A lot of things have happened since Latvia gained independence in 1991; a new fresh capital has entered the country, a stream that is strengthened after the EU accession. The soul is being built, restored, reconstructed and trimmed in the heart of Riga and the city is reconstructed. For those of you who don’t know, Latvia is placed in Northeastern Europe between Estonia, Russia and Latvia and the capital here is Riga which is also the biggest city in the Baltics.
This is a very beautiful city but has got a rather aggressive history. During the Nazi German and Soviet rule, Latvia lost more than a third of its population to death, but some fled or disappeared. Then came the nineties; the Soviet Union’s collapse and freedom and Latvia’s economy grew at a record pace…until 2008, when the financial crisis struck the Western Latvia with huge power. But this has only made the Rigans stronger and proud and the city really holds a magnificent history. A great destination for a couple to spend their weekend and it is easy to get around by both bus and trains.
You can take a stroll down the river of Daugava and have a look at the many buildings, castles and churches from the middle-ages which gives this city its special charm. You will soon notice that you have easy access to everything this city; you will never have far to a beautiful spot, a cold beer or a historical monument.
The menu here is rather exciting and different, so if you are going to a typical Latvian restaurant you really should try out zandarta, fileja (some kind of pasta) , leg of mutton with thyme and cauliflower or haddock with cheese or fried potato and of course a large pint of Latvian beer like; Uzavas, Piebalga, Tervetes or Cesu. It is cheap here, so a dinner for two will probably cost you about £10.
If you feel peckish for a whole fried pig, just like in the middle ages, you can take a trip back to the 17th century and its gastronomy there are a lot of restaurants where you will be met by a monk dressed in brown and be set by a table in typical middle age style with only candles to lit up the place. Here you will be served small dished with soup, fish and meat and big pints of beer.
All around is the attractive Hanseatic; the old town of Riga. And just a little further up begins one of Europe’s most beautiful and extensive developments of the Jugend blocks which is a dizzying town bursting with creativity, ranging from graceful embellishments to national romance.
If you would feel like for something small after your dinner, you can finish the evening in the chocolate factory named Emila Gustava in Bergas Bazars between Elizabetes Street and Dzirnavu iela or maybe take the lift up to the panorama bar Skyline on the 26th floor at the Reval Hotel with a fantastic view over Hanseatic. One musts in Riga is the Market Hall in Zeppelinarhangar which is one of Europes largest and take the tram through the city and engulf the romance.
If you want to do some shopping in Riga, I suggest that you get the paper Riga This Week which holds everything you need to know about shopping plus a map. You really should – as always – plan your shopping before coming to Riga, or else you might get stuck in the touristy part of Old Town and end up buying some Baltic gold (amber).