'Riga This Week' - your holiday bible
Make sure you pick up a copy of the latest edition of 'Riga This Week'. I found it to be an indespensible guide to all things Riga.
It is packed with useful information on restaurants, bars, cafes, and things to do .... plus lots more. It seems to be published every two months.
We got our copy from our Hotel, but I think they are available in lots of other places around the city.
The titular nation - the Latvians - are in Riga still heavily outnumbered by the Russians. Latvia’s autochthonous population suffered most of the 3 Baltic states of the 45 years Soviet rule. The result of deportation, genocide and emigration of Latvians and mass immigration of Soviet occupants resulted in only 51.7 % of Latvia’s population being ethnic Latvians at the beginning of independence. This has now slightly changed in favour of the Latvians because most of the Latvians who survived the deportations came back as did quite many who emigrated overseas. At the other hand some Russians etc. emigrated after independence, but mostly not to the neighbouring former homeland Russia. But the number of non-autochthonous residents (legal and illegal ones) is still by far the highest in Europe.
As a means to integrate the non-autochthonus residents the Baltic countries offer now the easiest way of access to citizenship of all civilized countries (in Switzerland for example fulfillment of these conditions would not even be enough for a permanent residence as a foreign citizen). It is more than generous and quite unique that citizenship is offered to occupants and this seems still not to be enough for the former occupants as the cases at the European Court of Justice show.
But nevertheless the integration seems partially to be successful, other than in 1992 I found in 2002 that many of the ethnic Russians living in Latvia today appear quite assimilated and far less “Russian” than the “Germans” from Russia who emigrated under the last two decades to Germany and are there living often in some sorts of ghettos and are still speaking Russian.
Bobsledding in Sigulda
If you're interested in a slightly different activity whilst you're in Riga then take a trip out to Sigulda to Latvia's national bobsled training track. The Soviets built Europe's longest track in the 80's and the national team still train on it, along with Latvia.
There are a few companies who arrange trips out there. I was taken by Karlis who runs Horsehead Tours. He'll organise the bobsledding, food/drinks afterwards and the travel out there for you (Sigulda is located some 50km from Riga but it's easy to get to by train (in direction of Cesis or Valmiera).
You can even do this in Summer (on a slightly different track of course)
Costs around 40 LVLs.
Fashionista shopping in the Old Town
This is a shopping centre with a flair. This is the place the youngsters go and this is where you will find all the trendy brands of clothing, footwear, accessories and other stuff. It might not be the cheapest place around, but there is a lot to choose from.
This place has gone through a major face-lift in recent years. I first visited in 1992 and if I had not been back in between then and now, I wouldn't have recognised the place! It has changed so much.
Back in 1992, this was called Universalveikals (universal shop...). All stuff would be on shelves behind the counter. You would ask to have a look at something and the shop attendant would hand it over (well, you could touch it only if you looked trustworthy). Then if you decided you wanted it, the attendant would write a receipt, with which you would tag to the closest cashier, queue up for a little while and then tag back with a receipt of payment. Then you would get your thing all wrapped up and ready to go. This was how it was in days yonder :) Now it's just a matter of self-service and paying up. Coming from Finland, the piece the resistance proved to be eye glasses. They are horrendously expensive in Finland, but here my mum and husband have found glasses for about a third the price in Finland, and the choice of frames is great. The lenses may not be great quality, but at least you can buy affordable designer frames for your lenses, if you choose to get them at home.
Other than that, we did some clothes shopping here too, and then some gourmet shopping at the ground floor in Rimi, and at Emihls Gustavs chocolatier. Probably less than for the equivalent at home.
Lets Groove together !!!
One of the latest Night Clubs in Riga owned by the most famous bartenders in the city. Stylish interior with sexy wallpapers - t*its galore, but do not expect striptease or any other adult entertainment, thats ment to be just for fun! Two halls - chill out and dance floor. Exciting choice of music.
Staff is tailored in order to meet clients' which knows only name of the spot expectations.
Though quite expensive for Latvian standarts. No restrictions but could be facecontrol sometimes.