My friends organized a visit of Riga this semester, I couldn’t say no and joined them for an incredible weekend in a city during a long snowstorm.
More photos on my Flickr!
Short walking tour around hostel
We booked our bus with Ecolines, another yellow-bus company which has different time departures. We had a bus at 7pm which brought us to Riga for 11pm, the trip seemed very long… Once arrived friends were a bit surprised by how the city looked. We walked to hostel, the felt temperature was very cold. The reception as usual asked our documents and then invited us to sit in the living room to have a beer for free.
We had a preparty there talking and before some of us got sleepy, we motivated each other and went out! I had for mission to find a place to stay and it went very good. If at first we wanted to find a bar next to hostel (Kiwi bar) we couldn’t and reached the pub street of Riga.
Enjoying Riga’s night life
I remembered some pub I tried during a pub crawl in Riga organized with ESN Vilnius. I haven’t find the place I wanted but we entered in one which revealed to be much more better! I can say that the party was incredibly crazy, Latvian people were there awesome, the music was perfect and all together it made us stayed until 5am!
First day in the capital
After that crazy night we all woke more or less at the same time except our Austrian girl who almost haven’t slept! We all miss the free breakfast even our morning friend who actually didn’t know about it. After 11am no more breakfast. Hungriness was not here already and we had a first walk in the centre by day, under a blue sky we looked for a restaurant.
Visiting the old town
When I think about I did a very strange tour for a first day. We started by the Town Hall square to see the House of the Blackheads, a totally reconstructed typical building for the 800th city’s anniversary. Near it we check the church of Saint Peter and the cathedral, simply called Riga’s Dom. On its square we had lunch at the Charlie Pizza, cheap and tasty food (discount up to -60%). Next to it was a change office which had money… minutes before we tried one and the lady told us that she didn’t had coins anymore!
I have walked on the Daugava for my first time! Before with the French we wanted but our Ukrainian friends advised us to not do it. That time one guy started to walk on it, and even jump to test the solidity of the ice surface, it didn’t break and we followed him. Hundred meters later we saw large piece of ice broken…
We continued to the Castle used as President Palace and then looked for the French bakery. We checked the Parliament, the Swedish Gate and the old defensive wall along a street ending at the Powder Tower. We could visit the main park and its ducks waiting to be fed!
This large park is divided in two side by the Freedom square on which stands the Liberty statue from the first Latvian Independence: a tall green woman holding three yellow stars. The square has two entrance, one on each part of the city: the old town, and the new town. We came from the historic centre Vecrīga to go the more recent and still nice district Centrs.
Catholic and Orthodox church
In Riga are three important religious buildings: Saint Peter, Doms, and the Orthodox Cathedral. That last is as beautiful from the inside as it is from the outside.
Elizabeth ilea and Art Nouveau
World capital of the Art Nouveau, Riga surprised and will surprised tourists every time. That is a city face people usually don’t expect. There are two street famous for this architecture style: Alberta and Elizabeth ielas, but not to forget that actually these buildings can be find everywhere in the city!
Our Austrian friend Elisabeth was really happy to have a photo with her street name 🙂 We will see later that part of us also had a photo in a special street. We got very tired and very cold and it has been necessary to stop in a coffee. I couldn’t feel my feet and became more happy after a coffee.
One of us tried the Riga Coffee… what a mistake for him! The taste was too strong. Nothing is good with Black Balsam… Latvian beers are good but their liquor sucks.
Can Saturday night beat Friday night?
The night started with a restaurant. Six of us went to Lido, a large chain of restaurants which is established in many cities (Tallinn included). The interior is so nicely decorated, looks very authentic for a fake design. It was the same we tried during my first time in Riga the French and Ukrainians. The food was tasty and quite cheap.
When we came back some people were taking a nape. We started opening the beers and went to the living room for the warm up! We had some special visitors, other Erasmus students from Tallinn but they had their own warm up. We joined them an hour after they left to the pub. They were following a local guy, but when we arrived he decided to move to the best place in the city. We followed this group and have been surprised to see what was this place. The same we’ve been the night before!
If we tried to find another dicopub near it, they all refused us or we had to pay for the entrance… We said no and came back to that place, don’t need to say that the night was once more awesome! DJ played kept playing great musics and we stayed for very long!
