A city on the cusp of Europe and Russia, Riga infuses elements of both cultures and makes for a unique experience for visitors. Not filled with the dangers of Russian travel Riga has many interesting older structures to visit in its old town as well as a wonderful café culture that can be enjoyed right alongside local Latvians’ on a summer’s day. A few more things to do in Riga include:
St. Peter’s Church
One of the indelible components of the Riga Old City skyline is the gothic St Peter’s Church. Famous for its tiered spire, the church can be seen in all of its glory from a good distance off as the red brick and high vaults give the church a narrow and heightened appearance. Though St Peter’s has been destroyed several times over the years the people of Riga always rebuild it in the same style each time. The most recent reconstruction, after World War II, has allowed for the addition of a modern convenience like the mechanical lift that now carries visitors up to the observation deck – saving them a difficult climb up the stairs – of the church’s highest point. Taking the lift, which costs around $4 US dollars, is well worth it to enjoy such great views over the city. Wandering the other parts of the church is free.
Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
Using unique techniques to purvey the narrative of oppression the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia promised all visitors to be a different museum experience. Not only using historical artifacts supported by text, the museum actually incorporates a replica of a Siberian-style home as well as actors in order to tell the of Latvia’s occupation. Visitors to the museum have noted its effectiveness in showing how horrifyingly pervasive the entire system of oppression was. Enjoy free Monday admission; the rest of the week admission will cost around $10 US dollars.
Formerly an exclusive getaway for Soviet leaders like Brezhnev and Khrushchev Jurmala has an appeal that has come to filter down to the masses. Blessed with approximately 20 miles of white sand beaches, Jumala beach is the perfect location to escape Riga and get in some swimming and sunbathing. The shallow waters also make the beach ideal for families with children. Nature lovers as well can take the opportunity to visit the nearby boggy national park which teems with native wildlife and migratory birds. As well be sure to check out the nearby resort town of Jurmala which juxtaposes traditional Latvian wood houses to funky, multi-colored art deco-style houses. Getting to the beach takes around 30 to 40 minutes on bus from central Riga and costs about $5 dollars the US per way.
Best Things to do in Riga
Those coming to Riga, Latvia will be in for a wonderful treat as this hidden jewel of Europe offers a lovely older European city at very reasonable prices. One of the most enjoyable ways to spend your time in Riga most assuredly will be wandering the street of the Old Town and enjoying the lovely restaurants, cafes, and patio bars that are dotted around it. The city itself does have a few museums and galleries – including the harrowing Salaspils Memorial Ensemble which commemorates concentration camp deaths near this area – to enjoy as well. The best things to do in Riga include.
Old City Riga
One of the most pleasant elements of Riga’s Old City is that it is pedestrian-only and cars are not allowed on its cobblestone streets. Looking at the lovely, classical architecture it will surely come as a surprise that most of the old town was destroyed during different 20th-century wars and has been rebuilt. Attention to detail was used to re-create many of the important buildings as they had existed previously. Be sure to sample some of the varied restaurants in the old city and try some classical Latvian foods as well as see the area’s sites such as St Peter’s Church and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. There are free guided tours available that will narrate the significance of many of the major buildings, districts, and squares of the old town.
Salaspils Memorial Ensemble
To the south of Riga is the Salaspils Memorial Ensemble which commemorates the deaths of thousands of victims that died at a nearby concentration camp during World War II. Perhaps a little difficult to find without appropriate signage displayed from Salasphils Train Station, still this site is worth a visit as it was a location where sadly 12,000 to 15,000 people, including many children, needlessly lost their lives. In the previous locations of many of the camp’s buildings which are no longer standing children’s toys and flowers have been placed there to commemorate lives that ended too early. One of the most eye-catching monuments is the statues of three giants that symbolize both the strength and the agony of the camp’s victims. The Salaspils Memorial Ensemble is free to visit and walk around its grounds.