Lonely Planet Pathfinder Abigail King, of Inside the Travel Lab, recently visited Latvia. Here she shares some tips on how to enjoy the best the country has to offer and some of the most picture-perfect scenes she Instagrammed along the way.
In fact, after half a day in Riga, I’d fallen prey to the common traveller’s curse: sore-neck-and-aching-back camera-itis as my eyes kept being drawn upwards to the various church spires, onion domes, golden slates and the iconic silhouette of the city’s vengeful rooftop cat.
But eventually, my eyes returned to earth. The post-Soviet generation is coming of age, bringing with them innovations in design and gastronomy while enjoying their timeless heritage: the great outdoors.’
Take the time to look up
‘Riga hit a financial boom just as semi-naked maidens and funky gargoyles came into stony fashion, earning its reputation as the Art Nouveau capital of Europe. Mikhail Eisenstein’s work grabs the headlines but the Art Nouveau Museum focuses on local architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns. This spiral staircase sits at the entrance.’
Take a second look
‘Commonly known as ‘the Orthodox church, ’ its official title is The Nativity of Christ Cathedral. It’s beautifully imposing at night and lies on the route between the Skyline Bar and the Old Town. That may, perhaps, explain the jaunty angle of my instagram shot.’
Keep an eye on the time
‘This clock sits atop the House of the Blackheads in Riga, a building for 14th century unmarried merchants. Offering a snapshot of Latvian history, it was bombed by Germany in World War II, left to decay during the Soviet occupation and restored in the 1990s after independence. ‘
Enjoy the little things
‘I stayed on this quiet side street in Riga’s Old Town and I loved the way the mist appeared in the morning, in contrast to the blaze of gold that could be seen at sunset. But mostly, I loved how after only a few days, I felt at home in this little slice of the city.’
‘I expected the architecture in Riga to be beautiful and I knew I’d be drawn in by the history. But the gastronomy surprised me the most. Young chefs served up delicious dishes made with passion and farmers introduced me to lingonberry wine. Here, Lonely Planet comes with porcini mushroom butter and ostrich tartare.’
Take time to relax
‘If there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss while in Latvia, it’s the beaches. The white sand of Jurmala stretches for miles, flanked by tall, cool pine forests – and it’s only half an hour’s drive from the city. My short, relaxing walk along this beach reminded me that beyond Riga there’s a whole country left to explore.’