JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ANITA SANE FROM RIGA, LATVIA!
Anita is a part-time traveler, passionate photographer and a mature career woman traveling mostly solo for more than 10 years. She has visited 53 countries mainly in Europe and Asia. She is a skilled travel planner planning and executing her travels by herself. Based in Riga, Latvia, Anita is blogging in English so her main audience is English speaking people in different countries. Anita holds MBA degree from Riga Business School. The Sane Travel founded in 2015 is all about giving inspiration for readers’ own journeys, no matter how big or small. The aim of the blog is to give readers confidence in their ability to travel solo and independently. Every post is filled with practical information and stunning photos for ideas for readers’ future travels.
Riga is the capital city of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltic States. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site of cobblestone paths and breathtaking views of river Daugava.
Riga’s jugendstil architecture is renowned as the best collection of buildings from the turn of the 20th Century in the world. Set on the Baltic sea, this city is a perfect blend of art noveau architectural style and hip youngster vibes. It is also Europe’s Wifi capital with almost 1,000 spots to get online for free.
When is the best time to visit Riga?
I would recommend visiting Riga in spring, like late April and May. I would say it is a shoulder season when flowers are blossoming in parks of the city, the sky is bright blue and the grass is bright green. There are not so many tourists around and you can get cheaper accommodation rates. The same might be true when you visit Riga in June, and there’s also a chance to enjoy one of the most popular National Midsummer holiday Ligo&Jani on June 23 and 24.
October too is a great time to come to Riga because of colorful autumn leaves and mild temperatures. Winter might be quite cold with snow and temperatures dropping to minus 20 degrees Celsius sometimes. Even July and August is nice in Riga, it might get quite busy in the city and accommodation prices are higher because of that.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Riga?
Riga can be quite congested during peak hours and parking is not cheap in the city center. Most popular sightseeing places are doable on foot and by public transport. The most convenient mode of public transport in my opinion is the tram. It is least affected by traffic jams, and the line that is especially convenient is number one, crossing the entire city from Northeast to Southwest. Minibuses are quite quick if you need to go to places where trams are not available. Riga also has regular city buses and trolleybuses so you have quite a big choice of public transportation.
You can get from the airport to the city center by bus 22 or minibuses. Taxify app is quite popular and the rates are cheaper than for a taxi. Uber does not operate in Riga.
What are the top three must visit places in Riga?
Riga is the world capital of Art Nouveau architecture style that was popular at the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century. Riga has about 800 buildings representing it, so visiting Alberta Street would allow you to catch a glimpse of this decorative and rich style of architecture. Lined with classic art nouveau buildings with unique and wonderful facades, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a delight for the eye.
My second choice is the Statue of Liberty in the city centre. It’s considered as a symbol of the long years of fighting for freedom and independence of the country. It was built to honour soldiers killed during the Latvian Independence. The monument itself is well placed, on a wide street beside a public park, at a point where the old city starts to give way to the new.
The third is Doma Cathedral, the spiritual heart of the city. It is almost the same age as the city itself. Its construction begun in 1211 and the architecture of building has elements of Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque styles and even some traits of Art Nouveau architecture. The organ of the Cathedral was built in 1884 and is still recognised as being of the finest organs in the world so don’t miss a concert or at least a short demonstration of instrument play there.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Riga?
I would recommend three day trips.
Jurmala beach resort town is the closest one with sandy beach and pine trees wood. It is located about 30 minutes from Riga by train. It’s a must visit for appreciating the wooden architecture of summer houses. There are 103 buildings that are of national importance and nearly 300 of local significance, so if you are interested in architecture, there is more than enough for you to see.
The city of Jūrmala actually consists of a string of small resorts. From west to east, these include Ķemeri, Jaunķemeri, Sloka, Kauguri, Vaivari, Asari, Melluži, Pumpuri, Jaundubulti, Dubulti, Majori, Dzintari, Bulduri and Lielupe.
You can also try beaches in Vecaki and Vakarbulli. Vecaki can be reached from Riga Central Railway Station by catching bus no.24. While Vakarbulli is a blue flag beach with playgrounds and attractions for children, and wooden ramp for people in wheelchairs.
The second day trip is to Sigulda, situated 53 kilometres away from Riga. Sigulda is a must visit in October because of Gauja river valley and autumn foliage. If you want to take a break from the city life then Sigulda’s Gauja National Park will fill you up with charming nature and adventure. When there take a canoe tour in the national park, ride the Baltic’s only cable car or buy a walking stick as a souvenir from the Walking Stick Square. For more things to do there check out these 11 adventurous thrill in Sigulda
The third is to Rundale palace for an exquisite baroque palace of Russian Empire time and a stunning classical garden. It is a well preserved palace in the middle of nowhere with magnificent furniture, ornamental walls and ceilings. The French baroque garden covers 10 hectares and fully retains its original layout designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Riga?
