponder some more of the city's history before heading back though Old Town and the Architecture Museum in the 3 Kings buildings. A bit of a waste of time. Not something that can be said of the hot chocolate liqeur cocktail at Emihls Gustavs in the Galerij shopping centre. Yum!
And then off to the airport for the dreary flight back to reality.
- In a nutshell:Art Nouveau grandeur, museums, churches, great cocktails.
Dominating the skyline of the Old Town is the tallest of the spires of Riga, belonging to the beautiful gothic St... more travel advice
Arsenals houses part of the National Museum of Art and as such seems to have rotating exhibitions rather than a... more travel advice
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