Trip to Riga
Riga is one of Europe's most stunning cities. As a city with one of the largest collections of Art Nouveau structures in the world, it is recognized as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site.
Tiled rooftops, winding cobblestone lanes, loud pubs, cozy cafes, and the spires of historic bell towers. The capital of Latvia has consistent popularity among tourists because of its understated charm.
What to do in Riga?
Riga has an ancient past. The capital of Latvia, Riga, is a long-established commercial and multiracial metropolis that is situated near the mouth of the Daugava River and on the shore of the Bay of Riga. The Old Town is of great attraction to visitors, who travel there each year to see the sights.
From the Town Hall Square, which is in the center of the city, you may begin exploring Riga. The most significant square in Riga's Old Town. This location served as a large market during the Middle Ages. Since most of the city was destroyed during the Second World War, sadly this location has not yet recovered its old beauty. However, we can now get a general idea of how the town hall seemed back then thanks to the wonders of reconstruction.
The House of the Blackheads, a 14th-century architectural landmark, is another draw to this location in addition to the Town Hall itself.
Near the Town Hall Square, there are two further noteworthy structures:
Mentzendorf House was constructed in 1695 as a home with a store. Currently, the structure houses a division of the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, where an exhibition depicting the daily lives of the city's citizens has been developed. The primary draw of the historic district is St. Peter's Church. With a height of 123.5 meters and an original, distinctive spire, this structure is impressive. The Dome Cathedral, a 13th-century Lutheran church, is the next significant landmark. Its spire soars majestically above the old town and is the largest medieval temple in the Baltic States. You can see another distinctive building, the Anglican Church of the Holy Redeemer, built in the Neo-Gothic style, by turning away from the Dome Square on Biscapa Gate and continuing forward a short distance.
After that, we suggest you take a walk on Albert Street. One of Riga's streets is unofficially known as an open-air museum since the majority of its structures, which were built in less than two years at the beginning of the last century, are the epitome of Art Nouveau. This boulevard, which bears the name of the city's founder, Bishop Albert, was created and expanded in celebration of the 700th anniversary of the founding of Riga. The street's buildings are all adorned in the same German Art Nouveau aesthetic, known as "Jugendstil." This is a fairly pretentious style, and the facades include many elaborate decorative embellishments.
Then visit the Kipsala district - an island district of Riga with beautiful wooden houses, piers and paved pavements. Some houses of Kipasala are more than 200 years old. The island is the tip of a sand dune. It has been changing its shape for centuries, until it formed the way it can be seen now. Kipsala Island is included in the UNESCO Heritage List. There is a memorial to Janis Lipke, who saved dozens of Jews during World War II. We start moving along the Daugava along Balasta Dambis Street. Beautiful houses are kept in excellent condition.
Must visit places in Riga
What is really worth seeing while you are in Riga is the Town Hall. Historically, the first town hall building was erected in the 13th century immediately after the city acquired the rights to an independent policy. Since then, it has been repeatedly changed and completed, and as a result of the military events of 1941, it almost completely turned into ruins, only some fragments of the facade survived. It was only in the 90s of the 20th century that restoration work started, and in 2003 the renovation ended and now you can see the new town hall building, which is a restored copy of the old one.
Be sure to stop by the monument to the Bremen Town musicians. one of the modern attractions of the Latvian capital, with which almost every tourist is familiar, literally descended from the pages of the famous German fairy tale "Bremen Town Musicians". The monument to the Bremen Town Musicians in the Old Town embodies that fabulous episode when the animals, sitting on each other's backs, look at the robbers through the window and start shouting loudly. The monument, erected in the Old Town of Riga in 1990, was cast by the Bremen sculptor Christa Baumgartel and carries a deep political "subtext" — the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the well-worn noses of animals indicate that many still believe in the "magical" power of the monument to fulfill dreams.
Visit the House Of Black Cats. An unusual house with two figures of cats crowning a pointed roof was built at the beginning of the last century and belonged to a merchant who very much wanted to join a Large guild. A rich merchant built this house in 1910, installed cats on it, turning them backwards to the Guild building. It came to a scandal, the cats were turned in a more diplomatic direction. Since then, two cats on the roof look in different directions, and the house of Black Cats has become a famous attraction.
One of the important symbols of Riga is the medieval St. Peter church, whose high bell tower is viewed from many points of the city. This is the oldest Riga shrine, the first mention of which dates back to the beginning of the 13th century. During the events of the Second World War, the cathedral suffered significantly, and the restoration work carried out after that was completed only in the 80s of the last century. In height, this structure, including a slender spire topped with a golden cockerel, reaches 123 meters. In addition to the spire, the tower is decorated with an old clock that performs the national Latvian melody several times a day.
The Powder Tower (Pulvertornis) in Riga is the only element of the city fortification that has survived to this day. This tower was part of the Riga fortress wall, and sentries were on duty on it around the clock — in case of a sudden enemy attack. It was first mentioned in historical documents in 1330. Powder Tower — a structure that has reliably protected the city from enemy attacks for many years. Back in the 17th century, several cannon shells got stuck in its walls, which remained there. Since the beginning of the last century, a military museum has been operating inside the tower, where military equipment, weapons collections and various things of Latvian soldiers are exhibited.
