Thursday, 4 January 2018

A Perfect Winter Getaway in Riga, Latvia

Image of Riga from St Peter's Church

Fifteen countries down and our trip to Riga in Latvia was one of my favourites by far - it was everything that we could have hoped for and more; lively, welcoming and quirky with all of the historical beauty and a touch of the modern thrown in too. We opted to visit at the end of November for a short, relaxing break before the Christmas hysteria set in. It was ideal but absolutely freezing so I'd make sure you're prepared with plenty of thermal clothing for venturing around the city in the bitter weather. The weather didn't dampen our spirits though, we marvelled at the intricate architecture, feasted on delicious food and navigated the dainty, cobbled streets.      

Here's the lowdown on our perfect winter getaway to Riga and my recommendations for a wonderful adventure in the Latvian capital: 

Image of the Orthodox Cathedral in Riga

WHERE TO STAY 

One of the most appealing aspects of Riga initially is how friendly it is to your bank balance. You can enjoy your stay on a low budget without having to compromise too much on luxury. We booked our trip through Expedia with flights and hotel costing a grand total of £179 per person for a 4 night stay in the 4* Wellton Riga Hotel & Spa with breakfast buffet and free access to the spa included. 

The Wellton Riga Hotel & Spa was beautiful. Based on the price I wasn't expecting anything great but that's exactly what it was. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the most friendly, professional staff who checked us in promptly, provided us with a map and highlighted the best places to visit during our stay. The rooms were pretty basic but had everything that we needed at the same time - it's just somewhere to rest your head after a long day of exploring.  

Location wise, the hotel was easily reached by a short taxi ride from the airport which was extremely cheap at €9 one way. It could not have been more perfectly located in relation to the city centre, everything was within a walkable distance and apart from the journey to and from the airport, we didn't use any public transport throughout the entire trip. I would highly recommend this hotel if you are looking for something budget friendly in a great location. 

Image of Three Brothers in Riga
Image of colourful buildings in Riga

WHAT TO SEE AND DO 

For a small place, Riga is packed full of things to see and do and it's one of those cities where you'll stumble upon hidden treasures as you're walking along. We had a clear idea of the main attractions that we wanted to experience and they certainly didn't disappoint. These are the things that you simply can't miss out on if you're visiting Riga: 

360 views from the top of St Peter's Church 

My favourite experience in Riga - you can venture to the top of the tower at St Peter's Church for a rather hefty fee of €9 and witness the breathtaking 360 views of the city. The viewing platform is busy and narrow and if you suffer with vertigo I'm really not going to recommend this as even I felt a little unbalanced at times. If you can deal with heights though and want to take some beautiful snaps of the colourful, eclectic buildings of Riga, the experience is worth every penny in my opinion. 

House of the Blackheads 

The outside of this 14th century building is a travel blogger's dream because the architecture from different periods is simply stunning. Historically, this building was inhabited by unmarried merchants where they would hold lavish banquets and conferences - the building was destroyed by the Soviets during WWII and has been slowly reconstructed since the early 90s. We paid to take a tour inside - the exhibition was so interesting and highly informative with some remnants of the original foundations of the building. A really important part of Latvian history. 

The Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral 

The Orthodox Church is majestic both inside and out - it's a beautiful addition to the skyline of Riga with it's gilded, golden domes. I'd definitely recommend taking a look around at the ornate decoration inside too. It's really important to take note of the dress code as conservative dress is required. Although not everyone did, women are supposed to cover their heads with scarves which you can collect from the reception area inside. 

Image of Bremen Musicians Statue in Riga

The Three Brothers 

The Three Brothers are the three oldest dwelling houses in Riga built in three different centuries varying in colour, size and character to represent diverse architectural styles. They're tucked away on a quiet little street so we had to walk around for a little while to find them. We walked past them at least twice so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. Ironically, my camera could only fit two of the three Three Brothers buildings in to a photo so I guess you'll just have to go and admire all three mismatched, titling houses for yourselves! 

The Bremen Town Musicians Statue 

This famous little statue - a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster stood on each other's back - seems a little bizarre until you research the meaning behind it. The Bremen Musicians Statue was a political statement created by an artist from (you guessed it) Bremen, a town twinned with Riga. It is based on a Brothers Grimm fairytale representing freedom and independence. It's supposed to bring you luck if you rub each of the animals, this wasn't something I did but y'know if you want some good luck...

Riga Ghetto & Latvian Holocaust Museum 

Being a history graduate, it's always important to me to add to my knowledge whenever I travel to a new country. The Riga Ghetto & Latvian Holocaust Museum was another harrowing eye-opener to the extent of Nazi rule and the impact it had across the whole of Europe during the WWII period. You can experience a real life house that has been imported from a Latvian ghetto which really hits home about the conditions that people were expected to survive in. An incredibly moving place. 

Image of Riga from St Peter's Church
Image of Freedom Monument in Riga

The Freedom Monument 

Like the Bremen Town Musicians Statue, the Freedom Monument represents freedom and independence and honours all of the soldiers who fought in the Latvian War of Independence between 1918 and 1920. The area near the Freedom Monument was extremely busy and was probably one of the only areas where I really felt a little irritated at the tourism - it was difficult to get a picture as the crowds kept inconsiderately walking into my shot! However, the monument itself was wonderful and we were lucky enough to witness the changing of the guards too which is always a spectacle. 

Marvel at the stunning architecture 

The architecture was the one thing that stood out for me in Riga; everywhere you turned there were  beautiful buildings with so much character and swirls of pastel colours all along the streets. It really made the place unique and cosy. You can see why the city was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997 and that's mostly because one third of their buildings are Art Nouveau architecture - the highest concentration anywhere in the world. Just make sure you take your time to appreciate every inch of Riga because it's so worth it. 

Image of Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum

I would highly recommend taking a trip to Riga, it's truly a hidden gem when it comes to European travel destinations and I would go back in a heartbeat. 
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5 comments

  1. Wow what an absolutely stunning place - and there is so much to do! Definitely not somewhere I'd think to visit but it seems to have so much history... and you got an amazing deal with your hotel! Will keep on my bucket list of European places to visit :)
    Saira
    www.throughtheglitterglass.wordpress.com
    Xxx

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  2. Hey lovely, I absolutely adore this post. I travel to Latvia and Riga a lot because I have family over there and I'm so so glad it's starting to get the recognition it deserves because it's a truly beautiful place. Your photos do it complete justice, they are stunning!! I'm so glad you had a lovely trip this is definitely one of my favourite blog posts of all time.
    xx
    https://scatteredstar.wordpress.com/

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  3. I'd never heard of Riga before now, it looks rather stunning and the architecture exquisite - perfect for wandering. This is going on my list to investigate. My list is getting longer by the day. I really need to investigate expedia more, I've never used it, often sticking to skyscanner & airbnb. Great write up! Thank you

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  4. Riga has been on my radar for a while now after I discovered it in an amazing travel deal last summer. Your photos and write up have really reminded me why I was so desperate to book flights! Thank you for rekindling my obsession, your post has confirmed it’s definitely going to be my next travel destination! x

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