It’s rare these days that I venture outside without my camera.
It could be the novelty of living in a new country and new city; it could be my scheme to entice family and friends to visit us here….
Or it could simply be that this city is just so charming and beautiful.
I find that lately, I am taking photos of everything, everywhere, and sometimes of the same things at different times of day. At just shy of three weeks into our tour in Riga, we have already seen more of the city than we ever saw in Matamoros, due to the security restrictions in place there. And yet, there is still so much of Riga to explore.
Here are 99 of the nearly 1,000 photos that M. and I have taken in the last ten or so days.
I’ll start with a panoramic view of the skyline from the west side of the Daugava River. The first photo I took of Riga on the day we arrived was from this vantage point, but when the sky is blue, the view is breathtaking and postcard-worthy.
It’s been rainy and cloudy more than sunny since we arrived in Riga, but when the sun does shine, the city sparkles!
With its cobblestoned alleys and medieval churches, Riga’s historical center, Vecrīga, or Old Riga, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Now home to dozens of cafes, restaurants, and shops, there is always something going on in Vecrīga. When the sun came out last weekend, locals and tourists alike took advantage of the warmer, drier weather.
Originally a home for unmarried German merchants, the House of the Blackheads (right) is one of Vecrīga’s most iconic buildings. It sits on the south side of Rātslaukums (Town Hall Square), and is bordered here with St. Peter’s Church (green tower) in the background.
A closer look at the House of the Blackheads and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. The original House of the Blackheads was bombed by the Germans during World War II and the ruins destroyed by the Soviets in 1948. The current building is a reconstruction and was completed in 2001, the year of Riga’s 800th birthday.
These statues decorate the front of the House of the Blackheads.
From left to right: the Latvian flag, the EU flag, the Presidential Standard of Latvia flag, and the Latvian flag, in front of the House of the Blackheads.
Intricate artwork on the face of the House of the Blackheads building.
The other side of Town Hall Square features Riga’s town hall.
A front view of Riga’s town hall.
St. Roland’s statue in Town Square. St. Roland is Riga’s patron saint. This statue is a replica. The original is inside St. Peter’s Church (green tower in the background).
This traditional Latvian restaurant is adjacent to the House of the Blackheads. We haven’t tried it yet, but it looks cozy.
Riga’s Dome Cathedral was founded in 1211 and is the largest cathedral in the Baltic region. Its tower is currently under restorative renovations.
Doma Laukums, or Dome Square. The picturesque building facades and the cathedral (on the right, not pictured here) make a beautiful setting for an outdoor dinner or drink.
Our shadows in Dome Square.
Old Riga’s buildings are so charming and colorful.
Beautiful tulips are in bloom all over Riga at the moment.
It is not uncommon to see large patches of tulips throughout the city right now. These are behind St. John’s Church. And that Indian restaurant you see in the background? It’s fabulous!
Quaint Old Riga… even the TGI Friday’s (on the right) looks cute here.
To be honest, I can’t remember what this house is, but the facade was interesting and typical of many of Riga’s buildings.
Another of Riga’s many beautiful churches.
Pastel facades of Old Riga.
The moss-covered Powder Tower, dating back to the 14th century, is Riga’s only remaining tower (of 18 original ones) from the old city wall.
The sun starts to set over Old Riga.
More of Riga’s beautiful building facades.
Freedom Monument, nicknamed “Milda”, stands tall between Old Riga and Central Riga. In the hands of Lady Liberty are three stars, each representing one of the original cultural regions of Latvia (Kurzeme, Vidzeme, and Latgale). During Soviet times, the communist government preferred to think of Lady Liberty as Mother Russia, holding in her hands the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Needless to say, that idea sparks more than a little controversy.
Last Saturday, M. and I took advantage of the weather and took a boat ride around Riga through the city’s canal and the Daugava River. It was a little bit of a touristy thing to do, but was still fun and a relaxing way to spend an hour.
The Laima took us around Riga by water.
The city canal used to be Riga’s moat. Today, a good portion of it is flanked on either side by a beautiful park in central Riga.
The city canal empties into the Daugava River. Riga Castle, now known as the presidential palace, is shown on the left (white cylindrical building).
The clouds started coming in during our boat ride, but we still had beautiful views of Old Riga and St. Peter’s Church.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church is thought to be around 800 years old. Easily recognizable in Riga’s skyline due to its green tower, the church is one of the city’s tallest buildings. An elevator takes visitors 72 meters up to the spire, from which there are breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Just make sure to check the weather before going up!
