Snowy Sigulda & Turaida, Latvia

Another trip that we took whilst in Latvia was to the town of Sigulda and the Castle at Turaida. Another cheap return from the central station in Riga and just over an hour ride on a train that was never going to be stopped by a bit of snow on the line, we arrived in the very snowy Sigulda.

We knew that we needed to get a bus to get us into the Gauja National Park and the Turaida Museum Reserve. But when we arrived there were just lots of somewhat ancient Minibuses. We eventually worked out which one we needed to take, paid 50 cents each and we were on our way. We wound our way around the windy roads – it was so snowy, so very snowy. The driver stopped, opened the door and looked at us – it was our turn to get off.

For the princely sum of 6 Euros for both of us, we entered the reserve. Snow crunching underfoot we set out to explore the site. There was so much to see from the Turaida Stone Castle, Rose of Turaida Memorial, Church and Church Hill, Folk Song Garden and Hill.

The view from the top of the Castle was spectacular – looking out over the snowy Gauja National Park in all its wintery goodness. The building itself, despite being a reconstruction, was beautiful too.

Our favourite part of the reserve was the Folk Song Garden and Hill – it was full of the most exquisite sculptures, nestled perfectly in the snow. There was barely another sole making it a serene and peaceful place to be.

After we were finished at the reserve, we hung out at the bus stop with no time table and hoped that a bus would appear, which fortunately it did! We made our way back to Sigulda to explore the town.

It was so nice to see a very different side to Latvia in comparison to the capital of Riga. A small bakery captured our attention where we bought a variety of delicacies to try with some hot coffee to help warm up. Absolutely delicious and a good fuel stop before heading for a wander around the town. Big open roads, wooden houses and wide open green (well snowy) spaces.

Outside of the train station were 2 boats – filled with giant ice blocks that each contained different items from feathers to ice picks and apples to fish – such an interesting concept and beautifully done too. We even saw lots and lots of people Ice Fishing. It was then time to head back to Riga for our last night in Latvia.

Overall, we are so glad that we ventured out of the Capital – we love seeing a different side to a country.

Jūrmala, Lativa

After a few days of exploring Riga, we decided that we wanted to see a different side to Latvia. We headed to the central train station to see where took our fancy. We saw that the next train out would take us to the beach at Jūrmala. We hurriedly paid for 2 extremely cheap return tickets and ran for the train.

After just 35 minutes we had arrived and we went straight to the beach. We had been hoping for a little more snow in Riga but Jūrmala certainly made up for it!

We walked along the frozen beach with barely another person in sight. The frozen ice cracking under our feet. The shards were so big and clear like glass. We have never seen a beach in true winter. The waves had frozen at the edge and we wanted to see the water’s edge.

That’s when it happened…

Claire in all her best efforts to see the water’s edge went straight through the ice and into the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea. In February. Up to her waist and flailing around trying to get out. Drenched up to her waist, she waded out and we both realised we were an hour away from the hotel and the temperature was sub-zero.

We high tailed it back into the centre to look for a clothes shop. It was getting dark and nearing the end of the day but we were fortunate to find somewhere open. We burst through the door, Claire dripping wet and explained what happened. The shop owner was horrified but got towels out and suitable replacement clothes. A few Euros lighter we were soon on our way back to Riga. We are extremely grateful to the kind lady in that shop, very grateful.

Moral of the story, don’t get too close to the frozen waters edge and don’t walk around in sub zero temperatures in wet socks with no shoes on, your freeze to the ground!

Winter in Riga, Latvia

With our carry on filled with warm winter clothes we headed to the capital of Latvia, Riga. Our first Baltic state and we hoped that when we landed it would be wintery perfection.

On the bus from the airport there was lots of snow, but on reaching the Old Town of Riga, this had completely disappeared. The skies were grey and a chill in the air as we started to explore the city but this only added to the atmosphere.We spent 2 days in Riga and with it’s compact Old Town, that was plenty of time to explore. Pretty pastel building lined streets with a serious Coffee culture and little tourism. At night the city was lit with fairy lights giving it a real magical atmosphere. Such a wonderful place to wander around, regularly diving into a Coffee shop to warm up and pottering in and out of the most delightful shops.Our favourite places

  • Central Market – A UNESCO World Heritage Site in old Zeppelin hangars full of the sights and smells of the capital – pickles, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and great for people watching.
  • Daugava River – When we were there parts of the river were frozen and we really enjoyed walking along the banks seeing the street art, landmarks and crossing the bridges.
  • The Three Brothers – the oldest dwellings in Riga plus there’s a great café called Parunasum kafe’tekka
  • Monuments and Statues – there are so many in Riga! From an Astronaut Chimpanzee to the iconic Freedom Monument and the wonderfully whimsical Bremen Town Musicians.
  • House of the Blackheads – completely stunning 14th Century buildings.

Best Meal

  • Domini Canes – hands down the best meal we had in Riga. From the beautiful Bread and Olives to the Chicken with Beetroot Mash with Berries (quite unexpected, but seriously tasty) to the Chocolate Fondant and Crème Brulee, every bite was fantastic.

Things to try

  • Black Balsam – we tried it hot and it knocked our socks off.
  • Black Peas – deeply savoury and super tasty.
  • Pickled Mushrooms – an unusual one, but they just work.
  • Anything with Sea Buckthorn – especially on cake!

Travel Details

  • We flew with Ryan Air from London Stansted to Riga – the flight costs were £101.98 each including taxes.
  • We stayed at the Amber Rooms, booked through – for £44.15 for 3 nights.
  • We spent £150 on meals, drinks, public transport and a couple of cheeky souvenirs.

Our final thoughts

We both really liked Riga. It feels safe and it’s quiet with a distinct lack of tourists. It was great to see it in the Winter and we’d definitely like to go back in the summertime to see a different side to the city. But there was just something quite magical about seeing this stunning city in the misty winter.


*Prices – February 2017