Have you heard about Riga?
I hadn’t before booking a weekend getaway there. And when people asked us, “where are you going for the next long weekend?” We’d say “Riga…Latvia?” with an increase in intonation at the end, as if to ask at the same time, have you heard of it?
Months ago while deciding where to go for yet another long weekend in France, we were out of ideas. Enter Google search “Top travel destinations in Europe.” Up pops Riga with a delightful description as “The Newest Member of the Culture Club.”
After pinpointing it on the map and quickly realizing how poor our knowledge of European geography is, we said to ourselves, “Well, when are we ever going to go to Latvia?”
Unless it’s a short plane ride away, when we have seemingly endless vacations days, a generous travel allowance and have run out of new places to explore. So now was as good a time as ever. So why not?
With no real expectations and minimal research on what to see and do, we were pleasantly surprised with Riga. I describe it as having a mix of European, Scandinavia and Soviet vibes. Overall it was a clean, well-kept city, very affordable, with great architecture and plenty of places to relax and have a drink.
We didn’t hit up any museums. We didn’t even go into any churches or up any towers! It was really a relaxing, low-key place. BUT if you are a history buff, then Riga has an interesting, tumultuously past. We did however, take two fantastic tours in Riga that we found advertised in one of the tourist maps. I’ll detail those in another post.
I really thought it was would be busy with tourists considering July and August are their high season, but it wasn’t at all. (It’s pretty much not a great place to go the other 10 months of the year.)
The ride from the airport was super easy, and cheap. We just hopped on bus 222 for 1.15 euro and went directly into Old Town. And it was just a short walk to our hotel via the horrendously ankle-twisting cobble-stoned paths… when you’re not trying to drag luggage over them making a horrible racket, they are charming of course.
The weather was a bit chillier than we expected but when the sun was shining, it was perfect. Since it’s further north than Paris, we especially enjoyed the extra long days where the sun wouldn’t set until 10pm.
Old Town is small and easy to navigate and we covered most of it on foot by the first afternoon. Our first activity of the holiday: archery. Just outside St. Peter’s Church, some bull’s-eyes were set up by Erenimi Archery. With a quick lesson from the friendly, and funny operators, David and I were competing for the most points. After 7 shots each for 5 euro total, I won scoring 25 points (versus 19). What a fun and unique idea. So far a great introduction to the city.
Look at that form!
We took a nice run along the canal one morning in the lovely park. The canal was originally built to contain Old Town and keep outsiders out. Now it’s perfect for a morning jog, afternoon stroll or nighttime kayak.
We took a day trip out to the seaside resort town of Jurmala, just a 30 minute train ride away. Being a Monday, the area wasn’t busy at all. We strolled along the pedestrian strip, bordered by endless restaurants, shops and ice cream stands. Then through the woods, the long stretch of sandy beach appeared before us.
We dipped our feet in the Baltic Sea – a first for both of us. It was too cold for us to take a full on dunk but others were clearly enjoying it. We laid in the sun, had a nice lunch and a drink overlooking the Sea along with other vacationers.
We couldn’t help but admire the architecture… so unique and varied. If those walls could talk…
We had some great meals and some amazing coffee in Riga. Check out our list of places to eat and drink.
Now, had we planned a little better and wanted a less relaxing holiday, I would have added a trip to nearby Tallinn, Estonia. Or if we had more time, perhaps an overnight ferry across the Baltic Sea to Stockholm, Sweden (another one of my favourite places). That being said, it was a fantastic little weekend by the sea.
What do you think of Riga? Pretty cool place, isn’t it?