Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

Riga - Old Town - d.c. photo

“The old town, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, truly is very beautiful and neatly maintained. We didn’t see any run-down buildings, or maybe just one or two, which were already undergoing renovation.
The strange thing about Riga is the local mania for shopping malls. And I mean mania.  The train station opens on a mall, and there are two more next to it. One entire block on the edge of the old town has become a mall. And, for the record, they were all filled with shoppers as well as sightseers.

It turns out that in Riga, Sundays are just like Mondays – there’s no difference in opening times, so we decided to check out one of the malls, and see what it was like. Of course, it’s just like everywhere else, and the shops are all exactly the same.

The Art Nouveau buildings in Riga are extremely attractive, but finding them meant taking the tram. This turned out to be a bit tricky, since the public transport network in Riga is so simple that the maps hardly bother to show it.

Riga is a very worthwhile destination, and we had no communication problems. Everyone speaks some English, though I don’t think we saw a single smile during the whole of our stay.” (2016)

Practicals

Transport

Public transport in Riga includes trolleybuses, trams, and buses. Almost all of them converge near the Central Station. All public transport in Riga runs from 6 am to midnight. From Friday to Saturday and from Saturday to Sunday, a night bus runs every hour on the main routes. Besides, there are minibusses in blue and white colors.

Taxi

Taxi rates in Riga are relatively high (2 € is the base fare, 0.7 €/km is the cost/km) because the competition is very limited: green BalticTaxi, Alviksa, red LadyTaxi with female drivers, and the Riga taxi fleet.


Riga - tram - p.b. photo

Riga - Baltic taxi

Riga - Vansu Bridge - Elter photo

Food

In Riga, good foods include fish, freshly caught by local fishermen, and processed in traditional ways. Lots of home-made cheeses with different seeds or vegetable inside, excellent home-made dairy products including kefir, cottage cheese, cream, and sour cream, an incredible variety of bread, and, finally, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables that locals grow in their gardens and bring to sell on one of Riga markets.

Riga - S. Brevings bar and restaurant (address: Tirgoņu iela 4) in an Art Nouveau building - Viktor Ohotin's photo

Riga - hearty meal - pork knuckle, mashed potatoes, braised red cabbage, and a bulb of raw garlic to be on the smelly side

Shopping

“Don't miss the "stomach" of Riga, the market hall, where you could literally spend a whole day just looking and tasting, and in addition to traditional food and drinks such as kvass and black bread, you can also find rarities that you probably won’t have tasted before. The legendary market hall of Riga was made out of decommissioned zeppelin hangars.

The hall – even in the leanest Soviet times – symbolized wealth and prosperity, and you’ll find everything that a well-stocked pantry should contain: a wide variety of freshwater and saltwater fish – live, raw, smoked, or marinated – eggs, the most expensive caviar, the meat and offal of wild and domestic animals, an unbeatable selection of cheeses, mainly from the farms of local producers, huge imports of sweet or savory baked goods, countless spices (not native to Latvia), medicinal and culinary herbs, honey, seeds, berries, fruits, and plenty of vegetables, raw or pickled. Then there are the cavalcades of florists, clothing shops, and various jumble-sale type kitchenware sellers, but I won’t list those in detail.

One – slightly nauseating – a novelty for me was the eel-like fish which, after being pickled in black tea and then jellied, is consumed as a delicacy by the locals – you can see how popular it is with them: they eat it like sweets. I also saw, for the first time, jam made from cannabis seeds, as well as something I’d happily buy back home as well: a fruit originally from Japan, called Rubus illecebrosus, also known as the strawberry-raspberry, which is tart but sweet, rather like a cross between those two kinds of fruit.


Riga – Shopping Market

“I can think of few more authentic places where one can really integrate into the everyday life of another country than the market, and so visiting one is a must wherever we go. But this is especially true for Riga, where you’ll find the largest market is in Europe, which is also a World Heritage Site. The building itself consists of four huge, “recycled” Zeppelin hangars, and the bustle and activity inside have to be seen to be believed.

As far as the eye can see there are endless rows of authentic products, divine cheeses, butter, yogurts, rye bread, salmon, and caviar, as well as a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. They also sell fresh cranberries and cranberry juice, but be warned: a 200ml glass of this stuff is a concentrated source of antioxidants, which is great, but it’s unbelievably, almost unbearably sour, so be prepared! At the same time, it’s part of the experience, so give it a go!”

Riga - Fish market -trout eggs - n.e. photo

Riga - dark rye breads

Riga - cheap blackberries and redberries - Ata photo

Fun

“Like most big cities, Riga has its share of upmarket venues. The Rock Café is one of these. All the same, everyone dresses like their members of Depeche Mode (the unspoken dress code is black and white). The music consists of about equal parts Nirvana, Metallica, and Aerosmith. The Rock Café is right in the middle of town – the girls are good-looking, the boys preen themselves – in short, it’s totally the opposite sort of clientele to what the name implies. Locals say it’s mostly a sort of dating venue, as is the Tokyo Sushi franchise restaurant, where they venture from the world of Tinder and decide whether to take things further. Latvians like their sushi – for them fish is as much a staple ingredient as sliced bread and ham back home.

There are also plenty of places that are the total opposite of the Rock Café: the seemingly affluent Baltic capital has more than its share of run-down bars – there’s one on almost every corner. Cinema, for instance, is of this type: Latvian accordion metal booms from the Wurlitzer, which is funny for about three minutes, then isn’t. All the same, it’s still a shade better than the national drink, Balsam, which is a rather rancid herbal liqueur. This is fun for about three seconds, then it definitely isn’t.

