Capitals of the Baltic – Escape the Riga centre

Riga made us realise how much we love city breaks. But it wasn’t just the cobbles streets of Old Town and its coffee shops. Riga, like Bucharest, has quite a lot more to offer if you venture a bit outside of the “tourist trap” city centre.

We spent only 3 days in Riga so we had to choose carefully what we wanted to see – what is the point of spending about 40 minutes on public transport to just tick something off the list? From several different choices, we decided on the two that interested us the most.

The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia

If this heading rings a bells it is because Bucharest has the same type of museum 😀 When we visited the one in Romania, we loved it so much we wanted to give the Latvian one a go as well. And we were not wrong. The Ethnographic museum is a great way to spend a few hours outside in nature learning more about the history of Latvia and of its regions.

Unlike the Romanian one, this one was a lot quieter. In Bucharest there was a small handcraft market, with a band and dancers doing traditional dances, there were stalls selling mulled wine to help you warm up and in general, there was a lot more “life”. There was more people, both tourists AND locals visiting.

The one in Riga felt much more subdued. There was a pub/restaurant at the beginning where you could have a bite to eat, we saw only 1 local craftsman selling items whittled out of wood, and for most of the time, we felt like we had the place to ourself. It felt very peaceful.

One thing we noticed in Riga, that I absolutely loved, is that Latvians use this beautiful museum for family photoshoots! We saw several families who came to the museum all dressed up in matching jumpers, got picnic blankets and loads of pumpkins and had a professional photo shoot in the picturesque little villages adorned with autumn colours. Considering the entrance ticket is only a few EUR, it is a brilliant idea on how to get beautiful family photos.

Good things to know:

  • this is an open air museum. Avoid going in the rain or if the weather is freezing. We were lucky and we had clear, sunny weather with temperatures around 15 degrees.
  • Easiest way to get to the museum is to take the trolleybus 31 to Brīvdabas muzejs stop. 3 day ticket for €10 is valid for this trip
  • Entrance is about €4 and you can pay with the card
  • Grab a snack & water if you plan on staying longer. The only refreshments available were at the restaurant by the entrance.

Riga Motor Museum

If you think this museum is for petrol heads only, you would be wrong. The museum offers a great insight into the history of transport, both the international one and the Latvian one. There are 3 floors full of stories about unique vehicles (if you think Renault has some ugly cars now, you should see some other models they made in the past!!).

So what can you see in this museum?

First of all, the long road of invention that led to the car we know and love today. Let me tell you, some of the first bicycle and motorcycle models looks so uncomfortable! A very interesting exhibit is one of the original cars made by Latvian Augusts Krastiņš in 1903 and I think it’s the last one left in the world!

There are examples of classy cars and motorcycles from the 20s all the way to 40s. After WWII the cars are sorted into the Soviet Car industry and the Kremlin collection – cars used by the highest Soviet Union officials. You willl even see the 1966 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow with which Brezhnev got into a car accident – it is still all smashed up as well.

Each car in this collection has #StandWithUkraine on the windshield. One thing you will notice in Latvia, their support to Ukraine is visible on every corner, from every bus having a Ukrainian flag to massive flags and support signs being shown all over the city (and most likely country).

It is not all doom and gloom. You will see some cult cars which have become symbols of their era. Think of the Mini Moris, original Fiat 500, Citroen Frog (2CV)… There are also vehicles used in motorsports.

While we were there, there was a smaller exhibition on radio and communication – I am not sure if this was a one off thing or one of the permanent exhibits. It looked pretty cool though. And I got to have a phone booth photo taken outside of UK XD.

    ** If you are interested in museums like the Riga Motormuseums, visit the IWM Duxford or the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham.

    As you can see, there are certain types of museums we love visiting when traveling to new destinations and we will go out of the town centre to visit whenever possible.

    What type of attractions make you leave the city centre when on city breaks? Forests, lakes, specialised museums, big shopping centres…? Let us know in the comment section.

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