The Latvian Institute (in collaboration with the Riga 2014 Foundation) recently invited us to come to Riga, to check out its city now that it’s Europe’s Capital of Culture 2014. We had a blast visiting Riga and meeting our locals one and a half years ago, so we were very tempted by the offer.
Our main condition for accepting press trips: we want to be free to write about whatever we want in whatever way. This was not a problem for the Riga Tourist office – so we were ready to start our first press trip to Riga 2014.
Technically we visited Riga twice in the past week! The first “trip”: a Friday afternoon, evening and long night. And a quick Saturday breakfast before hopping on the bus to Tallinn. Our second trip, after returning from Tallinn: a full Monday and a half Tuesday. Altogether just 44 hours.
So: little sleep and lots of walking around from spot to spot. We visited about 30 spots!
We had our welcome in Riga drink on Friday afternoon in Get Smart Cafe. This is where we uploaded the Instagram picture “Guess where we are”. We thought it would be quite a tough one to crack but still some of our followers recognized Riga!
The Andaluzijas Suns, located in the delightful Berg’s bazaar was where we had our first dinner. The fresh quesadillas were on the table within 5 minutes, and tasted like we were in Mexico!
Chomsky is definitely the most alternative bar we visited in Riga. Scruffy arty bars with non dressed up visitors like Chomsky are really our kind of thing (as well as our Spotter Martins‘ – it’s his favorite!). Bar Leningrad, where we had our first beer on Monday, also fits this description. Cool to see these bars popping up in the Nordic countries!
Al Cappucino was where we had our morning cappucino with free wifi. The cappucino is very special (big foam stalagmite!), the wifi is not – we have rarely visited a city with more free wifi spots…
The Esplanāde is the nerve center of the Riga 2014 event. This is where you can buy your tickets, find the programs, browse books and ask all your questions to the helpful Riga 2014 staff. And free wifi in and around the entire park, of course…
Ezitis migla is where we met our Riga Spotters. Unfortunately Martins could not be there (he was in Helsinki, and met our Spotters there!), but to our big surprise our Edinburgh Spotter Fiona happened to be in Riga too and joined the meeting. It was very nice to see everybody again, and hear they are all doing well.
We’ve visited Folk Club Ala three times already (including our 2012 visit). We might be a bit on the old side to like it (most customers are students), but we do! The cheery live folk music is great, they have many good (only Latvian) beers on tap and the bartenders are one of the nicest and most enthusiastic we’ve met.
Makonis is a very cool place to chill out. We had a heavenly chocolate pie filled with coconot with our coffee – one of the best pies ever! As a bonus, they also have some cool designer items for sale. I almost replaced the Riga t-shirt our Spotters gave me in 2012 and wore so many times, but unfortunately they did not have my size!
Otrā Elpa is a very special charity shop where they sell top quality second hand stuff. I found this cool Riga guide book – the smallest I ever saw!
Street Burgers, the first “100% Latvian, 100% organic” burger place is really a hotspot these days, and we understand why: excellent burgers for a reasonable price. Our tip: try the Gourmet burger!
Catching a movie in a special theater on our travels is something we love to do if we have time. Not that we had the time, but we just had to visit the very special Splendid Palace cinema. It’s definitely the most extensively decorated cinema we ever visited.
Another place we had coffee (yes, we’re addicted) was Trusis, a very laid back place with great looking and smelling lunch too (unfortunately we did not have the needed appetite to try it!).
XL Pelmeni, oh XL Pelmeni… THE place to go for a Soviet worker lunch with soup and dumplings. We passed on the very cheap wodka Martins recommends to wash down your meal with…
Unfortunately we left just hours before the opening of the Riga 2014 street art event “Blank canvas“, part of the Riga 2014 programme. If we had studied the program better, we would have stayed another day!
To conclude: Riga is looking as wonderful as always. But because of the many cool events going on as part of Europe Capital of Culture 2014, there are even more reasons to visit Riga now!
Disclaimer: The Latvian Institute (in collaboration with the Riga 2014 Foundation) paid for our accommodation in Riga, and the flight to and from Riga.