Living in Stockholm, it can sometimes feel like the rest of Europe is so far away. In order to reach any land border, you need to drive for several hours. We do, however, have one additional possibility – the Baltic Sea. There is not only Finland across the sea. Overnight cruises offer two more options and both Riga and Tallinn are at our doorstep.
In these times of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in border closures and limited traveling, it is nice to dream back to adventures of the past. Our last visit to the capital of Latvia, Riga, was in the autumn of 2019. It might have been raining and the city was as most cities in northern Europe at this time of the year, quite grey. But a family trip has other lights and enjoyments.
From Stockholm to Riga onboard MS Isabelle
MS Isabelle is one of two cruise ships that usually traffic the route between Stockholm and Riga. The ship belongs to Tallink and it is one of the smaller ferries departing from Stockholm. It was actually earlier known as MS Isabella when it was operated by Viking Line.
After all trips to and from the Åland Islands, ferries are usually only considered a means of transportation for us. Yes, they have restaurants and entertainment, but we are not the ones boarding a ferry for the ride alone. It is the destination that is the goal and we will do the best of the wait until arrival.
What we usually do is to have a nice dinner in one of the less exclusive restaurants onboard, before it is time to head back to the cabin to let Little A sleep. Little A usually enjoys eating out, the luxury of getting her own huge plate. Other than that it is usually the playroom or the windows that are the most attracting. She has the same tendencies as us adults to look out through the windows, out over the never ending sea.
There are bars and night clubs onboard MS Isabelle, but it was only me visiting one of these on our trip to Riga. That was to enjoy the evening show, better not to disturb while Little A is going to bed.
A Grey and Rainy Riga
Riga greeted us with grey skies and a light rain. It was obvious that we were not going to see the sun this Saturday. We had made sure to bring the stroller, so Little A was hiding under its small cover while we left the harbor area. We decided to head out on the Vanšu Bridge to cross the Daugava River. The area on the other side of the river was earlier unexplored by us and due to the weather it couldn’t hurt to see if we found something interesting.
We should probably have chosen to get away from the larger road, as it was turning out to be even more grey than the harbour area. We did eventually find a small shopping centre, headed inside to get some heat, purchased a small Latvian flag for Little A and then eventually headed back towards the bridge.
On a sunny day the view of the Old Town of Riga can really be amazing from the other side of the Daugava River. This day, not so much, as the city was barely visible.
A Riga that Never Disappoints
We eventually walked by the Riga Castle and reached the Latvian War Museum before making a stop. Here we encountered an event with soldiers stationed outside showcasing military equipment. Well, we got to know that Little A had so far no interest in military vehicles. She wanted us to continue and so we did.
We walked around for a few hours, with Little A waving her small flag. Riga has so many amazing sights and the atmosphere is special even on days when the weather is not favorable. There are sights such as the the Freedom Monument, the Rīga-Pasažieru Train Station, the House of the Black Heads, and the St. Peter’s Church. Even the normal buildings add to the atmosphere when strolling around.
Anyone who takes an interest in architecture is sure to love the city. Not only is the historic city center of the Latvian capital a UNESCO World Heritage center, it is also famous for its buildings in both the neoclassical style and in Jugendstil. In fact, Riga has the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe.
We eventually ended up in an restaurant enjoying a late lunch and actually a beer tasting of four local beers. Well, that is something interesting to try when visiting Riga and Latvia, they have a lot of domestic beer.
Our route back towards MS Isabelle took us away from the city and along the city’s parks. Following the canals you are actually able to almost get away from the city feeling all the way back to the harbor. And Little A really took the opportunity in Kronvalda Park to run around before it was time to get back onboard.
Returning to Stockholm
Once back onboard MS Isabelle the process from the last evening repeated itself. Yes, our legs were more tired after our six and a half hours exploring Riga. It was still nice to see that Little A still was waving her small flag. There is always a sad feeling when leaving Riga. It is a lovely city and we comfort ourselves with knowing how easy it is to get there.
At least it was easy until 2020. We keep our hopes up that the travel opportunities across the Baltic Sea will get back to normal. Until then, let us dream back to the visits of the past.