Sometime in childhood, my parents and I traveled around the Baltic States and visited various cities and regions during that period. But it was still in Soviet times, and the impressions were fragmentary, albeit bright. Still, these cities were clearly differed in their external style and way of life from Moscow at that time. And so, after a long break, finally, we managed to spend time studying the tourist part of Riga. The first thing that pleasantly surprised me was that old impressions suddenly bubbled to the surface of my memory. Something like the development of photographs from a film — being in a empty sheet, an image suddenly appears on a blanc paper…
The main tourist factor to worry about in Riga (and in all Baltic cities) is the weather. It is really unpredictable here, and during one trip you can walk around the city in t-shirts and shorts, and in blink of an eye – in a down jacket. What happened to us, and I had to buy an umbrella on the spot 🙂
Where to stay was chosen on the map of the city as usual – so that it was close on foot to any tourist attraction. Given the size of the city, this task is not difficult. We chose Pullman Hotel and did not regret it. The main thing, as it turned out, one should get the room, where there is an opportunity to open a window facing the street. It’s a 5 minute walk o the main square of the Old Town on the pavement (it would be faster on asphalt).
The history of Latvia has sharp turns, and in some cases it is difficult to maintain an impartial tone of the story. For example, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is devoted to the period when Latvia was under German and Soviet rule (1940–1991). Passing through the city, every now and then you hear guides, conducting excursions to foreign tourists, with the mention of the words “occupation”, “GULAG” and others. All in all, I would call a city very friendly to Russian-speaking tourists. Of course, the degree of sincerity of smiles in cafes, museums, shops is not immediately appreciated, but wherever we go, you can always speak Russian without the risk of getting a disgruntled grimace of a person on duty “I don’t understand you.” The majority are Russian-speaking tourists, Russian is heard everywhere on the streets, and there is always a Russian-language menu in restaurants and cafes. And, most importantly, there is the feeling of being welcome, and provided services instead of just doing a favor.
In terms of culture, there are many places to visit in Riga. The historical center was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site for “outstanding universal value”. The quarters around the Town Hall Square really amaze with their neat coziness and architectural style of Northern Europe (well, Germany and Holland are viewed). There you can go to almost any cafe for a light snack or a cup of coffee – everything will be home-like nice, but politely emphasized, and with respect to the procedure: if it is tea, then in beautiful china, with a cookie or candy, if it is a snack, then it’s beautiful served and served timely. In general, there is a charm in this “Nordic pedantry” and loyalty to traditions.
In the Old Town there is one nice place – the Museum of Illusions (Iliziju Muzejs). In general, I have a non-politically correct affection: the local desire to add to all well-known words the letter “s” at the end – “theaters”, “museums”, “centers”, etc. It was really fun to watch movie posters with the name of a famous actor – Denzels Washingtonis 🙂 At the Museum of Illusions we hung out for a long time, especially considering that we were its only visitors, and the cute girl at the reception tried her best to show us everything.
The city has a large number of parks and one of them – Kronvalda Park, where the famous Elizabeth Street passes, there is a residential quarter of an old low-rise building. There is in this quarter, in addition to the Russian embassy, a large number of very decent restaurants. As often happens, their prices are as in the tourist Old Town, but the quality of food and the level of service compare favorably. One of the most memorable places in the city was an amazing cafe near our hotel – the cafe Kuze (V. Kuze Kafejnica). As can be seen from the design of its showcase, it has been there since pre-revolutionary times. What strikes inside is the exact observance of the art deco style and the forms of interior decoration (one chandelier is worth it! And wall sconces!), and the color scheme (soft green color of the walls, wooden furniture of that era), and all the little things complementing the image (even porcelain coffee cups and sugar bowls of that period). But the most important thing is its assortment and supply – many varieties of very different (and very good) coffee, handmade chocolates, their own fresh pastries. And the hostess is an amazingly beautiful Latvian girl, who with friendliness and dignity serves guests treats. We highly recommend to go there for a cup of coffee in order to feel the atmosphere of old Riga. To explore Riga during your visit with a guide you may through Excurzilla.com
We have concluded for ourselves that Riga is an excellent destination to spend a weekend there, relax, and gain positive impressions when you cannot make a longer trip for any reason. And for a longer stay there are many sightseing places outside Riga – you could easily rent a car and take a tour through out a beautiful region.
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