Exploring Riga

Wednesday, 14 June 2017
Considering I'd already booked Berlin and Rome, it was a bit cheeky for me to be looking at more holidays. But seeing as I'm moving to the US for a year, I wanted to make the most of my time in Europe (whilst I still have EU citizenship and easy border crossing!). So when Becky and I started talking about maybe doing a trip together, I just couldn't help but book another holiday. We settled on Riga as we both wanted to go to a new country and it was easy for us both to get to. I went to Latvia with low expectations but it ended up being one of the best trips I'd ever been on...

We arrived too early to check into our hotel so we left our bags and headed out in search of lunch. We'd already spied a cafe on Instagram that served delicious looking pancakes so our minds were pretty made up. Street Fries Kitchen was a good choice! I ordered American pancakes with syrup, bananas and fruit whilst Becky opted for a chocolate and banana pancake. Our meals were both delicious and set us up for a day of exploring. And at only €5.50 each, we considered it to be a bargain!

It was time to go back to the hotel via the scenic route. And by the scenic route, I mean the 'Hayley hasn't quite gotten to grasps with Google maps yet' route. We passed by the Freedom Monument, an impressive 42m high memorial dedicated to the soldiers who died in the Latvian War of Independence, and the park that surrounds it. Then we checked into our hotel and had a bit of a rest. We stayed at the Wellton Centrum Hotel and I can't recommend it enough. Our room was perfect and we had access to the spa and free breakfast - all for a very cheap price!

The rest of our evening was very relaxed as Becky and I were still very tired after early morning flights. We headed back to the park to spy for a pedalo vendor (still to this day unlocated) and a cool drink in the shade. We then took another scenic route *ahem* towards the Nativity Cathedral passing by a giant disco ball lady statue - as you do -. Unfortunately, I hadn't realised there was a dress code in place for the cathedral so we had to come back another day to see the inside. But we admired the amazing architecture from the outside before grabbing a quick McDonald's for dinner (#culture) and then heading back to the hotel for a swim. We did try the Instagram live story but the only people watching were Leda and a creepy man.

After a well-deserved lie in and making the most of the hotel breakfast we headed out the next morning to explore the city. We had planned on going up an observation deck in a church but found it was closed on Mondays. So we mostly just wandered around admiring the architecture. Riga's old town is so small that you can easily walk around the whole thing in a few hours - still, there was so much to see. I don't think I've captured its beauty at all but the whole old town is full of pretty coloured houses and cobbled streets. It actually reminded me a lot of little French towns! 

I actually have a friend who lives in Riga (she lived in Scotland for a while and we went to high school together) so Becky and I met her for lunch. We'd mentioned that we were interested in trying Fat Pumpkin and Annie's friend is actually a manager there so seemed like the perfect place to meet. The food was so fresh and delicious, the perfect thing to wolf down whilst we caught up on what we've been up to in the few years it's been since I last seen her. I had to try the pumpkin soup, the namesake of the place, and it was absolutely wonderful. 

Annie then kindly showed us around some more of Riga. We went to see the Swedish Gate (a preserved area of the old city walls), The Three Brothers (the oldest houses in Riga) and Riga Castle (sounds a bit self-explanatory but is also the home of the Latvian president and some very nice yellow walls). Then I essentially led us on a wild goose chase to find a giant space monkey statue. Really, it was all Erica's fault as I'd seen the statue in her blog post. 10/10 statue would recommend.

Then after a swim/jacuzzi, we headed out to a nearby restaurant for dinner. The real highlight was stopping at the bubble waffle store across from our hotel dessert! Delicious! Then we headed to the Riga Sky Bar located in the Radisson Blue hotel. The view was amazing and the cocktails were very reasonably priced considering the setting. Protip: The best view was actually from the women's bathroom!

The next morning we headed bright and not so early back to St Peter's Church to visit the observation deck at the top. The view was absolutely amazing but it was very crowded so we didn't stay up for too long. On our way down we walked around the church and admired the architecture. We then stopped for a quick non-alcoholic drink at a bar Annie recommended to us. It's called Omas Briljants which translates into Grandma's Brilliant. The place is decorated to look like your grandma's living room. They had games and stuff so we had a lot of fun! We also stopped by the cathedral but photography was forbidden inside.

We stopped at the cafe Annie works at for lunch and then decided to spend out afternoon doing a boat tour. We opted for the one by Rigaby Canals which took an hour and was €15 for students. It was very relaxed and we got to see a lot from the boat. However, there was no actual information provided apart from the leaflet (no tour guides speaking etc). So was quite expensive considering this. Then after a quiet break at the hotel we had dinner at a nearby restaurant. I had sweet potato soup which was really tasty. We were both so impressed by how delicious all the food we had in Riga was! I'm considering writing a foodie guide! Then we just had to visit Bubble Waffle again and had a post dinner walk.

On our last day, we went for an evening swim - this was the longest we'd spent at the pool. We never quite managed to get it all to ourselves but we did have a good old photo shoot when it was quieter.  Typical bloggers. We were so glad that we'd picked this hotel as the spa facilities were so nice!

Unfortunately, I had to leave at 10 am the next morning to go catch my flight so that was the end of my Riga adventure. This was actually one of the best holidays I've ever had as I just totally fell in love with Latvia. Never fear, Becky and I aren't quite finished with the Baltics and we are planning a trip to Estonia/Finland for 2018. Keep your eyes peeled!

If you'd like to read more about my travels I've also recently been to Berlin and Rome.

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