4 days in Riga, Latvia – August 2015
largest city and capital of Latvia
The river Daugava has been a trade route since antiquity, part of the Vikings’ Dvina-Dnieper navigation route to Byzantium. A sheltered natural harbour 15 km upriver from the mouth of the Daugava — the site of today’s Riga — has been recorded, as Duna Urbs, as early as the 2nd century. It was settled by the Livs, an ancient Finnic tribe.
Riga began to develop as a centre of Viking trade during the early Middle Ages. Riga’s inhabitants occupied themselves mainly with fishing, animal husbandry, and trading, later developing crafts (in bone, wood, amber, and iron).
Riga was founded in 1201 by Albert of Bremen as a port city.
Latvian Academy of Sciences
This building was the first that took the attention of my eyes, I remembered this building from my first holiday in the Baltic States in 2006. This was a journey to three countries: Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia.
National Library of Latvia
Impressive architecture and placement for this one. It looks like a pyramid-shaped building and it stands close to the river Daugava, but you have to cross the river to access it and walk away from the city centre.
Victory Memorial to Soviet Army
Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders. Erected in 1985 to commemorate the Soviet Army’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. It consists of a 79 meter tall obelisk and two groups of sculptures.
A very quiet place, just perfect for wandering around and take some pictures.
Where did I stay?
I stayed at the Rixwell Irina Hotel and must say it was really nice. I booked it beforehand via booking.com to make my city trip easier. This was the first time I used that website and I really liked it. So easy and informative!
Located just 500 metres away from the old city centre, it is reachable by foot or public transport. It’s just across the Riga railway station. The hotel even features a sauna and steam bath, but at the time I didn’t know about it and I just wanted to explore the city.
Architecture of Riga
The medieval historical centre of Riga was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with the Riga Central Market in 1998. Especially noted for its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture and 19th century wooden architecture.
Medieval Old Riga is famous for its romantic touch and it consists of many bars and shops where you can hang out for days or even spend a full week there. All without getting bored and not knowing where to go next.
Riga has even its own zoo, a small one but it has a huge lake at its back yard. And a massive forest nearby gives the people an extra step into the beautiful nature of Latvia. Beware of many mosquitoes during the periods of summer, they can be very annoying sometimes.
I spend half a day to visit this zoo and to explore the surrounding forest and lake, a tram took me to the front of the zoo and my legs carried me back home again.
Riverside of Riga
The view is just marvellous, you can do almost anything on this side of town. Cycling, walking, resting, eating a snack or enjoying the view to name just a few. In fact, I walked here for many hours to enjoy the beautiful river and my dinner was most of the time sitting on a bench and waiting for the sunset to come. What needs a young man even more?
History of trams in Riga
Trams have been in operation in Riga longer than any other mode of public transport, with the first horse-drawn trams entering service in 1882. In 1900 it was agreed that a number of electric tram lines would be built in the city, with the first electric trams starting operation in 1901. Tram construction continued until the outbreak of World War I. Operation of the tramways remained largely unchanged until 1918 and the emergence for the first time of Latvia as an independent nation, when a Belgian company took over. This period of private ownership was deemed a failure, and the city authorities regained control of the tram network in 1931. World War II devastated Riga’s public transport system, and it was gradually re-built to its current level.
In 2002, Rīgas Vagonbūves Rūpnīca signed an agreement with the Mayor of Riga which would see the company replace the trams in Riga once their period of operation ended in 2010. The new trams would have offered enhanced comfort and safety, as well as would be far quieter than the city’s current fleet of elderly ČKD Tatra units.
According to RVR they would have featured bright and spacious interiors and would have been 20-30% more power efficient than their predecessors. The new units were expected to be produced at a rate of 15-20 per year and would have resulted in a gradual phasing out of the Tatra tramcars. Instead, 20 Škoda 15 T trams were built for Riga and entered service in spring 2010.
Another impression of Riga is the railroad at the east of the city, mostly unseen by tourists who rather stay at the old city centre than having the desire to explore even further. I am an urban explorer, so I see usually things a little different. And as I’m still alone I don’t have fun at or even a museum.
I’d rather go out and see some amazing things than hanging around at a local bar and drink ice tea.
After spending 4 days in this awesome city, I saw a lot of things already, but far from everything. I didn’t go for a swim in the nearby Baltic Sea, I didn’t bought anything from the Riga Central Market and I didn’t do any museum, but I stretched my legs instead and had a good walk in and around the city. Explore-minded person with an extra heart for architecture and everything else.
» Written by Alan who goes under the name of twin-rhino | Published on August 17, 2015