- One must be a fox in order to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. Machiavelli Niccolo
Travel to Riga, Latvia
Riga is the capital and the largest city of Latvia. With 696,593 inhabitants (2015), Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states and home to one third of Latvia's population. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava. Riga's territory covers 307.17 km2 (118.60 sq mi) and lies between 1 and 10 metres (3.3 and 32.8 ft) above sea level, on a flat and sandy plain.
Things To See And Do In Riga
Admire the view from St Peter’s church
Riga has many churches and even a few cathedrals, but the view from St Peter’s spire is unbeatable. A flight of stairs and an old, sometimes crowded, lift will take you to the top, where you can admire the red roofs and cobbled streets of the Old Town, and the beautiful, vivid blue of the Daugava River separating the city’s left and right banks. Go on a sunny, cloudless day and it won’t disappoint. Afterwards, go back down and wander through the church, where temporary art exhibitions are often held.
Learn about Latvia’s 20th-century history
Right next to some of Riga’s most famous architectural landmarks stands a big modern black building. This is the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, recalling the period from 1940 to 1991 when Latvia was occupied by Soviet Russia, then Nazi Germany, and then Soviet Russia again. This museum is thus a haunting memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and of Soviet repression. Further this visit by heading to the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum next. The staggering length of the list of victims gives an idea of how much suffering Latvia went through in the twentieth century.
Walk around the Art Nouveau District
To the north of the Old Town lies the Art Nouveau District. There the red brick and grey stone of the Old Town is replaced by tall, colourful late 19th-century buildings with a wealth of sculptured details, often of Classical influence. The district is large and central and therefore a good place for a long, meandering stroll. The very heart of it is Alberta Street, where every building is worth looking at. It’s also the location of the Art Nouveau Museum, which is worth entering if only to see one of the most impressive Art Nouveau staircases in Europe.
Go on a free walking tour
There’s a lot to see in Riga but it can be difficult to choose what to look at and in what order. A good solution is to go on a walking tour. As a bonus, you get to learn all of the hidden facts you wouldn’t have learnt from just looking at the monuments or reading about them in a guidebook. There are free tours every day at 11am (organised by Tours in Riga) or at 12pm (organised by Yellow Free Tours).
Visit the Sun Museum
The Sun Museum is a rather odd museum entirely dedicated to how different countries and cultures view the sun. Even if the sun plays an important role in traditional Latvian culture, the museum’s big collection of almost 400 depictions of it comes as a surprise, as does the idea that someone traveled extensively just to look for them. All in all, the Sun Museum is a charming little place for some unexpected astronomical learning and will be sure to make for a good anecdote.
Enjoy the nightlife
With reasonable prices, friendly locals and tourists, and many, many bars, Riga is now on the map as a party destination. To experience as many establishments as possible, many hostels organize bar crawls, for example Naughty Squirrel. Locals and tourists enjoy singing karaoke at the huge Rock Café. But it’s not always about loud partying. The popular bar I Love You is a good place to sit down for a drink, as is Chomsky. There are also clubs, catering to all tastes, like Space Dog, Nabaklab, and ONE ONE.