A beach side break in Jurmala

A quick day trip out of Riga, the beachside town of Jurmala is popular with Latvians for an easy-to-get-to, sunshine break.

Well, that is assuming you visit the country in or around summer!

From the city centre it took only around 30 mins to reach Majori station (although there are various stops you could alternatively choose from, in the Jurmala area). I decided to go by train and a one way ticket was no more than just 2 euro from memory!

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As soon as you disembark the train at Majori, the visitor centre is across the street. I stopped in to grab a map of the area and then wasted no time in wandering around.

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Being Australian, it takes a mighty impressive beach to wow me. Jurmala certainly isn’t top of my lists, but for this far north and this area of Europe it is pretty darn nice. The crowds are a testament to that.

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So, rather than the beach instead my favourite part of the day trip was the picturesque wooden houses and art deco architecture you will find down most streets.

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There are quite a few restaurants and cafés too from what I could see but I settled on simply an ice-cream break during my short time here.

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I sadly don’t have that many pictures of the sand and water, but I can certainly attest that if you have the time to spare and want to escape Riga for some beach vibes while in the Baltics, then a trip to Jurmala is sure to tick the boxes.

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My top 5 suggestions of things do in Riga

When I mentioned I was going to Lativa people generally either questioned where that was even located? Followed by… what exactly are you going to do there?

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In popular culture this small country is often known for its great love of basketball (Winston from New Girl even went here to play, if you remember that story line!) But, beyond this?

Here are a few suggestions of what I enjoyed about this beautiful and (very) underrated city.

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1. Go night kayaking on the river Daugava

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Vansu Bridge

One of my favourite features of Riga is its lovely river and the iconic bridges it houses.

During the day I crossed over Vansu Bridge and had a wander around the other side where lots of locals were enjoying the sunshine on the sandy areas underneath.

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Railway Bridge

A massive highlight during my stay though was doing the Riga at Night kayak tour. It was 25 euros and lasted around 3 hours. We started along the main river but also got to kayak down some of Riga’s smaller canals which light up at night in different colours – it’s really beautiful.

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The kayaking was hard work and we were freezing cold with the river water soaking us right through but overall it was a fantastic tour and I really enjoyed it!

2.  Watch the sunset from the Radisson Blu Latvija Hotel 

Sadly, this is somehow the only photo I seem to have from here!

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In typical backpacker fashion, I had run into a girl I’d met on a day trip in Estonia a few days previously on the streets of Riga. She suggested having a drink at this bar for sunset and with no other plans for the day I happily joined her and her other American friend.

We lucked out and got a window seat to enjoy the sunset views over Riga. The bar is on the 26th floor only but is easily one of the highest buildings in this small city. Drinks are naturally expensive at around 9 euro or so for a cocktail but we just nursed one each for a good hour 🙂

3. Try a traditional meal at Folkklubs Ala

A huge selection of great beer AND huge portions of tasty food for a reasonable price? It’s no wonder this place is popular with visitors and locals alike.

When my room mate described it to me I was pretty skeptical at first since it sounded like a tourist trap but this underground restaurant is awesome. Often there is also live music and I just really enjoyed the atmosphere.

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Pictured here is a questionable looking meal I know but I chose to try the traditional grey pea dish which is black bread, ham, some kind of creamy onion sauce and a side salad. Delicious!

4. Free Walking Tour

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Meeting at St. Peter’s church at 11am (please check with your accommodation if these times have changed) my tour guide was called Toms and he was an energetic young guy with plenty of personal stories and historical background to share on Riga.

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St. Peter’s

It was a pretty long tour at around 3 hours from memory but he took us around most of the old town, the local markets and gave us a lot of information behind well known buildings such as the ‘black cat of Riga,’ which you’re sure to discover upon a visit here.

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5. Soak in amazing art nouveau architecture

Oh my goodness, I can’t remember when I last saw so many striking buildings in such close proximity. If you love some good architecture, Riga’s got you covered.

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We found that Alberta iela (street) was a great place to start and then you can kind of wander around the Central district to find more examples.

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In fact, apparently a third of all Riga’s buildings are classified as art nouveau style!

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Please enjoy a mere selection of some of my favourite snaps, which provide an insight into how we ended up walking hours around and taking hundreds of pictures while admiring buildings like these.

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Review: Tallinn to Riga Sightseeing Tour Bus

Researching the best way to make my way from Estonia into Latvia led me onto this tour – the Tallinn to Riga sightseeing bus.

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At 55 euros it was a fair bit more in price than your normal A to B bus ticket however, I figured how often are you in the Baltics right?

Might as well see as much as I can along the way!

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Using a small mini van there’s only capacity for about 8 people and my group consisted of two middle aged American couples and a couple other solo female travellers, like myself.

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Our guide Martin was knowledgable, friendly and willing to answer any questions about both countries we’d be stepping foot in that day.

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All up the trip was around 12 hours therefore, it is a long day but I felt for the amount we saw that the price and journey is justifiable.

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Taking in a ‘military theme park’ in Valga, which was really a few old Soviet trucks and cars, the charming towns of Viljandi and Cessis, sandy cliffs of Sietiņiezis and the bobsled track of Sigulda (which I believe is still in use, although there were some Latvians filming a music video on it when we went!) there was no shortage of different scenery.

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A highlight for a lot of us was also having a go on a traditional Estonian swing or kiik. I can’t remember the exact origin but I think they were created as a pastime back in the day but now it’s actually a sport. People get some serious air on these things and the best part is that so many people can go on it at once – it’s great fun!

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The sightseeing tour is one way and we ended up in Riga that evening, pretty tired from the drive and amount of things we got up to as we bumped our way on Latvian roads (which aren’t the best and under a lot of construction).

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Overall, I’d say if you too have come across this tour and are considering it as a way to get between Tallinn and Riga then definitely give it a go.

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It’s a nice option to break up what would otherwise be just another bus journey and you really do get to see a lot along the way with a local. This is the site to book if any one is interested to learn some more and see some of the other tours on offer by Traveller.

Lastly, a final selection of some more snaps from the day!

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