I once read that “Riga is the pearl of the Baltics” and so Latvia has been on my bucket list for quite some time. This majestic capital is brimming with history which is clearly reflected in the architecture, making it a cultural delight.
Latvia might not be at the top of the places you want to see, but if you’re in Europe and you don’t go there I think you’re missing out. Flights from London can be as cheap as £18 one-way which hardly breaks the bank. As with all Baltic countries, Latvia is a relatively cheap place to visit so even if you don’t manage to snag a bargain flight, a weekend trip won’t cost you too much. My experience of Latvia was that the people are extremely friendly & pretty much anyone you meet under 30 can speak English.
Latvia is starting to become well-known for stag do’s but I went on a girlie weekend trip. I have a friend, Shelley, who is always up for an adventure. She’s the type of friend you can call up and say you’ve booked a trip & without knowing any details she’ll say “sure, I’m in!” so I couldn’t think of anyone better to explore Riga with.
We visited back in December and my one piece of advise to anyone wanting to go during the latter part of the year is to dress warmly! The evenings are bitterly cold so we ended up investing in some woollen socks to keep our toes from falling off. December is a great time to visit though as the Christmas markets are just wonderful and having a mulled wine soon warms you up.
We stumbled upon “the first high-rise in Latvia”, the Latvian Academy of Sciences, and for only a small fee managed to get beautiful views of the city. I’m sure in summer it’s fine, but in winter it was absolutely freezing and extremely windy up there so maybe don’t wear a dress like I did!
As for things to see and do in Riga, we didn’t really have a set plan (for once!). We started off on a walking tour and ended up ditching that halfway through and exploring the city ourselves. As much as I advocate free walking tours, I also really enjoy just wandering around a city aimlessly. I wouldn’t say there is an awful lot to do in Riga, so we were able to just absorb the atmosphere and appreciate the beauty.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Riga is only for those seeking culture though. As darkness closes in, the Latvian’s get ready to party. The party scene in Riga is renowned across Europe and it certainly didn’t disappoint when we were there. We stayed in an awesome hostel who organised a pretty amazing pub crawl. The Naughty Squirrel Backpacker’s House is probably the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. The staff went over and beyond to ensure everyone enjoyed themselves. The drinks are cheap in Latvia and they tend to free pour, so it doesn’t cost a lot for the night to get messy – this is exactly what you want to hear when you’re a broke backpacker!
Unlike some of my other posts, I haven’t named much to do here but you just need to trust me that Riga is worth a visit. Latvia uses the Euro so if you have some spare lying around then put them to good use and take a weekend trip here. I can promise it won’t disappoint….