If you're looking for the best things to do in Riga, you'll find them here.
Visit the KGB museum: The Corner House between Brīvības Street and Stabu Street.
A man waited, then spoke.
“If you look this way, at the glittering chandelier and the gold edged frames, the beautiful corridor. You see what communism looked like.
“At street level. What it was supposed to do.
“And if you follow me beyond this door, you will come to learn the reality.”
We were standing in the former KGB Headquarters in Riga, Latvia, the pocket-sized country in the middle of the three Baltic States.
And already the place was surprising me.
Years ago, as you may or may not remember, I travelled from Istanbul to Berlin on the #IronRoute, zig-zagging across the former Iron Curtain in a bid to better understand what had happened in my childhood when the wall came down. I wanted to try to understand what the future would hold as well.
Yet my visit to Riga seemed to expand that dynamic range of memory and experience.
The lows seemed lower, as the blood-splattered prison cells grew smaller and darker and more and more terrifying the further into the building we went.
But the highs of Riga seemed brighter: through its food, its architecture, its music and the warm welcome of its people.
Relish getting lost in the side streets of the old city centre and look out for the tradition of the cat on the roof…
Riga’s medieval town centre glistened in the morning sunlight like a child’s box of treasure: cobbled streets with pale pink and blue facades, rough-slated spires and live music from stringed instruments played by lively arms in blooming blouses.
Attend an organ recital at the Dome Cathedral
A twenty minute organ recital at Riga’s Dome Cathedral cemented the spirit of Riga’s heyday: first as part of the Hanseatic League and then as a prosperous port – and part – of Sweden. A stroll further out revealed Riga’s other high value card: its art nouveau.
Head back to the glamorous past at the Art Nouveau Museum (and follow that up with a tour afterwards.)
The World Heritage Centre describes Riga as having the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe, and indeed the whole historic centre of the city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For those new to the subject (ahem, like me) you can visit a museum on the subject, complete with interior decoration to show what daily life was like and some period costumes so that you can’t take yourself too seriously:
Visit the Nativity of Christ Cathedral, known as “the Orthodox Church.”
Eat at some of the best restaurants in Riga.
Head to this post for information on dining out in Riga, including my favourite restaurants and dishes.
Take in the city skyline from the aptly named Skyline Bar.
Riga is a city on the up, but it’s also a place where the past is not so far away.
And it’s a past that made me stop and think. More than I have written about today.
It made me feel grateful.
And it let me enjoy.
Cheers Riga! To your good health,
My travel to Latvia came about as part of a collaboration between iAmbassador and Latvian Tourism Development Agency with the support of the European Union Regional Development Fund. As ever, as always, I keep the right to write what I like.
And, as a special shout-out, I’d love to highlight the Grand Palace Hotel. Beautiful place, wonderful service, highly recommended. Enjoy!
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