For all pics, see HERE
For a change, we decided to hop on a small pre Christmas city break to Riga which is the capital of Latvia. A place we know nothing about and thought why not! We booked flights with AirBaltic which is their national carrier and to be fair, faultless. Budget, but totally hassle and fee free unlike RyanAir for very little more. And for hotel we booked one in the centre of the old town to make things easily accessible.
To/from Riga was trivial – hotel taxi from airport (€17) and bus to airport (€2) – all very easy.
Riga is actually small. Very small. And the old town is really quite small. So in hindsight, we’d say staying anywhere in the vicinity is fine – and bear in mind the old town is quite noisy! Its a stag-do type destination so in the old town you get groups of pi**ed up guys shouting in the street at silly o’clock – mainly brits I’m afraid to say. So tip 1 – avoid staying in the old town!
Food and drink is reasonably cheap, some Lido eateries are buffet type, handy if you don’t want a full meal. Beers from €2.50-3.50 generally (outside of total tourist bars).
One eatery we would recommend is Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs – which from the outside looks a little poor, but take the plunge and walk into the cellar and wow – its massive, very authentic and very very busy! HUGE choice of beers, live music, and really good food for very little. Beers & good food for two was around €40 – total bargain for the atmosphere. Well recommended and sadly a little popular, so need to arrive early to get a table (See HERE for trip-adviser)
One of the bad things about travelling a lot is that you do see many places and your expectations differ! The Christmas markets in Riga, much bigged up, were actually rather dull. There was a semi Christmas atmosphere especially when it snowed, but it wasn’t really on par with, say, Budapest or any major German market. A bit mehhhh…. In fact, Riga didn’t really have a busy buzz – in fact it felt quite deserted, and even normal shops didn’t really have anyone spending. Weird.
A few museums were interesting, the War Museum and Occupation Museum, which gave good insight and history of Latvia and worth a visit.
The Skyline bar in the Raddison Blue had a good view from the top, but was a bit pompous for our tastes. The walk there though was interesting, and we even found a Christmas Rabbit run in the centre! Not sure if they were petting for charity, or fattening up for Christmas table.
Pretty much though, that’s it! Riga is so small we walked around it all about a dozen times, including going into the old town to explore. But its not huge, and not overly exciting, even going into as many bars as possible 😀 If we were in the van, we’d probably only have stayed a couple of nights max and moved on. Don’t get me wrong, nice enough place, enough to see for a couple of days, but (for us) just not overly exciting for us 🙁 Lots of it just didn’t feel overly unique or special. Certainly no more than 2 nights needed.
Worth seeing, yes if near. But Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Budapest and lots of other places would be higher on the list.