Looking up at St. Peter’s Church.
This statue stands at the side of the entrance to St. Peter’s Church.
The sanctuary inside St. Peter’s Church.
The crypt inside St. Peter’s Church.
Inside St. Peter’s Church.
There is a large display of amber artwork and jewelry inside St. Peter’s Church.
The Baltic region is famous for its amber.
This wooden model of the spire sits in the back corner of St. Peter’s Church.
This is one of the roosters that used to sit atop the spire. The church’s current rooster has been in place since 1970.
A view of the south side of Riga, including the Central Market District, from the spire of St. Peter’s Church.
The Daugava River and Riga’s railroad bridge, as seen from the spire of St. Peter’s Church.
A bird’s eye view of Old Riga from the spire of St. Peter’s Church. Too bad the cathedral is under construction!
There is no shortage of parks throughout Riga. Whether along the Daugava River, in central Riga, or outside the center, the city is full of green spaces and beautiful gardens. Frequent rain has made them lush and colorful with grasses and blooming flowers.
This replica of Lielais Kristaps, or Big Christopher, who is believed to be Riga’s founder, stands along the east side of the Daugava River near the Vanšu Bridge.
Green spaces like this abound along the Daugava River.
Church towers among the greenery of trees.
The city canal on a picture perfect Sunday afternoon.
Gorgeous colorful gardens like this one are everywhere in Riga’s parks.
At the park in Riga’s city center.
Riga’s love lock bridge over the canal in the city center.
The Freedom Monument as seen from the love lock bridge in Riga’s city center.
A stroll through the park on a beautiful afternoon.
Riga’s National Library might the most architecturally unique structure I have seen. I have not yet been inside, but I plan to visit soon. Last week, it was the site of many meetings during the EU Eastern Partnership Summit.
These tulips in bloom in front of the National Library form the logo of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which Riga took hold of on January 1 of this year and will hold through June 30.
Another of Riga’s lush green parks. This one is behind our hotel on the west side of the Daugava River. It is one of Frieda’s favorite spots for people watching and chasing ducks.
Erected in 1985, the Victory Memorial to the Soviet Army commemorates the Soviet Army’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Today, the monument is a source of controversy, as it is viewed by some as a commemoration of the Soviet re-occupation of Latvia. In 1997, there was a failed attempt to destroy it.
A bronze sculpture of Soviet soldiers at the Victory Memorial.
Behind the Victory Memorial, there is a reservoir. The bronze statue to the right of the tower depicts Mother Russia.
Cherry trees (inside the wooden stakes) in one of Riga’s many parks.
Riga’s cherry trees were a gift from Japan in 2012.
Here, near our hotel, is an advertisement for tourism in Georgia. Maybe it’s a sign that we need to visit our friend who just moved to Tbilisi.
Sometimes the things we happen upon simply walking around town can make for interesting photos. Here are a few that we have captured so far.
Earlier this week while wandering around central Riga as we waited for our laundry to wash and dry, we happened upon the old KGB Building.
Currently, the KGB Building is open to visitors for an art exhibit. The artwork we saw was haunting and even disturbing at times. Sculptures included a halfway destroyed car with a lifelike replica of a human heart beating in place of the car’s engine, as well as a human skull with a shovel stuck in it.
This narrative proves just how haunting the KGB building is today, given the unspeakable atrocities that occurred inside it many years ago.
The rent-a-bike concept is popular in Riga. In fact, cycling is a favored mode of transportation in the city.
Last Saturday, we stumbled upon this display in Central Riga, set up by a local organization seeking to educate Riga’s residents about the dangers of processed foods. The tables are set for dinner, but the centerpieces on serving dishes reflect the fat, sugar, and harmful toxins and chemicals found in many food items.
This sign advertises a concert in support of breast cancer awareness and prevention.
The breast cancer awareness and prevention concert included traditional folk dancing.
If you didn’t know, Latvia has amazing chocolate! Laima, the most famous brand of Latvian chocolate, can be found just about anywhere, but we went to the special Laima shop in central Riga just to check it out.
M. is trying to decide between a couple of different chocolates to take home. In the end, we got them both.
This building facade is typical of those along Brīvības, one of Riga’s main thoroughfares.
Hidden in a quiet corner of central Riga is a cozy English book shop called Roberts Books.
In the last week, M. and I have had the opportunity to participate in a couple of embassy-related events.
The first was an evening aboard the USS Vicksburg with the United States Navy.
