GoHen’s International Sales Director Jamie heads to Riga.
Riga, it’s packed full of amazing restaurants, fantastic (if slightly mad) bars, great food and the local drink, Balsam, could sink an entire hen party at one sitting. So when it came time for our latest Riga fact finding mission I packed my extra-large plate and patented hangover cure and prepared to go native.
You see at GoHen we don’t just ‘hope’ we’re sending you to ‘nice’ cities. We visit all our destinations to make sure they live up to our high standards and to find our groups the best deals on hotels, activities, nightlife and those all-important cocktails. Just go easy on the Balsam.
Jamie’s Hen Party Guide to Riga
Best bar for hen party laughs?
Don’t tell my rugby playing mates but the truth is I love a good cocktail. There, I’ve said it. And the Balzam Bar makes some truly stunning brews. The food is fantastic, the décor funky and the tunes are great. This is definitely a great starting point for any big night out.
Balzam Bar – Torņa street 4-1B
Best bar if you’re feeling like a proper grown up?
If you’re looking for something fancy then head to the 26th floor of the Radisson Hotel where the Skyline Bar offers stunning views over the city. Best later in the evening when the city lights up beneath you it really is a little bit special. Certainly not the cheapest bar in town but worth a visit.
Skyline Bar – 26th Floor, Radisson Blue Hotel, 55 Elizabetes Str
What’s the local poison?
Balsam. Originally this stuff was designed as a medicine. I’ve no idea what they thought they’d cure with this. 45% it’s pure vodka mixed with herbs and some fruit flavours. Strong enough to pour into the plane on your way home it should be approached with extreme caution. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Nightlife; Where to be, what to do?
The Old Town is the place to be. In the summer, Dome Square and Livu square are packed with tables and chairs as all the bars turn them into giant pub gardens. If you want to eat, drink and be merry then head to a club try Kalku Street. It’s packed with great restaurants (TGI Fridays, Ribs & Rock, Queens…) and is an easy walk from the squares.
Top nightlife tip?
The bars are all great but it can be a bit of a maze. Get a guided tour, the guides know the best places and will get you great deals on drinks so it’s money well spent.
Where can we try local food?
There’s a Latvian fast food chain call Lido. They dotted around Riga and serve local food. Being buffet style you can see exactly what you’re getting and pick what you like the look of. And it’s really good stuff, if you’re a foodie like me you’ll love it.
Best local dish?
Pelmeni, small dumplings similar to Chinese dim sum, they’re more of a late night snack and Palmkeni restaurants are packed when the bars and clubs shut. So much tastier than a kebab, they’re packed with a variety of fillings and the perfect end to a great night.
And for something more familiar?
Moonshine! Not the bottled stuff but a great American style diner. Latvians love all things US of A and this amazing place is in the style of a 1950’s diner complete with hotrod cars (converted into the tables and bars), bee-hived waitresses and superb cocktails. The menu has American classics such as burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese, steaks and cheese cake.
Moonshine – 12 Kalku Street
What’s the best way to get about the city?
Walk. The city is really compact so you don’t need to worry about the expense of taxis. Plus all our hotels are right in the city centre, so you’ll be just a hop, skip and a cocktail from the best bars and clubs.
Money saving tips?
Stick to the local drinks. The spirits and beers are actually very drinkable (perhaps a little bit too drinkable but I had to investigate, it’s a tough job etc) and considerably cheaper than imported drinks.
I’d recommend the Balsam cocktail class. You’ll have an absolute blast in more ways than one! Try to do more mixing and less tasting and you should be ok.
Riga is also close to the only place in Europe where you can have a go on an Olympic Bobsleigh run. Its amazing! A real high speed adventure that you simply can’t try anywhere else.
What else would you recommend?
Jekaba Street. It’s packed full of quirky little cellar bars and tucked away restaurants. A nice place to really explore. There’s also a nice shots bar and places with live music.
Any shopping tips?
The best shops can be found at the Centre Gallery and Gallery Riga. There’s also some nice boutique shops and jewellery shops around the Old Town.
Anything to declare?
Yes, Riga has a beach! I know, I was shocked too but not far from the city centre is a totally amazing beach packed full of watersports and beach bars. You can enjoy a day working on those wedding tans with all the transport taken care of. Read more…
Jamie was researching for our Hen Party Guide to Riga and would like to point out he definitely didn’t try too many cocktails. Honest (and if his rugby team are reading this, his pinky finger was tucked in at all times).
Plan the perfect Riga hen do with GoHen!