What to do in Riga for a Weekend City Break
“Have you ever had pudding made from old, stale rye bread?” asked one of my self-appointed hosts. “It’s what I grew up on, and it’s probably the most famous dessert in our country!”
With a recommendation like that, who could turn down this mysterious pudding. Rye bread, for me, conjures up visions of pastrami, mustard, and maybe even some sauerkraut, but it most definitely doesn’t make me think of dessert. Without another thought, I grabbed the pudding from the cafeteria shelf, resolutely put it on my tray the cashier, by way of the beer tap. My entire lunch, made up of all the local specialties recommended by my hosts, totaled to a whopping $4.00. After paying I headed to our table and was ready to tuck in and chat some more with our new-found friends in the loud and crowded dining room.
We’d spent the majority of the day walking around the medieval city center of Riga, and we had all worked up an appetite. There were eight of us, six Latvians and two Americans, all with a passion for photography. We had come together thanks to Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk. Shanti and his friends took us by churches, through cobble-stoned squares, down twisting alleyways, through the brilliant fall foliage in the park, all over the city. Not only did we click, click, click away, but we listened closely as Artur, the IT guy, told us stories of their lives as well as a smattering of the history of Latvia.
The weather was off and on rainy, which lent itself well to some of the old Soviet buildings and apartment blocks, but let rays of light shine in on the newly renovated art-deco facades of the old town. The rain, like a wizened old man, highlighted both the positives and negatives of the last few centuries. The light added a mix of somber and hopeful tones to our images, and left us feeling the texture of the city much more than if the sun had shone all day long.
Here are some of the things we recommend you do while you’re in Riga for the weekend!
1. Eat Local Food!
Our rye pudding was as good as Artur promised. So much so, that we had it the next day as well. It was in a more upscale restaurant and looked quite a bit different, but it was still tasty! And in case you were wondering, we loved the beer as well!
2. Take a Walk in the Park
One of the first places we meandered through was the park that is situated right in the middle of the city. With all the meandering walking paths, river boats, weddings, sculptures, we had already spent some time walking along the river before we noticed that the day we were there the city was hosting a kayak tournament. It was hard to pull us away.
3. Gape at the Amazing Architecture Throughout Riga
We did make it to the traditional old town, though, where we had a difficult time knowing where to look. The buildings were decorated with gabled roofs, or art-deco trim, or statues of cats, and painted all different colors.
4. Take Public Transportation
Riga is a walkable city as long as you stay downtown, but there is so much to see that is a little further afield that you will definitely want to get to. It’s quite easy to get around using the city trams and buses and stops are frequent. We never had any problems and, when asked, the locals were very willing to help.
4. Go to the Central Market
It’s always fun to wander around a marketplace to see what is on offer. It was even more appealing when the rain was coming down in buckets instead of drops. The big problem with going to a market, is I always want to buy the fresh fruits and vegetables, but typically don’t have a place to cook.
6. Take in the Soviet History of Riga
Along with the wide main boulevard leading you right to the Soviet War Memorial, you can see vestiges of the 50 year Soviet era all over the city.
7. Go to a Museum
Like most capital cities, Riga is full of museums. We don’t like to overdue museum-ing, so we will do maybe one on a weekend. This visit we went to the KGB Museum and it looked as intimidating as the name wants you to feel. Next time we are in the city, we plan on visiting the Museum of the Occupation.
8. Go to a Café, buy some flowers, and hang out with the locals!
On a rainy weekend, we were just like everyone else, looking to keep dry and warm so naturally we hit café after café. Riga has some great ones, and many of them even had free wifi…a bonus! We also bought some roses from the shop owner of this gorgeous kitty, and tried to meet locals at the many cellar pubs that abound in the downtown area.