The U.S. Navy hosted a lovely reception aboard the USS Vicksburg during its three-day stop at port in Riga. The ship has been at sea for nearly six months and will soon be returning home to Florida. While on board, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the ship. I had never been on such a ship before. It was fascinating!
This Turkish ship was docked next to the Vicksburg.
With M. on the USS Vicksburg.
The event was primarily in honor of the US’ NATO partnership. Other guests included members of the Latvian Navy, the Turkish Navy, and the Dutch Navy, as well as some of Latvia’s policymakers.
On Memorial Day, we attended a concert at Riga’s St. Savior Anglican Church. Performers included the Riga Girls’ Choir and the Yale University Whiffenpoofs. The Whiffenpoofs are an award-winning, all male a cappella group. They are currently on a world tour, and Riga was their third stop. M. had some official duties related to their visit to Riga, but we still got to enjoy the concert.
The Riga Girls’ Choir performed first. Its members begin formal training in voice as early as age three. They were followed by a women’s choir, which sang one song.
An ariel view of the Whiffenpoofs during their performance.
The Whiffenpoofs sang a variety of songs, including jazz, folk, and gospel. Here, they are performing Stevie Wonder’s You are the Sunshine of my Life.
The concert concluded with all of the groups singing a song together in Latvian.
All of the singers together outside the church following their performances.
One of the things our family and friends have been asking us since we arrived in Riga is how the food is. Well, it’s wonderful! Just about everything we’ve tried so far as been delicious and generally is a good value. Restaurants are everywhere, and they vary in their cuisine. Admittedly, we have yet to try traditional Latvian food, but it’s coming!
Roasted chicken at B Bārs in Old Riga. Delicious food and beautiful presentation!
A cheese-filled pastry topped with arugula at B Bārs.
Chocolate lava cake at B Bārs in Old Riga.
Just about everywhere we go, there are menus in English and friendly staff willing to help us. Particularly at this time of year, outdoor seating is very popular, with no shortage of places to go.
This place, called Egle, is a favorite among expats and locals alike. Featuring plenty of outdoor seating (with blankets if you get cold!) and live music every night, it is a great spot in the middle of Old Riga.
Of course, if you are more of the fast food type, there is always this:
McDonald’s breakfast on advertisement in central Riga.
Sweet little cafes and bakeries are abundant in Riga, like this one, which we found on Monday in central Riga near the KGB building.
Sala Konditoreja is a tiny little bakery with a large selection of goodies, located on Brīvības in central Riga.
Inside the cozy Sala Konditereja.
One of the two pastry cases at Sala Konditereja.
A poppy seed pastry roll. Yummmm!
Of equally high quality in Riga are the supermarkets. The primary grocery chain, Rimi, offers just about everything from clothing and gardening supplies to cosmetics and fancy cheeses.
The produce section at Rimi is bright and colorful. I was so happy to find that we can get mangoes and avocados here!
Cured meats such as salami, prosciutto, and sausage are available in large varieties at Rimi.
Rimi’s pet supplies section is easy to find with this huge stuffed dog sitting in the middle.
Rimi’s wine selection may very well be the largest I have ever seen at a supermarket. Wines from all over the world are available here.
As far as beverages go, there are a few that are native to Latvia.
Latvian beers are plentiful and quite tasty!
Each Latvian beer has its own individual glass. Here, I was drinking a Mežpils. It, and the Latvian Valmiermuiža, have been my favorites so far.
Black Balzams is to Latvia as rakiya is to Bulgaria and as vodka is to Russia. It is a thick, dark concoction with many purposes that range from cleaning wounds to infusing in sauces to drinking, plain or mixed. Here, the bottle we received as a gift on one of our first nights here basks in the sun. We haven’t opened it yet.
Not to despair, we have tried the Black Balzams. Here, it was topped on grapefruit juice at B Bārs in Old Riga.
To end my photo tour of Riga, I offer you a few shots of the beautiful sunsets that we have seen in our short time here. At this time of year, the sun rises at about 4:30 am and sets around 10:00 pm. It’s taken some getting used to, and the days will continue to get longer for the next month or so, but the long daylight hours are nice.
The sun sets over the Daugava River, behind the Vanšu Bridge.
A pink sky at sunset in Riga.
Sunset over St. John’s Church and the tulip garden in Old Riga.
Another sunset shot over the Daugava. This photo was taken on a different day from the one above.
Should any of these photos entice you to visit Riga, rest assured that you will be glad you did. Thank you for visiting my blog!