Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
A Luxury Guide to Riga
Tell us a little about yourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel in Riga.
I’m Anita, a traveler from Latvia. Though mainly a budget traveler, I doesn’t swear off splurging from time to time… I have lived in Riga since 1999 so you could say the city has no secrets from me! I have been to many luxury places here over the years.
What makes Riga a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?
Firstly, believe me when I tell you that Riga is an astonishingly beautiful city. Or better still – don’t believe me and go check for yourself! Secondly, it’s a city inhabited by people with great taste, which just shines through in its architecture, interiors, gardens, parks… In cultural events, too. Riga is renowned for exceptional customer care and a wide choice of activities to accommodate a variety of interests. Furthermore, Riga is not extremely busy or noisy, allowing you to relax in comfort.
What 5-star hotel is the best in Riga?
It’s hard to pick just one, but if I have to, I’ll go with the Hotel Bergs. Located in a quiet passage of central Riga, at a walking distance from the Old Town, it’s an excellent property with high standards of service and facilities. Everything is perfect, from the friendly welcome at the check-in to the immaculately clean spacious rooms and the absolutely delicious breakfast.
What about boutique hotels in Riga, of them all, which would you send your friends or family to stay at?
The Dome Hotel occupies an ideal spot close to numerous chief attractions of Riga, including the Old Town and the Art Nouveau area. It’s your classic big chain hotel, yet with a far more personal feel. The rooms are cozy and quiet, have wooden floors, modern bathrooms with comfy bathrobes, a Nespresso machine, complimentary water and a good night chocolate.
The breakfast is a piece of art, delicious, freshly made. The hotel’s 5 stars are well-deserved indeed! Make sure to visit the sauna on the top floor with a truly amazing view over the city. Another highlight of the place is the restaurant, serving excellent fish dishes.
Are there any fun activities for the adventurous traveler in Riga?
Plenty, both in Riga and nearby. The two most unusual ones are practiced in the town of Sigulda, just 30 kilometers from Riga: bobsleigh rides and Aerodium flights.
Aerodium is a vertical wind tunnel letting you get a bird’s eye view of the world thanks to a powerful air stream. The Aerodium athletes have already showcased their skills at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics and at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, and now this breathtaking experience is yours to have!
As for the bobsleigh tracks, there are fewer than 20 in the whole world, and only a handful in public usage, so Sigulda rides are a unique chance! There are two types of them: the rookie ride called Vucko, or “the soft bob”, and “the real bob”. The latter can speed up to nearly 130 km/h and costs 50 Euros while Vucko keeps it at around 80 km/h and costs 10-15 Euros. You don’t have to book, but the pro version is only available at certain times.
For a close-to-nature summer experience, kick your confining shoes and walk 2,6 kilometers barefoot on a variety of surfaces at a country resort called “Valguma Pasaule”, 60 kilometers from Riga.
If sailing is your thing, you can rent the yacht “Hugo”, currently the most ultramodern yacht in Latvia. Proud holder of the “European Boat of the Year 2010” award, it can accommodate a maximum of 10 people for a one-day voyage at 1100 Euros on weekends.
Where are the best hangouts during the day in Riga?
I would recommend the Old Town Walking Tour, I really think it captures the real essence of Riga. An extremely friendly and knowledgeable local guide Zane Šūpulniece will show you all the main sights and share exciting stories about the city’s past. I’d say this excursion is a great appetizer, making you hungry for further discoveries! But if you’re pressed for time and want to make the most of it, choose the Segway Tour with Zane.
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Riga and what are their best dishes?
There are countless options again but I would especially recommend the library-style restaurant called Biblioteka 1. The interior really makes you feel like you’re seated in the safety and comfort of your own home! You can choose a 9 course tasting menu for 60 Euros or just the main courses for 30 Euros – quite pricy for Riga but cheap by the overall European standards.
The introduction of the courses is great: each one comes with a little story and a presentational gimmick. To be enjoyed at Tērbatas iela 2.
Tell us all the hot shopping spots in Riga; who’s carrying the trendy local designers?
Of all the local designers I would like to give credit to Amoralle, a luxury brand of prêt à porter loungewear and lingerie: underwear, nightgowns, corsets, bodies, stockings, socks… The company is based in Riga, and all garments are locally produced, from the initial concept to the final product.
Silk and chiffon are combined with lace, velvet, crystal and pearl embroidery. All the items are handmade! At the moment there are 20 Amoralle outlets in countries like Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Australia, France, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Russia, and the USA. The Riga’s shop is located at Brīvības iela 33.
What is the best salon and spa in Riga?
In my opinion, ESPA Riga is one of the best – six floors of superb facilities, luxury comfort, dedicated attention and fantastic treatments. The ground floor is taken up by an 18 meter indoor pool; the 2nd floor has a great gym with the latest Technogym equipment.
The SPA itself starts on the 3rd floor where they give you a towel, a quality bathrobe and a pair of slippers. The changing rooms and showers are all of the same luxurious kind, of course. Saunas and steam rooms occupy the 6th floor. The SPA’s unique feature is the heated outdoor pool with salted water, jet sprays and a Jacuzzi. At about 4°C outside, it’s a real treat! There are two large relaxation rooms with individual music selection and soft comfortable sofas to wait for your massage. The massage is very professionally done, and you get several oils and types of massage to choose from. The final accord is another session in a relaxation room with some snacks.
Time for a great sunset view in Riga… where would you go?
I’d definitely go to the seaside in the town of Jurmala, 25 kilometers from Riga. Besides that great sunset view, you’d also enjoy a walk on a first-rate white sand beach.
Now that the sun’s gone down, fill us on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.
Take the chance to combine nice cocktails with a magnificent view across the city in the Skyline Bar on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija, at Elizabetes iela 55.
Another great option is the cozy Star Lounge Bar on the upper floor of the Albert Hotel Riga at Dzirnavu Street 33, a perfect place for more glorious views over Riga’s parks and Art Nouveau architecture.
If you end the night at a fancy club in Riga, which one do you head towards?
After a great dinner at that Biblioteka 1 restaurant I mentioned, you can hit the “Coyote Fly” night club right next door. Powered by the best DJs and VJs from Latvia and abroad, it attracts more than 4500 party-goers a week!
Including both the most experienced revelers of Riga and such celebrities as Xzibit, Eve, Dizzee Rascal, Tony Hawks, Jon Olsson, The Dudesons, and many others. The interior is both modern and inspired by the primeval grandeur of Riga’s Vērmanes Garden, while the layout and the acoustics of the concert hall ensure excellent visibility and sound.
Anita Sane, is a part time traveler and a mature career woman from Latvia. She has been traveling mostly solo for over 10 years now, gaining considerable experience in planning and taking solo trips. She has just recently started a travel blog at thesanetravel.com, sharing her experiences of solo value for money travels around Europe, Asia and Oceania. She is also in love with travel photography and has documented her trips throughout the years, believing that one picture is worth a thousand words.