An Overview of Riga

I recently went on a girls weekend to Riga but never for one moment (!) did I forget all the tots wanting to travel. New flights were introduced direct from Aberdeen Airport to Latvia with Baltic Air and we managed to book our flights really cheaply – around £100 return. We then found 4* star hotel accommodation at Avalon, including breakfast, for £115 each for three nights, sharing twin rooms – that’s £115 in total, not per night.

Whilst I was busy drinking balsam (the national drink), visiting spas with the girls and generally being childfree, I did spot and experience some activities that would be ideal for children, and I saw some attractions that make me hope to return as a family at some point soon.

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Setting sail on the River Daugava

SET SAIL – The first morning we left our riverside hotel and took a boat trip. We considered two choices: a large ship that sailed the main river Daugava, for €10; or a smaller vessel that took in a portion of the river then tucked into the canals, weaving through the city of Riga itself, under the cutest bridges, passing its key monuments and sights. It cost slightly more at €12, but it’s a good way to see more of the city centre and get your bearings. Sailings were every hour, and we got the 11am trip all to ourselves. On the downside there was no commentary and our skipper barely said a word so we were left none the wiser about anything we saw, but some folk find commentary irritating so it depends what you’re after. Most children love a boat trip so I suspect this would work well as a family outing.

PARKLIFE – Right through the centre of Riga run several parks with the canal passing through the them. Some of the city’s key sights, such as the Freedom Monument, stand proudly between sections of the park. The opera house also sits in the greenery on the banks of the canal, so taking kids for a stroll in the park provides plenty for adults to see and kids can run about. A few cafes, restaurants and ice-cream stalls, from extremely high-end venues to ‘no frills’ options are dotted throughout the parks. On the Saturday we spotted trampolines and mechanical cars for kids to rent and whiz about in – I walked past all this paraphernalia childfree and smug, carrying a tiny handbag rather than my usual change-bag detritus.

WHO ATE ALL THE PIES? Food in Riga can be deliciously cheap or as expensive and sophisticated as the UK. Riga is a capital city so there’s a rich offering at mixed price points. What works well for family outings is the range of bakeries in the city. Many do lunches/savouries and have seating areas. The cakes, pies and gateaux are much better than you’d get in the average bakery at home, and are about half the price – ideal for an economical family lunch or snack. Another added bonus is that the bakeries tend to serve booze (vodka is hugely popular in Latvia) so ordering a holiday tipple in a bakery is no bother. Imagine ordering a scone and a vodka at home? Bizarre.

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One example of beautiful architecture in Riga. The city is awash with it.

HIT THE STREETS – Older kids and those in buggies may be able to stomp around Riga’s Art Nouveau district which is really quite jaw dropping. Entire streets of decorative, fanciful buildings. I didn’t know this until I visited but Riga is world renowned for its Art Nouveau architecture. Admittedly admiring buildings doesn’t scream ‘children’s entertainment’ but it’s a good reason to stretch your legs and see a different part of the city (and perhaps treat them to a bakery stop en route!). Free walking tours leave St Peter’s Church every day at noon if you want some organised stomping – the group mentality might help keep little ones occupied too.

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Strolling through Riga

HEAD OUT OF TOWN – Due to overcast weather and/or running out of time as we were busy in the spas, shops and bars, we didn’t make it out of town, but most of the family attractions I want to see with my kids are a short hop out of the city centre. About forty minutes by train from Riga is the beach region Jurmala. Name me a kid that doesn’t love a beach? A second option is catching a tram (or driving thirty minutes) and visiting the Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum. I find the name pretty severe but, having visited a similar museum in Stockholm I know how cool they can be: 118 historical buildings from Latvia’s four provinces have been put on display at the museum. Guests can try their hands at different crafts and there’s a playground for tots. Riga Zoo is near the Open Air Museum and another attraction, for mini petrol heads, is the Riga Motor Museum boasting over one hundred unique, antique vehicles.

I would genuinely love to return to Riga as a family. It’s a very clean city and I felt safe. In the summer life seems to be lived outdoors, with al fresco dining and drinking in every square and on most streets. A city break with tots? Why not?

THE LOWDOWN – Riga is in Latvia, everyone asks me where it is so gold star if you’re better at geography than most of my pals. 99% of people who served us in shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants have quite a different approach to customer interaction. In the UK they would come across as quite closed or even cold/rude but it’s not personal, it’s a cultural difference that is no problem but worth knowing in advance. (I never realised how much we smile in the UK, a lovely note to take home with me!) We flew direct from Aberdeen Airport with Baltic Air to Riga. We found our hotel on booking.com. Discover more about Riga at the tourism portal Latvia Travel.

