Onceagain, we visit the Baltic islands for our next destination, Riga.Once again, we visit the Baltic islands for our next destination, Riga. As the capital of Latvia, this cultural hub is known for a lot more than just its museums and extravagant concert halls. Being the least-visited country in the Baltic region, you might be wondering why you would want to cruise to Latvia. But much like its neighbours Lithuania and Estonia, these are real hidden gems that a lot of other travellers will be quick to skip for more prominent destinations.
So, whether you are planning to take a cruise towards the end of this year or during next year, here are several reasons why you should ensure Riga is on your itinerary.
One of the city's interesting attractions has to be the iconic three brothers. These long-standing buildings have gained a reputation for showing how the city's architecture has developed through the ages. The white building in 17 Maza Pils Street is the oldest and dates back to the late 15th-century. The exterior is recognisable from its crow-stepped gables and a few early renaissance details. Due to its age, the house had to be restored in 1955-57 by a local architect.
Next door, at 19 Maza Pils Street (Yellow building), is the second-oldest building out of the three with an exterior dating from 1646 and which draws a lot of influence from the Dutch Mannerism movement. Finally, the last house of the three, located in 21 Maza Pils Street (Green building), is a narrow- building that dates back to the 17th century. Fortunately, these unusual buildings are close to the town centre, only being a short walk from the busy central Dome Square and well worth the visit.
Located in the old town, the House of the Blackheads has been a prominent building throughout the city's history. It was first erected in the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild of unmarried merchants, ship owners and foreigners in Riga. Most of the major additions were added during the 17th century, with a wealth of sculptures created by the world-famous workshop of August Volz.
Unfortunately, on June 28th 1941, the building was bombed to ruins by the Germans, with the remains being demolished by the Soviets in 1948. Thanks to private investments, it was reconstructed between 1996 and 1999, returning to its former glory within the city centre.
Riga is the starting (or end) point for the Daugava River that runs through the city, before continuing onto Belarus and then Russia. This river not only opens up plenty of romantic riverside walks, which are perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of city life, but also runs through amazing parks and green spaces that are teeming with flora.
There is also a renowned bridge covered in love locks that runs through the city's main park, much like the ones you would find in Amsterdam or Cologne. During the summertime, you can enjoy picnics in the park, while feeding the ducks on the frozen lake is a great way to spend your time in the winter.
One of the first things you might notice about Riga is its abundance of churches. Overall, there are 34 churches in Riga and, while they might not all be as opulent as one another, there are plenty that are worth investigating. Firstly, Riga Cathedral, built in the 13th century, is considered to have one of the most historic organs in the world. St. Jacob's Catholic Cathedral, along with St. Peter's Church, is the birthplace of the Reformation in Latvia in 1522.
For panoramic views of the city, St. Peter's Church has a stunning observation tower standing at a colossal 72 metres and it only costs €9 to enter. Finally, the Nativity of Christ Cathedral is the largest Orthodox Church in Riga. Apart from being part of the city's history, these Churches are also filled with iconic monuments and beautiful artwork inside.
Even though Latvia is not known for being a foodie destination, it doesn't mean that the country has nothing to offer. Once again, like most other Baltic and Scandinavian countries, rye bread is at the forefront of many dishes. Traditional local ingredients like Jāņi, a sour milk cheese that is usually eaten during the Latvian celebration of the summer solstice, makes this traditional bread into a Latvian speciality.
Being near the mouth of the Western Dvina, Riga has no shortage of fish. The city loves smoked fish, whether it's thick pollock, salmon, cod or trout, you will most likely find it on a Latvian menu. Lastly, the quintessential summer soup, Aukstā Zupa (Cold Beet Soup), is a colourful refreshment made of shaved beetroot, gherkin and yoghurt. This usually comes with a hard-boiled egg and Latvia's most common herb, dill.
If you have been persuaded to pick Riga on your next cruising itinerary, or just want to learn more about what the city has to offer, call us today on 0808 163 7523 or contact us through our website.