Gorgeous sunshine, incredible parks and architecture, delicious food, and tastes of local culture – what more could you want from a full day in Latvia’s capital city of Riga?
Our morning began with a walking tour of the oldest parts of the city, where we witnessed the centuries of history that can still be seen in the streets, buildings, and ruins in Riga’s center. We explored the remaining portion of a medieval wall from Riga’s time as one of the Hanseatic League’s major ports, and we learned about the nineteenth-century industrial boom that financed the hundreds of Art Nouveau buildings for which Riga is still known.
We made our way over to Riga’s Central Market, a vibrant, lively market from the 1930s set in a series of repurposed German dirigible hangars. There we were treated to a tasting of traditional Latvian food, featuring a bright orange sea buckthorn juice, quail eggs with chia seed caviar, yellow cheese with caraway seeds, and local chocolates. We were also offered bread served in every way you never imagined, including herring on rye, sweet yogurt mixed with dark bread, and kvass, a low-alcohol beverage made from fermented bread and malt.
After lunch on the ship (that none of us had room for), we had three enticing afternoon options: a tour of Riga’s boulevards and gardens via tram, a boat ride through Riga’s canals and former medieval moat, or a specialized tour of the city’s stunning, beautifully preserved Art Nouveau architecture.
These buildings dazzle with their decorations, which feature expressive statues of Greek and Egyptian gods, geometric and floral ornaments, and fluid whiplash curves. Riga has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world, with over a third of the city center’s architecture constructed in this style. We dove deep into an exploration of these buildings on Strelnieku and Alberta Streets, then crossed the River Daugava to see another prominent aspect of Riga’s environment––wooden houses constructed in a range of beautiful architectural styles.
Finally, to prepare for our visit to Tallinn tomorrow, we ended the day with a viewing of The Singing Revolution, a powerful documentary about Estonia’s nonviolent protest through song which helped them win their struggle for freedom from Soviet occupation.