Oops, it’s been ages since I posted! I blame the full-time job again. I’ve mostly been in Berlin or visiting places I’ve already gone or blogged about, but I decided to check out a new place over the spring break holiday: Riga, Latvia!
I also couchsurfed for the first time in aaaaages and it was awesome! I’m totally reinspired, thanks so much to my lovely host! I was lucky enough to be hosted by another queer vegan in a 7-person vegan flatshare in Riga. There were lots of awesome people, good food and adorable cats involved. The benefit of having a vegan host is I immediately learned about the goldmine of vegan chocolate in Latvia. If you’re heading there soon, keep this post handy for your shopping!
One thing I found interesting about the architecture in Riga is that there’s a bunch of these wooden country house style houses between the regular city buildings.
Where to Stay
Cheap & Good Apartments – The name pretty much says it all! Prices start at around 30€ per night for a twin room. Located in central Riga, 305m from the heart of Riga’s historic district, 92m from the Central Railroad/Bus Station.. It offers basic rooms and apartments with free Wi-Fi. Bed linens and towels are included in every room. Guests have access to a shared kitchenette with a microwave, refrigerator, electric teakettle and kitchenware. The Good Apartments also offers a 24-hour front desk. Guarded parking is available 199m from the hotel at a reduced rate. The property provides a baggage storage service free of charge and has a security system.
Hostel Latvia – The budget option. Prices start at 5€ per night for a bed in a dorm, or 12€ per night for a private room! Located in the city center and has good ratings on booking.com.
Riga Park Hostel – A hostel, but seems to be mostly private rooms. You can snag one for about 20€ per night. In the city center. There is a shared kitchen at the property so you can cook your own food as well.
Hostel Tree House – The more upscale hostel option, but still great prices starting at less than 15€ per night. Also located in the city center, and separate female-only dorms are an option. Bright and minimalist in style, all dormitory and private rooms here feature access to a shared bathroom. There is a shared kitchen at the property and a stovetop with an oven, a toaster and kitchenware are provided. This place has almost perfect ratings on booking.com.
Monika Centrum Hotel – This property is a 14-minute walk from the beach. The 4-star Monika Centrum Hotels is set in the Neo-Gothic building from 1883 and located 500 m from the Old Town of Riga. It features air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi and a minibar. All rooms are stylishly decorated with wooden furniture and warm-colored fabrics. Each comes with a private safe, cable TV and a seating area. All have a modern bathroom with a hairdryer and free toiletries. There is an on-site sauna and a fitness center. Front desk staff is available 24 hours a day and can assist with luggage storage or arrange shuttle services. The hotel bar serves drinks, coffee and cocktails.Monika Centrum Hotels is located opposite the Kronvalda Park in the quiet centre of Riga, near the embassy quarter, a few steps from the Congress Hall. Prices start at around 60€ per night.
Rixwell Old Riga Palace Hotel – Award-winning hotel 100m from the banks of the Daugava River. Located in a quiet street in Riga’s Old Town, within walking distance from all the main attractions. It offers a spa & wellness center equipped with a hot tub and a sauna, as well as various treatments. Rooms have individual climate control and satellite TV. Ironing and tea/coffee making facilities are available in every room. Superior rooms feature a balcony. There is free WiFi access throughout the hotel. Cosy and elegant lobby-bar features a summer terrace, while the on-site restaurant serves European and Latvian cuisine with a choice of vegetarian dishes. Rixwell Old Riga Palace Hotel serves full buffet breakfast with a wide choice of hot and cold dishes and sparkling wine. The reception desk is open 24 hours a day. Prices start at around 50€ per night.
Okay, now you have the setting (sort of). Let’s talk about the food. First, the Central Market. I got really excited that I could buy knitted socks made by grannies there for €10 each (not pictured). Let’s talk about that.
Riga Central Market
My greatest discovery was peanut halvah. Holy crap, it’s good. I’m sure they have it somewhere in Berlin too, but I didn’t notice it until my host pointed it out. I’m not sure into regular halvah, so I never would have considered it. This stuff tastes like softer butterfinger filling (or chick-o-stick). So yum. I got the kind with extra peanuts in it, but they had ones with raisins and stuff too.
My host also pointed out these eggplant rice noodle roll ups. They were yummy and vegan!