The popular Kaņepes Kultūras Center Riga has a crazy amount of life, even on Sundays, and we can't even imagine what the energy would be like there on a Friday night. Even on the last day of the week, it was a full house, enjoyed by everyone from eighteen-year-old students to fathers in their forties.” (2017)


Riga - makeup - n.e. photo

Riga - Colonel Brew Pub & Kitchen (Meistaru iela 23)- f.a. photo

Riga - street musicians - mandolin and violin

Riga - Old Town - mulled wine - n.e. photo

Public safety

Tourist centers like Old Town are free of any menaces or danger. Pickpockets are most active at the bus station and the large outdoor market near the bus station. Not a single major terrorist incident happened ever since independence (1990). There is no noticeable gang activity in Riga. (Russian mafia is ,,white-collar".)
 

“Riga can be dangerous at night! Many bars and pubs are under the influence of the Russian mafia… I sat down to have a beer, and two pretty Russian girls joined me – Paula (21) and Susha (29)… I invited them to have a drink with me, and they subsequently bought me two (black balsam and tequila) which was followed by absinthe without my asking for it… They got me thoroughly drunk and then robbed me – they took my cash and emptied my checking account. I’ve been to around 50 countries on 4 continents, and I’ve been in some hairy situations, but nothing like this. I later read, in English, that Riga is a city of thieves and honey traps, and can be a real danger zone for tourists.

Riga - police

Others

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Riga - a wooden house

Background

Riga - view from above - Elter photo

Destination in brief

Population (in 2020): 631,000

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 850 Euro -  (Lativa's average: 790 Euro)

The Old Town is very cozy. That so-called Vecríga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Riga definitely deserves one or two days of sightseeing. Everywhere trees, parks, green areas, even in the center. No wonder, as more than 50% of Latvia is covered by forest. They respect nature and live in great friendship with it.

Climate

January & February each year is dark, cold, and bleak.

History

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Riga - medieval performance

Riga - Gate from the Middle Age

Riga - The Freedom Monument - commemorating soldiers killed when fighting for Latvia's Independence in 1920 - Elter photo

Nowadays

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Riga - modern architecture trying to fit the old - Ata photo

Riga - Jauniela street

Riga - walk

People

Locals are very reserved and do not make an effort to be friendly. It is rare to see anyone smiling.  Usually, smiling at someone on the street will get you a strange look or avoidance (like in Russia). If someone contacts you, surely they want something from you. Most locals avoid eye contact on the streets, in buses, and on trains. They very seldom say hello, good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. You have to learn how to walk past someone without looking at them.  Younger people tend to be friendlier to strangers, and that may become a trend.

In Riga, people under 35 are usually trilingual, fluent in Latvian, Russian, and English. Who is not fluent in these three languages would never be hired as a waiter.

The Russian minority living in Riga (about 37% of the population) has visibly another character than the Ethnic Latvians. Russians are louder,  more snobbish, self-confident, maybe to compensate themselves for their minority disadvantages and complexes. The Russian nouveau riche in Riga like to flash prosperity, to show what they can afford. Ethnic Latvians of Protestant backgrounds tend to be shy about showing off wealth.  




Tourist etiquette

1. Locals say that surprisingly many tourists urinate in the street. Conclusion: don't do it, particularly not under one of the many surveillance cameras. 

Attractions

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Riga - The Bremen Town Musicians statue (based on one of the many Brothers Grimm Fairytales) - Elter photo

Riga - Old Town - Powder Tower - r.a. photo

Riga - St. Peter's Church, a Lutheran church - Elter photo

Riga - The Nativity of Christ Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox church in Riga - Elter photo

Riga - St. Jacob Catholic Cathedral - Elter photo

Riga - Art Nouveau

There are about 800 Art Nouveau buildings in Riga.

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“It would be impossible to imagine Riga without Art Nouveau. One-third of the downtown buildings are built in this style. Nowhere else in the world is there such a large amount of Art Nouveau tenements in such a concentrated area. And why Art Nouveau? Because it was during the vogue for this style that the city enjoyed its greatest expansion…
The whole quarter was built in a short time between 1904 and 1914. During the last years, construction accelerated so that in 1913 alone the city added 500 new buildings, each with a stunning façade.
Rapid construction was needed because in just seventeen years (1897-1914) the city’s population almost doubled. In 1914, Riga became the second largest port in Tsarist Russia, with half a million inhabitants. In cold winters when it was not possible to approach St. Petersburg through the frozen Gulf of Finland, this ice-free former Hanseatic port became the only place where Russian industrial good could be imported or exported.” (Ata, 2021)



Riga - Art Nouveau 1

Riga - Art nouveau building (address: Alberta iela 13) - Viktor Ohotin's photo

Riga - Art Neauveau - entry door - Ata photo

Riga - Art Neauveau - Ata photo

Riga - Art Neauveau - Ata photo

Riga - Art Neauveau - Ata photo

Art Nouveau 2.

Old Town

Riga - Old Town - Powder Tower - k.k. photo

Riga - Old Town - Ata photo

House of the Black Heads

Riga - House of the Black Heads - Ata photo

Riga - House of the Black Heads - Ata photo 2

Riga - House of the Black Heads - Ata photo

Riga - House of the Black Heads - Ata photo

Riga - House of the Black Heads - Ata photo

Riga - House of the Black Heads - Ata photo

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