For the less informed, Riga is the capital of Latvia, the Baltic state sandwiched in between Lithuania and Estonia. Because of its stunning architecture, it’s becoming increasingly popular with tourists all over Europe.
But before we start, it’s time for a word on climate. Latvia feels colder than the moon in the winter months, and I speak from unpleasant personal experience of not having brought enough insulating clothing. Unfortunately, to combat this, many of the establishments you may visit have the heating cranked up to excess, which means you spend half your time taking clothes on and off like some sort of high-energy circus act. Because of this, it’s more advisable to visit in the months of June, July, and August where temperatures average around 17°C, not exactly toasty, but manageable.
We’ll begin our day with a trip to the city’s most outstanding landmark, the Riga Cathedral, also known as the Dome cathedral, located in Riga’s historic Old Town. The Cathedral dates from the 13th Century and houses a majestic pipe organ with close to 7000 pipes. The acoustics are quite simply epic.
Next, visit the Central Market, which is filled to the brim with noise, bustle, and activity. This is the best place to buy souvenirs as the prices are much lower than in some of the tourist shops. It is also noticeable for its fresh and fantastic meat and cheese, something the Baltic countries specialize in.
For a decent budget lunch, head to the Lido Entertainment centre, an ambitious place housed inside a wooden building with 3 floors. The lower two floors offer a huge cafeteria-style selection of kebabs, sausages, pancakes, and soups. There is also a small amusement park outside to keep your children occupied – the whole place can get extremely noisy though. A costlier, but higher quality dining experience can be found at Traktieris, a Russian restaurant and bar offering hearty Russian food.
After lunch (assuming the weather’s nice), head out to the Bastejkalns Park, located between the old town and the more modern central district. The park is well kept with a charming, windy canal and plenty of benches to just sit and reflect after viewing the Freedom Monument, an imposing 42-meter high structure honouring people killed in the Latvian war of Independence shortly after World War One. Despite Soviet occupation for a great portion of the 20th Century, it escaped from Demolition and remains in excellent condition today as the symbol of Latvian courage and independence.
Next, if you’re a gun lover like me, you’ll check out the AK47 shooting range, which offers all-inclusive shooting packages. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s a unique opportunity to fire possibly the most iconic firearm ever. For a fantastic evening meal, I recommend you splash out on a visit to Rozengrāls, a real medieval restaurant located in a real medieval cellar back at the Old Town, with a menu offering peculiar dishes such as rabbit meat stewed with prunes, and the “Fish of Saint Peter” in white wine and basil.
Lastly, round off the evening with a visit to the famous Latvian National Opera, which also has a ballet troupe. This is particularly worth going to during the Riga Opera festival, which takes place between the 8-18th of June.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your travels!
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