A WEEKEND IN RIGA
Architecture, a food tour in Riga markets, Latvian garlic bread and live music
The trip began at Newcastle Airport in the Aspire Lounge. The journey started with us finding out we had an hour delay but this was quickly eased when we stepped into the lounge. With an array of food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and comfortable seating the time passed extremely quickly and it was the perfect start to our weekend away.
The lounge takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the busy Newcastle airport and offers a place to relax and unwind. There is free wifi and plenty of places to charge up your devices before your upcoming flight. Prices start from £34.99 per adult and £18.99 per child.
The flight was just a short 2 hours from Newcastle and passed by quickly. Latvia are 2 hours ahead of the UK so by the time we landed it was around 10pm. We hopped in a taxi and after a short 15 minute drive we arrived at our accommodation, Aparthotel Amella.
Aparthotel Amella is located a 10-15 minute walk from Riga's old town. There is parking available if you choose to rent a car from the airport and the hotel is also perfectly placed right next to the train station. Alternatively you can also catch bus 22 which takes you to and from the airport.
Being an aparthotel, each room is equipped with a kitchen so you can enjoy shopping for local ingredients at the Riga Central Markets before whipping up a treat for breakfast and/or dinner in your hotel room. This would also be perfect for families travelling with hungry little ones. The rooms also come with a dining area, a safety deposit box and a private bathroom with a bidet, slippers and a hair dryer. The kitchen has a microwave, a fridge and stovetop as well as a coffee machine and a kettle. You can also indulge in the luxurious Rituals shower products on offer.
The hotel opened in 2022 and the decor is ultra-modern and stylish. There are also complimentary tea and coffee facilities on the ground floor and a cosy seating area if you would like some time to relax outside of your room. The hotel is extremely highly rated and our visit from flawless from start to finish.
It was breakfast time and we headed to Mr Fox for pancakes and avocado toast. Then it was time to explore the main sights and attractions of Riga by joining a free walking tour. The tour was the Old Riga tour Free Riga Tours. Our guide Eva was a local and keen traveller who oozed passion and enthusiasm about her home town.
The tour was 2 hours long and we visited the main attractions in the old town:
- St Peter's Church
- The Town Hall Square
- The House of the Blackheads
- The Dome Square and Cathedral
- The Powder tower
- The Swedish gate
And more. We learnt about the history of Riga and what makes this city unique such as it being famous for producing Amber. If you want to check whether the Amber is legit then you should shine the stone under a UV light. We were also told about the importance of the Namejs ring which represents Latvian independence, friendship and trust. Latvians can spot one another from all over the world by wearing this ring as a symbol of their love for their country.
Riga Central Market Food Tour
We tipped our wonderful guide and enjoyed a short walk and drink in the sunshine before our next tour began. We joined Riga Trips for their food tour which took us through Riga Central Markets. The markets were once the largest in Europe and still span across a huge area and are separated into 5 different areas: meat, cheese, fish, fruit and vegetables and desserts. The markets are located is old Zeppelin hangers and have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
The tour began in the meat section where we witnessed lots of unique and unusual Latvian delicacies such as Ostrich eggs, pig hearts as well as every other pig body part you could imagine. Nothing goes to waste in Latvia! Then we sampled some cooked and cured meats, some traditional mixed beans, a 'fur coat' salad made of herring, beetroot, mayonnaise and sour cream and finally the most popular dessert in Latvia, Rye Bread pudding which tasted like Christmas.
On the way to our next stop we sampled the Latvian drink of choice, Balsam. The liquor tastes like an alcoholic Lemsip and comes in a variety of flavours including blackcurrant, cherry and chocolate. With 40% alcohol content, it's one to sip and take easy.
Next we sampled some flavoured cheeses, pickled vegetables, fish and Russian honey vodka before our final stop which was my favourite of all - desserts! We enjoyed Gotina candies which have a sugary and caramel texture before finishing off the tour with donuts and a hot beverage. You will definitely not go hungry on this tour and it is a wonderful chance to sample all of what Latvian cuisine has to offer. The tour is also a great way to experience the markets. Instead of wandering around aimlessly, you are guided through each section of the market so you can understand where to find what you need, what the Latvian traditional delicacies are and the best stalls available. A great way to spend an afternoon in Riga.
After a busy morning and early afternoon of walking it was time for some down time so we headed back to the apartment to relax before our next stop of the day. Tallinas ielas kvartāls was a 30 minute walk from Aparthotel Amella and is a locality in Riga filled with trendy bars, graffiti art and good food. We basked in the sun and enjoyed a few beers before it was time for dinner.
Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs
We had dinner at the Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs, a traditional pub in the heart of Riga's old town with live music from 8:30pm. Here we tried Latvian garlic bread which was a game-changer! Just when you thought this delicious snack couldn't get any better, Latvia take their own twist and make the garlic bread using crispy rye bread and served with garlic aioli - incredible. We then enjoyed some traditional Latvian dishes and enjoyed some live folk music before crawling into bed after a busy old day.
The day started with a scrumptious breakfast at 'This place doesn't need a name." The menu is full of delicious options from poached eggs to pancakes loaded with delicious toppings. If you're in search of a boozy breakfast to set you up for the day, there is also a multiple page menu of fruity and unique cocktails.
The sightseeing ensued and the top sights of Riga include:
After exploring the top sights of Riga it was time to relax and we headed to the Skyline Bar part of the Radisson Blu Spa Hotel in Riga. This bar offers splendid views over the city of Riga and if you're lucky to visit when the sun is shining, the warmth coming through the windows will keep you nice and cosy whilst you enjoy your food and drinks. Many often visit in time for sunset too to watch the sun go down over this beautiful city.
It was time to head home after our whistle stop trip to Riga. I would 100% recommend Riga as a city break suitable for all - couples, friends and family. You could capture the main sights across two days but there is plethora of cafes, bars and restaurants to sample and you could easily extend your trip and try each and every one. We didn't have time to sample many but from research, here are the top choices:
Belgian beer cafe bon vivant
Two more beers
Folkklubs Alla Pagrabs
This place doesn't need a name
Gimlet Nordic bar
Next post: Riga Itinerary