Capital no. 22 is checked off my list! Here is my travelogue from Riga:
Sunday: We arrived early and went by taxi to our hotel, Hotel Riverside. Our room was not ready, so we left our luggage and walked to the old town. We had a yoghurt at Coffee Inn. We then walked about in the old town, and among other things saw the Swedish Gate, a part of the city wall from 1698.
Look at the window above the gate. This was where the executioner lived, and on the morning of an execution there would be a red rose is this window. We had lunch at Peter’s Brewhouse, near St. Peter’s Church. The beer was good and the food average. After lunch we went back to our hotel and got our room. We dined at Rozengrals in the old town. It is a medieval restaurant and it comes with everything: a candlelit room, waiters in medieval costumes, medieval music by musicians in medieval costumes and the food is served in stoneware jars! The food is also medieval and you can read the story of the dish in the menu. I got a tasty sicilian dish from the 900s. It is really an exciting experience and I do recommend it!
We ended the day with a drink a Lido in the old town.
Monday: The day began at the Central Market. The Market Halls are the the old hangars for the zeppelins during WW1. They were rebuild to house the market in 1930, but you can still see the original intention both from the outside and the inside.
After the market we went sightseeing, as the forecast told us, this would be the only day without rain on our trip! We went to see the Freedom Monument, which has a park on either side.
From there we went to Livu Square, which has The Small and the Great guild and the Cat House in one of the corners. It is 3 beautiful houses with a funny story. The owner of the Cat House was excluded from the Great Guild, so he put up the two cats on the roof with their behinds facing the Great Guild as an insult. When he was later readmitted into the Guild the cats were turned around.
From here we walked to the Three Brothers, three of the oldest houses in Riga, and Riga Castle.
The Castle was a bit of a disappointment, perhaps because we are quite spoiled with castles in Denmark. Also the castle was closed for renovation. We went to Doma Laukums, the Dome Square, and had lunch at Key of Riga, another theme restaurant with waiters in costumes. This is from a Latvian movie, The Devil’s Servant. It is a nice place with good Latvian food. After lunch we went into the Cathedral. The inner yard is a kind of outdoor museum of the history of the church and city. We were unable to visit the crypt, because of renovation work. We went to Ratlaukums, the City Hall Square, and saw the City Hall as well as the House of the Blackheads. The latter is the house of the unmarried German merchants. It houses an art collection, but because of the work at Riga Castle, the president is now working from the House of the Blackheads, so it was closed.
We had coffee and cake at the sweetest café called, Black Magic. The theme is witchcraft, and the speciality is chocolate and Black Balsam. Black Balsam is the local herbal spirit, which reminds me of Jägermeister, but I prefer the taste of Black Balsam. Everything in Black Magic tastes divine!
After our coffee break we took a stroll the the Esplanade Park and went further on to Elizabetes iela and Alberta iela. Theese two streets have the most Art Nouveau Houses in Riga, and the are just lovely.
The Art Nouveau Museum is on Alberta iela, but is closed mondays. We went to Riga’s Nativity of Christ Cathedral, the Orthodox Cathedral. After some difficulty we located the Bergs Bazaar, a pedestrian shopping and dining area. We weren’t impressed. It was getting colder, so we went inside in the shopping centers Origo and Stockmann. We had dinner at Ambiente. It is a restaurant in an Art Nouveau apartment. The food and service was great!
Tuesday: We began this rainy day with the beautiful view of the city from the top of the Academy of Sciences, also known as Stalin’s birthday cake. It is a very large gothic building from the Soviet era.
We then walked to the Art Nouveau Museum. The museum is in the original apartment of the architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns. It was very beautiful, but I would have liked more information of the inhabitants of the apartment and not just about the beautiful things.
We had lunch at the restaurant next door, Alberta 13, also in Art Nouveau decor. The food was excellent, the service was great.
We walked back to the old town and then had to seek shelter for the rain. We came across the Pharmacy Museum, a small museum in an old pharmacy. It is very nice, but there very little information in English, and you have to book a guide in advance. But do do so, it seems very interesting. As it was still rained after the museum we ran to Black Magic to get some warmth (and chocolate!). We went to the St. Peter’s Church afterwards. It is a big church and the tower has been hit by lightning six times!
We had dinner at Folkklubs ala Pragrabs, on of the best beer bars and restaurants in Riga. You descend down a stair and then walk until you get into the large bar with candlelights and Latvian music. There’s a big selection of beer and traditional Latvian food, and it is very cheap. Do not order a starter unless you are very hungry!
After dinner it was raining cats and dogs, so we ran back to our hotel!
Wednesday: We began the day in Origo, as my better half needed new shoes. After that we went to the Natural History Museum, a very good museum for children, as it is very interactive. We had lunch at Ambiente again. The food was very good, but the music and the service wasn’t as good as before.
We went to Galleria Riga, a very classy shopping center, before we went to Alus Celle, the best beer bar in Riga. It does not look like anything from the outside (there’s no sign), but it is there, in Baznicas 35! Both of the owners were in the bar, and we had an excellent and personal service! They are both passionate about beer.
After that we went to World of Hat, an etnological museum with hats from all over the world. You get an introduction by the staff. In the last room you can see pictures of the hats on, which is needed for some of the hats. You can also try on some hats and take pictures. Do bring the children!
We had dinner at Piejura and a cake in Galleria Centers.
Thursday: Going home.
– The city centre is not that big making is possibly to walk to everything, if you plan smart.
– Supermarkets are very cheap.
– Yoghurt is a big thing in Latvia, so try out some for breakfast. Try asking a local, which kind is their favourite!
– Do watch out when you cross the street! Latvians are reckless in traffic. People are also biking on the sidewalk.
– Taxies are cheap. From the airport to the city centre is approximately 12 Euro.