Riga: Sleepy Baltic Charm

When I told people I was heading to Riga and Tallinn this summer, the first (and often only) question I got was: why? Which is fair enough, I suppose. Truth be told, I didn’t necessarily have a burning desire to go to either city prior to this trip. However, I was traveling to London, and my goal was to combine that trip with a few new-to-me places in Europe. I’ve been lucky enough to hit many of the typical European spots, so that meant I had to think outside the box a bit. And so, I decided on a few days in Riga, followed by a few in Tallinn.

As it turns out, getting to Riga isn’t necessarily the easiest. I wound up flying from New York to London to Stockholm to Riga (eeeesh!), meaning that I didn’t get to my hotel – the lovely Neiburgs Hotel – until around 9pm. Luckily for me, it stays light in Riga pretty late in the summer time, so I was still able to get THIS view from my hotel room:

I mean . . . pretty incredible, huh? For dinner, I decided to stay close to home, as I was fairly jetlagged. I wound up at the hotel restaurant, and while I generally find hotel restaurants to be iffy propositions, this one was actually great. I enjoyed my entire meal, but the goat cheese tart to finish was the real star (as goat cheese usually is).

The next morning, I set out to explore Riga’s Old Town, which is just filled with stately, grand buildings. I meandered my way toward St. Peter’s church, which has an observation deck with fantastic views of the city. It was windy AF when I visited – I mean seriously gusting – but the views were still great.

After St. Peter’s, I wound my way through more of Old Town’s cobblestone streets, heading toward Bastejkalna Park, a big green space right in the city center. Adjacent to the park is the Opera House, which had beautiful flowers and a fountain in front of it.

After hanging out in the park for a while, I continued on toward the Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral. The inside of the cathedral was absolutely gorgeous, and just packed with colors (aka, right up my alley). I’ve only visited a handful of Russian Orthodox cathedrals (one in Nice and a few in Helsinki), but they’ve all been just gorgeous. Time to start planning a Russia trip, maybe?

For lunch, I made my way to Riit Restaurant, which was super cozy. I had burrata in a pumpkin soup to start and a simple (but colorfully plated) chicken and veggies for my main. Both were quite good!

After lunch, I explored Riga’s Central Market (a huge food hall where I uncharacteristically didn’t really take any pictures), and then continued wandering through Old Town. I loved poking down all the cute little alleyways in particular.

In the evening, I went to Restaurant 3 for dinner. The dishes here were notable for having lots of unique garnishes. Case in point: my dessert, which was white chocolate, sorbet, and caramelized cabbage. It didn’t taste cabbagey, but I still had a bit of a mental block about it.

After dinner, I emerged outside and found myself confronted with THE prettiest golden hour sky (and bear in mind that this golden hour was occurring around 10pm). I can’t adequately describe it and my photos don’t do it justice, but it was just one of those magical moments. Riga, you are kind of a stunner.

While my first full day in Riga was a walking extravaganza, my second was considerably lower key. I started by indulging in the breakfast buffet at my hotel and then made my way to another of the parks dotting Riga’s center. It was really lovely, with a river running through it and so many flowers. I spent the morning wandering the pathways and taking breaks to read on the park’s many benches.

For lunch, I dined at Entresol. Their specialty is “knapas,” aka their version of Latvian tapas. I picked the oyster with rhubarb and pink pepper, the caramelized goat cheese, and the lamb ravioli. For my main, I tried the grilled duck breast with bok choy, caramelized carrots, and cherry sauce. Everything was quite tasty, but as per usual, the oyster was my absolute fave.

After lunch, I wound my way back to my hotel, popping into a few shops along the way to stock up on souvenirs. When I reemerged again in the evening, I was once again delighted by this city’s golden hour glow. That Baltic summer light, man! It’s a beauty.

I wrapped up my time in Riga with dinner at 3 Pavaru (which translates to “3 chefs”). The meal was something of a mixed bag. I loved the bread – they put down a sheet of paper, drizzle a ton of different sauces in an artistic pattern, and then you dip to your heart’s content. My appetizer and main were unremarkable, but things picked back up again with dessert – a honey cake that was seriously delish.

And that was a wrap on Riga! The city was somewhat sleepy for my tastes (I felt like I had exhausted a lot of the sightseeing options on day 1), but it was also really charming. I loved all the flowers – every building was adorned with flower baskets – and I loved that evening light. All in all, a pleasant place to pass a few days.

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