Going Out & Sightseeing in Riga
The Freedom Monument.
One of Riga's most recognizable
landmarks, the freedom monument was erected in 1935, during one of Latvia's brief periods of independence in the 20th Century. Designed by architects Karlis Zale and Ernests Stalbergs, the inscription on the front reads "For the Fatherland and Freedom". It was also a focal point of celebrations when Latvia won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Directions: It's pretty hard to miss, with pride of place on Brivibas Boulevard, near the intersection with Raina Boulevard.
St Peter's Church.
Although this Lutheran church was originally built in 1209, the roof and tower were more or less destroyed during World War II and restored only in 1973. The inside of St Peter's Church is now a devoted museum with artworks of limited interest. Likewise, the interior is nothing
special and can be seen by standing outside the museum and looking in. But, then, at 0.5 Lats ($0.90) entry for adults and 0.1 Lats ($0.18) for students, it wouldn't hurt to go in either.
The metal steeple on top of St Peter's is 125 meters high and the church is probably most worth visiting to take the lift up to the lookout in the tower. The Riga skyline might not be overly impressive but it's always good to check out a city from above, if for no other reason than to help you get your bearings a bit. And you won't believe how high this lookout actually is when looking from the ground up. The lookout offers great views of the Old Town and all the major sights within it, as well as the Daugava River and some of Riga's outlying areas. Entry to the tower costs 2 Lats ($3.60).
Dircetions: Skarnu St, #19. As the tallest structure around, it's pretty hard to miss.
Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (1940-1991).
If you're in Riga on transit to Russia or visiting from Russia you shouldn't
miss this opportunity to find out just how terrible the Soviets were in Latvian eyes. The museum charts the history of Latvia in the 20th Century, covering its brief independence from the end of World War I, the first Soviet occupation (1940-41), the German occupation (1941-45) and the second Soviet Occupation (1945-91). The exhibits aren't really awe-inspiring but the information is definitely enlightening, so it's worth walking around and just reading the chronological account of events. It will give you a better understanding of the recent history of the Baltic states and some of the tension that exists between them and Russia today.
Directions: Strelnieku Laukams (Square), #1. Tel: +(371) 721-2715. Website: www.occupationmuseum.lv. Open May-September: 11:00-18:00, October-April: 11:00-17:00. Closed Mondays. Entrance is free but donations are accepted.
The largest of Riga's many
old churches, the building of the Lutheran Dome Cathedral began in 1211. The interior of this predominantly Gothic cathedral is not as spectacular as many churches in Europe but its age compensates for this. It does boast some quite stunning stained glass windows and a truly massive pipe organ.
Directions: The Dome Cathedral dominates Doma Laukams (Square).
St Jacob's Church.
The most prominent Catholic
church in the Old Town, St Jacob's is mainly of interest due to its age - it dates back to 1225. It also has the only remaining Gothic spire in Riga. These spires used to adorn all medieval churches in the city.
Directions: Klostera St, #2. Open 7:00-19:00. In the north-western part of the Old Town. The streets in this area are a great place for a stroll. They aren't as crowded as other parts of the Old Town and there are many narrow alleys and interesting buildings.
The Three Brothers.
Just near St Jacobs Church is
the interesting architectural ensemble known as "The Three Brothers". They are some of the oldest preserved dwellings in Riga. The green one is the most recent, built in the late 17th Century. The yellow brother proudly displays its date of birth as 1646, while the white one dates from the late 15th Century and is the oldest stone building in Riga. A stroll into the courtyards of these buildings is well worthwhile.
Directions: Situated at #17, #19 and #21 Maza Pils Street.
Probably Riga's most renowned and popular dance club, Club Essential is an impressive place: well-designed, modern, sleek and full of
lots of fashionable people and eye candy. There are two dance floors and lots of bars. The club has a really cool, party-like atmosphere in that it seems so carefree and fun. They even had a magician on stage at one point. Thursday is R&B night (which is actually rock-n-roll with a few hip-hop samples thrown in) while Friday and Sunday are devoted to dance music. Saturday is event night. There is no overbearing security and the club is mainly free from pretense, although they do delay the opening time to ensure there is always a respectable queue at the door. It's a bit pricey by Riga's standards with beers and spirits costing about $5.60 and cocktails about $7.50. Cover starts at about $5 depending on the night. Some girl complained about me smoking next to her - how did Eastern Europe become so irritatingly Western?
Adress: Skolas St, #2. Tel: +(371) 781-2241. Website: www.essential.lv. Open Thurs: 23:00-6:00, Fri-Sat: 23:00-8:00, Sun: 23:00-5:00.
A cool, little, basement-level live music venue that, like most cool,
little, basement-level live music venues, mainly hosts alternative and hard rock acts. Unlike most of Riga's clubs, Depo has a fairly low foreigner factor and the staff don't speak much English. The rather subdued crowd largely stands and watches - dancing is not big. There is a small DJ bar across from the live music hall and another quiet bar upstairs. Drinks are quite cheap with beer costing $2.50, spirits about $3 and cocktails just $3.70. The cover charge is around $5.50 when there is a local act playing. Depo is a great place to sample Latvia's music scene. The club also hosts foreign acts quite regularly.
Address: Valnu St, #32. Tel: +(371) 722-0114. Website: www.klubsdepo.lv.
Club Eleven Thirteen.
Club Eleven Thirteen is a two storey affair with a bar and
restaurant upstairs while the downstairs functions as a club from Wednesday to Saturday. Every Thursday is Caribbean night while Fridays and Saturdays have some sort of house music playing. Often plays host to international DJs, albeit ones of little fame. The bar service is terribly slow with often just one bartender working while several other staff stand around waiting for empty glasses to clear away. The employees can be difficult as well. Otherwise Club Eleven Thirteen is a friendly, fresh and modern-looking place. It attracts a lot of foreigners due to its very central location. Beer costs $3.70 while spirits are around $5.50-$6. There's no cover charge unless there's an event on in which case you will pay about $7.50 to get in.
Address: Grecinieku St, #11a. Tel: +(371) 722-5481. Website: www.c1113.lv. Club open Sun-Tues: 9:00-2:00, Wed-Sat: 9:00-6:00.
Paddy Whelan's Irish Pub.
There are quite a few Irish and English pubs in Riga,
all of which are popular with tourists and also have a decent number of local clientele. Paddy Whelan's was the first Irish pub in town and remains one of the most popular. It boasts 18 beers on tap for reasonable prices - a Guinness goes for about $2.80. Food is also quite cheap with a decent meal costing between $5 and $10. The pub also has Sky Sports for those who can't miss a match while traveling and free WiFi access. When the weather's good the courtyard and terrace on the street are nice spots for a drink. Gets very busy in the early evening from Thursday to Saturday.
Address: Grecinieku St, # 4. Tel: +(371) 721-0249. Open Sun-Thurs: 12:00-1:00, Fri-Sat: 12:00-3:00.
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