A snap shot of Riga

Riga from Academy of Sciences(also known as Stalin's birthday cake)

Riga from Academy of Sciences(also known as Stalin’s birthday cake)

One of the nice things about being an exchange student is that you suddenly get to make all these random trips to explore your new home country, or other neighbouring countries that you might have otherwise never given a second thought. A week ago, after a short ferry trip from Helsinki to Tallinn and a 4 hour bus ride, I arrived in Riga together with 4 others to spend 2 days there. Riga. Before coming to Riga I had absolutely no idea what to expect of Latvia’s capital city. Back in the Netherlands (my home country) you never really hear a lot about Latvia, or any of the Baltic countries for that matter. I hadn’t looked into it before we left either; it was a blank page waiting to be filled. That page is now a whole artwork; the city surprised me in so many ways. “A once in a lifetime visit” I had thought, but that’s not true any more, I’d love to go back sometime, see more of the city and, more importantly, of the country itself! A capital city can never represent the whole country; it’s only a snapshot of one small part.

Riga in general
Riga has quite an old city centre. The old buildings are surrounded by loads of green spaces, giving the centre an authentic and even medieval feel to it. Add to that the bustling street life, with performances all over the place, and you have yourself a city that will definitely not bore you.

Where to stay
There are enough hostels in Riga to ensure you will have a place to rest your head, but what’s the difference between an okay hostel and an amazing hostel? The Blue Cow hostel seems to have found the answer to that question. On the top floor, of one of the longest buildings in Riga, you will find this charming little hostel. Upon entering the common room, which really looks more like you just stepped into someone’s living room (complete with comfy couches, a big TV and a kitchen that has anything you could ever need), you are politely asked to take of your shoes. The host takes great care to ensure you know how the keys work, where you can find the nearest grocery stores and to give you all kinds of great inside tips on where to go. I don’t think I’ve ever had a welcome as warm as this one (and I’ve stayed in quite a few amazing hostels!)

Don’t forget to pick up one of the Riga ‘Like a local’ city maps before you leave to explore! Also available for Tallinn, these maps have proven to be the most useful and easy-to-understand guides for the city. You can also check out the Like a local website.

Have you ever been to Latvia or Riga? What were your experiences? There will be more on my highlights of Riga soon! =)