Both my heart and belly are full! Mark and I spend five days eating, drinking and folk dancing in Riga's Old Town. Upon arrival we were blessed with snow covering the old medieval buildings in white layers, giving us the true Winter Wonderland experience. As a surprise I had booked the most beautiful apartment right in the middle of the Old Town so we could relax, sleep in and freely roam around the Christmas markets at any time during the day and night. We indulged in spiced wines, gingerbread cookies, honey beers, hot chocolate with Baileys, sausages, garlic breads and all the other good stuff the town has to offer. My tiny suitcase quickly got filled with the local Balsams and I couldn't get the garlic taste out of my mouth after re-visiting the Garlic Pub. Seriously, Riga never disappoints! I am happy that I got to introduce this magical place to the man who holds my heart, sharing the excitement of stepping back in time for the most magical winter experience.
In this blog you will read about my absolute favorite places in Old Town Riga. I hope they spark some interest for you to visit and explore this special place.
Underground medieval restaurant - Rozengrāls
A stair leads us down to the basement floor where we set foot in a different century. The underground medieval restaurant has high ceilings, yet feels incredibly cozy with it's dimmed lights and bunch of candles. The place is bigger then expected and we are led from one room into the next and the next. Heavy tables and king-like chairs invite us to sit down for a hearty meal. The menu we are given is in style and filled with storytelling. A sweet honey beer and fresh bread knotted in fabric is served, followed by a true medieval feast on our massive table. A dance of flavors takes place at the candle light. It is only when we walk up the stairs back to ground level that with every step we seem to arrive back in present time, leaving the medieval adventures behind.
The entire menu looked promising, but Mark and I settled for the Honey baked beet and goat cheese salad and the Oven-baked duck meat with red cherry-onion jam. No regrets!
These underground hidden gems are a huge charm of Riga. You never know, a simple door may lead you to a whole other world.
Former apothecary/pharmacy turned into a cafe - Black Magic
'Riga Black Magic' has a rich history as it is also the birth place of the now famous 'Riga Black Balsam'. In the 18th century pharmaceutic Abraham Kunze created an extract of healing herbs that gained special popularity among townsfolk and was considered to be the panacea for all diseases. The ancient apothecary, where Abraham Kunze had developed the secret of his elixer, was no where else then in the basement of the modern bar 'Riga Black Magic'.
Stepping through the already beautiful door it looks like the interior hasn't changed much over the years. An old pharmacist cabinet serves as a counter with tons of delicious looking chocolates, cookies, glazed plums and nuts displayed on top. Not to forget the Riga Black Balsem and coffee that invite you to take a seat while indulging oneself in the charm of ancient legends. I'd already fallen head over heals for this place. A true treat to both the eyes and taste. Did I mention that even the personal wears traditional clothing? It simply can't get any better.
We crawled in one of the cozy dark corners in the back of the cafe, lit by candles and a Christmas tree. Treated ourselves to their 'Riga Black Magic' Hot Chocolate with a shot of their famous balsam and a plate full of home made ginger bread cookies dipped in chocolate.
There is a saying - "You haven't been to Riga, if you haven't tried Riga Black Balsam"
Underground bar - Folkklubs ALA pagrabs
Ala is without a doubt one my most favorite places in Riga. I already had good memories of the place after my visit during summer back in 2013 and it didn't disappoint this time either. I'm a HUGE fan of honey beer and also love ciders, both are beyond good at this lively underground bar. I admit that I'm not impressed by their food, but definitely do not miss out on their honey beer and ginger cider!
The place is always filled with laughter and music. And whenever they play Folk music, be sure to join in on a traditional folks dance! All the ingredients for a guaranteed fun evening out!
No Christmas without - Christmas Markets
Riga's Old Town has not one, not two, but multiple Christmas markets to explore! And if you get yourself an apartment in the Old Town, as we did, everything is easily accessible by foot. As any other Christmas market the crisp and cold winter air was filled with the scent of freshly baked goods, roasted meat and mulled wine. What you don't find on most other markets however is the live Latvian folk music, story telling and traditional dancing. Under the stars and in between the fires you see pretty young women and handsome men dancing hand in hand or arms locked. Changing partners and stepping their feet cheerfully to the rhythm of the music. The steps are quickly learned and even if not, it's too much fun not to join in! On just one night through the storytelling of the dances, we escaped the wolves and danced with the dead as they tried to lure us to the other side.
During the winter months I always find myself on a hot chocolate with marshmallows diet
(with the occasional shot in it).
Accomodation in Old Town - Apartments 'Laipu'
Our appartment in Riga has spoiled us big time! It was perfectly located in the heart of Old Town, spacious, comfortable AND surprisingly affordable. In my future dream house I also want tall ceilings and windows, stained glass and mirrors on the ceiling. I wish we could have stayed longer. You can easily find them through any booking site or directly on their own website.