I truly like booking Airbnb flats. You just dive into the city center for relatively good prices and personally I like to feeling of living in an actual home. We booked a flat just 20min walking away from the old town. It was the newer areas with hip cafes and restaurants. The flat was modern and quite stylish; too bad we were not able to enjoy the flat more.
My impression of Riga was rather chaotic when we first arrived. Gigantic Socialist Classicism buildings dominated the city with small wooden houses in between and lots of Art-Nouveau architectures. I’ve heard they built wooden houses around the city center as protection. Means: once an invasion occurs those houses could be burned down providing a firewall protecting the inner city. Riga had thousands of them, with the latest one built at the end of the 18th century. Many of those were destroyed during the world war and, based on the Latvia travel website, 4000 of those have survived. In retrospect, we should have gone to the Kalnciema Quarter, where a lot of nice wooden architecture were. Our time management was not optimal.
Another part of Riga were the churches, with the older ones having roosters instead of a cross atop their steeples. It is said that a rooster’s crowing will scare away devils. Also roosters symbolise watchfulness and vigilance and, in addition, often used as weather vanes. While the St. Peter’s church has the highest observation tower measuring 72m, Riga cathedral owns the most valuable historical organ in the world.
What excited me the most were the Jugendstil houses, since we have them in Berlin though many many were destroyed and probable were not as impressive as those in Riga. There is a reason, why Riga is northern Europe’s Art-Nouveau capital ;-). The very first Art-Nouveau building exists since 1899 and most famous buildings were designed by the architects Mihails Eizensteins, Eizens Laube and Janis Rozentals. The facades are decorated pompously with female figurines and ethnographic ornamentations.
When we took the bus from the airport to town, one building caught my eyes: The Academy of Sciences, as we later discovered. It is the most prominent architecture built-in 1950 and represents the Soviet architecture. Socialist Classicism architecture, also known as Stalin architecture, was pretty much built right after he WWII. Looking at those we couldn’t stop awning. There is a certain aura to them that made me shiver in respect. They are huge, they are dominating, they expire power. Though many of those in the city center were rather grey-ish and dark, the Academy of Sciences was rather bright yellow. On our last day in Riga we went to the observation platform at 65m above ground and enjoyed the sunset. Riga is beautiful on the ground, and high above even more! It’s a satisfying feeling looking down to the Daugava glittering in sunlight.
Information about Latvia here.