I arrived at Riga, Latvia after spending 2 days in Estonia. The trendy hostel I checked into had the most convenient location of being on top of a MacDonald’s. I stopped and rested my feet, had a few nice chat with some travellers, but soon realised that this was a place probably too ‘hippie’ for me. I then made haste to Alberta Iela, a street famous for its art nouveau architecture…
That was the point of time when I first decided on something- I like Riga very very much.
Riga has often been compared to ‘little Paris’, or ‘Paris of the North’. It is a little unfair, for while the city is beautiful, it doesn’t compare to the sheer elegance of the French capital. On the other hand, some of Riga’s architecture are simply stunning and unlike anything I have seen in other European cities (for which I’ve been many). Though in this regard, Barcelona of Spain with its heavy Gaudi influence forms a valid comparison.
From Alberta Iela, I took the suggested route from the Lonely Planet guide for checking out the notable art nouveau buildings. It wasn’t something I would usually do, but I would be damned to miss any of the sights!
The beautiful architecture of Riga extends to its old town, some of which has the most interesting of names (‘three brothers’, ‘cat house’ or the ‘house of the Blackheads’), and each one of them with its own story to tell. The house of the Blackheads is the most notable, with its beautiful gothic exterior facade, though the current building is a replica built from a blueprint after the original was destroyed. It is also famed for being the birth place of the modern practice of decorating Christmas trees during the festive season.
Visitors should, and most likely will also visit the Riga central market, its size said to be the largest in Europe. From fruits to electrical appliances, the market is a huge bazaar that seems to be selling almost anything imaginable. The market is mostly catered to locals, and will therefore offer a slice of what everyday Latvian life is like. The 5 bunkers used to house the main markets were ex-military air plane hangars, which is yet another reason to love the city for its architectural ingenuity!
I spent my remaining Lats on some local baked goods, had a beer, and watched the day go by at 10 am in the morning, whilst waiting for my bus to arrive. I did not know what lies ahead in Vilnius, my next destination; nor did it really matter, for Riga had stolen my heart, and I just wanted to savour those very last moments.