As my boyfriend currently lives in Berlin, I fly there quite often. This time however, we decided to go for a meet-each-other-midway and booked flights to Riga. The flights were also quite conveniently aligned so that they arrived and departed within 15 min of each other.
In a strange turn of events, also one person from my workplace travelled to Riga with her husband and while sitting at the airport gate I heard “Hi!”. I turned around and saw a friend of mine with her husband there, so it is a very small world.
We booked a room at the Old City Boutique Hotel via Booking.com and I thought that we were getting a great deal as the Booking.com price was much cheaper than the regular room price at that hotel. But when I received a booking confirmation it had a key work in it, which I swear wasn’t anywhere when I was booking the room. That word was “Economy”. At that point the booking has already been done and the cancellation fee was almost 60€, so we decided just to go with it.
And true enough when we arrived at the hotel our room was located in an adjacent building, which was much older than the front of the hotel. The room was clean (in a sense that there wasn’t dust anywhere and the bathroom was very clean), but as the room itself was very dated, so it felt dirty (especially the carpet). Also there were a lot of little details off such as the mattress topper was good 10cm narrower than the mattress itself, the pillowcase had a weird stain (the kind that is just stuck there from e.g. hair dye), and the shower kept spraying in weird direction.
At that point I was so tired that I just wanted to take a shower and go to bed. I was so pissed with “being cheated” into staying in this crappy room that I was fuming in the shower. At that point I just had to make a decision that I don’t want my holiday to start this way and forced myself to calm down by deciding that if I feel the same the next morning, then we’ll just get another hotel room.
The next morning I awoke after a good night sleep. The bed that seemed very old was in fact quite comfortable and while I usually have some back pain while sleeping in hotel beds, this morning there was none of it. We went and had breakfast at the hotel, which was ok, but kind of mediocre, but by that point I promised myself that I wouldn’t get myself worked up by anything this hotel throws at me. 😉
We had a very lazy morning, but finally we decided that we need to get out and see the city. The upside was of course that Riga despite having almost 650K inhabitants is quite small in the sense that the old town is really compact and all the recommended sights are within walking distance.
We decided to leave the old town for Sunday and headed to the Corner House i.e. the Cheka headquarters. I didn’t check the schedule that carefully and it happened so that we missed the guided tours, which I would recommend, but we did walk around the museum and read on the history of the building. The admission was free of charge, but the guided tour costs 5€ per person.
All the texts in the museum are in Latvian, Russian, and English. On this note, we noticed that at least in the city center it is very easy to get by in either of these languages. Latvia has a large Russian-speaking population and even though there is resentment for the Soviet times I have never faced any crap for speaking Russian in Latvia.
From here we continued to slowly walk to Riga Art Nouveau Centre, but we stumbled upon Raw Garden – a raw food restaurant. We figured that our dinner reservation was so late that we could have a light snack now and went in.
The food tasted pretty good although the smoothies sure tasted healthy. 🙂
After lunch we headed towards the Riga Art Nouveau Centre, which is a former apartment of an Latvian architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns. The interior has been renovated in 2008-2009. To enter this museum, you need to press button #12 and they’ll buzz you in. Pay attention to the staircase above you. The admission was 3,50€ per person and if you wanted to take pictures, then it cost 1,50€ more. They also offered some hats from the era for us to take pictures in, but we declined. 😉
After this we headed back to the old town and walked in a big park. While the weather during the first weekend of April wasn’t very warm, it was sunny and nice. We saw a mall near our hotel and went in as my boyfriend needed new shoes. Surprisingly he found the shoes he was looking at online and ended up buying them.
The we spent some time at the hotel where I fell asleep despite having a very lazy morning with a lot of napping. I woke up just in time to get ready for the restaurant I have booked. My boyfriend had had a birthday the week before our trip and we wanted to go somewhere nice, so we chose Restaurant 3, which was located within 5 min walking distance from the hotel. We went for seven course menu and weren’t disappointed. The wine recommended by the waitress was also spot-on, so we had a wonderful evening.
The price for the evening was on par with Finnish prices even though Latvia’s prices are usually somewhat cheaper, but we felt it was worth it as the food and service were really good.
The next day we were already scheduled to have breakfast elsewhere and we didn’t regret the decision as the hotel breakfast wasn’t that good the day before. So we checked out, left our bags in the hotel storage room, and headed towards Biblioteka No 1 for brunch.
The brunch was excellent. It’s a buffet, but they also offer warm dishes from the kitchen. Everything was delicious and you could eat as much as you wanted. They even had oysters, but I don’t have a great history with them, so I left them for other people. 😉
I warmly recommend this brunch for special occasions as it’s also quite pricey, but you get so much for the money. We didn’t get hungry again until we were back in our homes around 8 p.m. 🙂 I also imagine that it is wonderful in the summer when the park is green.
After the brunch we headed into the old town. I have been to Riga in 2010, so it’s been a while, but of course the old town remained the same.
The story of the Cat House goes that the tradesman, who owned the house really wanted to be a member of the Great Guild, which is located nearby, but they shunned him. In revenge he placed to cats on the roof with their butts facing the Great Guild, which caused a huge stir. After contemplating, the tradesman was accepted into the Great Guild on the condition that the cats would be repositioned. 🙂
Riga Central Market in itself wasn’t that interesting unless you’re actually looking for food. In that case they probably have anything and everything you could want. But they market buildings are actually repurposed German zeppelin hangars.
After a day of much walking, we finally ended up at our hotel, retrieved our suitcases and asked for a taxi. The Riga airport is located just a 15 min drive away, so it’s very convenient. Curiously on the way from the airport to the hotel, I spoke Russian to the driver and the cost was 11,50€ (I paid 13€) and on the way back we didn’t really need to communicate with the driver because the hotel told him where we were heading. When we arrived at the airport, the driver actually spoke decent English and charged us 15€. 🙂 In either case I understand that the cost shouldn’t be more than 15€ for the ride between the airport and Riga old town.
All in all I would warmly recommend a couple of days in Riga. It’s enough to take it easy and do quite a lot of sightseeing. Food is good, the city is pretty, and if it’s warm and sunny, there’s plenty of terraces to sip your drink on.