Riga: Latvia’s Capital City
Day 5: From one Old Town to another, Jess is a Wanderer explores Riga…
Arriving into Riga
We hopped on a bus for 24 Euros from Tallinn’s Bussijaam. An easy process to find and book tickets and WOW!!!!! What a bus. I’m not sure what the UK is doing but…. the buses here?! Power sockets, hot drinks for free, wifi, reclining seats AND a whole entertainment system with music, movies and TV shows, just like you’d find on an aeroplane! I was almost disappointed that the journey was only taking 4.5 hours. With headphones in and a movie on, it wasn’t long before Riga’s Old Town was unfolding around us. Sadly, the weather hadn’t changed and it was still freeeeeeezing cold. One day, I’ll take a trip and actually pack appropriate clothing. For now, I shall continue to freeze!
Our hostel left us more than intrigued. It was in the heart of the old town, nestled between a restaurant and a pub and only six flights of stairs up… not fun when you’re carrying a 12kg backpack! Sitting in reception, it took a while for someone to greet us and the chap that did seemed as though he had just woken up from a one hundred year snooze as he didn’t really know what was going on or why we were there. Still, for 17 Euros in a private room, customer service wasn’t a big concern. It turned out that there weren’t private rooms available so the guy showed us to an 8-bed dorm which – to our surprise – was ours for the night. Winning! However, it was on the top floor of the building, a whole 12 flights of stairs up and PRECISELY 98 steps. I had to focus on counting in order to prevent myself passing out from the challenge of said steps. Not winning! It wasn’t long until we realised that despite having this room to ourselves, none of the 8 available beds looked like they had been cleaned or had the sheets washed since the Old Town was first built… definitely not winning. Also, our fellow residents (housemates?) seemed to actually live in the hostel full time. There was a dining room and kitchen and when we returned home, a lady had put on a spread of delicious looking food. Sadly it wasn’t for us but a chap who appeared to be her husband – we assumed this because they spent the rest of the night arguing loudly. So soothing to fall asleep to.
The Old Town
The Old Town echoed that of Tallinn with its mix of architecture and fancy restaurants lining the cobbled streets. There was a special event of food, drink and music going on throughout September with live music performing on three stages during the evenings. We stopped by to listen to an indie-acoustic band play some covers. Everything was decorated in a quirky manner and the whole place had a chilled feel. However, our most exciting moment was visiting the Skyline Bar of the Radisson Blu hotel. Offering the best views of Riga, we headed there in the hope of going to the 26th floor, snapping a quick pic and escaping before feeling obliged to purchase a 10 Euro (or more) drink! Fast forward half an hour and I’ve somehow managed to talk myself into gaining access to a private lounge (because that seriously offered the best views) without having to purchase anything!!
What to do?
Aside from walking around and admiring the architecture, there are the usual activities that crop up in most cities: over-eating, over-drinking, escape room, museums, galleries and wandering aimlessly. Due to budget constraints, we wandered aimlessly and investigated different buildings, views and monuments around the city. If you’re into history, there are plenty of museums to satisfy you. If you’re into architecture, there are plenty of contrasting structures to feast your eyes upon.
Would I go back to Riga? Probably not. Once you’ve lapped the main circuit a couple of times you’ll definitely be looking for more excitement. Would I return to Latvia? Yes, definitely. I’m disappointed that this trip didn’t allow for more time exploring the castles and countryside. That will have to wait until Lithuania as we pre-booked a bus ticket to Slovakia (got a cheap deal) so now rushing to get to Vilnius (and see some sights) before leaving the Baltic region. Next stop, Lithuania. Oooh and another ride on one of those nice coaches!