I think the most popular and celebrated holiday is Ligo&Jani in midsummer, particularly June 23 and 24. Even for me it’s a country festival because it originated as an ancient fertility festival celebrated after sowing the crops and before gathering the harvest when Latvians sing, dance, eat and are merry. It’s widely celebrated nowadays in Riga as well. The biggest celebration in Riga is held on the Daugava river bank where there are many stages with musical performances, bonfires and opportunities to sing and dance for all participants.
What is the most loved local food of Riga? Is it a vegetarian friendly city?
Latvia is a relatively young country, but the long history of its territory is marked with German, Swedish, and Russian invasions, so, naturally, traditional Latvian cuisine has a lot of foreign traits. Nevertheless, typical Latvian food has its own individual motifs and is still pretty much “Latvian.” I would like to mention three very Latvian dishes.
The first is for appetizer: vegetable tarts (Sklandrauši). These delicious round tarts come with carrots and/or potatoes filling. The tarts have orange color because of carrots and look a bit like the Sun, and are good for the Easter table. But of course, sklandrauši are so tasty that people don’t wait until Easter comes.
For the main course, try herring with cottage cheese and potatoes (Kartupeļi ar siļķi un biezpienu). Here are three typical Latvian foods combined in one, which makes this dish the ultimate formula of Latvian cuisine.
The third: Layered rye bread dessert (Rupjmaizes Kārtojums). This Latvian delicacy is airy, layered substance made of rye breadcrumbs, whipped cream, and cranberry jam. Sounds simple but this dessert is so good that its second name is Latvian Ambrosia.
Traditionally, Latvians are meat-lovers, so many menus reflect this love of meat.However, the last few years have brought a positive change. It’s now easy for vegetarians to find places to eat out in Riga. Many Riga’s cafes now cater to gourmet vegetarians. Often, vegetarian dishes will feature dishes made of beetroot, goat’s cheese, wild mushrooms, homemade pesto, spinach, barley groats, buckwheat and more mouthwatering goodness.
Where to head for shopping in Riga?
There are many shopping malls in Riga, the most popular of them being Alfa and Spice, with hundreds of shops and a wide choice to satisfy very different tastes and affordability levels.
Galerija Centrs is located in Old Town so it’s accessible on foot. Ridzenes Street market in Galerija Centrs is held every month, during Thursday and Friday of every second week, while in between the markets, the visitors have an opportunity to enjoy art exhibitions.
One of quite special places for shopping is Riga Central market located in the buildings initially used as zeppelin hangars during WW I. It is not only one of the largest marketplaces in Eastern Europe, but also one of the most visited, as up to 100 000 people shop there a day. Riga Central Market is unique not only for its five pavilions for fish, vegetable, gastronomy, dairy and meat but also for its old warehouses Spikeri (from German Spéicher), which have now been turned into a hip arts & entertainment quarter.
Which are the best streets of Riga worthy of taking a stroll on?
I would recommend Alberta Street for Art Nouveau architecture, especially the buildings by architect Michail Eizenstein.
Kalku Street is for a feeling of the Old town.
Kalnciema Street is for wooden architecture and weekend farmers market. Visit herefor more information on Kalnciema.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
I prefer views from the tower of St Peter’s Cathedral with a panorama of the Old Town and the entire city around you.
Having a drink or two at Skyline bar on the 26th floor of Radisson Blu Latvija Hotel is also not a bad idea to have great views.
Would you suggest any shows in Riga to drama, music or art lovers?
I would recommend going to an organ music concert at Riga Dome Cathedral. Riga Opera and Ballet is a great choice too, with great classical and modern opera and ballet performances. In summer time, every day there are concerts and performances at Dzintari concert hall in Jurmala, 30 minutes away from Riga. There are many musical festivals in Riga throughout the year so get updated before your visit.
Street art is not very popular in Riga and few nice pieces are scattered around the city so it’s hard to make a convenient and comprehensive walking tour of them all in one day. One of impressive street art work by Dainis Rudens is an 8×8 metres female portrait at Priezu street 6 made in stencil technique.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Riga?
I use Taxify, for cheaper taxis. No Uber in Latvia. “1188 uzziņas” has Latvian Russian and English version with information about hotels, taxis, shopping, services, restaurants and other facilities in Riga and Latvia. Google Maps works fine for finding public transport to your destination.
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Riga?
Riga is beautiful, safe, quite affordable and less touristy than many other cities in Europe so come and see it before it becomes too busy.
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