Conveniently located and easily accessible Riga presents a great historical and cultural hub to plan your next trip to. Straddling the border between Tallinn and Vilnius, it is also less than an hour and a half from Stockholm and Moscow.
The biggest capital in the Baltic region, Riga is a perfect combination of urban commotion and natural tranquility. Rich in spectacular landscapes under an hour from the city, Riga also reflects rich and diverse architectural legacy left both from the Hanseatic times and days under the Soviet regime. Not only you see the houses that previously belonged to rich German merchants but also structures that once used to designate the Iron Curtain.
Although Riga is a home to Jugendstil and Stalinist-style architecture, it is very authentic. Soaked with national pride — such a rarity in a today’s globalised world — Riga is very Latvian. You notice it at every corner. And it’s amazing. From a limited foreign food options offered at local restaurants to traditional old songs (!) played at shopping malls, Riga is authentic. Folk dresses, local clothes brands, and delicious heavy cuisine similar to the German or Russian one is an integral part of the everyday life.
Although many local industries were shut down after Latvia joined the EU, there are still numerous attempts undertaken to revive local businesses, in particular agriculture. Thus, during your stay in Riga you can find countless markets that sell local groceries and crafts across the city.
Besides Latvia’s capital being a home to the Europe’s largest bazaar that is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it also accommodates smaller markets. One of those is a Kalnciema Farmer’s market. You find here terrific cheese, fresh bread and fish, ice-cream, honey and wine to try and to buy. Plenty of linen dresses, jewelry, and leather items as unusual souvenirs to take home for reasonable prices.
As mentioned before, Riga combines the Hanseatic legacy along with its Soviet past in a unique though charming manner. Almost every building in this Baltic city is fraught with either fascinating story or mysterious legend. Here is my favourite. In the beginning of the 14th century there was a society of unmarried BUT handsome young merchants also known as the Brotherhood of Blackheads.
To stand out from other similar parties, they chose to portray St. Maurice on the facade of their building who was usually depicted black-skinned. Although St. Maurice was a patron of knights and dyers and had not much to do with arrogant unmarried youngsters, his extravagant representation did his part. Still today many tourists, in particular from Asian countries, roam around the building with burning curiosity and inquire for this pretty dark-skinned man 😉
In the same neighbourhood you can dive into a different epoch. On the very same square to the right side of the House of the Blackheads there is a Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. This exhibition space tells visitors about the Latvian occupation both by the USSR and Nazi at various times. This place is a must if you would like to get to know more about the Latvia’s Soviet past.
Are you still in your chair whilst scrolling through the page? Go check some tickets to this amazing European capital instead, pack your suitcase, and experience lively Riga.
© 2018 Elena Bubeeva, All Rights Reserved.