25
Jul
18

Latvia: Riga, Baltics’ Liveliest Place


Riga, the capital of Latvia is the largest of the three Baltic capital cities and it is considered the party place in the Baltics. Its airport is the largest and busiest in the Baltics offering more direct flights to the rest of Europe than Tallinn, Estonia or Vilnius, Lithuania, the two other Baltic capital cities. Riga was our second Baltic and fourth European city destination during our summer escapade. We have already explored earlier the beautiful cities of Bergen, Helsinki and Tallinn.

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Entering Riga

FullSizeRenderOn a clear sunny day, we took a one hour Air Baltic flight from Tallinn, Estonia to Riga, Lavia.  I was seated next to a South African guy who would be taking a transit flight in Riga from Tallinn to Budapest where he is based. Indeed, Riga has more direct flights to more European cities compared to Tallinn, just a two-hour ferry ride from Helsinki, Finland and to Vilnius, Lithuania which is a lesser active city.

 

 

FullSizeRendereWe touched down in Riga International Airport, one of the three international airports in Latvia.

 

 

FullSizeRendercThe airport’s rather tiny and the hallways are narrow but it looked new, organized and easy to navigate probably due to recent renovation works.

 

 

IMG_1655Welcome to Riga!

 

 

IMG_1662The city center, specifically the Old Town of Riga, is less than 20 minutes away by taxi from the airport. The airport taxi service is centralized and you have to buy a coupon near the final exit door before you can board a taxi.  It is an efficient service they offer. Drivers were nice and helpful too.  You can opt to take the train to the city center but I believe the taxi is the more convenient option that is why we took it.

 

IMG_1663From the airport we chanced upon classic train coaches plying the suburban areas near the capital city. They looked very Soviet-styled.

 

 

 

Where We Stayed

It is the usual balance of our desired location (Old Town in this case) and reasonable cost when choosing our lodging in Riga. We also took into consideration that we had two babies so every place that we must visit should be within walking distance from the hotel. The Rixwell Centra Hotel inside the Old Town was our perfect choice.  It truly did not disappoint.

IMG_1668This is part of the hotel lobby and just right outside are the restaurants, bars and shops.

 

 

IMG_1681As I usually do when traveling, I did try to send a request for a room upgrade to the hotel manager. We were given a top floor, corner suite. How generous of them!

 

 

IMG_1682It was indeed a spacious suite where my toddler could run around forever.

 

 

IMG_1684Just as we went inside the room,  the views out of the windows took our breath away.

 

 

riga2The red roofs of most of the surrounding buildings truly impressed in us the Old City aura.

 

 

riga1Churches and all.

 

IMG_1764The views are even more beautiful at sunset.

 

 

IMG_1765As shown in this photo taken at sunset, just below us across the street are tons of restaurants and bars starting to come alive at twilight.  Some are even open until 7 a.m. so one of the disadvantages of a room in a lower floor in this area is the noise coming from the bars that open until the next morning even with double glazed windows.  We were located in the highest floor so the noise was almost a non-concern.

 

 

Roaming Around Riga

The Old Town & Historic Center

FullSizeRendervThe beautiful Riga Town Hall Square was a just a few minutes walk from our hotel.

 

 

FullSizeRenderIt was almost 10 p.m. and it was still a good time to take photos.  Indeed it’s summertime!

 

 

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DSC_0175Riga’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0163Beautiful buildings and lots of restaurants, shops and bars are everywhere.

 

 

DSC_0167Medieval churches are greatly preserved too.

 

 

 

FullSizeRenderWhether at sunset….

 

 

FullSizeRenders….or on a clear, sunny mid-day Riga’s Old Town is beautiful.

 

 

FullSizeRenderbThis was taken just a block from our hotel of which the church tower accentuates the aerial Old Town view as seen high above from our top floor hotel room.

 

 

IMG_1927It was not hard to fall in love with Riga after all.

 

 

If you are a party–goer, you would love it more there.  Watch this video of a mobile bar.

 

 

The Parks

FullSizeRenderkWhile on our way from the Old Town to the Art Nouveau area of Riga outside the Old Town, we cut across beautiful parks and one of them was in Bastion Hill.

 

 

IMG_1789It’s a place of beautiful, blooming flowers and….

 

 

 

DSC_0210….people suntanning or having picnics.

 

 

IMG_1787Bridge love locks abound too…..

