From Tallinn, Estonia, we took a 5 hour bus ride to Riga, the historical capital of Latvia. Here’s why might be charmed into staying a few extra days in the city that’s been dubbed the “Paris of the North.”
1 | It’s the Cultural Hub of the Baltics.
Like Tallinn, the entire city of Riga is an UNESCO heritage site.
You can get 360 degree views of the city from the top of the Academy of Science, €6.
It was originally a Viking settlement before being occupied by a different culture nearly every century (Germans, Poles, Swedes and Russians).
Today, Gothic churches cozy up next to outdoor cafes, modern lounges, and tranquil spas.
Modern mixes with old.
2 | You’ll Be Amazed By The Architecture.
Riga is a cultural mutt and it shows in everything from the Dome Cathedral, it’s more important church, to the Art Nouveau district.
Riga has one of the world’s biggest and best Art Nouveau districts.It also happens to be one of my favorite art history periods, so I’m justifiably biased. #artnerd4lyfe
The period stressed creative freedom and movement and inspiration from nature, hence the incorporation of vines. It was a reaction to the stiff, Victorian era of realism. And while these these buildings may look stoic today, Art Nouveau was innovation at its prime in its heyday.
3 |You’ll Be At Home If You’re A Digital Nomad
While I try to stay away from most things digital when I’m traveling, for a design consultant like myself, I like the option of lingering in an open-air cafes to catch up on work. Riga has the largest number of free WIFI spots per square km in Europe and is surprisingly one of the most and settings like these don’t hurt.
4| You Can Indulge Your Caviar Dreams
Food is good and relatively cheap, compared to other EU countries. A simple breakfast of smoked salmon in tartar sauce and lingonberries was light and awesome.
But for the super cheap, one of the best places you can go for fresh, local goods, is the Central Market. Everything from pickled fish and baked goods to desserts and fresh berries (amazing) are located in and around 5 WWI Zeppelin hangars that have been converted into Riga’s biggest market. Photo Credit: Calvin Sun.
My favorite was the fish market in the last hangar, where I got smoked salmon (ask them to slice it) and caviar for a total of 9 euros. Tuck that in a loaf of just-baked bread (€2) and you’ve got the ballin’ lunch of a queen.
Dave from our group bought a jar of caviar from the market for €25 euros. If you’re wondering about the back story, he decided to bring it out to the club, and later on for a late night snack. #caviardreams
5 | There’s Good Night Life
It’s been called “the second city that never sleeps” (though I think whoever coined that term may have never been to New York). Even on a weeknight, we found restaurants open until midnight and lounges and small clubs raging until 3am. Hearing Miley blast from outdoor patios is a funky juxtaposition to the quiet cobble stone streets of 800-year-old Riga. But that’s what makes this city such a charming mix of the old and new.
It wasn’t until 1991 that Latvia gained its independence so until 1994, people had never seen a McDonald’s. So here we are sitting at the crossroads of history, eating late night Big Macs and leftover caviar from the market in Latvia’s very first fast food joint. I’m still not sure why someone brought a jar of fish eggs to the club, but what did I say about caviar dreams? Anything is possible.