A city that is influenced by the surrounding countries but has its own charm though. Riga convinces with a long and tough history of which it picked the cherries and reinvented itself. The Latvian country, that formed itself to the center of techno in the Eastern bloc in the 80ies should definitely be on every underground fan’s list, especially if you are into great food, rich culture and arts.
Around 600,000 inhabitants live on 300 km2 in Riga – a great size for a city you may want to visit during a weekend. You can basically reach everything by foot and wander through the beautiful streets while exploring Latvias capital. The city that belongs to the Baltic States, was European capital of culture in 2014. Many historical and political happenings, that lastet until 1991 with the regimen by the Soviet Union, had a huge impact on the culture and even on the demographics of the city. This impact can still be seen and felt while walking through the streets of the Latvian city that has many influences from it’s surrounding Northern and Eastern countries, as well as Germany. The latter mostly influenced the local cuisine which results in bringing sauerkraut and sausages on the menu. The classical sights that every guide book lists, are the ‘House of the Blackheads’ at the townhall square, the St. Peter’s church and the market hall.
The young, alternative and creative crowd mostly lives in the North-East center of Riga. If you’re a fan of walking through the streets and exploring the city by feet, you should visit the hip area between and around Ģertrūdes iela and Miera iela. A beautiful neighbourhood that reveals art shops, alternative cinemas, cafés, a small club and a young restaurant scene.
Riga’s Underground Electronic Music Scene
Although Riga is famous for jazz music, electronic music has a long-standing history and culture in the Latvian city. It used to be the center of techno in the Eastern bloc during the 80ies and created it’s own system under the radar of the Soviet Union. One of the visionary artists and important figures that helped shaping the arts and music scene were Hardijs Lediņš (1955-2004), Indulis Bilzens and Roberts Gobziņš.
Viktors Buda is a music journalist, film director, event producer and part of the Latvian electronic music scene since the beginning. He initiated the documentary ‘Era of Dance: the Story of Soviet Techno Revolution’, of which DJs like Derrick May are part of. In his documentary he tells the story of the Soviet Techno Revolution. Watch the trailer here:
Nowadays electronic music is considered as underground and is far away from mainstream. Another reason to travel to the Baltic city and to dive deep into the local rave culture.
Festivals, Clubs, Artists & Record Shops in Riga
The first edition of the Under Festival in 2017 had the aim to revitalise the rave culture in Riga. The boutique festival is strictly underground and wants to step away from the mainstream booking. The event takes place in September and is organised by Ksenia Kamikaza, a DJ, label owner and radio host.
Komēta Festival is dedicated to music, arts, workshops, lectures, exhibitions and performances. The three-day event takes place in July and embraces freedom, culture and community.
Komēta is a cosmic culture festival in Daugavgrīva fortress. Social, passionate and magical experience where music, art and we are in balance with nature.
The most famous club for electronic music in Riga is One One. International artists as well as local talent is filling the club regularly. The venue is surrounded by art galleries and creative offices and has a huge name in the scene of Latvia.
ONE ONE is a late night social venue for Rigas artistic and club creative community or simply for people who value high quality of Music of any genre.
Teritorija is located in the North-East of the city and home to – among others – the DEEPlomacy crew. The club is focused on underground music.
Autentika is not a club, but a cultural space that is inviting live music, arts and offers delicious food and refreshing drinks.
Biit Me Riga Record Store is an independent record shop. It just opened in May 2019 and is the sister shop of the one in Tallinn.
The best Restaurants & Cafés in Riga
The influences of the surrounding Scandinavian and Eastern countries can also be seen in the local cuisine. Hearty dishes like sauerkraut, pickled salads and vegetables as well as the typical dark rye bread are on every traditional menu. The proximity to the sea however brings fresh fish to the menu, that can be bought best at the local market hall. One important drink that shouldn’t be missed, though is Black Balsam. A shot typically grandmas had in their kitchen cabinet and that now experiences kind of a hipster revolution.
Robert’s books is a book shop that serves tasty coffee and wine so you can not only enjoy reading while sitting on their terrace. On top of this, it’s Viktors Buda’s favourite spot in the city.
Another favourite of Viktors Buda is Muusu restorāns located in the old town of Riga. Chef Kaspars Jansons, the heart of the restaurant, creates contemporary, seasonal dishes with fresh and local products, presented in a new and innovative way. All this is surrounded by a clean and simple northern interior.
‘Coffee experience from outer space’. The largest and without any doubt, one of the best coffee roasters in the Baltic states. Located in Miera iela and opposite the famous ‘Laima’ chocolate factory, you can not only watch your beans being roasted, but also get fantastic coffee or even buy roasted beans at the shop. Tip: Enjoy the brunch buffet with local salads and local treats in the morning.
ISTABA is not only a restaurant, but also an art gallery-shop, where one can find beautiful art pieces for at home. The restaurant upstairs has a menu concept that is based around a fixed starter and a main dish of which you can choose between fish, meat and a vegetarian option. As the staff is super friendly and the restaurant only has about twenty seats, the Galerija ISTABA has a cosy atmosphere.
Located in the heart of the city, MiiT Coffee not only serves great coffee specialities, but vegetarian and vegan breakfast, lunch and sweets. During the week it’s quite popular among freelancers and digital nomads. During the weekend it’s the perfect spot for the pancake brunch between 10am and 5pm.
Famous for its coal stove and organic products by Latvian farmers, this restaurant is a real experience. Starting with omelette for breakfast in the morning to vegetarian or meat dishes in the evening – this place is one of the favourites of locals. The interior by famous designer Anda Ozolina creates a nature-bound atmosphere that underlines the menu.
The place craftsman want to have lunch. The stylish and rough interior fits to the barber shop opposite the street, belonging to the restaurant/café/bar. It serves tasty and fresh breakfast, lunch and offers a diverse drinks menu.
Embedded in a beautiful park, chef Kaspars Barsukovs has created a wonderful library of contemporary Latvian cuisine. One can spend hours in the pleasing atmosphere, reading through the great dishes and wine selection for hours, not to forget about the punchline at the end, the local dessert ‘Layered rye bread’.
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