One of the most recognizable architectural creations of Riga is the next place worth visiting. This is the Dome Cathedral, the center of the local and national spiritual life. Here, there are frequently held classical music concerts in addition to religious services. And the cathedral's history dates back eight centuries, to the time that Livonia was successfully conquered. The cathedral underwent numerous renovations and adjustments throughout the course of these centuries; it wasn't until the end of the 18th century that it finally took on its contemporary shape. The size of the structure, which blends elements of Northern European Gothic and medieval Romanesque design, is impressive. A massive 25-meter musical organ that was placed in the temple at the end of the 19th century is one of its unique attractions.
A Cable-Stayed Bridge that crosses the Riga Daugava River and begins at the Riga Castle before going through the island of Kipsala is one of the river's most remarkable bridges. Such a bridge's construction is extremely unusual: the roadbed is attached to the solitary pylon serving as a bridge supported by a network of steel cables called shrouds. This bridge is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Riga due to its unique design, which resembles a stringed instrument. The bridge is more than 0.5 km long overall, and the width is to 30 meters wide.
One of the most significant sights of Riga is the Freedom Monument, which is a symbol of the independence of Latvia. It is located on the main street of Brivibas and is visible from afar. At the top of the 42-meter high stele is a 9-meter sculpture depicting a woman with three stars in her hands, symbolizing the three historical regions of the country. The design of the monument captures the history of the country — various bas-reliefs carved on several tiers of the stella convey important historical stories of the country and the high moral values of its people.
A brick building with a white slender tower near the Church of St. Petra is one of the oldest religious buildings in the historical center of Riga. In 1234, the archbishop moved to a new residence near the Dome Cathedral, and sold the former compound to the Dominicans. They built a wooden church on the site of the old chapel and consecrated it in the name of St. John. For almost 8 centuries, the building has repeatedly burned and rebuilt, served as a granary, arsenal and even stable, changed denominations.
There is a legend that in the 15th century, before the next restoration, two monks wished to be immured alive in the wall to ensure its strength and durability. Through a cruciform crack in a bricked-up window on one wall, parishioners fed voluntary martyrs; in memory of them, two creepy masks with open mouths stand a little higher in the niches.
Fun activities in Riga
If you have free time, visit the Museum of retro cars. In vivid contrast to the typical national museums of art, culture, and history, the museum of vintage cars in Riga is notable. It is one of Europe's biggest museums. Its facade draws attention from a distance because it is embellished with a lattice that looks like an antique Rolls-Royce vehicle model. The museum's current exhibit is a collection of retro vehicles from the start of the 20th century, including limousines, sports cars, and incredibly rare trophy models. The exhibition of sports cars and vehicles used for breaking sporting records is particularly fascinating. The German Union C/D of 1938 is its crown jewel. Moreover, visitors will see a hall on the bottom level that is filled with special and military items, including vehicles that participated on the Eastern Front of World War II.
Moreover, if you have a free day, be sure to visit the largest and oldest Zoo in the Baltic States. It is located in a gorgeous part of Riga, close to Kishezers Lake, with a nearby Interpark and a sizable green area for family trips with fresh, lovely air from Kishezers Lake. The zoo began its work in 1908, the year the Riga Zoo Society was founded. And then, 4 years later, the zoo opened its doors to guests, showcasing 267 unique creatures. Today, however, the park's area is rising, its population is increasing, and visitors can take excursions in a variety of directions that last for up to an hour and a half.
On 20 hectares, about 3,000 animals from all over the world, including lions, giraffes, ostriches, pandas, owls, red wolves, tapirs, and several species of primates, live. The zoo's lush grounds are a park with strolling paths that is divided into areas with various animal species.
Resort places near Riga
If you have another free day, be sure to visit the largest resort in the Baltic States, Jurmala is 30 kilometers long and situated not far from Riga on the shore of the Gulf of Riga. It is renowned for its gorgeous views, historical sites, and a slew of luxurious beaches. You may not only rest here, but also improve your health thanks to the healing sea air.
There is a square not far from the station, and Yomas Street, the city's primary pedestrian thoroughfare, starts here. You can stop at cafes, boutiques, and souvenir stores while on the trek. Here, many activities and concerts are scheduled over the summer. Once you get to the end and continue walking a small distance, you will arrive at Dzintari Park, which is renowned for its century-old pine trees. The park always has a welcoming and serene atmosphere.
After leaving the park, you can head back to Yomas Street and turn towards the sea. Here, the clock, one of the city's most famous monuments, is situated. The "Dzintari" concert venue is located behind them. Visit the city museum if you have time.
Traditional food of Latvia
The culinary traditions of the country have developed due to the influence of several gastronomic trends. The first concerns the traditions of the German part of the population. It was these people who taught Latvians to use all kinds of marinades, smoked meats, pickled vegetables, pickles. Another trend was formed among local peasants, whose daily diet consisted of dairy products, cereals, meat and potatoes. The combination of such influences is responsible for the formation of modern Latvian cuisine. Also because of the location of the territory - the traditional dishes of the country include various types of fish.
