Riga has plenty to offer everyone on a short city break
I have just returned from a 3 night short break in the Latvian capital, Riga, and feel inspired to share a few thoughts and memories of this delightful city. I didn’t know quite what to expect from a visit to Riga, even though the Baltic capitals have become increasingly popular with Cities Direct customers and I had done some “homework” in advance of the trip.
I travelled as part of a group of ten friends, who try to take at least one European city break holiday every year. No one had previously been to Latvia though, so it was with some excitement that we embarked on our holiday. We flew with Ryanair from East Midlands to Riga. Due to a tail wind the flight took only 2 hours 20 minutes and almost before we knew it we had landed and were being whisked by taxi to our hotel in the city centre. The journey from the airport only took around 20 minutes. Our rooms at the Hotel Monika Centrum were ready for us so we were able to unpack a few things and head out to find some lunch.
The 4 star Hotel Monika Centrum opened as a hotel in 2005 in a 19th Century Neo-Gothic building in the Art Nouveau district of the centre. This elegant yet at the same time cosy and comfortable hotel has excellent facilities and also a very relaxed feel. It is set in a quiet area amongst a number of embassies, but you can be in the heart of the old town in just 15 minutes, by walking through the delightful Kronvalda Park.
After lunch we split up to begin our exploration of the old town with its narrow, cobbled streets and attractive squares filled with cafés and bars in a fascinating mix of architectural styles, including Art Nouveau. After wandering around the old town, most of us ended up at St. Peter’s Church, Riga’s tallest medieval building. Fortuitously there was an excellent exhibition of Latvian art taking place in the church. Most of our party then climbed the stairs to the third floor of the tower, and then took the lift to the observation platform from which you can enjoy superb views of Riga.
The highlight of our second day was, for me, our visit to the Central Market. This is one of the largest and oldest markets in Europe with four food pavilions located inside vast converted Zeppelin hangars. Inside and around the outside of the hangars are stalls selling everything from clothes to flowers. My favourites were the amazing colourful food stalls, with one pavilion being dedicated to meat, another fish and another to fruit and vegetables. We couldn’t resist buying some wonderful fresh blueberries to eat straight away.
On our last day we enjoyed a fascinating and informative visit to the Powder Tower, which is thought to have stored gunpowder in Medieval times. (I’ll describe this visit in more detail in another blog). We also made a point of heading to the Town Hall Square to see one of Riga’s most famous sights, The House of the Blackheads, and to a street just off Dome Square, to see the collection of three narrow Medieval buildings known as The Three Brothers.
To sum up, I think I can speak for all our group if I say we thoroughly enjoyed out stay in Riga. It is a beautiful city with a fascinating history and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is considering a short break there.