Riga seems to have become swallowed up in recent years by the stag party circuit. After 10pm the streets of the old town are awash with euro-pop and worse for wear westerners and if I never get invited to an “English bar” again it’ll be too soon.
The Old town, is inarguably a beautiful place to spend a wintery day and during my stay I was lucky enough to see the cobbled streets under a layer of brilliant white snow. The Old Town does have great places to sit and eat but there is equally plenty of over priced English bars and I didn’t come to Latvia to sit watching over paid footballers rolling around on the ground, whilst knocking back a Sex on the Beach.
If football and Kebabs are your thing, fair enough. I don’t wish to judge (although seriously, why?), however if you want to venture beyond the unavoidable Irish bars I’ve listed a few of my favourite ways to spend your lazy Latvian get away.
Visit the Labietis Brewpub.
Aristīda Briāna 9a-2
LV-1001, Rīga, Latvija
Latvian beer-ologists Labietis, are a craft ale enthusiasts dream. The double-sided A3 menu can be overwhelming and I was initially dubious about the Pipar (pepper) number, however after a small sample from the ale guru behind the bar (one of about 8 tasters offered!) I was converted. The slightly odd sounding concoctions they provide offers something completely unique but don’t kid yourself that you’re popping in for a quick one; I did and ended up leaving 3 pints and 2 hours later.
The brewery has two different locations. Their Brewpub boasts 12 beers on tap and many MANY more to take away, is located about a 40 minute walk scenic walk from the town centre through the Art Nouveau District (or jump on one of the many, super cheap trams). The place can be difficult to find but if you don’t see the entrance when you first arrive- don’t give up! It’s through a gate, in an underground setting and once you locate it you’ll definitely be rewarded. At the weekends the venue is open until 3am and at points during the day you can even see the beer being brewed though a large glass window- although admittedly I was too busy choosing my next pint from their beer bible of a menu to pay too much attention.
The second is a delightful pop-up bar in the Central Market which has 8 tasty tap beers daily, with the added view of the most diverse and foodie market in Latvia where you can get a lunch for a fraction of the Old Town Prices.
Catch a Match
Skanstes iela 21
Rīga, LV – 1013
Ice hockey is more than just a sport in Riga- it’s a religion. The local team are Dinamo Riga and although they might not get many goals (if any) the fans remain loyal chanting ‘Tikai Riga, Tikai Dinamo’ which translates to “Only Riga, only Dinamo”.
If you have a student card, and reasonably good long vision you can get a ticket for as little as £6 and unlike in UK stadiums the burgers don’t cost £8 making this a cheap enjoyable way to spend an evening. The games are a mixture of brutal bumps, reasonably priced beers and in our case, regular blasts of David Bowie to celebrate a goal. Even though I was 100% clueless (and remain so) the game is a great night out, the atmosphere is infectious and unlike our football games you can take drinks into the stands instead of having to force down your Carlsberg at the bar.
Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs
Peldu iela 19, Basement, Old town, LV-1050
My intention for this blog was to try and cover some of the lesser known “escape from the Old Town” type trips however I can’t write a blog about Riga without including Folkklubs. The restaurant/ bar might be geared up to provide the tourists with a Latvian experience but it’s vibe attracts tourists and locals alike and the place makes for a perfect evening of great food, drink and entertainment.
The huge bar meant I was never bored (but rather tipsy), and the honey beer is as delicious as it sounds. With a dungeon-esque setting the basement style venue is scattered with candles and with live Latvian entertainment almost nightly the place understandably gets extremely busy. So arrive early, find yourself a cosy corner and settle in for the night.
I opted for a traditional dish of grey peas, which arrived in an onion and smoked bacon cream sauce in a hollowed out loaf of crusty bread. The meals are extremely filling but after a day exploring in minus temperatures I’m reasonably sure a salad wouldn’t have done the job.
My first Baltic experience was everything I was looking for in a winter break. Snowy parks instead of Englands rain soaked pavements, perfect streets for romantic strolls (or tipsy stumbles), plenty of warm pubs to duck inside when the cold gets too much and if you search hard enough great value for money.