I hopped in a taxi on Friday afternoon along with a work mate PC and his missus for a romantic three person get away in Riga. After some bia and a swift pint in the airport I was on the way and did plenty of research by watching movies throughout the 2 and a half hour flight...research is key!
I landed in Riga just after 10, grabbed my bags and jumped into a taxi for the city centre. It was a bit of a unique ride as it was the first taxi I've ever been in that has free wifi...madness! We dropped the 2 guys off at their AirBnb and I continued onto my hotel in the city centre. After a quick spruce up, I headed out on the tiles with the guys. Riga is hipster central. We went from one hipster bar to another with what seemed like an endless group of guys sporting quirky mustaches, no socks and lens-less glasses. We went deeper into the Old Town for a little pub crawl and were delighted to see that there weren't too many stags in town. We eventually found a small club with pop music and hit the dance floor. The locals were so impressed by our moves that at one stage a gay guy came over and shook my hand while complimenting my footwork. "Eh, thanks?!"
Some locals then brought us to another bar where we were promptly rejected for not being Latvian...time to call it a night I think.
I was up at 10am the following day to get some breakfast in the lobby and then go on a hunt for a plug adapter...schoolboy error forgetting one. After strolling around for what seemed like ages, I finally managed to locate one and headed into the Old Town to do some exploring. The Old Town itself is not too big and can mostly be explored on foot. I began at St Peter's church which gives a great view of the city from it's spire and meandered my way down to the local tour bus. The bus was very random indeed and looked like something out of a Sergeant Pepper video. Once aboard I was greeted by Westlife playing for the first 10 minutes of the tour which was pretty immense...and free wifi of course. The tour itself was fun and interesting and went to both sides of the river to really give a good feel for the city. Some of the Communist architecture was particularly impressive.
The tour then dropped me back to St Peter's church and I continued a walking tour of the city, stopping off in Europe's biggest enclosed food market, following the canal and making my way up to the Russian Orthodox church which has an amazing golden roof. There seemed to be a few mad people outside of the church so I held off going in for a gander! After that I popped over to the Radisson hotel and made my way up to the Skyline bar on the 26th floor and offered amazing views of the city. It's the most expensive pint in Riga, but still cheaper than the local in Dublin. After a bite to eat I headed back to the hotel to get a few hours nap as the previous night was catching up with me and I knew it would be much of the same again.
A quick nap and shower later, I made my way back down to the Old Town for some dinner and to meet the guys for a couple...or so. We made a much better attempt at the bar crawl than the previous night and made our way across the Old Town, stopping in at 7 or so establishments on the way. One of the many highlights of the first bar was a local offering us a bag of drugs with our pint if we'd like. "Cheers!".
They often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that was very much the case when we stopped in the Cinema Bar located off the main street. It was essentially a down and out bar that hadn't seen anyone from Western Europe in a few years. But once Justin Beiber was put on the jukebox all that changed. Latvian men that were passed out in the corner were all of a sudden up on their feet asking was it too late now to say sorry. The craic was had.
Our last stop off was to one of the bigger bars in the Old Town, Rock Cafe, thanks to a local rickshaw. As we weaved our way through the club we arrived at the Mecca in the ground floor: All night karaoke! Putting our order in with the DJ we danced and waited for what seemed like a couple of hours before we were finally told to take to the stage and delivered an excellent version of One Direction: Story of My Life. The locals were not the biggest fans but gave use a lovely round of applause at the end for our troubles. The night ended shortly thereafter when we were kindly asked to leave for Irish dancing on tables. i.e. We were too good dancers. Time for the leaba.
Sunday morning was not the most productive given our late night antics so I finally checked out around 12 and grabbed some breakfast while the guys left their luggage at the hotel for the day. We went for a walk around the outskirts of the city getting promptly lost in hipster central before finally making it to a cool brunch spot to chill for a couple of hours and eat salad...yes salad!
As the weather picked up we decided to hit the Old Town again for some last minute tourism around some of the main churches and a quick Latvian beer in the main square. Our last port of call was to a famous chocolate shop called the ingenious, Dark Chocolate Shop for some cake before making our way back to the hotel to grab the bags and get a taxi to the airport. We were soon wedged on a Ryanair and en route back to the Emerald Isle.
Although a short stay in Riga, a few days in Riga is more than enough to see all the sights. The city is fully accessible by foot and some of the architecture both old and new is amazing. The locals are friendly (even like Beiber) and eating/drinking is super cheap. What more could you want?