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30 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sophie's Nursery (@sophiesnursery)

    June 22, 2017

    This sounds wonderful! Never thought of it as a place to go so thank you! Sounds like there is plenty to do with little ones 🙂 X

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 22, 2017

      I genuinely had no idea what to expect:-)

  2. Reply

    Abby Strangward

    June 24, 2017

    What a beautiful place! Sounds like you had a fantastic time, too xo
    Abby – https://seafoaming.com

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 26, 2017

      A really different destination for me. I’d recommend it as a city break.

  3. Reply

    darwinontherocks

    June 24, 2017

    Oh wow that’s a very cheap trip you managed to organize!!! I’ve been tempted to visit that part of the world. It’s good to know that there is a bit of cultural difference!

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 26, 2017

      It was also a notably clean city, they must take a real pride in that.

  4. Reply

    lorigreer

    June 26, 2017

    A lovely post…Riga is definitely on my list now. Traveling with children is more difficult but I think the rewards are great. Seeing the world through their eyes is amazing. Cheers from Portland, Oregon.

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 26, 2017

      A love a girls only trip, but I love taking my kids with me too, mixing it up a bit is the best option. Glad you’re potentially tempted by Riga. It was new to me too.

  5. Reply

    California Globetrotter

    June 27, 2017

    A girls weekend to Riga sounds like a lot of fun! I definitely want to go! #CityTripping

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 28, 2017

      After Sarajevo this could be next on your list.

  6. Reply

    Jenni

    June 27, 2017

    I’ve always wanted to visit Riga – now even more so! #citytripping

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 28, 2017

      Go for it. Ideal for a weekend city break.

  7. Reply

    Baby Loves Travel

    June 27, 2017

    I’ve always fancied going to Riga so it is nice to know that it could work as a family destination #citytripping

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 28, 2017

      I’d like to explore the countryside more when I return with the boys. Hope you get an opportunity to visit soon.

  8. Reply

    Wilbur's Travels

    June 27, 2017

    I really loved Riga. The free walking tour you mention is brilliant, whilst the jugendstil district (art nouveau) is stunning. The views from the top of the cathedral tower is excellent and the market held inside old zeppelin hangars is well worth a visit. For slightly older kids a visit to watch an ice-hockey match is also great fun. Riga are in the top European league. Loads to go back for! Wilbur. #citytripping

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 28, 2017

      I’d definitely like to ascend the tower next time I visited. Thanks for further recommendations.

  9. Reply

    Elizabeth

    June 27, 2017

    Thanks so much for this great run down. We are heading on a family outing to Riga in September. I hope to get some time to do some adult things as well but you have outlined a bunch of family friendly things to do as well. #CityTripping

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 29, 2017

      There’s plenty for all the family, I genuinely found a good mix and if the weather’s good it’s got a lot going on outdoors.

  10. Reply

    Jules

    June 27, 2017

    Riga is on our list to visit soon. Thanks for all the great tips. #citytripping

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 29, 2017

      Hope you get to visit soon, it was a very relaxing break.

  11. Reply

    MummyTravels

    June 27, 2017

    Tallinn has been on my list for a while but I know little about Latvia and Lithuania, so this was a great introduction to one at least! And sounds like a complete bargain break (especially with spas and Art Nouveau thrown in). The idea of a scone and vodka is something I feel I should try as well! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 29, 2017

      The vodka alongside the scone isn’t compulsory 🙂

  12. Reply

    Wherejogoes

    June 27, 2017

    This looks great and what a great price the accommodation! There’s a lot here for families as well as ladies on the lash! #CityTripping

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 29, 2017

      The two sides to every mum coin.

  13. Reply

    Ruth

    June 28, 2017

    Good to see you jumped at the opportunity to visit a new place (more when the deal was so good). Lately, a lot of my travels are started by a good deal and I have ended up discovering awesome places (like Iceland, the flight was cheap not the country).

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 29, 2017

      It’s so hard to narrow down the world to one destination, so cheap direct flights from your nearest airport is a great place to start.

  14. Reply

    afamilydayout

    June 28, 2017

    The Art Nouveau district would certainly be on my list as would the bakeries – but probably not with added vodka! #citytripping

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 29, 2017

      Don’t fret, you could have an orange juice or coffee 🙂

  15. Reply

    Lyf&Spice

    June 29, 2017

    Wow.. that’s quite an overview. Really interesting.. Cheers!! #citytripping 🙂

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      June 29, 2017

      Thank you!

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