Roaming about in Riga

Stop number two on my long weekend exploring the Baltics was a day in Riga, Latvia. Like the prior day in Tallinn, most of my day in Riga was spent exploring the old city center. And, just like Tallinn, Riga’s city center is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So I got to check another UNESCO site off on my list, but was it worth taking the time to visit? Maybe.

Riga's House of Blackheads, as seen through one of the mega-frames in town
Riga’s House of Blackheads, as seen through one of the mega-frames in town

Riga did not survive the wars quite as well as Tallinn did. More of the old construction was destroyed leaving the rebuilt version nice enough and keeping with the old street plan, but it isn’t quite the same. There are narrow alleys and cute shops and some interesting facades in the old city, but I felt like Tallinn had a bit more character.

Narrow side streets in Riga's Old City
Narrow side streets in Riga’s Old City

Like most old European cities, Riga has an old cathedral in the center of town. I was pretty disappointed after paying the 3 euro entry fee to walk around the inside and see not all that much of interest. The organ is under scaffolding and the interior is nice enough, but nothing special.

Interior of the Riga Cathedral; not all that special.
Interior of the Riga Cathedral; not all that special.

The adjacent courtyard has some interesting bits to see, though they were outside so the cold ensured that we didn’t spend too much time looking at them. There was quite the collection of canons, tomb markers and other bits of history from the area lining the covered walk surrounding the courtyard. I’d like to think there was some sort of organization to the artifacts, though if there was it was not readily apparent. On the plus side, there was this awesome view of the church tower from across the yard. Probably my favorite photo from the trip.

My favorite photo from the trip: The Riga Cathedral
My favorite photo from the trip: The Riga Cathedral

Outside of the old city Riga did seem to be a bit more alive than Tallinn. There were a lot more people out and about and the vibe was much more up-beat. I don’t know if that’s a function of when I visited or a broader theme. One particularly cool thing Riga had set up were huge picture frames scattered about town. They were massive, set up to allow people to “frame” a picture of a city scene in a photograph. It was rather fun to play with them a little bit whilst wandering about.

Along the river-front adjacent to Riga's Old City
Along the river-front adjacent to Riga’s Old City

After dinner we went looking for a bar to grab a drink or two before heading off to bed. There was a bit of nightlife on this Friday night though most of what we heard walking down the street were touts for strip clubs. Not really my ideal version of relaxing when exploring a new city. We ended up in something akin to a British or Irish pub. Good beer choices on tap (local and imports) and plenty of locals and tourists out for a tipple. That’s when the old Scottish guy bought us drinks and I decided to end the night before things got even more bizarre. Besides, the weekend’s main event was the following night in Vilnius. We needed to save our strength.

I’ve been led to believe there is quite a bit of German Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture in town. I managed to miss that, it would seem. I’ll blame the cold rather than my ignorance of architectural styles.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.