FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Riga for the weekend

Posted in Latvia, Riga by folkestonejack on September 22, 2016

There are some cities in the world that you only have to mention and a series of iconic images start flashing through your head. Riga is not one of those and all the better for that – I like a degree of surprise on my adventures! That is not to say that I didn’t start the trip with some preconceptions, but as it happened these were completely wrong…

The Nativity of Christ Cathedral, Riga

The Nativity of Christ Cathedral, Riga

Our short break to Riga saw us arrive mid-afternoon on one of the last warm and sunny days before the chill of autumn set in. It didn’t feel as though we had been in the air that long, but the two hour time difference meant that we would only have a short day of sightseeing ahead of us. By the time we had made the short bus ride into town and checked in to our hotel just a couple of hours of daylight were left.

I had ignorantly assumed that this city would bear the familiar hallmarks of many former Soviet state and see an urban landscape dominated by massive communist apartment blocks, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself standing in the centre of a beautiful city that is one third nade up of art-nouveau buildings.

The high concentration of art nouveau architecture is thanks to a construction boom that happened to occur when the movement was at its zenith. It makes Riga an unusual and strikingly different capital to any that I have seen before, with surprises lurking at every turn of the corner in the old town.

Alongside the art nouveau delights there are some lovely churches, cathedrals and medieval buildings. Inevitably there are some Stalinist constructions, such as the high-rise Academy of Sciences, but none of these diminish the beauty of the city centre.

Our first wanders took us into the old town, around the freedom monument and down to the House of Blackheads (currently closed to visitors) before we looped back towards our hotel (the Mercure Riga Centre) near the railway station.

A little later we ventured back out to find the hidden wonder that is Milda, a small restaurant tucked away in a quiet spot that you reach by crossing a car park surrounded by office blocks! It’s a small family restaurant that specialises in Latvian and Lithuanian cuisine, serving up some of the tastiest dishes we have tried anywhere. It was a great place to round off our first day.



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