Updated: Aug 2, 2021
People and cities have something in common: they can both immensely let you down, (although travel disappoints me far less often than people do). Just when you think you’ve done all your homework, just when you think you can form a realistic expectation of them, just when you think you know them from a distance, they can take shape into something completely different before your eyes and you must face the rude awakening that you never really knew them the way you thought you did. And it’s mostly your fault for imposing your own expectations onto them. But the bottom line is: whether you embark on a journey with a new person or to a new place, you’re never really prepared to make any judgment until you’ve walked all the byways and side streets and find yourself at their core.
But people and cities also have in common that they can take you completely by surprise. The ones you’d barely thought about visiting sometimes end up being among your favorites of all. This was absolutely the case for me when I first stepped foot in Rīga on a long layover home from Finland. Having never stepped foot in the Baltic countries before, I’d no idea what to expect. Curious to get a quick taste of something new, I thought ‘why not’.
Guest Blogger: Issabella Orlando, Muse and Wander
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I had less than twenty-four hours to explore the city, but I could have easily stayed five times as long. Staying in a once abandoned building newly repurposed for artists’ residences and a small museum located just down the road from the Old Town, I was able to wander easily to the touristic center only moments after dropping my bag.
Wading in sticky humidity and turning the corner to catch my first glimpse at the Old Town, I think I smiled the rest of the way through the city, congratulating myself for taking such a random leap of faith to come to such an unsuspectingly beautiful place, especially stunning drenched in the lingering light of the ten PM golden hour.
Utterly charmed by the causeways and cathedrals of the Old Town and impressed with the sophistication of the newer quarters of the city, it’s safe to say that my brief encounter with Rīga was one of the best surprises I’ve had in a while.
It was exactly what I needed to be encouraged to keep the faith, trust that we’ll always end up exactly where we are meant to be if we follow our instincts, and be reminded that what is coming is often far better than what is gone.
Rīga’s Most Pleasant Surprises
Wander the medieval web of interconnecting cobblestone roads of the Old Town and admire the buildings that line them, with their sugary candy floss hues and beautiful architecture. I dare you to try to prevent them from taking your breath away.
Eat dinner at 3 Pavaru Restaurants, slightly off-center of the umbrella-clad patios bursting with tourists in the Old Town. Everything I put in my mouth there was exquisite while the environment was still cozy and the waiters friendly.
Explore the newer neighborhoods of the city to the north of the park, home to coffee roasteries, craft beer breweries, and gorgeous design shops; I was so impressed even in the pouring rain. Prioritize Stars Coffee, Rocket Bean Roastery, and RIIJA shop.
Take advantage of the Latvian National Museum of Art. As ever, the art exhibited there is a beautiful way to learn about the country’s Soviet history and unique culture.
Food Travel Writer Issabella Orlando from Muse and Wander is a Canadian-Italian writer, wanderer, cultural heritage advocate, and archaeologist in the making. A slow-burning desire to explore the world and learn more about those within it, past and present, moves Issabella to travel and study the ancient world. She has found that travel is one of the best ways to get what we all want out of life: to feel connected. Visit Muse and Wander and follow her on Instagram!