On a work trip last year, we had an afternoon break and decided to explore Riga. It was my first time in the country so I didn’t really know what to expect. Luckily we had a tour guide that showed us some of the best places to check out given our short time frame. Here are some snaps (not the best I’ll admit…they were taken on my iPhone) of our afternoon in Latvia!
The first stop was The Freedom Monument. It’s located in the heart of Riga and is the symbol of Latvia. 42 metres tall, it is inscribed with the words “Tēvzemei un Brīvībai” (For Fatherland and Freedom) and is dedicated to the Latvian heroes in the fight for freedom from 1918-1920. At the top is a woman holding three golden stars above her head which symbolizes the provinces of Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Latgale.
Next stop was Liva Laukums (Livu Square), one of the two largest squares in Riga. Its located on the edge of the old town of Riga, which I highly recommend you take a walk through, and has a little market with stalls set up to buy crafts, tourist knick knacks and other kinds of local items.
We also checked out Doma Laukums which is said to be the main tourist attraction in Riga for dining, shopping and their Cathedral. The architecture is beautiful in this area, especially if you’ve got a thing for art nouveau style architecture.
One thing I have learned from travelling abroad is that if you bring back some chocolate it’s a sure hit. Laima is the largest chocolatier in Latvia, named after the feminine deity of fate in Latvian mythology (very cool) and their HQ is in Riga. So, be sure to pick up some Laima to take home. There’s also a Laima Chocolate Museum that we didn’t have a chance to visit, so if you’ve got the time it might be fun to check out. If you need to pick some chocolate up last minute they also sell it at the airport!
For me, one of the most impressive buildings I have seen in all my travels are the House of the Blackheads. Amazingly built in 1334, I just loved the ornate design and colours of these buildings.
Having a tour guide was great – she was so passionate about sharing stories about Latvian people and the country’s history. The Latvian Rifleman Monument was the last stop on our tour. This red granite statue is located in the centre of Old Riga and we were told is controversial as it was originally dedicated to the Latvian Red Riflemen, some of whom became Lenin’s personal bodyguards! Today, some view the monument as a symbol of the old communist system and would prefer to see it go while others see it as a tribute and honour to Latvians who fought in the early years of WWI.
If you are planning a trip to Europe, try to make a stop to Riga. Wonderful city with great history. Wish I had more time to experience it!