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Riga: Postcard from Latvia

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Riga, Latvia, as seen from the observation deck of St. Peter's church.
Riga, Latvia, as seen from the observation deck of St. Peter's church.

Note: EuroCheapo editor Tom Meyers is traveling in Europe, inspecting hotels in Paris and Riga, Latvia. He’s blogging about his travels along the way.

February 2, 2009–Greetings from Riga, Latvia, where I’ve spent the last four days exploring the town, getting acquainted with its history, and, of course, checking out budget hotels.

Riga has a wonderful and picturesque “Old Town” neighborhood. This section of town dates back to the city’s Medieval beginnings, and has been preserved (and rebuilt) over the centuries. Fires, wars, occupations… you name it, the city has perservered, rebuilt, and clung to its cultural identity.

The Old Town is where I’ve focused my hotel search, and where most of the super-charming lodgings are situated. And what a selection! So far I’ve seen a handful of budget-friendly “boutique” hotels (with funky artwork and eclectic decor), a convent-turned-hotel complex, a super-old no-star with style, and several completely new hotels that were built to look old.

Today I’ll check out some ultra-cheap hostels (with private rooms), as well as some two and three-star hotels located in the “Center,” which is the neighborhood just outside the Old Town.

Riga's Old Town
A street in Riga’s Old Town.

Hotel owners and managers have been very friendly, and for the most part have spoken flawless English. In Riga, tourism makes up an extremely important part of the town’s economy, so most in the business speak at least Russian and English, in addition to Latvian.

Right now, the Latvian economy is hurting. Money is tight, banks are on the verge of failing, and budgets are being slashed all around. (For example, when checking out performances during my stay, I found that the ballet had slashed its performance schedule.) Everyone’s talking about the crisis, and it’s only made worse by the tourism calendar–the tourist season doesn’t begin until April, when the weather finally warms up.

The financial mess has spawned a political crisis, as well, as protestors took to the streets two weeks ago in an effort to overthrow the current government. These protests, which ended in a handful of injuries, occured in a square just blocks from my current hotel. It seems so hard to believe, walking the cobbled streets today.

And so it goes. I’m off to hunt down some more hotels and treat myself to one more Latvian blow-out lunch. Here’s an idea of what I’m talking about, snapped yesterday at 1 PM at the “Lido” cafeteria-style restaurant in Old Town:

Lunch in Riga

The plate features chicken stroganoff (a dish I was delighted to hear existed!) with stewed vegetables over rice, with a side salad (lettuce, shredded carrots, and pickled red onions), grape juice, and a beer. The meal, including juice, cost 3.90 lats, about $7.00. The beer cost 1.50 lats, or about $2.50.

Bon appetite!

About the author

Tom Meyers

About the author: Tom Meyers created and launched EuroCheapo from his Berlin apartment in 2001. He returned to New York in 2002, set up office, and has led the EuroCheapo team from the Big Apple ever since. He travels to Europe several times a year to update EuroCheapo's hotel reviews. Tom is also a co-host of the New York City history podcast, The Bowery Boys. Email Tom. [Find Tom on Google Plus]

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4 thoughts on “Riga: Postcard from Latvia”

  1. Hi like your comments, and love Riga. BTW, Konventa Seta Hotel witch you can see on one of your pictures is my favourite place to stay in Riga

    Reply
  2. With Russian residents, the remnants of centuries-long Russian presence in Latvia, you can use: “privet” (hello) and “spasibo” (thank you). Not that difficult :)

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  3. I am Latvian and can tell you that Riga is pronounced RIIIga, with an emphasis on thhe first sylable. A few good word to know are hello, please, and thank you. Hello is sveiks (said as it is written), please is ludzu (LUUdzu), and thank you is paldies (PALdiess). These will get you many friendly smiles from the Latvians. With Russians residents, the remnants of the Soviet occupation, is another story. I hope you have a good trip.

    Reply
  4. good report – sounds like a great tourist and history-lovers travel site. two cultures for the price of one. delicious meal. How is Riga pronounced? with an eee or an iii sound? Thanks.

    Reply

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