My recent visit to Riga could be summed up by three Bs- beer, boys and bullets. I was near the end of a long trip, preparing to return home and go back to the daily grind of work, and definitely let my hair way, way, way down. However, don’t think my hedonism got in the way of my deep-rooted desire to discover the city!
First, you need to arrive in style. In the Baltics, that means taking a Lux Express coach. Particularly, be on the lookout for Lux Express Lounge buses. On these luxury liners there is only one deep-reclining leather seat on each side of the aisle. You’ll also have a counter beside you on which to perch the free snacks, personal entertainment centers in the seatback and a free onboard coffee machine (which is also available on regular Lux Express buses). Worth every penny.
Riga’s Old Town is very small and can easily be explored in a day. Luckily there is also an Alternative Walking Tour, departing daily and taking you beyond the pastel-colored buildings and Art Nouveau facades to the nitty-gritty of the city.
You’ll get to see crumbling homes, monolithic buildings, converted factories and even smoked fish filets! My guide even let us stop at the train station to pee! (You laugh, but this is seriously overlooked on most walking tours!) While the tour is technically free, the guide works for tips. Don’t be a jerk.
I was pretty impressed with the
alcohol food in Riga. People will inevitably recommend that you dine at Lido at least once, and I agree! Heck, I even heard about this epic buffet back in Canada, before I even left for my trip. Lido has a number of locations, including one in the city center and a large “complex” a few kilometers outside the center. Inside, there is a self-service salad bar and cold buffet, along with a full-service hot buffet. The eagle-eyed staff at the cash register will quickly tally everything on your tray and charge you accordingly.
My meal above includes roasted potatoes alongside a huge vegetable saute, plus a cheese-filled “pancake” and yogurt-dill dipping sauce. The cost for a meal like this would only be about three euro, and even if you add in meat it won’t cost much more. With prices like these, it’s easy to sample a large variety of Latvian cuisine at Lido!
And finally, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Jurmala, part of the “Baltic Riviera”. Easily accessed by commuter train from central Riga, this resort offers icy-cold beaches, bizarre Russian restaurants and sketchy Soviet spa treatments at rock-bottom prices.
For about thirty euro I was treated to a full-body salt scrub followed by a forty-five minute nap in some kind of giant, wet hamburger capsule (see illustration). I emerged with baby-soft skin and then headed to the medically-disproven salt chamber for yet another forty-five minute nap during which microscopic salt crystals supposedly made their way through my respiratory system and cured all my breathing woes.
Yeah, yeah… there’s other stuff in Riga too. Black balsam shots come to mind, as do AK-47 shots. And there are some pretty darn pretty buildings. The Baltic countries are pretty cool, and of the three capital cities Riga turned out to be my favorite. So go!
Wallpaper* City Guide Riga is the guidebook of choice for hipsters who are too cool to carry the Lonely Planet around with them as they tour Riga, Latvia. If you’re uncool like me, just bring the Lonely Planet Estonia Latvia & Lithuania.