Riga is a subtle mix of Soviet past and modern Europe. History runs deep in this city and the decades of occupation by various superpowers are reflected in its stunning architecture. There’s a very laid back feel to the city and many of its more interesting sights are subtly tucked away, allowing you to really discover them. Whether you are wandering around the labyrinthine streets of the old town or venturing into Moscow suburb, you wont be short of things to see.
The best way to get your bearings and to learn about Riga’s chequered history is to take a walking tour. I highly recommend the free tour which leaves St. Peter’s Church daily at 12pm (look for the yellow suitcase). I say free, but by the end you will be glad to part with a large tip.
Some must see sights include the KGB corner house, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (currently temporarily housed on Raina Bulvaris) and a trip to the Central Market. Once you cross the train tracks and enter the Moscow Suburb, you enter another Riga; an older, more traditional Baltic city with heavy Soviet undertones. You’ll also notice the unusual architecture of the market hall buildings. They look like Nazi Zeppelin hangars, because that’s what they were originally intended to be!
No doubt all the walking will make you thirsty and if it’s a cold day you’ll rightly be tempted to try a Riga hot balsam. Prices vary from €3.50-6.00 and the cheapest place to try one is at one of the many Double Coffee cafés in the city. Also consider trying a Peter’s Brewhouse red beer in the old town.
As for food, one of the self service Lido restaurants will give you a very cheap introduction to traditional Latvian cuisine but by far the best place to go is Folkklubs ala Pagrabs on Peldu iela. Ignore the damp staircase and head on down for one of the best nights out in Riga. Its a mixture of restaurant, bustling bar and live entertainment lounge, all set in a vaulted underground cavern. What’s more, it’s cheap, the food is good and there are too many beers to try. It can get very busy, so you may want to make a reservation.
At the end of long day’s sightseeing you could do worse than head up to the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu hotel and sip a sundown cocktail whilst enjoying the best view Riga has to offer.