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Our last two days in Latvia were devoted to driving to and visiting the capital city of Riga along with the nearby beach resort of Jurmala. We traveled first to Jurmala, to take in the ocean air.  After parking in town, we made a beeline for the beach, which was lovely -- despite a bit of rain and the cooler temps. The coastline goes on for miles, a relatively narrow strip of sand flanked by trees. Although there was not much activity on the beach that day, tents were up and the music was pumping, anticipating crowds that were sure to come.

In an effort to avoid the rain and ease our hunger pangs, we journeyed northward along the beach for about 200 meters, arriving at the Lighthouse Hotel and Restaurant, the only permanent dwelling in sight. We sat down to enjoy drinks and a fantastic lunch of fish and fowl. Sure enough, shortly thereafter the weather turned sunnier as we headed into Jurmala. The photo to the left is of the restaurant, while on the right? Our view of the beach. To the lower left, a sampling of our meal: Tracy's roasted chicken. Sated, we headed off to see the town.

From the beach there is a promenade (photo, left) replete with a water fountain leading into the town. Jurmala is considered an entertainment hub with a fine theater, one of several venues in which popular artists perform each summer. From there, the commercial heart of Jurmala is largely given to tourist shops, restaurants, and hotels. Most retain their traditional look, as can be seen in the photo to the right.

From Jurmala we traveled to our AirBnB, located just outside the Riga's Old Town. While the main attractions of our visit to Old Town are contained in the virtual tour below, there were a couple of memorable stops in addition to the traditional sightseeing. The first of these was a visit to a chocolate shop, The Black Magic Cafe. Established in 1752, I was heartened to learn that high quality chocolate predates the Industrial Revolution! In addition to chocolates, the cafe is known for its" balsam," a dark and astringent liqueur made of 24 herbs whose recipe remains unchanged for 250 years.  The cozy upstairs is lined with glass cases of confections. However, entering Black Magic Shop there is a bookcase to the left which swings open -- leading to a
rathskellar (basement cafe) with, yes, even more chocolate! The waitstaff is in costume right out of Harry Potter. We snacked on various chocolates, and quaffed down some hot chocolate for good measure. The photo upper left shows Olga entering the shop, while the photo upper right shows the bookcase passageway to the rathskellar. At the bottom left is a view of the rathskellar and to the right: the chocolates on display.

The other departure from sightseeing, not surprisingly, was also food- related. Just around the corner from our Airbnb was the restaurant, Garage. Like the Lido which we visited on our arrival in Latvia, it was also on the list of dining experiences Tracy had just spied in the in-flight magazine on the flight from Stockholm. Located in a small square just behind our apartment, it is one of a host of eateries, as well as one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World's.  On the night we dined at Garage, there was a jazz concert in the courtyard, which we enjoyed from our vantage point in the restaurant. The photo to the left shows a photo of Sergey's meal (seared duck, if I remember correctly) while on the right, the shows the stage from our table. Below is a video of one of the performances. Great food, great weather, and great music--an unbeatable combination!

Of course, the main attraction was our visit to Old Town Riga. Like Gamla Stan (in Stockholm), its lineage traces back to the Middle Ages, and its history is bound up with the Hanseatic League that linked Germany and the Baltic States. Below are two virtual tours of Vecriga (Old Town Riga). The first is a map-based tour with pop-up windows containing photos, text and video descriptions. Below that, find a more immersive 360-degree VR tour assembled with Google's VR Creator. (As I'd left the 360 camera in Stockholm, we were unable to capture our own panoramas.)

Virtual Tour of Vecriga (Old Town Riga)
Riga Old Town Image Map
Instructions: the map above shows the major sites on the tour. To view a specific site, click the link in the table below. Once you have finished viewing the site, click on the "Close" button at the bottom of the page. Please note that on mobile devices the "Close" button may not be active. In this case, simply hit the "Back" button on the browser to return to the map. Also, your ad-blocker must be disabled to view the popups.
1. Ratslaukums
2. St. Peter's Church
5.Riga Cathedral Square
10. Powder Tower
1a. Town Hall
3. St. John's Church
5a. Riga Cathedral
10a. Jacob's Barracks
1b. House of the Blackheads
4. Large and Small Guilds 6. The Three Brothers
10b. Latvian War Museum
1c. Christmas Tree Plaque
4a. Small Guild House
7. St. James' Cathedral
11. Swedish Gate
1d. Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
4b. Large Guild House
8. Freedom Monument
12. Riga Castle
1e. Statue of St. Roland
4c. Cat House
9. Bastion Hill
13. Central Market
1f. Latvian Rifleman Monument

A 360 Tour of Vercriga
RātslaukumsSnap Content

Virtual Reality Tour for VR Headsets:

QR CodeThere is also a version of this tour designed specifically for VR headsets such as Google Cardboard, and it works with both iPhone and Android devices. It may be access by scanning on the QR code to the left. If you are viewing this on a mobile phone, you may access the VR tour by following this link.

For iOS devices: scan QR code with your device's camera app, tap on the prompt to open Safari. Select "Allow Device Motion" and the next prompt, "Allow Access to Motion Orientation." Turn the device to landscape mode and a split screen will appear. When the screen turns white, swipe up for fullscreen mode, and place in headset. Here is a video of how to do this--it is simpler than it sounds! [The video opens in a new window--close when done to return to this page]

For Android devices: Open the camera app and use the built-in scanner to scan the QR code above. Confirm that you want to open the website, and wait for it to load--it should load in stereo view. Select the fullscreen ("X" option) from the menu at the bottom. Turn the device to landscape mode and you are ready to go. Here is a video of how to do this--it is simpler than it sounds! [The video opens in a new window--close when done to return to this page]

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