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lafalott Riga - A travel report by Katrina
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Riga,  Latvia - flag Latvia -  Riga
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lafalott's travel reports

Riga for Everyone

  23 votes
Riga is a small eastern european city with lots of character. It is inexpensive to get to by boat or plane and it is also inexpensive when you get there. It was very refreshing compared to other big, popular, bustling european cities I have visited.


Grafitti
Grafitti
Riga is an ideal European city to visit on a small budget with a short amount of time. It is not a big city so it is easy to walk and see the sights you are interested in within a few days.

The population of Riga is about 50/50 Russians and Latvians and it is obvious that there is still alot of tension between the two groups. For example, we had a Latvian friend showing us the town on the first night and she asked what we wanted to do, so we suggested we go to a russian club. Her response was, "No, I don't want to fight tonight". That really surprised us, and we definitely stayed away from any Russian people with this girl around!

There are huge class differences all over the city that I have not noticed as much in other European cities I have been to, mainly because these differences are kept to certain areas that I did not visit. For example, one building could be super run down, and the next building is very nicely kept with a BMW parked in front of it.

Favourite spots:
Old Riga
Old Riga
Riga's Old town was made up of winding cobble stone streets lined with tall narrow buildings. There are plenty of old churches and buildings that hold your attention around every corner. There is also lots of shopping near the border between the old and new town.

Take the elevator up St. Peters to the viewing tower and check out the view. The square near this church holds the town hall, which was rebuilt in 2002. Across from the town hall is the House of Blackheads (Blackheads' guild of unmarried merchants) which was just recently rebuilt from scratch because it was destroyed in 1941. In this same square there is a very ugly building, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (its a big black box..).

The Riga castle is also located in Old Riga and is now the house of the president.

What's really great:
A tram at the Central Market
A tram at the Central Market
So, I wouldn't call this a 'great' part of Riga, but it is definitely interesting. The Central Market had every kind of 'rip-off' brands you would ever want for sale, from food, to clothes, to kids toys. However, it is also a huge eye-opener (hold on to your purses/bags/backpacks). There were alot of shifty people wandering around, though I guess it wasn't as bad as it could be because it was pouring with rain. There were still lots of beggers and kids running around looking for opportunities. It was, however, the cheapest place to find authentic and fresh Latvian food (though the expensive stuff was still really cheap).

Sights:
Guards in front of the freedom monument
Guards in front of the freedom monument
The palace is in Old Riga.

The skyline bar has an amazing view of the city (hence the name).

In the same are as the skyline bar there is a really affluent are with very intricate apartment buildings.

The Freedom monument is guarded all time to discourage people from vandalizing it. And the Opera house is within sight from the freedom monument.

Walk along the River on a nice day and check out the interesting bridges that connect the two halves of Riga.

There are lots of statues and monuments around - look out for the pre-soviet ones.

Accommodations:
Fun Friendly Frank's hostel is in the lighter colour building
Fun Friendly Frank's hostel is in the lighter colour building
We stayed at a hostel called Fun Friendly Franks - it was one of the best hostels we have ever stayed in. The staff was extremely helpful, the hostel organized trips to clubs and bars each night. The most amazing thing, when we arrived, we were asked (before they knew who we were) "would you like a free beer?", and my friend replies, "I have been waiting my whole life for someone to ask me that!" Haha. The hostel was very clean, well kept, and cheap to stay at (about $12cdn per night, and that wasnt the cheapest room either). Though the only downside was that the majority of the hostels residents were young British males (no offence) who could get rowdy at times, I guess Riga is where they go to party as much as possible for as cheap as possible.

Nightlife:
Map of La Rocca
Map of La Rocca
Nightlife in Riga lasts until 9am the next morning. We went to the largest Russian club in the Baltics called La Rocca (2000 people), with the hostel so it was free (normally it would be $30cdn entrance). It was the craziest thing I have ever been to with different rooms for different types of music (Red Square), a strip club (appropriately called studio 69), and gambling. We only had the stamina to stay out until 3am, and the club was just starting to get busy!

