My Latvian Winter
This year we decided to spend Christmas in Latvia with my boyfriend’s entire family, so we spent 10 days in December exploring Riga and other parts of Latvia. If you have any doubts about visiting Latvia in winter then don’t, despite the lack of snow this winter we still had an amazing experience. These are a few of my highlights of our trip and some tips of things to do on your next trip to Latvia.
Visit the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia
Located on the shores of Jugla Lake, this open air museum is the home to 118 historic buildings which have been moved from their original locations from all Latvian Regions – Kurzeme, Vidzeme, Zemgale and Latgale dating from the 17th Century to the beginning of the 1930’s. It is so interesting to see these original houses of farmers, fisherman and craftsmen and trying to get an idea of how they lived all those hundreds of years ago.
We were fortunate to visit the museum during the winter solstice and had the opportunity to watch Latvian winter solstice traditions and performances. It is also an excellent photo opportunity!
Take a trip to the Baltic Sea and a spa in Jurmala
With only a 40 minute drive from Riga to the famous seaside town Jurmala, we decided to spend the night at one of their Spa Hotels. We stayed at the Hotel Jurmala Spa and being that it was winter and low season, room + breakfast with spa access was only £60! Bargain.
Even with the cold weather, Jurmala’s 33km of white sand beach was crowded with people walking up and down the stretch of sand. It was the most clothes this Australian had ever seen on a beach!
Visit the Christmas Market and try Hot Balzams
My absolute favourite thing to do in in Riga during the winter is visit the Christmas Market in the town square. Here you can buy Latvian handicrafts and hand-knitted hats and mittens all while enjoy a hot balzams or mulled wine. It is my favourite Christmas feeling being there.
Watch an ice hockey game
Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Latvia, and I didn’t want to waste any time experiencing so I found an Ice hockey game on during Boxing Day. Even though Riga Dinamo lost to a Russian team, we had such a fun time chanting the team’s songs and enjoying a drink.
Take a road trip outside of Riga
Hiring a car is a fabulous way to see more of Latvia. We headed in the direction of a town called Madona, only a 167km drive from Riga. Along the way we made several stops and it finally started snowing!
We hiked to the highest point in Latvia, it was only 312 meters above sea level but, at least we can say we did it haha!
Latvian sauna rituals in a remote cabin
Whilst in Madona, we headed a bit more rural, to a hidden cabin in the woods. Here we were to stay for the evening and with a cosy fire inside with no TV, etc. I was totally excited. The owners provided a traditional Latvian sauna ritual which has several aspects to it. While I did not take photos during them, I was hit with birch tree branches, jumped into a freezing lake, scrubbed raw with salt then was told to sit outside in the snow. Whilst it sounds brutal, it was actually really enjoyable. I swear!
After the sauna master had left, we drank wine and danced and sang to old songs. It was such an amazing experience. I recommend anyone looking for a romantic, traditional experience to give this a try.
Take a walk around Riga Old Town
This doesn’t take a recommendation to figure out it is a must do. The Old Town of Riga is so picturesque and with its many shops, restaurants and bars your choices of entertainment are endless.
There are endless activities to do in Riga, each time I visit I try to tick off more of them, but with the time we had I beyond enjoyed our visit. My to do list for my next visit has already begun. I hope you enjoyed these photos and if you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them :)