In my third destination of my Baltic Explorer trip, Riga, you can find history, architecture and fun all in one compact city and at an affordable price, making it a great destination for a short trip. You can wander through the old town, stare up at the magnificent Art Noveau buildings all over town or just enjoy live in the city with it’s nice restaurant, peaceful parks or plenty of bars and nightlife! There should be something for everybody, so read on to find out the best for you!
Compared to modern Helsinki and the disney-like medieval beauty of Tallinn, Riga falls somewhere in the middle. Sitting near the Baltic Sea on the Daugava river, it has as beautiful a location as the other cities and seeing the old town from across the river, during the day or at night, is a great start.
Exploring the old town is the best way to get to know Riga – walking down the cobblestone streets, from one square to the next, will give you a chance to see the old architecture and impressive cathedrals. It all happens at a casual pace, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants along the streets and squares, and I had as much fun walking about as just sitting some place, watching people and live go by! It is amazing how well the old town has been restored in such a short time frame, providing a great backdrop for a leisurely weekend. If you are looking for a little more fun, you can also find that in Riga – just make sure to look up the bars and clubs online. A few of them have developed a reputation for taking advantage of unsuspecting visitors, so you want to go in with your eyes wide open!
The old town is surrounded by lovely parks and canals, for a chance to relax in the greenery. From here, it’s only steps away to the quiet or Embassy quarter of Riga with its captivating Art Noveau buildings. There are so many of them in such a small area, it makes for a wonderful architecture walk, without taking on the feeling of an outdoor museum. In fact, it’s easy to miss if you don’t look up! If your interest in Art Noveau has peaked after seeing the nice exteriors, you can check out an apartment from the time at the Art Noveau Museum in the same neighborhood.
One of the reasons I wanted to visit the Baltics was to find out more about their recent history and see how they had developed since the end of the cold war. Riga has a lot to offer in that regard: You see the stark contrast between pre-war or Soviet-era buildings and the beautifully restored buildings in the old town and the Art Noveau district just by driving through. If you want to learn more about the last 70 years, there are a number of good museums to visit as well!
From the old town to Art Noveau and modern history, to just enjoying the modern live in a beautiful, compact city at a bargain price compared to other European capitals – there is a lot on offer in Riga and something for many interests! It’s getting easier to reach these days, too, and I recommend to add it to your personal list of European destinations to visit!