 

 

IMG_1888…..and a lock can be solitary too.

 

 

IMG_1791The area covered parts of Bastejkalna and Kārļa Ulmaņa piemineklis parks.  The greens are amazing and in good weather there are a lot of activities that can be done inside the park like kayaking.

 

 

IMG_1889There is actually a boat tour that starts from this park using a large ferry that goes around the Old Town but we skipped it.  I thought it was wonderful to see the Old City from afar.

 

 

FullSizeRenderqWe also encountered a bunch of students rehearsing for a show.

 

 

IMG_1800A walk in the park can be an opportunity to taste a Latvian ice cream…..

 

 

IMG_1794….well the best gourmet ice cream from Latvia.

 

 

 

IMG_1877As we crossed the street from the parks we came into an area where there were a lot of flowers on display.

 

 

IMG_1879Yes beautifully arranged, real flowers.

 

 

IMG_1876A pyramid.

 

 

IMG_1912And the #SingInRiga group singing competition. Ironically, when we went inside the competition hall, the Israeli group was singing!

 

 

FullSizeRenderoWe then came to another park called Kronwalda Park.  It has the monkey statue in a spacesuit.

 

 

IMG_2360The statue is dedicated to animals that participated in exploration of outer space and it was made by artist Denis Prasolov.  It was worth a group-fie.

 

 

The Art Nouveau Area

DSC_0199From the park we finally entered the Art Nouveau area of Riga. This Baltic capital city has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture anywhere in the world!

 

 

DSC_0197Our first grand stop was at the Museum of Art Nouveau.

 

 

IMG_1845This is the famous staircase inside the Museum of Art Nouveau leading up to its tower.

 

The following are the snapshots taken in the area of the decorative new arts applied to buildings that was popular in the late 1800s until early 1900s.

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Immeuble_art_nouveau_(Riga)_(7568195240)

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DSC_0191DSC_0194

 

 

Food in Riga

27072320_10215402361640817_1509631548771949073_nOur breakfast moments in Riga were well-taken cared of by our hotel.  This is the first and only hotel where I have stayed that offers complimentary, unlimited champagne during breakfast. We had our other meals in low-key restaurants and fast-food chains.  However, in every trip we take, we make sure to taste the local gourmet offerings.

 

 

20245581_10213782249699031_4327947262718295568_nThe closest we had to experiencing local cuisine was our dinner spent in an awesome place called Garden Restaurant just a few blocks away from our hotel.

 

 

20246017_10213782253579128_4103698983856419920_nThis is where I initially drank the famous local drink, black balsam, that the restaurant was giving complimentary.

 

 

20245476_10213782252939112_9059758374257878717_nMy wife just took a sip of  her black balsam so I finished the two glasses.  It was flavorful, strong and a bit sweet.  I liked it!

 

 

20155727_10213782250579053_7463809804359393260_nWe ordered calamari as our starter.

 

19989682_10213782251459075_9197408986896938830_nThe traditional Latvian bread was served too.

 

 

20228964_10213782250899061_1280012536784584324_nWe ordered the pork knuckle thinking it would be similar to the crispy skin variant of the Philippines only to find out it is somewhat similar to the German version.  It was juicy though and it tasted unexpectedly good.

 

 

20246520_10213782252539102_6395466902400332454_nI am a fish lover so wherever I am I would try to order fish.  The restaurant was only offering a fried Dorado so we ordered it.

 

 

20229281_10213782249859035_1599356938223628368_nThe black balsam was sort of an appetizer drink for me and so my favorite red was the main drink. We enjoyed our dining time in this place and we were glad at least we have tasted a bit of the local cuisine.

 

In another occasion when we were in the Art Nouveau area of Riga we dined in a place called Alberta just across the Museum of Art Nouveau.

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We had beef stroganoff…..

IMG_1857…and Asian-stlye dumplings.

 

 

LEAVING RIGA

The hotel gave us two breakfast bags as we informed the front desk the evening before that we are leaving for the airport on our last day early in the morning. The driver that they arranged to pick us up was prompt, helpful and pleasant too.

IMG_1657From Riga, we took our flight back to Bergen, Norway on the way to the U.S. I was seated next to a couple of guys who smelled alcohol looking like they just got out of a bar and had a long night taking Stolichnaya shots.  Riga party fever indeed!  If I was twenty years younger I could probably have done the same thing.

 

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Ardievas, Riga!


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