3 days in Riga with my brother

Riga Travel Blog

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Looking at flight routes has become a big procrastination technique at work. Assigments need to be marked? I'm perusing flights to Cape Verde. Attendance needs to be updated? I'm researching the many intriguing ways to get from Edinburgh to Maputo. It was during a bout of procrastination that I spotted Air Baltic's route to Tbilisi from Riga, and it wasn't too long after that I began connecting direct flights from Edinburgh to Riga? What a pity! I'll have to fly to Cork, then...from Glasgow...and then bus to Dublin and fly to Riga from there! Made total sense to me, at least. It made less sense once I'd booked it, then went back to Air Baltic's website to find that their Tbilisi flight is not every day, costs quite a lot, and lands at 4 in the morning. that sort of explains the next set of flights...but that's jumping ahead.

Anyway, Riga. Having visited the other Baltic capitals, Tallinn and Vilnius, in the past year with my brother, he didn't take too much persuading to come and explore Riga for a few days. Landing within ten minutes of each other, we jumped in a taxi from the airport and pulled up twenty minutes later outside the Hotel Albert just in time for last orders at the rooftop bar. Now swanky hotels like this aren't my usual style, but there was a good deal on and I was splitting the cost with my brother, so exceptions can be made sometimes! The rooftop bar was busy with a group of international twentysomethings on some sort of team building course and middle aged businessmen with surprisingly younger female "friends", so we fitted right in.

The views from the precarious looking balcony were stunning though, over the rooftops of Riga's Art Nouveau district towards the old town. 

I was a bit apprehensive of visiting Riga beforehand. Tales of drunken stag parties taking over the old town had put me off for several years. I'd read about the same phenomenon in Tallinn, but the reality was quite different (OK, it was -20 degrees when we visited, but still...), and Vilnius had been very quiet too...maybe Riga would buck the trend, it being a sunny weekend in July? 

The old town is where tourists, I think, are expected to spend most of their time, so that's where we headed first. It was as pretty as I was expecting. Cobbled squares, twisty narrow lanes, colourful old houses, tall church spires and a castle at one end, it was, like many medieval old towns, stuffed with cafes and bars and tour groups.

It's also quite narrow, so rather than getting hopelessly lost in a medieval labrynth, we kept finding ourselves either in one of the canalside gardens which encircle the old town, or by the busy road separating it from the Daugava River. 

After a coffee in one of Old Riga's many squares, we crossed the railway tracks to the south and explored the Maskavas district. Directly behind the station are some of Riga's most distinctive buildings, a series of hangars formerly used to house zeppelins in the first world war. The zeppelins are long gone, replaced by a huge market filling all the hangars and the surrounding streets.

I love walking around markets and wish I was better at taking photos in them. My brother, on the other hand, is less keen. Luckily for him, another attraction lay a short walk away in the shape of the Academy of Sciences. Looking like a shorter version of Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science, Riga's academy also offers spectacular views from its observation deck on the top floor. Unlike Warsaw's palace though, here it was a much better kept secret, with no sign on the outside that tourists can enter...but enter we did, and a no nonsense lady behind a counter slammed down our tickets for the lift. 

to be continued...

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photo by: sarahthevegasbride