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Riga for a day

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Will be in Lithuania in March for two weeks. I am drivng out to the coast and am thinking of first driving from Vilnius to Riga and then down the coast from there to Nida. If we had figure a total of two half days, getting there around noon and leaving around noon the next day, what would be the must see sights?
Also, a cheap hotel and a very good Latvian restaurant. One that serves tradition latvian food.....
Thanks

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    I found a good, traditional restaurant, but like usually, I don't remember names. Check www.inyourpocket.com for Riga. You'll find reviews of all restaurants, hotels, shops and so on.

    Must sees: take a good walk in the medieval center, and remember to look also up. Then go to the Art Deco part, and again walk. Houses are like fancy birthday cakes. Occupation Museum ? grim place, but definitely a must-see. The house of the Blackheads. Also the outdoor museum area is nice, but unfortunately the houses are still closed in March. The old cathedral in the old center (the one that is sunken to the ground).

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    Grogger,

    for must see sights in Riga, I'll try to provide an itinerary:

    Do start your day in Old Town. Start probably in front of Hotel de Rome opposite the Laima clock, where Riga's lovers traditionally meet.

    Head into Old Town on Kalku iela. Stepping onto a square after some 200 yards, there is the famous Cat House on your right facing the big Guild House. Head towards the big Guild (Liela Gilde) and take a look inside (Meistaru iela). Adjacent to it there is also the small Guild (Maza Gilde).

    Continue on Amatu iela towards Dome Square (Domas laukums). Look into the cathedral and if you are lucky, they are playing the organ, one of the biggest in Northern Europe.

    Opposite the Dome, there is Latvijas Radio, the State Radio where the revolution in the early nineties started. It is facing the Riga Sock exchange across the street.

    Once you step outside the cathedral, head left on Muku iela on the North Side of the cathedral. Turn right on Miesnieku iela and left again into Maza Pils iela (second left, the first is plain Pils iela) that will take you to Riga Castle, which cannot be toured as it's the residence of Latvia's President (Vike Freiberga from Canada).

    Before you reach the castle there are three famous buildings called the Three Brothers (Tris Brali) in Maza Pils iela Nos. 17,19 and 21, the oldest stone residential buildings in Riga.

    From the castle, head back towards the Dome on Pils iela.

    You might be ready for some lunch. Authentic Latvian food is to be had at Alus Seta on Tirgonu to the South East behind Dome Square. It is self service and they feature cheap but great quality shashlik and side orders.

    Close by there is also Capri (Livu laukums), featuring some of Riga's best ice cream, if you want to have it a little lighter...

    Continue on Skunu and later Skarnu iela towards South East and St. Peter's Cathedral. Take a look inside and the elevator (with a very friendly operator) to the base on the tower for a great view of Riga.

    From here, stroll a few yards to the West in the direction of Strelnieku laukums (direction of the River Daugava). Adore the beautifully rebuilt House of the Blackheads, in earlier days a powerful guild of bachelor salesmen of German origin in Riga.

    If you can spare some time, spend three quarters of an hour in the adjacent modern structure of the Museum of Latvian Occupation. You will get a feel for this nation's sad history.

    If you still have some time, you should continue on Grecnieku iela towards Kungu, where you should turn right and head for the main station.

    Right behind it, there is Riga's Central Market (Central Tirgus). It is located in some ancient halls that were used for Zeppelin aircraft and were then rebuilt in Riga. Everything is available here- but you will also see the poverty of some groups of the population when some Seniors will try to sell some crop from their home gardens.

    Be aware though, that there is still a lot to see- if your schedule gets tight, skip the market and/or the Museum of Occupancy and proceed as follows:

    Head back out of Old Town in the direction of Hotel de Rome (where you started your day in Old Town) on Kalku iela. Cross Basteja bulvaris by the Laima clock and head on to the Latvian Freedom Monument.

    The Goddess of Freedom (Milda) is facing West and always has been as a small symbol of opposition to the former Soviet occupants and their (now removed) East facing statue of Lenin.

    Proceed on Brivibas bulvaris in the direction of the tower of Reval Hotel Latvija.

    Turn left into Elisabetes iela and proceed into the Art Nouveau district. Definitely take a look at Alberta iela. Most houses here are in need of serious repairs, but the ensemble of them is still impressive and rated as some of architect Mikhail Eisenstein's best work.

    If you feel ready for some coffee and cake, head back on Elisabetes iela towards a mall called Berga Bazars. You need to cross Brivibaqs bulvaris for this and continue for some three more blocks. It is on your left hand side and there is a nice cafe here which is visible from the street (a few yards after the map and book store called Jana seta).

    It will be a long day, but it is certainly doable, even if it sounds a lot. The main sights of Riga are included in this and you will have a very good overview of the two aspects of Riga: Medieval Old Town and Art Nouveau District.