I strongly suggest you take on Riga nightlife with someone who knows what they are doing because there are always people that try and pick trouble with you. And you definitely don't want to walk into the wrong club. The hostel would send someone with us when they organized the outings to clubs in order to show us the ropes and tell us how to get back to the hostel.

Hangouts:
This was told to us by Gunta, the Latvia girl who showed us the town, Near the freedom monument there is a clock. It is a tradition for lovers to meet under this clock before a date! Awww.

Restaurants:
A blurry picture of Lido
A blurry picture of Lido
We ate dinner at this Latvian restaurant called Lida a few times (buffet style). It was the biggest feast for the least amount of money I have had in a long time. There are a few of these restaurants throughout the city and they are very popular.

While walking around throughout the day it is easy to find a pasty shop and stop for a cheap snack or lunch of pierog (I dont know the exact spelling).

Springing for dinner at a nice restaurant one night won't put you back much - about $8-10cdn!

There are quite many restaurants that are open strictly in the middle of the night. I think it is mostly because their basements act as strip bars, and the more respectable part of the restaurant (most often pizza place) is on the main floor.

Other recommendations:
The group I travelled with was 2 females (including me) and 1 tall, strong male so we did not get hasseled at all. But we did see groups of guys get hasseled to go to "shows" or to buy who knows what. I assume if you were with only females you would have to be careful too. We are lucky that we did not experience any problems!

Published on Tuesday April 25th, 2006


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Thu, Sep 07 2006 - 10:09 PM rating by mrscanada

I've never been to Riga. On the map of La Rocca there is a blue CPA sign and below it it says "Casino Play & Boy". What does that mean?

Thu, May 04 2006 - 08:15 AM rating by gloriajames

great report on a place that i know so little about! thanks!

Wed, May 03 2006 - 02:51 PM rating by inkolor

Very motivating report, I enjoyed all the information.

Sat, Apr 29 2006 - 05:49 PM rating by mistybleu

Excellent report, very interesting.
Amanda

Thu, Apr 27 2006 - 02:44 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Excellent report of a country that we have little information. Thanks

Wed, Apr 26 2006 - 03:53 PM rating by magsalex

Comprehensive report. Looking for a new destination to visit - looks good.

Wed, Apr 26 2006 - 11:01 AM rating by frenchfrog

Wow, what a lovely report, Riga sound a lovely city to visit, I would love to go there! Thank you for providing so much info as well as your experience. Well done, I can' t rate it at 6* so I give you 5* instead!

Wed, Apr 26 2006 - 07:33 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

wonderful to know about this place,nice report.

Wed, Apr 26 2006 - 05:49 AM rating by rangutan

Excellent report, smoothly written, easy and pleasurable to read.

Wed, Apr 26 2006 - 04:38 AM rating by marianne

katrina,
Thanks for the good information that will certainly be helpful when I visit Riga.
Marianne

Tue, Apr 25 2006 - 08:51 PM rating by eirekay

Thanks for a nice glimpse into a new city! I enjoyed your descriptions

Tue, Apr 25 2006 - 04:13 PM rating by st.vincent

Looks like you had an interesting visit. Thanks for some good information, and warnings, on a city that is on my wish list of places to visit.

Tue, Apr 25 2006 - 03:44 PM rating by horourke

Are there still concerts in the Cathedral? The streets of the old town are paved with stone i believe imported from Sweden. This was I believe one of the cities of the Hanseatic league. Perhaps Latvians do not emphasise their history now. Is it true there is now a thriving IT industry in Latvia. I was in Riga in 1990 just when freedom was beginning i hope there are some hopeful aspects to life there

Tue, Apr 25 2006 - 03:31 PM rating by davidx

Did you realise this report is our only written information on Latvia so far?The 5* would not come for that alone though. The report is really most informative. Thank you so much. I d hope to get there.

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