|Philharmonic Square in surprisingly charming Riga!|
First (and second) impressions of RigaWhen I arrived in Riga, I'd just come on a rather early morning bus from Tartu in Estonia, and I have to say I'd arrived a little concerned. After the comparative wealth of Estonia, Latvia had already appeared a rather poor cousin - there seemed to be a lot more Soviet influence, a road quality that changed for the worse right at the border and too many sad-looking apartment blocks ringing the city.
But as I've learnt many a time, first impressions are often totally wrong. Once I got into the Old Town of Riga, my opinions changed entirely. The Old Town is beautifully preserved, full of impressive architecture and is easy to get around. Sitting on the Daugava River gives Riga another attractive advantage and looking down over the city makes for a gorgeous view.
|View over Riga from St Peter's church (love the coloured roofs!)|
Things to do in Riga
Wandering around the Riga Old Town is also a must. At the time I had a guidebook with an informative walking tour and I guess it was similar to this In Your Pocket walking tour - I certainly recognise most of its highlights. It starts at the hard-to-miss Freedom Monument and includes some of my favourite Riga buildings - the House of the Blackheads, Riga Castle, St John's Church and St Peter's church - and like me, highly recommends going to the top of St Peter's to get fantastic views over Riga.
|View of Riga Castle from Daugava River cruise|
On my final day in Riga I actually got out of there (I do love the countryside, remember!) and headed to Sigulda in the Gauja Valley. A day out with a bit of walking (and a cable car ride) led me past the new and old Sigulda Castles, the Krimulda Castle and the Turaida museum reserve, a park full of statues, a church and the partially restored Turaida Castle. All of this was less than an hour from Riga by train so it was a perfect day trip.
|View from tower of Turaida Castle|
To sum up: Riga's a lovely city, probably underrated by most people, and I highly recommend it!