Just a few hours ago, we schlepped our luggage through the door -- welcomed home by our fluffy cat -- and I'm finally sitting down with a cup of honey ginger tea to work on my blog posts for the week. We spend Monday until today, Saturday, wandering the edgy streets of Riga and then indulging in some much needed pampering in Parnu, Estonia. It was a fun trip, even with some trying moments with a slightly early case of terrible twos. Never mind that though.
Riga is a very awesome, edgy city, perhaps my favorite in the Baltics, but to experience the best of the city, you really need to get out of the old town. Okay, stop by the old town briefly for a view over the city in St. Peter's Church and spot the most famous buildings, but after that, ditch the old town. And whatever you do, don't eat in the old town.
I mentioned the edginess of Riga, and I have to say, the style in Riga is so cool and the city just feels a bit harder than Vilnius and much less fairy tale than Tallinn. There are awesome cafes (outside of the old town), amazing churches, bagel places, and vegan eateries. If you are traveling on a budget, one thing to note is that food and drink prices seemed a bit higher than Lithuania and Estonia, but hotel prices were a bit lower -- maybe the cumulative price would even out?
I'll talk more about where to eat and drink in a coming post (as usual), but for now, let's take a look at some awesome things to do in Riga.
Art Nouveau District:
The Art Nouveau District is simply amazing. Riga has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world, so if you like architecture, Riga is the city to visit. Many famous Art Nouveau buildings can be found on Alberta Street and Elizabetes Street, but also elsewhere throughout the city. Keep your eyes open for intricate details on buildings including natural motifs, because you'll spot them throughout the new town.
You might be wondering why Riga of all places is famous for its Art Nouveau architecture, because that is something that kind of surprised me. Well, Riga is famous for Art Nouveau because at the time when Art Nouveau was the popular building style, Riga was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe.
Stockmans is a massive, awesome department store with floors of books, clothing, makeup, and even a grocery store selling a wide selection of imported and local goods. A visit to Stockmans is absolutely worth it for a bit of a browse or to stock up on groceries.
Breweries and Cafes:
Like both Lithuania and Estonia, Latvia is home to some fabulous microbreweries. For starters, try out Labietis and Valmiermuizas, which are both located in the cool Skanste district, which is easily reached on foot or via tram.
We also found excellent cafes (I'll write more soon, I promise!) in the Skanste district and the Centrs district (past the Esplande). I've added a couple of photos below of some of the awesome buildings that we strolled past in these areas, so you can get a feel for it.
St. Peter's Church Overlook:
Honestly, it is shockingly expensive to take the elevator up the bell tower at St. Peter's Church (9 EUR!), but if you are interested in photography, it is worth it. J opted to wait outside and entertain Baby ISO while I made my way to the top to enjoy breathtaking views of the city. It was cool to be able to pick out the places we visited, but be sure you wait for a clear day to visit!
|The amazing Latvia National Library|
Riga Nativity Cathedral:
The Riga Nativity Cathedral is located in the Esplande (a park with a playground), and both are absolutely worth a visit. Riga Nativity Cathedral is a beautiful Russian Orthodox church with pinkish stripes on the exterior and shining golden onion domes. Riga Natvity Cathedral is absolutely stunning outside, and to get the best views of it, you should walk all the way around it. There is also a great playground near the backside of the church.
Right on the edge of the old town, following a portion of the Pilsetas River, Bastejkalna Park is a great park for a walk. Two highlights in Bastejkalna Park are the Laima Clock (a great meeting point from the famous Latvia chocolate company) and the towering Freedom Monument, which is truly impressive. In the photo below, you can see the park, the Freedom Monument and the Riga Nativity Cathedral.
We are deprived of books in English in Vilnius, particularly new releases. Riga, however, is not lacking at all in the book department. If you are looking for both new releases and classics in Riga, hit up the bookstore on the top floor of the Galleria Riga in the center of the old town, Robert's Books, and Kafka Kafija.
Have you visited the Baltics? Which main city is your favorite? Mine is Riga due to its edginess, great food and coffee, and excellent options for English books.
I'm linking up with #Faraway Files with Untold Morsels.