As far as I’m living and working in Vilnius when I thought about a free weekend to spend in vacations certainly my first ideas go to neighbouring capitals of the Baltic States. Thus, that I set about organizing a trip to Riga.
As a foreigners, all I knew before we the departure over this city was limited to an old town in perfect baroque style and slightly more so with the desire to discover this city, I left.
Immediately the first sensation I felt was that of a vibrant European capital. The narrow streets of the historical centre with its colourful buildings have satisfied my expectations. If the weather is nice the best way to sightseeing is to get lost in the alleys of what might seem a maze but in which you can encounter the Dome, the Saint Peter cathedral, the House of the Cat and those of Black Heads and the Three Brothers, all buildings that revolve around the Town Hall Square, the real heart of art and architecture of the city. Still in the centre can not be missed the Castle which now houses the Latvian President and not far from there the Powder Tower, a fortification walls dating back to the XIV century and still virtually intact.
Leaving behind the old town and moving along one of the main arteries of the city it takes you to the foot of a large obelisk that was built just like effigy of freedom hardly conquered and which stands in a marvellous little park around the canal which also houses the Palace of National Opera. Heading north you reach the Esplanade, which is the largest Orthodox church in the city and at a glance it looks like a Montmartre’s miniature. In this area, which is the commercial centre of the city, you can climb even up to a large shopping centre’s rooftop to admire the view of the whole city that can capture you with its unique roofs and the high churches’ tips. Always in the neighbourhood you can visit the old KGB palace where during the years of Soviet rule were tortured and imprisoned politic dissidents and opponents of the regime. Currently it is in fact present a memorial museum.
From this point on it opens two characteristic neighbourhoods one that is definitely the most underground with its graffiti and street art, inside which you can find the most beautiful monumental cemeteries of the area, and the other one is the Art Nouveau district with its amazing colourful buildings.
In the south area, close to the river from which you can enjoy marvellous sunsets, beyond the typical general market we enter into the unmistakable Russian or Soviet neighbourhood characterized by its monotonous architecture that leaves no room for interpretation but extremely fascinating, anyway. Continuing the walk in this area you can visit the Jewish Ghetto, one of the most authentic in the all Europe. Here in front of the ancient synagogue’s ruins was recently built a commemorate monument dedicated to the victims of this dark phase in the history of our continent.
Riga is multicultural and open-minded city, full of characteristic pubs, clubs and bars where you can have a rest and try some home-made cake or traditional herbal balsam, especially when the season doesn’t allows anymore long walks outdoors. This city that does not even remotely borders the chaos of the major European megalopolis can be enjoyed strolling around.
Therefore, a visit is absolutely recommended!