Greetings! Last month I made a trip to visit Tallinn in Estonia, Riga in Latvia, Vilnius in Lithuania, and Warsaw in Poland. I shared a map of my itinerary here, and my Tallinn sightseeing photos here.
From Tallinn, I headed south by bus to reach Riga, Latvia's capital. The distance is about 280 km (175 miles). The road condition is very good with no passport control at the border since both Estonia and Latvia are in the European Union. The weather continued to be sunny and warm with piercing blue sky. Spring flowers were blooming and the countryside was lush green. On each day of my trip I had about seventeen hours of daylight, which made a day felt like two days, just perfect for exploring.
Since Latvia is a small country and is not a well-known travel destination yet, I wrote a few quick facts before sharing some of my snaps of Riga in this post.
- Latvia is located in Northern Europe, on the East shore of the Baltic sea
- Latvia's official language is Latvian
- Latvia's official currency is the Euro
- The population of Riga, Latvia's capital, is about 650,000
- Riga's Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site
RIGA'S TOP SIGHTS:
Art Nouveau architecture - According to Wikipedia, "Art Nouveau architecture in Riga makes up roughly one third of all buildings in the centre of Riga, making the Latvian capital the city with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in anywhere in the world."
The Art Nouveau buildings on Alberta Street (Alberta iela) and Elizabetes Street (Elizabetes iela) in Central Riga are simply gorgeous. Each building is like a huge painting with intriguing details. The longer I look at them, the more beauty I discover. The master architect responsible for most of these is Mikhail Eisenstein. Click to enlarge the pictures to see what I mean.
Old Town - Riga's Old Town is delightful, clean, uncrowded, and with plenty of unique shops, coffee places, and restaurants. I enjoyed exploring the narrow medieval streets, viewing Gothic and Baroque churches, 19th-century buildings, and finding treasures here. Baltic amber souvenirs and amber with silver jewelry are common. Did you know that Baltic amber is fossil resin produced by pine trees in Northern Europe about 45 million years ago?
|Riga's Town Hall Square|
|Buildings of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads, Riga|
|St. Peter's Church, Riga|
|Latvia's Radio Building|
|Latvian National Opera|
|Riga's Old Town|
Central Market - Riga's Central Market is housed in five enormous German-built Zeppelin hangars, and spilling outdoors as well. It is a lively place for people watching, browsing from smoked fish, and fresh produce to handmade souvenirs, and buying Latvian local snacks such as a variety of rye bread, or Laima vanilla zephyr.
|Vegetables at Riga's Central Market|
|Latvian linen at Riga's Central Market|
|Smoked fish at Riga's Central Market|
|Rye bread at Riga's Central Market|
Freedom Monument - Riga's Freedom Monument honours soldiers killed during the War of Independence, bearing a symbolic female holding aloft three stars representing the three regions of Latvia during the first republic. November 18, 2018 is Latvia's 100th anniversary. On this day every year, locals lay flowers at the monument. The main boulevard leading to the monument has beautiful rows of green trees. There is also Esplanade Park, on the west side with lots of mature trees, fountains, public art, and benches.
|Freedom Monument in Riga|
Riga's Canal and Daugava River - A leisurely one-hour boat tour either by the canal boats or river boats offers a nice view of Old Town Riga and the left bank.
|Boats by Riga's canal|
I took a picture of the menu at a Latvian restaurant in the Old Town to remember the various Latvian dishes. Smoked herring, smoked cheese, rye bread, shashlik (shishkebab or grilled meat or vegetable on a skewer), potatoes, and cold beet root soup are also common.
The Lido restaurant chain offers inexpensive local food, cafeteria style. The Art Nouveau area has a good mix of residential buildings, restaurants, and shops. I had the pleasure to savour a tasty mango chicken meal at The Flying Frog, while gazing at beautiful Art Nouveau facades.
I truly enjoyed my stay and exploration in Riga. It is a sophisticated and beautiful historic city. In general, I found Riga very affordable for an European destination. Unlike Tallinn which has hills, Riga and all of Latvia are flat. This gave me the idea that cycling would be another wonderful way to explore Latvia.
MY NEXT STOP: Vilnius, Lithuania.
Now that you've seen some photos of Riga, would you consider visiting the city? What would draw you to Riga? I'd love to read your comments. Please share below.