I have recently come back from a long weekend in Riga, Latvia, what can I say? Riga is a beautiful city full of charms and hidden gems. Riga is the capital of Latvia in the Baltics and it is a place I had never thought of visiting until I saw what a four day (three night) break would cost me, on this basis I could not let this opportunity go. I was unsure of what to expect but whatever it was it did exceed all my expectations, I am in love, in love with Riga.
Unlike some of the more popular city destinations such as Florence, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona or Paris, Riga is less crowded, it is not as touristy, however, I did go in March and I would expect there to be more tourists in the summer. Most of the travellers who did seem to go to Riga were from neighbouring countries such as Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland and Estonia. Everyone in Riga speaks English, they are friendly and also very helpful
Riga is a small city yet it has breath taking architecture. The house of the Blackheads is worth a visit, it is in a square just around the corner from St Peter’s Church which has the largest spire in the city. The house of the Blackheads house the tourist information centre and originally in the 16th century the house of the Blackheads were a guild for unmarried trades people.
Another place to visit is the Three Brothers, three houses built in a row, in different periods of time, they now house the Architecture museum but are situated in a quite cobbled street opposite a café and a shop for lovers of knitting. The house of the Cats is around the corner from the three brothers and this is a building with a cat decoration on its top, the building is now a restaurant but it is worth seeing because it faces a square which is surrounded by stunning buildings.
There is a lot of art nuveoux in Riga, many of the building are decorated with carved faces and foliage. There are of course two shopping malls in Riga, next to the train station, these are called Origo and Stockmann, both sell cosmetics, fashion clothing etc. and are worth visiting, but I stuck to the old town, for me it was more interesting and I loved the quaint cobbled streets and the old architecture, I also loved the shops and market stalls which sold local handcrafted items.
Knitwear in Riga is stunning, very similar to our fair isle knits, indeed there are comparisons but with Riga knitwear, the patterns are symbolic and each pattern has its own story, the mittens were traditionally given as a gift at one time and are worth purchasing for gifts, as are the socks, hats and scarfs.
Prices are very reasonable in Riga, to eat out it is not that expensive and there is plenty of transport in and around the city including busses, trains, trams and trolleybus. I got a cab from the airport when I arrived to my Hostel for 15 euros which I didn’t think was too bad. A point to note, if you do get a cab, ensure you agree on a price to pay with the driver before you get in the cab, as you can be ripped off!!
The whole trip cost me around £95 which included a single room in a hostel. I flew with Ryanair.com and I stayed at Central Hostel. I was so impressed with this hostel, it was a ten minute walk from the old town of Riga and just down the road from the train station and the Origo and Stockmann malls. The hostel is in a quieter part of town but on a trolleybus route. The staff at this hostel were so friendly and all of them spoke very good English, the common lounge was very cosy and had a hippie feel to it and I had booked a single room with a shared bathroom, my room was so cosy, Central Hostel to me was home from home. The hostel wasn’t noisy either, if you are an older traveller, like me, then this is the ideal hostel to come too.