Latvia: Riga

Riga is one vibrant city. Its old town is an overload of medieval gothic delight; easy to see why it’s a firm favourite of those who’ve travelled here. Cobbled streets carry mostly pedestrians who take their time admiring the architecture, gazing in shops, drinking coffee in the many cafes, ducking into a museum or two and in our case, settling in for a tasty meal and beer to watch the FIFA World Cup. Further afield, the city offers some incredible art nouveau and more museums. Riga delivers in a big way and we certainly found plenty to do in our four days here.

We arrived in Latvia’s capital from Tartu Estonia by bus, and were pleasantly surprised that we could walk from the bus station to our apartment in Old Town. This pic is from our apartment which looked out over St Peter’s Church Square.

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Inside St Peters Church – very nice, even after 800 years. We took the lift to the steeple to get some fantastic panoramic shots of Riga. The feature photo is one.

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Livu Square made a great stop for a late lunch on our first day – meatloaf, cabbage and spritz! Vodka for my husband – after all, we’re in an ex Russian state!

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Like old towns everywhere, squares are paramount to daily life and Town Hall Square is no exception. The famed Blackheads House is here. This clubhouse for unmarried merchants dates back to 1510 and these bawdy, heavy drinking blokes established the tradition of decorating Christmas trees. Drunk as skunks, they hauled a pine tree into their clubhouse, decorated it with flowers and then set fire to it. We just clung to the decorating part, thank goodness.

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Not a bad clubhouse!

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Latvia’s National Museum of Art – fantastic. The building inside and out is stunning, the works of art are impressive.

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Man made Riga Canal forms a circle around the Old Town. It’s pleasant with parklands, fountains and little boats that take you out onto the river.

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Opera House

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Black Magic shop sells Latvia’s famous Black Balsam. The recipe is secret, made as it is from 18 special herbs since 1752. It can be mixed with anything really – peach juice or in a spritz.

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These next lot of pics are of different places we saw when we were out and about in Riga.

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Yep, it’s an American diner – right here in Riga.

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Dome Square is home to Art Museum Riga Bourse. The museum is housed in the former stock exchange, an impressive building with its light filled atrium, ornate ceilings and chandeliers.

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museum of art

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I took this photo of Dome Square from a window of the Art Museum. Seven streets feed into this square, the hub of Riga.

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Also, in Dome Square is Latvia’s Radio which first started broadcasting in 1925.

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Riga is famous for its art nouveau buildings (750 apparently) which reached their popularity height at the turn of the 20th century. Before we walked around the key art nouveau streets near Alberta Iela, we visited the Art Nouveau Museum which was once the home of Konstantins Peksens, an architect who built 250 art nouveau buildings. Each room pays authentic homage to this beautiful period of art.

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On the top floor is a fabulous terrace where we, the happy travellers, took in the sights of Riga. That’s Nativity of Christ Cathedral in the background, built in the 1800s, converted into a planetarium during the Soviet occupation and today a beautiful church.

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Art nouveau facades – the details are stunning.

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Freedom Monument was built in 1935. Latvians with their history of occupation by Germany, Sweden and Russia are proud of what this monument represents. At the base, friezes show Latvians fighting for their independence, at the top is a copper Liberty holding the three gold stars of three Latvian regions.

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Riga Central Markets are housed in German built WWI Zeppelin hangars. The hangars were moved here from the Latvian town of Vainode. Each hangar is 35 metres high and the view inside is pretty spectacular. The markets are in an enviable position- close to bus and train stations.

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I took this photo of the markets from atop St Peter’s Church.

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Yep, I know we’re half a world away from the Baltics, but please … Australia is not Austria!

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And if those pics weren’t enough to whet your appetite to visit Riga, here’s another!

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Tomorrow, we’re heading south to Vilnius, capital city of Lithuania.

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