    If you feel for some cheap and good Latvian fare in the evening, go to Staburags restaurant on the corner of Stabu iela and Caka iela (Caka iela No.57, Tel. 29 97 87, but have your reservation made by your hotel, as not everybody speaks English that well there). They do have English language menus, though. It is operated by the Lido Group (as the aforementioned Alus Seta) and has cheap but good food and good beer. It also features some great, scenic and rustic atmosphere and service, unlike other restaurants from this Latvian success chain. Don't be taken aback that this is a chain- you won't notice and they are really good- won't find anything better at comparable prices!
    Try some smoked and then grilled chicken (vista) and a dessert consisting of black bread with wild berries and wipped cream. The mugs on the table are for the remaining bones and not flower vases!

    If you care for some other (more international food), there is Charlestons(Blaumana 38/40, Tel. 777 05 73)featuring good food in a nice setting and at reasonable prices.

    In Berga Bazars there is Symposium for romantic atmosphere and Mediterranean influenced cuisine (Dzirnavu 84/I, Tel. 724 24 45).

    Of course, Vincents in Elisabetes No.19 (Tel. 733 38 30) is a local classic for upscale cuisine having catered to numerous celebreties on their visits to Riga.

    Please note that all of the aforementioned restaurants are not within Old Town but in the Art Nouveau district. They are all walkable from Old Town within 25 min. max (Staburags is the farthest), but you might want to take a Taxi (which are not that expensive).

    Do top off your day (literally) at Reval Hotel Latvija's breathtaking rooftop Skyline Bar taking in Riga's lights by dark with a good cocktail or beer. Even though it attracts a few suspicious characters among its clientele (these are just very few women trying to attract the businessmen), the vistas are just outstanding and this is a not to miss end of the day if you are in town for just one day!

    For accomodation, I would suggest the following:

    - Radi un Draugi:
    Old Town location, cheap but great price/ value ratio. English owners. Do book ahead early as they fill up rather quickly. Downside is parking your car. Old Town is only accessible if you buy a special permit at a steep rate- and I am not sure whether they own any parking space- so do inquire.
    Doubles 42 to 48 Lats
    Marstalu iela 1/3, Tel. 722 03 72,
    www.draugi.lv

    - Konventa Seta:
    Also Old Town location, a bit more expensive than Radi un Draugi, but very nice rooms in an old, restored Convent Yard. German Management, same as the very upscale Hotel de Rome. They do have a place to park, but reserve it with your reservation.
    Doubles for 55 Lats
    Kaleju iela 9/11, Tel. 708 75 01,
    www.konventa.lv

    - Laine:
    Located in the Art Nouveau District in the courtyard of a (slightly run down) appartment complex. It is basically behind Reval Hotel Latvija. Cheaper rooms have communal showers. All rooms are clean and the staff is friendly.
    Doubles for 40 to 60 Lats
    Skolas iela 11, Tel. 728 98 23,
    www.laine.lv

    - Reval Hotel Latvija:
    Great location a few steps from Old Town in the Art Nouveau (and restaurant) district. A bit monstrous scyscraper from the outside but immaculately renovated featuring pleasant rooms with gorgeous views (reserve one with a view of Old Town). Rooms a bit on the small side, the standard ones featuring a shower only, but still very nice (and new, as the renovation was only 2.5 years ago). They have parking space and getting there is easy as you can spot the hotel from a distance and there is no driving limitations. Do reserve a parking space in their garage with your booking.
    Doubles for 79 to 99 Lats
    Elisabetes iela 55, Tel. 777 22 22,
    www.revalhotels.com
    www.revalhotels.com/eng/latvija

    Here are two more links you may find valuable throughout the Baltics:

    - www.inyourpocket.com
    These are guides that may well become your local bible. Do get a copy upon arrival for the Vilnius version (at your hotel or a kiosk at a small price and do also buy one in Riga. They are worth every penny.

    - www.viariga.lv/en/index.htm
    This is a Riga based travel agency that sometimes offers some good rates on hotels

    Should you have any more questions, do post, I'll gladly try to help.

    Have fun (and a few Aldaris Zelta beers)- Cheers
    hsv

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    Just need to add something:

    First: I have to correct myself about the ice cream cafe called "Capri": Its address is Tirgonu iela 13, Tel. 721 14 88. This is even closer to Alu Seta and right off Domas laukums, though.

    Second: I just realized that basically you were talking about not one long day, but have two half days in the city. In this case, I would recommend to stick to the outlined itinerary- just divide its two sections into your two days: Spend the first day in Old Town, followed by a nice meal in one of the suggested places plus after dinner drinks at Skyline Bar.
    Your second half day can be dedicated to the Art Nouveau District around the North Western part of Elizabetes.

    This brings me to my last subject: Do not miss the impressively restored facade of the building housing the Stockholm School of Economics in Strelnieku iela No. 4a right of Elizabetes. Please note that this is Strelnieku iela (=street), not Strelnieku laukums which is by the River in Old Town!

    Otherwise, have fun
    hsv

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