There is lots of picked stuff to be had! I got some pickled string beans that were yummy. There was tons of different picked cabbage, one that was curry-flavored too. They’ll usually let you try it if you ask nicely (or gesture nicely).
Another good tip from my host was this Russian pastry stand. They have two filled savory pastries that are accidentally vegan. A spinach and a pumpkin one. We got the spinach.
There’s a cool guy with a stand with hemp products outside. The dark chocolate bar is vegan and it’s filled with toasted hemp seeds. Make sure not to get the white chocolate by mistake. I never had toasted hemp seeds before, but they are yummy!
Not-pictured: My host also took me to get some Kvass. This is Russian (Riga’s population is 40% Russian and it shares a border with Russia). This is a non-alcoholic drink that’s like a semi-sweet beer. I wasn’t into it from the description, but I actually really liked it and it wasn’t *too* sweet. I think it would be really nice to sip on a warm day!
Restaurants and Cafes
Address: Lāčplēša iela 10
So I started a programming course on Coursera and it has a lot of homework. I needed somewhere to get it done, and I was recommended MiiT Cafe. Not only do they have free wifi with no password and outlets, they have great coffee, lots of table space and vegan food! You need to ask what’s vegan because it’s not labeled, but there’s a lot and they speak English and definitely know what vegan is. I liked that there were other people on laptops and a back room away from the hussle and bussle. They also do brunch on Sundays, apparently with lots of pancakes!
It was the morning before lunch so I just got a hummus sandwich that also had avocado and this vegan bounty bar that was awesome. There were two types of vegan brownies and a raw peanut butter cake the day I went too. They also had vegan porridge from different grains (rice, quinoa, etc.) and different types of non-dairy milk (even oat and quinoa milk!). My bill for the sandwich, coffee and bounty bar came to €8,10 total.
You can choose from different types of coffee: aeropress, pour over, chemex, french press, etc. Their coffee comes from Five Elephant in Berlin, funnily enough. I’ve been debating whether I want to buy an aeropress for ages so I got that to test it out. Yum yum! I asked for oat milk with it, which they happily gave me.
Address: Grēcinieku iela 25
This place was all vegan and had a ton of burgers. It’s in the touristy Old Town area so it’s a bit more expensive (for Riga). I got the fishless burger. It was delicious, but I didn’t think it tasted like fish. The patty was soft, but tasty. The inside isn’t especially cozy, but the food was good. I’d go back for more food, hopefully without a screaming child in the restaurant the entire time.
I was already stuffed, but I had to try the tiramisu. I think it was entirely raw, definitely not a traditional tiramisu with lady fingers and stuff, but it was also super tasty. My juice, burger with fries and dessert came to around €18,00.
Address: Krišjāņa Barona iela 56
If you’ve ever been to a Hare Krishna restaurant, you no what to expect. The food is really cheap here and all-vegetarian. Not everything is vegan. The person working the counter spoke no English, so use the point and choose method here. I just said vegan (vay-gan) and shrugged towards the food. You can choose between a big tray and a small one. I pointed at the trays and waved my hands manically to signal “big”. It worked. They also have a lot of tea and some desserts.
Bulgar, veggie dish, some soy meat in a sauce and a potato pancake. I think this was all less than €3.
Places I didn’t make it to
I was only in Riga for three nights, so I didn’t make it everywhere. Some other places my host recommended were Stockpot, a restaurant with vegan options and for a fancy dinner a place called Tiirs that has vegan options. There’s also a raw food place called Raw Garden (watch out for honey)
Address: Lāčplēša iela 17
I stumbled upon this little natural food shop while wandering around and only popped in quick. My surprise, they had an entire case with every type of vegan Violife cheese! Rest-assured, your vegan cheese craving can be satisfied even in Latvia.
Vegan Chocolate Guide
Okay, the moment you’ve been waiting for…vegan chocolate! The major brand is Laima and they sell stuff in regular supermarkets and have their own shops, just google it. Here’s some pictures and descriptions of what’s vegan so you can find it yourself!
Not chocolate, but these rose cookies are also vegan. I didn’t try them, so let me know how they are if you do!
There you have it, more proof that I am a food tourist! I definitely recommend Riga though, go forth and explore!
Want more travel? Check my Vegan Travel page for a list of everywhere I’ve been!