A non-stop Latvia itinerary exploring the city of Riga, medieval castles, the Baltic coast, and idyllic towns.
- + 19
Europe10 days / June - July 2019
Highs & Lows
Vecrīga is a beautiful place to explore
It was the middle of summer yet chilly every single day
This was a trip I took with my partner to his home country, where we were shown around by his family. The time was split between the capital of Riga and the western countryside, with a day trip to a neighboring town almost every day. Also included are stops in Lithuania and Iceland.
Q & A
What would you have changed?
My partner wanted to show me around the coastal city of Ventspils, but we didn't have the time.
Anything go wrong during the trip?
We had a weird experience booking the Airbnb in Old Riga and would not stay with that host again. We didn't feel very comfortable leaving our things in the living areas while we were out so we locked our belongings in the bedroom. We had chosen one of the cheapest Airbnb's so I would say it's worth it to spend a few more dollars a night if you're going through them.
How was the food?
Latvian food shares many similarities with its surrounding countries. Chicken karbonāde (similar to schnitzel) and sausages are very popular. Dill is a common herb seasoning, and boiled potatoes are a common side. You may also encounter a variety of "salads," but they're closer in appearance to potato or egg salads than the leafy-green kind. (When I was there, I tried a salmon salad and another mysterious dish that was only described to me as "cheese salad.") For those who imbibe, there are two alcoholic drinks to try in Latvia: kvass and Black Balsam. Kvass is a popular type of beer enjoyed throughout much of northeastern Europe, while Black Balsam is a liqueur that originated in Riga. Check out the Black Magic Bar in Old Riga (Vecrīga) to enjoy cocktails and chocolates made from the drink. If you're consuming it straight, skip the original and go for their blackcurrant flavor. Apsara is a charming tea house on the river in Riga. You order on the ground level and then take a spiral staircase up to lounge on cushions and enjoy 360-degree views of the park. In Sigulda, Mr. Biskvits is the cafe to try....Read More
What tips would you give a friend?
Russian speakers can get by in Latvia easily, but it’s not impossible for English speakers to navigate the country either. Most younger Latvians are fluent in English, while older generations are fluent in Russian. High-tourist places may have English translations available, and in cities like Riga, you are very likely to find someone who speaks English and can help you with things like ordering off a menu, or buying a train ticket. (Usually, it's the person helping you with the service.)
Pack a good jacket! I had lightweight jackets only and ended up borrowing from kind family members the whole time. For our luggage, we thought we could get by with a carry-on and a personal bag, but we ended up having to check our carry-ons nearly every flight due to various airline rules. We had several flights both there and back so it was a pain to deal with every time. Always double check the bag limits on every single flight!
Bolt is the rideshare app used in Latvia, but Uber may also be available there now as well. For traveling around Riga, a bus ticket is inexpensive, and it's nice to take the train into one of the neighboring cities.
Latvia is beautiful in the summertime, and being so far north the days are long. You can still see daylight at 11:30pm and the sun will start rising before 4am. Knowing this, I can only imagine how harsh and dark the winters there are. I'd only recommend traveling there in summer (but still...bring that jacket).
We were fortunate to stay with family for most of the trip; the two Airbnb reservations we made in Old Riga and Iceland were night and day in comparison to each other.