Second day in Riga
Incredibly easy morning
After this crazy party, the second in a row, few of us managed to wake up early. We had shower, free breakfast and we left our hostel around 10am for a morning walk. I still don’t know how it was possible to have enough energy for this.
Morning tour to the market
For the morning it was interesting to not go to far, and behind the hostel are the indoor market and the Latvian Academy of Sciences. In our group were three girls, one Hungarian guy and me. We stay a moment inside the four pavilions of it, they have been, with the old town of Riga added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is considered as the largest market in Europe, and honestly you can find all you need for food. One of the girls get trapped by a seller and bought salami.
We crossed all the pavilions, they are enough big to finish near the Soviet tower: The Palace of Sciences that we wanted to enter, but they didn’t let us visit the last floor… Instead of enjoying a possible perfect view and a strong wind, we preferred to visit the Orthodox church of the Saint Virgin Annunciation.
Going to the museum
12am and it was time to go back to the hostel for the check out. I was not really surprised to see all guys still sleeping after 12:30. The hostel was very nice and didn’t told us anything then we stayed even longer. The last guy was really after 1pm, but while waiting for him I check the location of the Museum of Occupation and various informations from the guide tour in hostel.
We left for the centre, if they all wanted to go straight to Museum « common guy it’s cold!! » I brought them to a souvenir shop I like. Get some presents and stamps for postcards that I posted immediately. In the shop, behind the seller, were standing few bottle or Black Balsam (the most famous Latvian liquor). I couldn’t resisted to ask the girl if she likes that drink or not, she answered she do and I replied she were lying! She confirmed me and said that with cola it is give a really nice cocktail called « Riga Libre »
We saw the Black cat house and various Guilds houses and I proposed to visit the sightsee platform on the tower of the church of Saint Peter. But I didn’t expected that they increased the ticket, it reached 5 euros! A little too much for us! Actually that included the tower and the photo exhibition inside the church, seemed nice but not time for it.
Despite being a bit disappointed (and angry to have to cross the city once more) we have had photos with the Bremen monument. I managed to not get lost in a quarter of Riga that I don’t know by hearth, and we came on the National Opera square and its small park totally covered with 30cm of snow! We had to pass the Freedom square to join the museum. Girls noticed that no soldiers were standing under the monument, proof that it is was incredibly cold!
The museum as a free entrance, but it is recommended to leave a small donation. They updated it a little with some movies about the late Latvian history. I was only sad that due to the transfer of the museum to the ex-American embassy, less photos and objects were exposed… our visit was much shorter that what I expected.
Close to the temporary location of the Latvian Occupation Museum was the restaurant in which we had lunch. Guys didn’t wanted to have a pizza but eat cheap. I am not used to restaurant in this district and brought them to Cili Pica. If they serve various meal, including some traditional Latvian cuisine, most of them took a pizza! Only one girl, Zsuzsa and me have ordered something different, her meal was said typical Latvian meal and was served in a clay pot0.
When I was drawing on a map all the streets we walked in, Zsuzsa said that we missed the TV tower. I improved a photo of her next to the « TV tower », it was funny result 🙂
Cili Pica is situated very close to the Riga Technical University and its side street « Inženieru » where we – the three engineers of the group – had a photo.
Going over the bridge and freeze
Last moment of this weekend, the wind was still blowing strongly and people wanted to go to hostel to wait in the warm living room. We separated from some during a passage at the supermarket (where I learnt that taking photo of funny Latvian sign was forbidden, according to security guy).
My desires were different and I crossed the Stone Bridge to have a view from the other side on the world famous Riga’s skyline. On the bridge I got really frozen, never felt so bad because of the cold. It was incredibly difficult to walk forward and my face hurt me a lot! While I was suffering as never one person was kite skiing on the river. Windy winter can be good for some people sometimes!
Leaving Riga, but for short
I went to hostel after, and had the wind face to me, situation get worse and I must hide myself behind each pylons. In hostel I had to took of my shoes to help my foot to get warmer very fast! A coffee later and we jump in the bus to Tallinn. A keep a good souvenir of this trip to this fantastic city!