The national cuisine of Latvia is unusual, one dish can combine incongruous components, and together it turns out delicious and interesting. And while you are in Riga, be sure to try the national dishes
Here a some of the traditional dishes you should try:
Gray peas with shpek - it's hard not to try this dish while traveling in Latvia: it is served in almost every restaurant. The peas are boiled, then mixed with fried bacon and onions. The whole secret is in the pea variety, which is grown only in Latvia. Gray peas are served, in the past - a traditional peasant breakfast, in clay pots with sour cream or kefir.
Putras - grain porridges with the addition of fish or smoked meat and fermented dairy products.
Silkyupudins - potato and herring casserole
Peasant breakfast - potatoes, sausage, loin finely chopped, poured with milk-egg mixture and baked.
Fish in Latvia is baked in foil, fried, stewed, cooked in batter, on a grill or on coals. Served with new potatoes, salads are made.
Fish cooked in milk is the main dish popular all over the country. Pieces of fish are cooked in hot milk in a saucepan together with onion rings, grated carrots, parsley, salt and pepper. After the fish is ready, sour cream is added to make a delicious creamy sauce. Fish is usually served with the sauce in which it was cooked, boiled potatoes and seasoning of aromatic herbs.
Potatoes with cottage cheese and herring - potatoes are placed on half a plate. Add sliced herring, chopped onion, cottage cheese with sour cream and pickles. Sprinkle everything with herbs on top. Back at the end of the last century, you could see it on the menu of any local restaurant or public canteen. The combination of these products may seem inorganic. In fact, the ingredients complement each other perfectly.
The most unusual combination is found in traditional Latvian soups. Sour or spicy base with additional components surprise.
Cold borscht - kefir, beet juice, fresh cucumbers and dill
Milk soup - milk, herring, potatoes, green onions and sour
Cream beer soup - beer, bread, cottage cheese, cumin, eggs, butter and sour cream.
Latvia is very fond of sweets and while you are here, be sure to try local desserts, which are served in almost all restaurants and cafes.
Debesmanna (cranberry mousse) - This dessert is made from cranberries, black or red currants, strawberries, raspberries or other berries or juice. Usually water, sugar and semolina are added. Mousse is served in deep cream bowls; it is eaten with cold milk.
Latvian layered rye bread dessert - This dessert consists of layers of bread crumbs, whipped cream and cranberry jam. On top of the dessert, another layer of crumbs and cream is usually laid out. Dessert is usually served with a glass of milk.
Piparkukas cookies - are spicy cookies of different shapes made from flour, sugar, eggs, butter. Spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves) and pepper are added to the dough.
Buberte - milk semolina recipe provides for the use of grated nuts, fruit nectar
To have an idea of the Latvian national cuisine, you should definitely try putels, which are sour pea or oatmeal jelly with the addition of yogurt or sour lingonberry juice. Among the national drinks, it is also worth noting rhubarb jelly with whipped cream or milk. Refreshing bread kvass, which is sold in all grocery stores, is very popular among local residents.
Riga Black balsam is a traditional herbal liqueur, which includes many natural ingredients mixed in pure vodka. The traditional recipe of the balm includes 24 ingredients: various herbs, flowers, germs, juices, roots, oils and berries; the balm is prepared in oak barrels.
Best restaurants in Riga
Visiting restaurants is a very important part of the trip to get even closer to another culture. In Riga, most restaurants with national cuisine are located in the old town, so it's better to look for a place for dinner there.
Here are a few restaurants worth visiting while you are in Riga:
Petergailis - after a walk near St. John's Church, go to this restaurant for dinner. Here you can taste international cuisine. Take delicious stewed beef cheeks, fish soup and fried catfish, chocolate fondue, chocolate ice cream and parfait. Many visitors of Pētergailis recommend a good cask beer, mulled wine or cider.
Be sure to visit this place to admire the beautiful view from the window. The staff here is wonderful, the service is impressive. In this restaurant you will like the modern interior and cozy atmosphere.
Niklāvs - breakfast menu, traditional Latvian dishes. There are unusual combinations, for example, dessert with acorn sauce or sea buckthorn marmalade. There are many dishes of meat and fish with vegetables and herbs. The business card of Niklāvs is sorrel soup and cereal sausage.
LIDO - this restaurant is located next to the Lido Recreation Center. In the LIDO you can taste delicious hodgepodge, salads and herring, pancakes, Easter and ice cream. In this place it is worth ordering a delicious cask beer, mulled wine or ale. There is good kvass, fresh juices and coffee.
Come here with the whole family: there is an extensive children's menu, the staff at this institution is competent. Fast service is a big plus of this restaurant. It offers dishes at low prices. In LIDO you will like the modern interior and a great atmosphere.
Province restaurant - This restaurant is located next to the Town Hall Square. Here you will be offered delicious herring, pea soup and knuckle. It offers good cask beer, mulled wine or cider and many other national dishes.
The convenient location of this place makes it easy to get to it even during rush hour. The staff here is helpful, the service is professional. Here you can order dishes at average prices. You will definitely appreciate the cozy atmosphere and impressive interior.